Wiretapping an enzyme and listening as it unfolds could shed new light on the way proteins work, allowing researchers to monitor structural changes over a longer period of time than was previously possible. To do it, scientists tethered a nanoscale transistor to a molecule found in human tears.
Understanding how proteins fold is a key challenge in biology — making synthetic versions is about much more than their molecular contents. Enzymes change their shapes when they bind their molecular targets, and the way in which this happens has some bearing on the way the proteins work. Researchers have even turned to online games to look for novel folds and structures that could be used in drug discovery and other uses.Biochemists can glimpse these structural changes, but not over long enough time scales to really get a handle on the folding action. Now researchers at the University of California-Irvine say their wiretapping method provides a long-term window into the kinetic behavior of a specific protein.