Annual Report FY 2004 - Research at Cornell

09. The Shape of a Protein

Steven E. Ealick, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and his graduate student Yan Zhang discovered the crystal structure of a protein, AIRs, which has a shape similar to other members of the riboside kinase family—proteins important in making DNA and RNA. This makes nine members of the riboside kinase family believed to have evolved from a common protein ancestor, which Ealick’s research group has deciphered. Knowing the genetic sequence of two proteins is not enough to discern whether the proteins, for example, have a similar function in an organism. It is therefore important to look at their structural features—to know what they look like—in order to decipher their evolution and function. The researchers’ discovery is another step in determining what proteins look like. The group hopes to design a broad specificity riboside kinase as a laboratory tool for testing anticancer drugs and other pharmaceuticals. They also hope to decipher the structure of other riboside kinase family members.

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