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Web Date: October 3, 2012

How A Bacterial Protein Outwits Arsenate

Structural Biology: Hydrogen bond drives preference for phosphate, with implications for arsenic-based life saga
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Biological SCENE
Keywords: arsenic, astrobiology, origin of life, controversy, bacteria, crystallography

With a detailed structure, researchers have discovered that a distorted hydrogen bond shapes how a bacterial protein distinguishes essential phosphate from toxic arsenate (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature11517). The work represents another nail in the coffin for the controversial claim that a microbe called GFAJ-1 could incorporate arsenate in its metabolites.

Phosphate-binding proteins and enzymes studied so far have shown little preference for phosphate over arsenate. Wondering . . .

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