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Punchy proteins could help advance drug delivery

Date:
February 17, 2016
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
Earth's critters have developed countless ways to survive. Some bacteria that live inside paramecia, which are tiny aquatic organisms, use a coiled protein ribbon that unfurls like a Chinese paper yo-yo to deliver a toxin to threatening organisms. The protein packs a punch, bursting through membranes of the paramecia's competitors as it elongates. Now scientists report that the protein could someday deliver drugs or become integrated into tiny devices.
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Earth's critters have developed countless ways to survive. Some bacteria that live inside paramecia, which are tiny aquatic organisms, use a coiled protein ribbon that unfurls like a Chinese paper yo-yo to deliver a toxin to threatening organisms. The protein packs a punch, bursting through membranes of the paramecia's competitors as it elongates. Now, in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology, scientists report that the protein could someday deliver drugs or become integrated into tiny devices.

In a search for methods to deliver pharmaceuticals or program cells, researchers have figured out how to package drugs, DNA and RNA into little biological pouches called vesicles. Getting them out to do their job in a cell, however, is another challenge. So, scientists have looked to a strain of paramecium that deploys hitchhiking bacteria to fight off other strains. The bacteria contain coiled protein polymers called R bodies that, once inside a target organism, unroll into tubes that puncture internal membranes to release bacterial toxins. Pamela A. Silver and Jessica K. Polka wanted to see if they could tune R bodies for potential use in cellular engineering.

The researchers found that they could control the sensitivity of R bodies, making them unfurl at higher or lower pH. Lab testing on E. coli showed the proteins could burst open 60 percent of bacterial cells in acidic conditions. Because they work rapidly and reversibly, the researchers say the R bodies could be used in a variety of biotechnology applications to target the delivery of molecules inside living systems. The proteins could also serve as switches in microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS.


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Journal Reference:

  1. Jessica K. Polka, Pamela A. Silver. A Tunable Protein Piston That Breaks Membranes to Release Encapsulated Cargo. ACS Synthetic Biology, 2016; DOI: 10.1021/acssynbio.5b00237

Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Punchy proteins could help advance drug delivery." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 February 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160217130659.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2016, February 17). Punchy proteins could help advance drug delivery. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 26, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160217130659.htm
American Chemical Society. "Punchy proteins could help advance drug delivery." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160217130659.htm (accessed May 26, 2017).

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