Scientists Preserve Membrane Proteins with Nanoparticles

Scientists at the Universities of Birmingham and Warwick have discovered a way to preserve membrane proteins with nanoparticles, enabling the detailed analysis of the structure of molecular functions. This protein stabilization technique reportedly could lead to 30% more proteins being available as potential targets for drug development.

The study's findings, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), are published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. These findings are expected to allow scientists to work with previously unstable proteins.

Using the polymer styrene maleic acid lipid particles (SMALPs), the researchers solubilized a pair of membrane proteins. They found that, not only did the proteins maintain their folded structure and binding and enzyme activities in the SMALPs, but also that using the nanoparticles allowed the researchers to more simply and rapidly perform the analysis. Advantages of SMALPs over traditional methods to solubilize proteins, such as detergents, include enhanced stability, activity and spectral quality of the protein membranes.

According to the researchers, membrane proteins, a target for drug delivery, could be preserved intact in stable nanoparticles. This could deliver to open receptors that are too difficult to produce or study via current methods. 

As drug delivery technologies often are translated into personal care, perhaps this discovery will improve the efficacy of skin care or actives of the future.

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