Life may rely on the interaction of two proteins that bind along a metabolic pathway. They promote growth by creating essential fatty acids to ensure the formation of cell membranes in a liquid and protective environment. Scientists gauged the basic enzymes drawn in, in this fatty acid biosynthesis, but did not always understand the many molecular transformations involved. In particular, they are yet to identify how proteins interact or cause them to produce saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.
New research from scientists at the University of California at San Diego and the University of Michigan has unlocked a new chapter in the story about what turnouts between two vital metabolic enzymes. The results, highlighted in a recent article published in the National Academy of Sciences report, place biologists in chemistry on the way to a new understanding of fatty acid biosynthesis.
“Nature likes to reuse the tools it has created,” said Michael Burkart of UC San Diego. “These works are not only relevant to the basic understanding of metabolism but the findings can also be applied to the development of new antibiotics and the synthetic biology of fuels and renewable materials.”
The study led by Kara Finzel, former UC San Diego student and co-authored by Greg Dodge of the University of Michigan and Ashay Patel, UC San Diego, explains how E. coli bacteria, in this case, produce the saturated and unsaturated fatty acids of life.
Using the tools of chemical biology developed at the University of San Diego, the authors collaborated with their mentors, Burkart and J. Andrew McCammon, both eminent researchers from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of San Diego, and a well-known as an X-ray crystallographer at the Institute of Life Sciences at the University of Michigan, Janet Smith, to scrutinize an enzyme called FabZ and a protein called AcpP.