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1.  Covalent attachment of the plant natural product naringenin to small glass and ceramic beads 
Background
Natural products have numerous medicinal applications and play important roles in the biology of the organisms that accumulate them. Few methods are currently available for identifying proteins that bind to small molecules, therefore the discovery of cellular targets for natural products with pharmacological activity continues to pose a significant challenge in drug validation. Similarly, the identification of enzymes that participate in the biosynthesis or modification of natural products remains a formidable bottleneck for metabolic engineering. Flavonoids are one large group of natural products with a diverse number of functions in plants and in human health. The coupling of flavonoids to small ceramic and glass beads provides a first step in the development of high-throughput, solid-support base approaches to screen complex libraries to identify proteins that bind natural products.
Results
The utilization of small glass and ceramic beads as solid supports for the coupling of small molecules was explored. Initial characterization of the beads indicated uniform and high capacity loading of amino groups. Once the beads were deemed adequate for the linking of small molecules by the coupling of NHS-fluorescein followed by microscopy, chemical hydrolysis and fluorometry, the flavonoid naringenin was modified with 1,4-dibromobutane, followed by the attachment of aminopropyltriethoxysilane. After NMR structural confirmation, the resulting 7-(4-(3-(triethoxysilyl)propylamino)butoxy) naringenin was attached to the ceramic beads.
Conclusion
Our results demonstrate that ceramic and glass beads provide convenient solid supports for the efficient and facile coupling of small molecules. We succeeded in generating naringenin-coupled ceramic and glass beads. We also developed a convenient series of steps that can be applied for the solid-support coupling of other related flavonoids. The availability of solid-support coupled naringenin opens up new opportunities for the identification of flavonoid-binding proteins.
doi:10.1186/1472-6769-5-3
PMCID: PMC1274306  PMID: 16216122
2.  Electronic properties of amino acid side chains: quantum mechanics calculation of substituent effects 
Background
Electronic properties of amino acid side chains such as inductive and field effects have not been characterized in any detail. Quantum mechanics (QM) calculations and fundamental equations that account for substituent effects may provide insight into these important properties. PM3 analysis of electron distribution and polarizability was used to derive quantitative scales that describe steric factors, inductive effects, resonance effects, and field effects of amino acid side chains.
Results
These studies revealed that: (1) different semiempirical QM methods yield similar results for the electronic effects of side chain groups, (2) polarizability, which reflects molecular deformability, represents steric factors in electronic terms, and (3) inductive effects contribute to the propensity of an amino acid for α-helices.
Conclusion
The data provide initial characterization of the substituent effects of amino acid side chains and suggest that these properties affect electron density along the peptide backbone.
doi:10.1186/1472-6769-5-2
PMCID: PMC1185526  PMID: 16078995
3.  Development of ERK Activity Sensor, an in vitro, FRET-based sensor of Extracellular Regulated Kinase activity 
Background
Study of ERK activation has thus far relied on biochemical assays that are limited to the use of phospho-specific antibodies and radioactivity in vitro, and analysis of whole cell populations in vivo. As with many systems, fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) can be utilized to make highly sensitive detectors of molecular activity. Here we introduce FRET-based ERK Activity Sensors, which utilize variants of Enhanced Green Fluorescent Protein fused by an ERK-specific peptide linker to detect ERK2 activity.
Results
ERK Activity Sensors display varying changes in FRET upon phosphorylation by active ERK2 in vitro depending on the composition of ERK-specific peptide linker sequences derived from known in vivo ERK targets, Ets1 and Elk1. Analysis of point mutations reveals specific residues involved in ERK binding and phosphorylation of ERK Activity Sensor 3. ERK2 also shows high in vitro specificity for these sensors over two other major MAP Kinases, p38 and pSAPK/JNK.
Conclusion
EAS's are a convenient, non-radioactive alternative to study ERK dynamics in vitro. They can be utilized to study ERK activity in real-time. This new technology can be applied to studying ERK kinetics in vitro, analysis of ERK activity in whole cell extracts, and high-throughput screening technologies.
doi:10.1186/1472-6769-5-1
PMCID: PMC1180429  PMID: 15998468

Results 1-3 (3)