Why protein crystallization is important?

Example of 3D-structure of protein
PCB degradation enzyme BphC
(Dr. Toshiya Senda)
PCB分解酵素BphC (産総研・千田俊哉氏)

1) Determination of the 3D-structure of protein molecules
The biological science has made remarkable progress during the last three decades. A wealth of information has accumulated on the chemical and physical aspects of proteins. Nevertheless, the understandings of the relation between the structure and function of protein are still insufficient. Further investigations are required to determine the mechanism of life. Although it is estimated that there exist about 10^11 kinds of proteins in nature, three-dimensional structures of only less than 10^(3-4) kinds of proteins have been analyzed and registered with protein data bank until 2001. At present, X-ray diffraction is the only method for the analysis of the complete three-dimensional structure of protein. Preparation of a single protein crystal of good quality enough to analyze, is important for X-ray diffraction. Success of the X-ray analysis extremely depends on the preparation of a single crystal of protein. The preparation of a protein single crystal of good quality for X-ray diffraction may often spend several months-years, because the crystallization of protein has been carried out by the trial and error method. Studies on the crystal growth of protein is necessary to develop the general method to grow the high quality protein crystals.

2) To study physical and chemical properties of protein molecules

Super photo-sensor made by rhodopsin

3) Delopment of a super-high-functional biomaterial
Protein has not been applied as a high-functional materials yet, since an assemble technique of protein molecules on an inorganic substrate is still quite insufficient. Development of a hetero-epitaxial growth technique of protein on a semiconductor substrate is also the target of this project. Growth of an organic semiconductor interlayer thin film crystal and graphoepitaxy will bring a breakthrough in realization of a bio-device such as "molecular reactor", "bio-computer" etc.

タンパク質は,それ自身非常に優れた機能を持つ高機能性材料です.もし,様々なタンパク質分子を基板上に訳のわかった向きに自在に 配列させることができれば,バイオコンピュータや分子リアクターなど,現在まだまだ夢物語であると考えられている事柄を実現することも不可能ではありません.そのための鍵を握る技術は,やはり結晶成長です.無機半導体基板の上にタンパク質をヘテロエピタキシャル成長させることができれば様々な応用が開けます.

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