Amino acid fingerprints revealed in new study

Fri, 2014-04-11

Some three billion base pairs make up the human genome – the floorplan of life. In 2003, the Human Genome Project announced the successful decryption of this code, a tour de force that continues to supply a stream of insights relevant to human health and disease.

Nevertheless, the primary actors in virtually all life processes are the proteins coded for by DNA sequences known as genes. For a broad spectrum of diseases, proteins can yield far more compelling revelations than may be gleaned from DNA alone if researchers can manage to unlock the amino acid sequences from which they are composed.

Now, Stuart Lindsay and his colleagues at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute have taken a major step in this direction, demonstrating the accurate identification of amino acids by briefly pinning each in a narrow junction between a pair of flanking electrodes and measuring a characteristic chain of current spikes passing through successive amino acid molecules.

By using a machine-learning algorithm, Lindsay and his team were able to train a computer to recognize bursts of electrical activity representing the momentary binding of an amino acid within the junction. The noise signals were shown to act as reliable fingerprints, identifying amino acids, including subtly modified variants.

Proteins are already providing a wealth of information pertinent to diseases, including cancer, diabetes and neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s, as well as furnishing key insights into another protein-mediated process: aging.  Read more here 


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