Researchers Reveal Secret of Key Protein in Brain and Heart Function[ ... Read the full press release ... ]
29 July 2005
Brown University researchers have solved the structure of a critical piece of SAP97, a protein used to keep hearts beating and brains learning. Results, reported by Dale Mierke in The Journal of Biological Chemistry, put science a step closer to understanding how this protein aids in brain and heart function.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Brown University biologists have solved the structure of a critical piece of synapse-associated protein 97 (SAP97) found in abundance in the heart and head, where it is believed to play a role in everything from cardiac contractions to memory creation. Results are published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Dale Mierke, associate professor of medical science at Brown, said that knowing how a piece of SAP97 is built is an important step. Now that part of the protein’s structure is solved, scientists can create a molecule to disable it. That, in turn, will allow them to fully understand SAP97’s role in the body. And that will point drug makers to targets for developing new ways to treat cardiac or neurological diseases.
“To arrive at a solution, you need to understand the problem,” Mierke said. “Solving protein structures opens doors for effective treatments.”
SAP97 is found mainly in the central nervous system and is known as a “scaffolding” protein. In this role, it serves as a sort of tether, grabbing proteins inside the cell critical to nerve signaling and keeping them close to N-methyl-D-asparate (NMDA) receptors at the cell surface. NMDA receptors help usher in a neurotransmitter called glutamate that is essential for learning and memory and also plays a role in drug addiction. A similar scaffolding mechanism is at work in the heart, where it affects basic functions, including the heartbeat.
The researchers examined the portion of the protein known as PDZ1, which is where the protein links to NMDA receptors.
Anthony H. Risser | neuroscience | neuropsychology | brain