How a robot helped researchers discover the ‘mother of all’ protein genes
Posted On June 14, 2021
As if to prove just how far we’ve come in deciphering protein molecules, a team of researchers from the University of British Columbia have discovered the mother of all protein genes.
The study is described in the March 13 issue of Nature Genetics.
“The study was an extremely ambitious project to understand how the gene encoding an amino acid that binds to a protein molecule is different from the one that encodes the protein molecule itself,” said study lead author Zhiyan Zhou, a PhD candidate at UBC.
The team used a computational model to analyze protein-encoding genes that were discovered by researchers in China in 2008 and then sequenced by the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information.
“We found the genes are very similar, with a number of genes that we know are expressed in the same cells,” said Zhou.
The researchers also identified proteins that are also expressed in other cell types, such as those that control cell division and cell metabolism.
“It’s a very promising step forward in understanding how proteins are produced, how they interact with each other, and how they can interact with other molecules,” said co-author Matthew Miller, a postdoctoral researcher in Zhou’s lab.
The research is important for understanding how genes are produced and used by cell types.
“This study provides important insight into how the genome is structured,” said Miller.
“What are the pathways involved?
What is the function of these pathways?
These are important questions for our understanding of disease processes.”
Zhou and Miller are the first researchers to use a computational approach to examine protein-based genes.
Previous efforts focused on protein-specific genes and protein-protein interactions.
The new study takes a broader approach, looking at genes that control proteins in the genome.
“This is a big breakthrough,” said Dr. David G. Sussman, a professor of medicine and of bioengineering at Johns Hopkins University.
“As a biochemist, I can understand a lot of these basic questions, and then they can be applied to the design of new drugs or even the development of new vaccines.
It’s an exciting time.”
Researchers have been trying to understand protein-mediated genes for more than 20 years.
“If you look at the whole genome, you see a lot more than the protein-level proteins,” said Sussmann.
“So the more we understand these things, the more interesting they become.”
The work also helps scientists understand the origin of the complex structure of proteins and their function.
“These are not just proteins that look like they are made out of amino acids,” said G. Peter J. Hall, a research professor in the University’s Department of Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry and a co-first author of the study.
And protein-function and protein expression are very different. “
Most proteins are made of a single, common molecule.
“In the past, it has been possible to look at proteins as they interact directly with other proteins. “
But this research has provided new insight into the structure of protein-to-protein interaction,” Hall said.
“In the past, it has been possible to look at proteins as they interact directly with other proteins.
But we’ve been able to look for the function and function of the interactions as well.”
The study will be published in the journal Genome Biology.
Zhou is now focusing on using computational modeling to understand the structure and function and structure and functional relationships of proteins.
He hopes that this new approach will lead to better predictions for drug development and vaccines.
“If you want to find a new treatment for an illness, you have to look closely at the structure, and that’s where this approach can help,” said Hall.
“You can do this by studying the interactions of proteins in complex systems.”###