The German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) funded a large-scale protein research effort to a volume of nearly EUR 27 million. Based at Ruhr University of Bochum (RUB), the cooperation included the Technical University of Dortmund and the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, also located in Dortmund. Now, scientific journal Biological Chemistry has published a special double issue featuring thirteen review articles and an original paper, representative of the activities of the collaboration entitled „GTP- and ATP-dependent membrane processes” (Sonderforschungsbereich "SFB 642").
The Chairman of SFB 642, Prof. Dr. Klaus Gerwert of the RUB served as Guest Editor for issue 5/6 2017, which has now been published online and in print by De Gruyter. All fourteen papers are digitally available in open access for all readers.
Research focused on signal paths and transport processes in biological membranes as they occur in every living cell and therefore in the billions in every human being. These biological processes are of particular interest given that malfunctions – often caused by mutations – may trigger illnesses such as cancer.
The various individual projects of SFB 642 elucidated more than 400 protein structures and clarified reaction mechanisms that are dependent on the energy storage molecules ATP and GTP. The focus was on switch proteins from the Ras family and their interaction partners.
The order of magnitude of this scientific collaboration has set precedent, as has the wide range of experimental methods employed. For the first time, biological membrane processes were recorded in a way that went beyond snapshots, providing instead movie-like recordings of whole events from beginning to end. Through combination of spectroscopic methods, functions of proteins and their interactions with other molecules were observed in atomic resolution, allowing determination of structure-function relationships.
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