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Alessandrini A.,CNR Institute of Neuroscience | Facci P.,CNR Institute of Biophysics
Soft Matter | Year: 2014

We review the capabilities of Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) in the study of phase transitions in Supported Lipid Bilayers (SLBs). AFM represents a powerful technique to cover the resolution range not available to fluorescence imaging techniques and where spectroscopic data suggest what the relevant lateral scale for domain formation might be. Phase transitions of lipid bilayers involve the formation of domains characterized by different heights with respect to the surrounding phase and are therefore easily identified by AFM in liquid solution once the bilayer is confined to a flat surface. Even if not endowed with high time resolution, AFM allows light to be shed on some aspects related to lipid phase transitions in the case of both a single lipid component and lipid mixtures containing sterols also. We discuss here the obtained results in light of the peculiarities of supported lipid bilayer model systems. © the Partner Organisations 2014.

Marchetti C.,CNR Institute of Biophysics
BioMetals | Year: 2014

There is increasing evidence that toxic metals play a role in diseases of unknown etiology. Their action is often mediated by membrane proteins, and in particular neurotransmitter receptors. This brief review will describe recent findings on the direct interaction of metal ions with ionotropic γ-aminobutyric acid (GABAA) and glutamate receptors, the main inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitter receptors in the mammalian central nervous system, respectively. Both hyper and hypo function of these receptors are involved in neurological and psychotic syndromes and modulation by metal ions is an important pharmacological issue. The focus will be on three xenobiotic metals, lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd) and nickel (Ni) that have no biological function and whose presence in living organisms is only detrimental, and two trace metals, zinc (Zn) and copper (Cu), which are essential for several enzymatic functions, but can mediate toxic actions if deregulated. Despite limited access to the brain and tight control by metalloproteins, exogenous metals interfere with receptor performances by mimicking physiological ions and occupying one or more modulatory sites on the protein. These interactions will be discussed as a potential cause of neuronal dysfunction. © Springer Science+Business Media 2014.

Morandini P.,CNR Institute of Biophysics
Plant Biotechnology Journal | Year: 2013

Which factors limit metabolite accumulation in plant cells? Are theories on flux control effective at explaining the results? Many biotechnologists cling to the idea that every pathway has a rate limiting enzyme and target such enzymes first in order to modulate fluxes. This often translates into large effects on metabolite concentration, but disappointing small increases in flux. Rate limiting enzymes do exist, but are rare and quite opposite to what predicted by biochemistry. In many cases however, flux control is shared among many enzymes. Flux control and concentration control can (and must) be distinguished and quantified for effective manipulation. Flux control for several 'building blocks' of metabolism is placed on the demand side, and therefore increasing demand can be very successful. Tampering with supply, particularly desensitizing supply enzymes, is usually not very effective, if not dangerous, because supply regulatory mechanisms function to control metabolite homeostasis. Some important, but usually unnoticed, metabolic constraints shape the responses of metabolic systems to manipulation: mass conservation, cellular resource allocation and, most prominently, energy supply, particularly in heterotrophic tissues. The theoretical basis for this view shall be explored with recent examples gathered from the manipulation of several metabolites (vitamins, carotenoids, amino acids, sugars, fatty acids, polyhydroxyalkanoates, fructans and sugar alcohols). Some guiding principles are suggested for an even more successful engineering of plant metabolism. © 2013 Society for Experimental Biology, Association of Applied Biologists and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Moran O.,CNR Institute of Biophysics
Journal of Theoretical Biology | Year: 2010

Mutations of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) cause cystic fibrosis, a hereditary lethal disease. CFTR is a chloride channel expressed in the apical membrane of epithelia. It is activated by cAMP dependent phosphorylation and gated by the binding of ATP. The impaired chloride transport of some types of cystic fibrosis mutations could be pharmacologically solved by the use of chemical compounds called potentiators. Here it is undertaken the construction of a model of the CFTR activation pathways, and the possible modification produced by a potentiator application. The model yields a novel mechanism for the potentiator action, describing the activatory and inhibitory activities on two different positions in the CFTR activation pathway. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd.

Kusch J.,Universitatsklinikum Jena | Zifarelli G.,CNR Institute of Biophysics
Biophysical Journal | Year: 2014

Ion channels and transporters are membrane proteins whose functions are driven by conformational changes. Classical biophysical techniques provide insight into either the structure or the function of these proteins, but a full understanding of their behavior requires a correlation of both these aspects in time. Patch-clamp and voltage-clamp fluorometry combine spectroscopic and electrophysiological techniques to simultaneously detect conformational changes and ionic currents across the membrane. Since its introduction, patch-clamp fluorometry has been responsible for invaluable advances in our knowledge of ion channel biophysics. Over the years, the technique has been applied to many different ion channel families to address several biophysical questions with a variety of spectroscopic approaches and electrophysiological configurations. This review illustrates the strength and the flexibility of patch-clamp fluorometry, demonstrating its potential as a tool for future research. © 2014 Biophysical Society.

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