Nanotubes to monitor enzyme activity

Researchers at the University of California have developed a technique to study in detail and monitor the behaviour of the biological molecules particularly protein which is useful for a host of applications in medicine. For investigating biomolecules implicated in various diseases, for developing novel drugs in the future, researchers are studying to understand complex biological molecules as to how they react with their environment.
Proteins activity
The enzyme is a very small molecule of size between 5 and 7 nm and is impossible to 'see' in any kind of optical microscope. Proteins fold along their long chains of amino acids and enzymes, in particular, change shape when they bind to substrates because these shape changes are crucial for how the molecule functions. The behaviour of proteins can be monitored to a certain extent, but there is no real way to track an individual protein over a long period of time.
New technique
The researchers have shown that they are able to observe changes in the shape of a lysozyme molecule by attaching it to a carbon-nanotube field-effect transistor. Researchers attached purified lysozyme molecules to CNT transistors via a chemical reaction and monitored the current flowing through the devices in a room-temperature saline solution containing different types of bacteria. The method works because as it starts to interact with the bacteria the enzyme changes shape and moves. These changes affect the current flowing through the transistor.
The changes in current though the transistor indicates what the lysozyme is doing at any one moment. No changes occur in the absence of bacteria, but when there are bacteria, distinct signals can be observed. The researchers have gleaned important information about the lysozyme and how it works, how the enzyme changes speed and how it manages to repeatedly enter its way through a bacterial cell wall.
The important aspect of the work is the fact that researchers have demonstrated a completely new way to study biological molecules and this approach could be used to investigate molecules responsible for various diseases or those that show promise as future medicines. There are numerous applications in sensing and detecting that could be developed in the near future.


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