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New Research Grant Awarded

20 December 2011

A £440K grant has been awarded by BBSRC to staff in the Schools of Chemistry and Medicine. The award, entitled “Controlling cell death and proliferation with encodable visible light responsive proteins” was awarded to Professor Rudolf Allemann and Professor Gerald Richter in the School of Chemistry in collaboration with Prof Paul Smith and Dr Rachel Errington in the School of Medicine.

Recent work from Cardiff has shown that it is possible to induce cell death in cancer cells treated with biophotonic nanoswitches, short peptides that interact specifically with protein surfaces. In detail, the interactions between the cell cycle regulators p53/hdm-2, Bcl-xL/bak and Bcl-xL/bid depend on alpha-helices from one partner that bind into groves on the surface of the other. Peptides were synthesised with azobenzene-linkers that enable the light-controlled generation of a stable alpha-helical structure, which then interacts with the binding partner.

The objectives of the work are to develop genetically-encodable, photo-activatable proteins, which carry recognition sequences for hdm-2 and Bcl-xL in the Jalpha- helix of LOV domains to control their activity with respect to binding to hdm-2 and p53. The new system will allow visible, rather than UV- light to be the trigger, since it is less damaging and penetrates further into tissue. The work will deliver novel generic investigational tools and insights into the biology of cellular pathways with potential applications in therapy.

research grant