Computer model may help scientists split up, reassemble proteins on command

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Splitting up and getting back together is always hard to do, but for proteins, it’s almost impossible.

However, a computer-guided algorithm may help scientists find just the right spot to split a protein and then reassemble it to functionality, according to a team of biochemists and biophysicists who report their findings today (Oct. 2) in Nature Communications. They add this could be another step — perhaps even a dance step — toward using chemical and light signals to create new medical treatments and biosensors.

“My lab is interested in investigating the way cellular life works by targeting the molecular players, such as proteins and RNA, and to this extent, we have been developing tools to control those players,” said Nikolay V. Dokholyan, G. Thomas Passananti Professor, Penn State College of Medicine.

“We want to make these proteins respond with certain activities based on the light — optogenetic — or chemical — chemogenetic — signals that we provide. And, so, just by shining a light or adding a chemical, the cell starts to move, or dance, or whatever we want them to do, based on the protein we’re controlling.”

Proteins, which are folded into complex 3-D


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