Jun 24, 2022 12:00:00 PM       by Kin Leung

Why Protein Structure is a Big Deal

My first experience in a basic research laboratory was a structural biology project, in which we were attempting to solve the structure of a nervous system protein known as myelin basic protein (MBP). As a rookie undergraduate scientist at the University of California, I had great mentors who taught me everything, from how to purify recombinant proteins from bacteria to doing library work to understand what had been done before so I could build upon it. I also learned how to use an electron microscope (EM) to gather structural data. MBP was an interesting challenge as it had multiple isoforms due to alternative splicing, and generally behaved like a random coil. 1 The major function of MBP is to take advantage of its highly positive charge to compact myelin in higher organisms, with research over the years suggesting it may have some capacity to form alpha helices, although atomic-resolution structures have not yet been reported. MBP has also been reported as a biomarker in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. 1