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NIM nanosystems initiative munich

Monday, 14 December, 2009

New applications in living cells

Nanobodies modify protein shape and function

The functions of proteins are determined by their structure and shapes. Recognition of a protein antigen by the immune system’s antibodies can distort its shape and so perturb its function. A research team led by Professor Heinrich Leonhardt from the LMU-Biocenter, Professor Karl-Peter Hopfner from the LMU Genecenter, and the LMU biologist Dr. Ulrich Rothbauer who also heads the LMU spin-off ChromoTek were able to demonstrate that unconventionally small antibodies called nanobodies can modulate the properties of the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) with exquisite precision. GFP can be linked to other proteins and is used to track dynamic changes in living cells. The ability to alter the parameters of GFP fluorescence broadens its utility as an intracellular marker. More importantly, the study provides the structural basis how nanobodies can specifically manipulate proteins in subtle ways, opening up new experimental possibilities. (Nature Structural and Molecular Biology online, 13 December 2009)

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