A study published on 22 May in the journal Nature detects the role of X-ray experiments at Berkeley Lab's Advanced light source (SLA) in detailing the structure of a group of amino acids that are part of an important signaling protein.
The protein, known as STING, plays an important role in the activation of the immune system.
Banumathi Sankaran, a biophysicist to Berkeley Lab who leads the Collaborative crystallography program at the ALS, the analysis of X-ray data performed on crystallized proteins confirmed that a part of STING helps to bind to an enzyme that modifies the protein associated with diseases and some tumors, signaling a response immune.
"Our immune system is like an electrical circuit," said Pingwei Li, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the Texas A & M University which led the study. The protein component at the center of the study works "like a switch that turns the immune system into … to fight viral infections or cancer".
He credited Sankaran for his success in working with crystal samples. "Getting this data was very challenging," he said. "The superb facilities and service offered by the SLA have been very critical to the success of this challenging project."
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