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January 10, 2022

from the University of Montreal

Researchers at the Université de Montréal have developed a nano-antenna to monitor the movement of proteins. The device, published this week in Nature Methods, is a new way to monitor the structural change in proteins over time – and can help scientists better understand natural and man-made nanotechnologies.

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“The results are so exciting that we are currently working on building a start-up company to commercialize this nano-antenna and make it available to most researchers and the pharmaceutical industry,” said UdeM chemistry professor Alexis Vallée -Bélisle, senior study author.

Over 40 years ago, researchers invented the first DNA synthesizer to create molecules that encode genetic information. “In recent years, chemists have recognized that DNA can also be used to build a wide variety of nanostructures and nanomachines,” adds the researcher, who also holds the Canada Research Chair in Bioengineering and Bionanotechnology.

“Inspired by the ‘Lego Similar ‘properties of DNA with building blocks that are typically 20,000 times smaller than a human hair, we have developed a DNA-based fluorescent nano-antenna that can help characterize the function of proteins, “he said.

” How a radio that can both receive and transmit radio waves, the fluorescent nano-antenna receives light in one color or wavelength and, depending on the perceived protein movement, sends back light in a different color that we can recognize. “

One of the main innovations in these nano-antennas is that the receiver part of the antenna is also used to capture the molecular surface of the protein under study via molecular interaction.

One of the main advantages of using DNA to develop these nano-antennas is that DNA chemistry is relatively simple and programmable, “said Scott Harroun, a UdeM PhD student in chemistry and lead author of the study.

” The DNA-based nano-antennas can be synthesized with varying lengths and flexibilities in order to optimize their function, “he said. “You can easily attach a fluorescent molecule to the DNA and then attach that fluorescent nano-antenna to a biological nanomachine, such as an enzyme.

” By carefully fine-tuning the nano-antenna design, we have a five-nanometer antenna that generates a clear signal when the protein fulfills its biological function. “

” For example, we were able to demonstrate the function of the enzyme alkaline phosphatase with a large number of biological molecules and drugs in real time for the first time, “says Harroun. “This enzyme is implicated in many diseases, including various types of cancer and intestinal inflammation.

” This new method not only helps us understand how natural nanomachines work or fail, leading to disease, but can also help chemists find promising new ones Identify drugs and guide nanoengineers in developing improved nanomachines, “added Dominic Lauzon, co-author of The Degree Doing His Ph.D. in chemistry at the UdeM.

“Perhaps what excites us most is the realization that many laboratories around the world that are equipped with a conventional spectrofluorometer could easily use these nano-antennas to study their favorite protein , for example to identify new drugs or develop new nanotechnologies, ”said Vallée -Bélisle.

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A nano-antenna to monitor protein movement

Ref: https://phys.org