Like finally seeing all the gears of a watch and how they work together, researchers from UCLA and UC Berkeley have, for the first time ever, solved the puzzle of how the various components of an entire telomerase enzyme complex fit together and function in a three-dimensional structure.
The creation of the first complete visual map of the telomerase enzyme, which is known to play a significant role in aging and most cancers, represents a breakthrough that could open up a host of new approaches to fighting disease, the researchers said.
"Everyone in the field wants to know what telomerase looks like, and there it was. I was so excited, I could hardly breathe," said Juli Feigon, a UCLA professor of chemistry and biochemistry and a senior author of the study. "We were the first to see it."
The scientists report the positions of each component of the enzyme relative to one another and the complete organization of the enzyme's active site. In addition, they demonstrate how the different components contribute to the enzyme's activity, uniquely correlating structure with biochemical function.
The research appears April 11 in the print edition of the journal Nature and is available online.
"We combined every single possible method we could get our hands on to solve this structure and used cutting-edge technological advances," said co-first author Jiansen Jiang, a researcher who works with Feigon and the study's co-senior author, Z. Hong Zhou, director of the Electron Imaging Center for Nanomachines at the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA and a professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics. "This breakthrough would not have been possible five years ago."
"We really had to figure out how everything fit together, like a puzzle," said co-first author Edward Miracco, a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow in Feigon's laboratory. "When we started fitting in the high-re
|Contact: Stuart Wolpert|
University of California - Los Angeles