Russian scientists have discovered a molecule to «turn on» muscles laser

© Photo : press service of MIPT/Lion on heliumТак the artist presented his work optogenetics technologiesRussian scientists have discovered a molecule to «turn on» muscles laser© Photo : press service of MIPT/Lion on helium

Russian molecular biologists have discovered and studied the light-sensitive protein that can be embedded in muscle cells and directly manage their work, «firing» the laser, according to an article published in the journal Science Advances.

«At the moment we have all the key information about the mechanism of the protein. On this we base further studies on the optimization and adjustment of parameters of protein to the needs of optogenetics,» said Vitaliy Shevchenko, the first author, the laboratory of advanced studies of membrane proteins, MIPT.

Scientists have long been interested in the question of how we can point to control neurons. To carry out the idea was only in 2005 when a group of researchers from Stanford University under the direction of Karl Disserta could change the neurons genetic engineering methods and to excite nerve cells, showering them with light. This technique is called optogenetics.

In subsequent years, biologists have developed several other versions of the optogenetics working with other types of light or fundamentally different types of radiation. For example, in may this year scientists the Institute of Bioorganic chemistry, Moscow state University created a «heat» version of optogenetics, borrowing genes from snakes seeking prey using the biological version of the imager.

Shevchenko and his colleagues have taken the first step to replenish the collection of such methods of «direct control» of the nervous system, studying the structure of light sensitive proteins, recently discovered in the microbial cells of the genus Anabaena and some of their relatives. Scientists assume that these bacteria use these molecules in order to feel that they are in the Sun, and begin to produce molecules that protect them from DNA damage by UV light.

These proteins, called kstartupinfo, differ markedly in structure from other bacterial molecules used in optogenetics, which gave scientists the idea of using them for other purposes, in addition to the «on» or «off» neurons.

In addition, differences in the structure of kstartupinfo and «normal» rodopsina may adversely affect the functioning of cells in which they are inserted, what you need to know before you undertake such a procedure. Shevchenko and other scientists from MIPT and the Institute of structural biology and research center Yulia studied in detail the structure of one of these proteins, NsXeR, trying to find the answer to these two questions.

As it turned out, NsXeR can be used not only to manipulate the brain, but also to control the operation of the muscles. This substance, as shown by the experiments of scientists on human cells and rats, does not interfere with the work of so called calcium channels that play a critical role in muscle contractions. This distinguishes it from many other light-sensitive proteins used in optogenetics today.

In addition, as the researchers note, NsXeR pumps the protons in one direction only, preventing «breakthrough» of ions inside the cell in case if this is a result of environmental conditions. This allows a very flexible and accurate control of muscular and nervous cells in a wider range of conditions, and values than usually obtained during optogenetics experiments.

As scientists hope, they collected data on the work of NsXeR will not only help to adapt it for use in experiments, but also to understand why such a protein, performing, in fact, a «useless» feature, you need a rather primitive bacteria, in which it was found.