A team of researchers at NUI Galway have made a major breakthrough in discovering how drugs interact with proteins in cells, which may have positive implications for the treatment of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
The team, led by Dr Peter Crowley, have revealed in detail how a drug-like molecule can explore the surface of a protein. In the past, drug production has concentrated on finding molecules that fit perfectly on the surface of a protein, and then modify its activity. Newer research has shifted focus onto molecules that recognise and bind to the protein’s surface.
The research undertaken by the team at NUI Galway has revealed that molecules scout around the protein surface, moving from one location to another, constantly examining their surroundings. Such molecules can camouflage the protein and prevent it from binding to other proteins. Undesirable protein interactions can be a factor in genetic diseases, and understanding them is key in developing new drugs to combat these conditions.
The research findings were published online on Sunday last (April 29 ) and will appear in the June edition of the Nature Chemistry journal.
Dr Peter Crowley said the findings were vital and emphasised the importance of funding for basic research.
“Inside every cell thousands of different proteins work together, like the parts in a machine, to sustain life. How proteins stick to one another and to other molecules is a crucial piece in the complicated puzzle of biochemistry and often the key to effective drugs,” he said.
“The result is exciting because it adds a new dimension to our understanding and provides drug designers with an alternative strategy.”
Dr Crowley acknowledged the support of NUI Galway and Science Foundation Ireland. The project was a collaborative effort between the team at NUI Galway and the European Synchroton Radiation Facility and Dr Amir Khan of Trinity College Dublin