June 2010

JBC Minireview Explores Another Scientific Intersection

 

Throughout its 105-year history, the Journal of Biological Chemistry has stayed true to its title and presented numerous papers that use chemistry to understand biological processes; in fact, articles that feature new chemical reagents or small molecule enzyme inhibitors generally are among the journal’s most-cited papers.

Therefore, even though chemical biology— defined as the use of chemical tools and techniques to advance a molecular understanding of biology— has emerged as a unique discipline in the molecular life sciences, with its own set of journals and meetings, it finds itself highly intertwined with biological chemistry. In effect, these two disciplines need each other.

To highlight this perhaps inseparable connection, the JBC put out a new minireview series in April, titled “Chemical Biology Meets Biological Chemistry.”

Coordinated by JBC Associate Editor Joel M. Gottesfeld and Benjamin F. Cravatt, this series features six minireviews that emphasize the importance of uniting synthetic chemistry with biochemistry in the study of complex biological processes. The minireviews highlight both the application of chemical techniques toward understanding life processes at the molecular level and the development of synthetic compounds either as tools for research or therapies for disease.

In the first minireview, Lori W. Lee and Anna K. Mapp describe the development of synthetic small molecules to control transcription in eukaryotic cells; one notable example mentioned is p53, whose misregulation is involved in half of all cancers, yet, the molecule still remains a bit of a mystery.

Next, Travis S. Young and Peter G. Schultz describe efforts to introduce non-natural amino acids into proteins, for example, residues with side chains that contain fluorophores, post-translational modifications, metal-binding ligands and photocross-linking reagents.

Champak Chatterjee and Tom W. Muir, meanwhile, describe techniques such as native chemical ligation and related synthetic methods used to generate histones with unique post-translational modifications to better probe chromatin structure and function.

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