THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
In Alzheimer’s and Creutzfeldt–Jakob (CJD) diseases, proteins in the brain adopt an abnormal structure that makes them clump together. Christopher Dobson and colleagues, of the University of Oxford, have discovered that the muscle protein myoglobin can be induced to assume a similar guise, suggesting that adopting these alternative ‘amyloid’ structures could be feasible for many proteins, but that organisms have evolved ways to hold them at bay (Nature, Vol. 410, No. 6825, 08 Mar 2001).
The researchers found a chemical environment in which myoglobin changed from one stable form to another — the ‘fibrillar’ structure seen in prion diseases and in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. The rogue proteins evident in the brains of Alzheimer’s and CJD sufferers may not be inherently peculiar, they could be generated just because the regulatory mechanisms that normally guard against the protein transition have broken down.
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(C) Nature press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza
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