Chemical ‘supercharger’ solves molecular membrane mystery

More than 60% of market drugs aimed at fighting disease target molecular proteins in the cell membranes – but techological limitations have previously limited researchers’ ability to observe these proteins in their natural environment.

Now, scientists in the lab of Yale School of Medicine’s Kallol Gupta, PhD, have identified a class of chemicals, called “superchargers,” that gently destabilize the cell membrane while leaving cell proteins intact. The team was able to show how cell membranes regulate the speed of neurotransmitter release, a key step in central nervous system signaling.

Traditional methods of isolating proteins from the membrane environment with mass spectrometry have damaged the proteins and their ability to bind with other molecules – including those with potentially therapeutic value. This breakthrough technology will allow scientists to screen future therapeutics precisely and directly at the point where proteins encounter new drugs.