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Water molecules control protein motion

 

Photo credit: Science Daily

A new study is a “major step forward” in the understanding of water-protein interactions. It answers a question that’s been dogging research into protein dynamics for decades.
Credit: Jo McCulty

Scientists glimpse why life can’t happen without water

Scientists are getting closer to directly observing how and why water is essential to life as we know it.

A study in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides the strongest evidence yet that proteins–the large and complex molecules that fold into particular shapes to enable biological reactions–can’t fold themselves.

Rather, the work of folding is done by much smaller water molecules, which surround proteins and push and pull at them to make them fold a certain way in fractions of a second, like scores of tiny origami artists folding a giant sheet of paper at blazingly fast speeds.

Dongping Zhong, leader of the research group at The Ohio State University that made the discovery, called the study a “major step forward” in the understanding of water-protein interactions and said it answers a question that’s been dogging research into protein dynamics for decades.

“For a long time, scientists have been trying to figure out how water interacts with proteins. This is a fundamental problem that relates to protein structure, stability, dynamics and–finally–function,” said Zhong, who is the Robert Smith Professor of physics at Ohio State.

“We believe we now have strong direct evidence that on ultrafast time scales (picoseconds, or trillionths of a second), water modulates protein fluctuations,” he concluded.

Read the full article: Science Daily

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Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.