Utrecht University researchers studying Japanese mushroom Grifola frondosa have achieved a major breakthrough that may help simplify the study of proteins lying at the root of various diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Lead researcher Albert Heck says that it is possible to identify proteins without knowing the organism's genetic composition by using an enzyme of the Japanese mushroom, which is also known as Maitake or dancing mushroom.
Professor Heck said that the identification of proteins that play a critical role in disease and growth processes of humans, animals and plants previously required the knowledge of the genetic composition of the organism.
He said that his new method could make it possible to study the proteins of an organism whose genetic composition is yet to be determined, such as exotic animal species.
He further said that his method could even revolutionise research into proteins responsible for such diseases as cancer and diabetes, reports the Environmental News Network.
In order to study the role proteins play in biological processes, the proteins themselves are cleaved into peptides, which are analysed using a mass spectrometer. The measurements produce a unique 'fingerprint' for each peptide.
So far, scientists have been relying on a comparison between such fingerprints and a database of known genetic compositions for the identification of proteins.
But Professor Heck has now shown that the enzyme of the Japanese mushroom he used can cleave the proteins in such a way that the peptides produce simplified fingerprints, and thus make it possible to identify the proteins even though the organism's genome has not been mapped out.
The study has been reported on the website of the journal Nature Methods.