Better Protein Structure Discovered In Mole Rats

Monday, September 30, 2013

Perfect Protein

A research carried on by biologists Vera Gorbunova and Andrei Seluanova from the University of Rochester has unearthed the fact that the structure of proteins in an eastern African naked mole rat is responsible for its longevity. Proteins are responsible for most of the functions of animal cells, but before they begin functioning, the proteins need to organise into shapes to allow them to connect and interact with other structures in a cell, which in the case of the mole rats are perfect proteins virtually and help them live for 30 years.

In the course of the research the biologists worked with the ribosome ribo-nucleic acid (rRNA) of the naked mole rat. They applied dye to a sample and studied it under ultraviolet light and found three dark bands that represent the concentrations of different rRNA molecules, unlike the two bands that are found in all other animals. This hidden break in the rRNA the scientists found, acted as a scaffold on the ribosome which is essentially a protein synthesis machine.

The rRNA scaffold in the mole rat split at two locations and instead of floating off, the two pieces stay close to each other and act as a scaffold on which the ribosomal proteins assemble and create a functional ribosome, which is a molecular machine that puts amino acids together and creates proteins. When the proteins are created in a ribosome it usually has a mistake in most animals. However, in the mole rat these mistakes are 40 times less likely to occur than in mouse cells.

The biologists state that further research on splitting mice rRNA in the same way as that of the mole rat could lead to a new improved protein and if successful it could help in pharmaceutical treatments that can modulate protein synthesis in humans.

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