Classic biochemistry has long analyzed isolated biological molecules, or their fragments, within artificial solutions in test tubes. However, the results obtained may belie the actual behavior of these molecules as they function within live cells.
Ph.D. graduate students Philemon S. Yang and Manu Ben Johny, along with Johns Hopkins BME professor David T. Yue, have devised methods to translate traditional biochemistry approaches from the test-tube context into live cells — thus resolving a mystery about the regulation of ion-channel molecules that usher calcium ions into cells to orchestrate vital brain functions.
These advances not only reveal how calcium ion channels are properly controlled in the brain, but furnish a powerful new strategy for probing similarly large and complex molecules that abound throughout the body. The Hopkins team is adding to a growing biochemical toolkit to study native molecular function in live cells, essential equipment for a new era of biological discovery. These findings were published online on 1/19/2014 in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.