Thursday, November 19, 2015

A magnetic protein biocompass?

A team of scientists from Peking University report a putative magnetic receptor (MagR) protein in Drosophila, CG8198 [1]. MagR binds an iron—sulphur cluster and interacts with photoreceptor cryptochrome (Cry) proteins to form a multimeric magnetosensing rod-like complex. Assemblies of these rods were observed orienting themselves in a weak magnetic field. Qin et al. speculate that these structures may function like compasses in living organisms, although the mechanism of magnetoreception in vivo remains a mystery [2].

A complete Cry/MagR magnetosensor protein complex structure model with 10 Crys helically binding to the rod-like MagR polymer consisting of 20 MagRs.
  1. Qin, S., Yin, H., Yang, C., Dou, Y., Liu, Z., Zhang, P., Yu, H., Huang, Y., Feng, J., Hao, J., Hao, J., Deng, L., Yan, X., Dong, X., Zhao, Z., Jiang, T., Wang, H.-W., Luo, S.-J. and Xie, C. (2015) A magnetic protein biocompass. Nature Materials, in print.
  2. Cyranoski, D. (2015) Long-sought biological compass discovered: Protein complex offers explanation for how animals sense Earth’s magnetic pull. Nature 527, 283–284.

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