A powerful new GPS-like tool, developed by Michigan researchers, can identify proteins that are affected by a chemical process that is key to aging and disease development.
The probe, which works like a GPS or navigation system for finding these proteins in cells, could lead to new insights into disease processes and identify new targets for disease treatments, according to the researchers.
Kate Carroll and colleagues said that it has long been known that the excess build-up of highly reactive oxygen-containing molecules in cells can contribute to aging, and possibly to disorders like cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
It is believed that a diet rich in antioxidants, which are abundant in fruits and vegetables, may help cease this cell-damaging process by blocking the accumulation of these molecules, also known as reactive oxygen species (ROS).
However, to date, scientists have not found any proper tools to study the effects of these molecules in detail.
Thus, the researchers developed a new molecule called DAz-2, which, according to them, functions like a tiny GPS device for quickly finding specific proteins that are affected by ROS.
The molecules do this by chemically "tagging" sulfenic acid, which is formed in cells and indicates that a protein has undergone a type of reaction - called oxidation - caused by ROS.
In lab studies using cultured cells, the scientists identified more than 190 proteins that undergo this reaction.
The researchers said that the study could lead to better strategies for fighting the wide range of diseases that involve these excessive oxidation reactions.
The study will be published in ACS Chemical Biology, a monthly journal.