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Caltech Biochemist Sheds Light on Structure of Key Cellular ‘Gatekeeper’ (+)

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Credit: Lance Hayashida/Caltech Office of Strategic Communications and the Hoelz Laboratory/Caltech Click image to enlarge
Credit: Lance Hayashida/Caltech Office of Strategic Communications and the Hoelz Laboratory/Caltech

Facing a challenge akin to solving a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle while blindfolded—and without touching the pieces—many structural biochemists thought it would be impossible to determine the atomic structure of a massive cellular machine called the nuclear pore complex (NPC), which is vital for cell survival.

But after 10 years of attacking the problem, a team led by André Hoelz, assistant professor of chemistry, recently solved almost a third of the puzzle. The approach his team developed to do so also promises to speed completion of the remainder.

In an article published online February 12 by Science Express, Hoelz and his colleagues describe the structure of a significant portion of the NPC, which is made up of many copies of about 34 different proteins, perhaps 1,000 proteins in all and a total of 10…

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