More little treasures

I know, I know. It’s an obsession. From EurekAlert.

UCLA scientists have created a mechanism at the nanoscale to externally control the function and action of a protein.

"We can switch a protein on and off, and while we have controlled a
specific protein, we believe our approach will work with virtually any
protein," said Giovanni Zocchi, assistant professor of physics at UCLA,
member of the California NanoSystems Institute and leader of the
research effort. "This research has the potential to start a new
approach to protein engineering."

"We insert a molecular spring on the protein, and we can control the
stiffness of the spring externally," he said. "We chemically string a
short piece of DNA around the protein. We can switch the protein on and
off by changing the stiffness of the DNA. We have made a new molecule,
which we can control. By gluing together two disparate pieces of the
cell’s molecular machinery, a protein and a piece of DNA, we have
created a spring-loaded protein which can be turned on and off."

The first applications Zocchi foresees for the new molecules are as
amplified molecular probes. Currently it is difficult for scientists to
study a single live cell and find what gene it is expressing, but with
an amplified molecular probe, in principle one could inject the probe
into a single cell and detect that the cell is expressing a particular
gene, Zocchi said.