Importance of knowing tertiary structure

Richard Lathrop rickl at
Fri Jul 11 11:54:41 EST 1997

   From: David Jones <jones at>
   Date: 10 Jul 1997 17:00:03 GMT
   [...] All a _successful_ computational
   method would add to that would be the fact that the structure could
   be calculated quickly and without actually having to purify a
   tubeful of the protein in question. The world would be no more
   changed by someone solving the protein problem than it would by
   someone developing a completely automated NMR technique that can
   determine a protein's structure in 5 minutes.

David makes some excellent points, and I agree with him when the
discussion is restricted to natural proteins.  There is one other area
which is (slowly!) becoming important and will doubtless become moreso
--- protein design.  In this case, David's step of purifying a tubeful
of the protein must be preceded in the physical world by physically
creating the tubeful, and this step may be intractable (a search
through sequence space might visit millions of possible proteins) or
impossible (some of the proteins in question might be toxic to
standard cloning vectors).  However, a _successful_ computational
method would support the design process fully in these cases.

   [...] If we ever understand the protein folding code, the world would be
   changed as much or as little as it was when the genetic code was

Again I agree with David, and I submit that this was a great deal of
change.  In particular, it opened up all of genetic engineering
through recombinant DNA, allowing gene design to be done with the
resulting products predicted correctly in the absence of experiment.

	-=*=-  Rick Lathrop

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