Two-faced detergents | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 85 Issue 34 | p. 50 | Concentrates
Issue Date: August 20, 2007

Two-faced detergents

Department: Science & Technology | Collection: Critter Chemistry

A new detergent with a structure that deviates from the conventional topology of amphiphilic molecules could help drug developers eke out hard-to-get structural information about membrane-bound protein targets (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., DOI: 10.1002/anie.200701556). Detergents usually have a polar head group and a nonpolar alkyl tail, and one of their uses is mimicking cellular lipids to help preserve the structure and function of membrane proteins. To make the new detergent, a team led by Qinghai Zhang of Scripps Research Institute modified a steroid skeleton (shown, red) with polar sugar side groups (blue). The molecule's unmodified face packs against the membrane-spanning portion of a protein, leaving the side groups exposed as shown. The detergent has a larger surface area than conventional detergent molecules and can better maintain the proteins' integrity and catalytic activity than standard detergents, thus improving structural analysis, according to coauthor M. G. Finn.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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