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Kristine Brazin and Amy Andreotti 02-05-02

Contacts:
Amy Andreotti, Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology,
  (515) 294-4953
Bridget Bailey, News Service, (515) 294-6881


IOWA STATE RESEARCHERS DISCOVER STEP IN HOW THE BODY FIGHTS INFECTION

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University researchers have found a way to control a protein that helps the body fight infection.

The discovery, which could lead to advances in the treatment of immune-system-related diseases, has brought the scientific community one step closer to being able to treat disease, said Amy Andreotti, assistant professor of biochemistry at Iowa State. It also brings new understanding of exactly how the cell works, she added.

Andreotti's research group recently discovered an "on/off switch" that controls the activity of a protein that can help the body fight infection. The switch, called proline cis/trans isomerization, was found to control activity in the interleukin-2 tyrosine kinase protein.

The researchers -- Andreotti, graduate assistant Kristine Brazin, postdoctoral researcher Robert Mallis, and assistant scientist Bruce Fulton -- present their findings in the Feb. 5 issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper is titled, "Regulation of the tyrosine kinase Itk by the peptidyl-prolyl isomerase cyclophilin A."

"All proteins in a cell must be tightly controlled to maintain normal cellular behavior," Andreotti said. "Our research is focused on the molecular mechanism by which one protein, interleukin-2 tyrosine kinase, is controlled in T-cells."

T cells are white blood cells that make up the part of the immune system responsible for responding to infection and keeping the body healthy. When protein activities are not controlled the result is abnormal cell growth or even cancer.

A critical aspect of the work is the discovery that cyclophilin-A, an abundant protein that has not yet been assigned a function, can control the on-off switch in interleukin-2 tyrosine kinase. Andreotti said the goal of the researchers is to understand how protein activities are controlled at the molecular level. She said that the switch mechanism may be present in other proteins and that cyclophilin-A may be a general switch operator.

Andreotti's group used a technique called nuclear magnetic resonance to clarify the detailed structural features of these proteins and learn about their specific functions.

"This research is one step toward understanding the molecular details of how cells work," Andreotti said. "Most diseases are related to the inner workings of the cell having gone awry."

If scientists can understand how the cell works, they will be one step closer to treating diseases as they arise, Andreotti added.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Editors:
A copy of the Andreotti paper, "Regulation of the tyrosine kinase Itk by the peptidyl-prolyl isomerase cyclophilin A" can be obtained by contacting the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Press Office, (202) 334-2138, email pnasnews@nas.edu. The above photo of Andreotti (right) and Kristine Brazin can be downloaded at http://www.public.iastate.edu/~nscentral/photos/andreotti.html.




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