Mickey Mouse Protein

A detailed structure of a potassium ion channel protein has been obtained by a Nobel team in the US. The structure shows the channel in a more natural state, revealing how attendant lipid molecules within the cell membrane influence channel function by their interaction with the proteinaceous Mickey Mouse ears that protrude from the protein into the lipid layer and act as a voltage sensor.

Membrane-bound proteins are among the most fascinating molecules in biology but are notoriously difficult to crystallise and study in detail in their natural, or even near-natural state. Now, Nobel scientist Roderick MacKinnon and colleagues at Rockerfeller University, have developed a new technique, lipid-detergent-mediated crystallization, which could open the door to studying the hundreds of membrane proteins previously inaccessible in their natural environment to crystallography.

More in the latest issue of SpectroscopyNOW crystallography ezine

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Award-winning freelance science writer, author of Deceived Wisdom. Sharp-shooting photographer and wannabe rockstar.