A new technique developed for determining 3D structure of biomolecules

Biomolecules are the key elements required for the proper functioning of the body. The determination of three dimensional structures is a time taking and expensive process. But in a recent breakthrough, the researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have successfully developed an efficient method to determine the 3D structures of the biomolecules. Their method involves the use of the various experimental data in order to predict the 3D structure accurately.

Proper deciphering of the 3D structure helps in keeping the track of all the ongoing activities inside the cell. 3D structure is also helpful in determining the function of the biomolecule as the structure can be compared with the already existing structures of other biomolecules to get a rough idea of the function. It is also absolutely necessary in order to develop the drug to suppress the interaction of the target molecule with the substrate.

The researcher Alexander Schug and his partners from Steinbuch Centre of Computing at KIT have innovated a novel method to predict the 3D structure of the biomolecules. They have developed an algorithm which analyzes the data obtained from the statistical analysis of the biomolecules. The algorithm analyzes the mutation patterns and based on these patterns predicts a spatial structure.

On the success of this method the researcher Alexander Schug said, “We hope that our detailed structural predictions will not only be of relevance to fundamental research, but also be applied in pharmacological and medical research, as biomolecules are important to a number of diseases.”

2-D gel electrophoresis

There are total 64 codons which are involved in protein formation, but these 64 codons can result in formation of thousands of proteins. Each protein has its own unique structure and properties and in order to study these properties a special technique of 2D gel electrophoresis is employed. This is a technique which is used widely for the examination and comparison for proteins from two or more different organisms.

In normal electrophoresis the sample is resolved only in one dimension based on the charge, and in protein this technique alone is not sufficient. Protein when resolved in one dimension gets arranged in the gel according to the isoelectric point. The isoelectric point is a particular pH at which the net charge on the protein is zero. So in first step the protein is subjected to arrangement in a gel with varying pH scale. But two proteins can have same isoelectric points if they have nearly same constituent amino acids but different arrangements. So in this case the proteins are resolved in second dimension.

An electric field is applied across the gel in a direction perpendicular to the pH gradient. On the application of the electric field the protein gets arranged according to their molecular weights. Since two amino acids cannot have same molecular weights, in second dimension the proteins are completely resolved based on weight and isoelectric points.

BIOWEAPON (THE WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION)

As we are progressing in the field of science, we are coming up with new inventions and discoveries day by day, but this progress also brings some devastating things with it. The biological advancement brings the weapons of mass destruction and we call them as Biological weapons which are also termed as bio-weapons or bio-agents. Biological weapons are living organisms that reproduce or replicate within host victims. Biological weapons are biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, virus and fungi with the intention to kill the humans, animals and plant as an act of war.

Bioweapons are considered to be the most destructive war weapons in the future due to its salient features:

  • Small in size
  • Fast replication
  • High growth rate

Bioweapons are the cheapest and most destructive source in the war as compare to nuclear weapons, as it can be sent in the form of a letter to the enemy or it can be sprayed over to the natural resources such as agricultural fields or water bodies which can lead to mass destruction of lives. While in case of nuclear warheads, they lead to destruction of particular area, but bioweapons destroy complete species from that area. Bioweapons directly infect the machinery of host, control it and transmit to the other persons through air, water etc. and it is highly contagious.

The bioweapons can lead to the complete extinction of a particular species or many species if targeted and can lead to devastating effects leaving the population helpless. Due to these reasons the use of biological weapons is prohibited in any war.

DNA Fingerprinting

Each organism on Earth has its own unique sequence of DNA. Although this is not applicable for the organisms reproducing through asexual reproduction, organisms reproducing via sexual reproduction do. When referring to the humans, we have 23 pair of chromosomes in which one set is received from each parent. Thus every human has his own unique DNA sequence. This uniqueness of DNA is used by the forensic experts in identifying a culprit by matching a DNA sample found at a crime scene with the suspects’ DNA using a technique called “DNA electrophoresis” which is also referred as “DNA fingerprinting.”

In order to match the DNA sequence, the DNA is first isolated in pure form from the cells and is then subjected to digestion using restriction enzymes. These restriction enzymes cut the DNA into smaller pieces. Same restriction enzyme will cleave the DNA at the same positions thus rendering the same size DNA pieces. After the DNA cleavage, a fluorescent dye Ethidium bromide is added in the DNA solution and then the DNA is loaded in the agarose gel and is put into a buffer solution.

On passing a low electric voltage, the DNA being negatively charged starts moving towards the positive pole of the gel and get arranged in the form of the bands. The distance moved by the DNA depends directly on the size of the DNA strand. On completion of the process, the agarose gel is visualized under the UV light and the DNA strand can be seen orange in color due to Ethidium Bromide.

If two samples of same DNA are run simultaneously, the bands formed on the gel will be exactly similar for both the samples. Thus, it can be confirmed if a DNA sample is from the same person or from different one.