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‘Transformer’ protein creates transport pods of different sizes
Posted June 04 2012
For the first time, Heidelberg researchers succeed in a high-resolution view of the three-dimensional structure of a complete vesicle.

The vesicle in question is a 'container' used in cells for the transport of materials between different cell compartments. The images show a certain type of vesicle which is enclosed by a protein named COPI. The COPI protein's structure had been unklown so far. Several copies of the protein attach to each other and thus form a coat around the vesicles' membrane. This was shown by a research team leaded by Dr. John Briggs at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), in collaboration with the group of Prof. Dr. Felix Wieland at Heidelberg University Biochemistry Center.

By the images created by Marco Faini, member of the Briggs group, the Heidelberg researchers made a surpising discovery: the COPI blocks are able to transform. They can change their shape in order to link to different numbers of protein copies. By modifying the shape of single COPI blocks, the cell is able to create vesicles of different forms and sizes. These are assumed to be used for the transport of different amounts of fright. The results of the research group have been published in "Science".

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