Protein Structure and Function

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Complementarity of shape between two protein surfaces. A technique called X-ray crystallography was used to generate a computer model of an antibody protein (blue and orange, left) bound to a flu virus protein (yellow and green, right). This is a wireframe model modified by adding an “electron density map” in the region where the two proteins meet. Computer software was then used to back the images away from each other slightly.
Source: Urry, Lisa A.. Campbell Biology (p. 79). Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.

Protein Structure and Function (Campbell Biology)

The specific activities of proteins result from their intricate three-dimensional architecture, the simplest level of which is the sequence of their amino acids. What can the amino acid sequence of a polypeptide tell us about the three-dimensional structure (commonly referred to simply as the “structure”) of the protein and its function? The term polypeptide is not synonymous with the term protein. Even for a protein consisting of a single polypeptide, the relationship is somewhat analogous to that between a long strand of yarn and a sweater of particular size and shape that can be knitted from the yarn. A functional protein is not just a polypeptide chain, but one or more polypeptides precisely twisted, folded, and coiled into a molecule of unique shape, which can be shown in several different types of models. And it is the amino acid sequence of each polypeptide that determines what three-dimensional structure the protein will have under normal cellular conditions.

When a cell synthesizes a polypeptide, the chain may fold spontaneously, assuming the functional structure for that protein. This folding is driven and reinforced by the formation of various bonds between parts of the chain, which in turn depends on the sequence of amino acids. Many proteins are roughly spherical (globular proteins), while others are shaped like long fibers (fibrous proteins). Even within these broad categories, countless variations exist.

A protein’s specific structure determines how it works. In almost every case, the function of a protein depends on its ability to recognize and bind to some other molecule. In an especially striking example of the marriage of form and function, the photo above shows the exact match of shape between an antibody (a protein in the body) and the particular foreign substance on a flu virus that the antibody binds to and marks for destruction. Morphine, heroin, and other opiate drugs are able to mimic endorphins because they all have a shape similar to that of endorphins and can thus fit into and bind to endorphin receptors in the brain. This fit is very specific, something like a lock and key. The endorphin receptor, like other receptor molecules, is a protein. The function of a protein—for instance, the ability of a receptor protein to bind to a particular pain-relieving signaling molecule—is an emergent property resulting from exquisite molecular order.

Source:

Urry, Lisa A.. Campbell Biology. Pearson Education. Kindle Edition. https://www.pearson.com/us/higher-education/series/Campbell-Biology-Series/2244849.html

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