biochemistry

The Scientific Activist

Category archives for biochemistry

Last year, I wrote about a scientific controversy over the structure of the influenza M2 proton channel, particularly over the protein’s binding site for adamantane type anti-flu drugs. The Schnell/Chou model, based on solution NMR, had the drug binding to the outside of the channel, within the membrane (at a 4:1 drug:protein ratio). On the…

On Mimicking Phosphotyrosine

When doing science, there’s generally one totally optimal way of performing an experiment. But, there may also be several other less optimal means of gathering similar data, and one of those may be much more feasible than the totally optimal method. As a scientist, you have to determine whether this other method is sufficient, or…

Two New Papers on Integrin Activation

Just as I was in the process of finishing my doctorate in August, I found out that my first first-author paper had been accepted for publication by The EMBO Journal. This was good news, because we were reporting some pretty fundamental findings in a relatively saturated field, and one of our competitors had managed to…

The winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry have been announced, and the prize will be shared equally between Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas Steitz, and Ada Yonath “for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome.” The information encoded in DNA is decoded to produce functional proteins in two stages: transcription (DNA –> RNA)…

On Wednesday, the CDC reported that influenza A H1N1 viruses from 13 patients with confirmed diagnoses of swine flu had been tested for resistance to a variety of antiviral drugs. The good news was that all of the isolates were susceptible to the antiviral drugs oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). However, all 13 were resistant…

Fine-Tuning Cell Adhesiveness

Cells in higher organisms exist in a dynamic environment, requiring the ability to alternately grasp and disengage from the three-dimensional web of their surroundings. One family of proteins in particular, the integrins, plays a key role in this process by acting as the hands of the cell. Spanning the cell membrane, they link the extracellular…

2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry: GFP

Earlier today, the Nobel committee announced that the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie, and Roger Y. Tsien “for the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP.” There’s much to be said for how useful a tool GFP has been in cellular biology, but Alex Palazzo…

Molecule of the Day has a post up about isotopically-enriched food that caught my eye for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the idea is wildly outrageous, and, secondly, this is something that actually gets joked about quite a bit in an NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) lab. Any given element can come in various isotopes, which…

The New York Times reported yesterday that “scientists find new receptor for HIV,” referring to a paper published online in Nature Immunology on Sunday by Arthos et al. This is basically correct, although it would be more accurate to call the new receptor a co-receptor, since the infection of a cell with HIV still depends…

An individual cell inside the human body is in a dynamic environment: it not only has to anchor itself to its surroundings but also be able to communicate with them and respond as appropriate. One group of proteins–the integrins–play a central role in all of these tasks. The integrins are large (about 200,000 Da) membrane-spanning…