There are certain proteins that inform the plant cells, bacteria and fungi whether it is day or night or cloudy or sunny and researchers have determined the inner reaction of one of these proteins.
The findings have suggestions both for improving crop yield and also in engineering artificial proteins that could be applied to release drugs at particular spots in our body to tend cancer cells.
This protein that inquires are called “phytochromes”. It consists of thousands of atoms that could can be thought of as tiny, microscopic machines.
These sensitive and light proteins are found in all plant leaves and are also found in many bacteria and fungi.
Sebastian Westenhoff from University of Gothenburg in Sweden explains, “Phytochrome proteins are the eyes of plants and are found in many bacteria. We have now discovered how bacterial phytochromes work at the molecular level.”
The efficient photosynthesis needs leaves that are exposed to the sun. Inn this case, the plants must grow towards the sunlight and phytochrome proteins takes over this process.
The proteins notices the light and signal to the plant cell regarding how much light is available.
Likewise, bacteria use phytochromes to shift to spots where they can survive well.
Westenhoff explained, “Each time a phytochrome protein absorbs light, it deforms in a well-orchestrated series of structural changes. We already discovered an early structural change two years ago. Back then we used a shortened phytochrome.”
He further added, “In the meantime, we have advanced our experimental methods and could now study a full-length protein with a biological activator unit, called histidine kinase. This revealed the change in the final stage of the process.”
The discovery, published in the journal Science Advances, increases understanding of how phytochromes work. This enables modification of the proteins, for example, to increase crop yield.
However, the latest knowledge is also critical for another technology, wherein the scientists engineer light sensitive proteins in order to control organisms by light. Probably such artificial proteins could be used to release drugs at the particular spots in our body, for example, in cancer cells.
“Proteins are molecular nanomachines, which control most of what we see in Nature. Deciphering the structure of proteins is key to understanding how the machines work. This knowledge can also be used to modify or construct new proteins, with custom-built functions,” Westenhoff states.
–(With inputs from agencies)