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Researchers use cells to expand nature’s repertoire

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Posted December 18, 2013
Yale team uses cells to expand nature’s repertoire
Created by artificial proteins, tumor cells on left invade muscle cells in pink. Credit: DiMaio lab/Yale
Using a cell’s own internal machinery, Yale researchers have produced proteins not found in nature that can cause cancer in mice, they report Dec. 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study not only sheds light on the way cancers may form, but also illustrates a new and efficient method to produce novel proteins that can be used for a variety of research, industrial, and medical purposes.

“This is a new class of biologically active proteins, which we found by simply expressing random amino acid sequences in cells and letting the cells find the active ones for us,” said Dr. Daniel DiMaio, the Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Genetics, deputy director of the Yale Cancer Center, and senior author of the study.

Cell proteins are shaped by evolution from combinations of the 20 amino acids that make up the genetic alphabet, usually in chains of hundreds of amino acids. The Yale team was led by DiMaio and Yale College undergraduate Kelly M. Chacon, who conducted the experiment as part of her senior thesis. They wanted to know if they could create short, biologically active proteins that never existed in cells or had been discarded by the process of natural selection. They screened hundreds of thousands of artificial proteins consisting of random sequences of only 29 amino acids and identified four novel sequences that produced new proteins active in cell membranes. These tiny proteins do not appear to have ever occurred naturally and when introduced into mice, formed tumors—proving they were biologically active.

Read more at: Phys.org

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