PerspectiveStructural Biology

Membrane Protein Twists and Turns

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Science  25 Jan 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6118, pp. 398-399
DOI: 10.1126/science.1228655

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The more than 300 unique structures of membrane proteins solved to date (1) provide atomic-level insights into how membrane proteins can facilitate the highly specific and rapid passage of various molecules across the membrane. Only the most jaded scientist could fail to marvel at the molecular elevator that delivers aspartate across the membrane (2) or the protein finger that kicks maltose out of its binding pocket during transport (3). The structural bonanza has also provided important insights into the feats of molecular gymnastics that allow correct folding of the polypeptide in the membrane. Yet the structural complexity of membrane proteins raises many thorny folding questions that need to be answered.