A Spoonful of Sugar

2011 is the International Year of Chemistry. Celebrating the amazing advances and discoveries made by researchers within the discipline, the high profile journal Nature has […]

2011 is the International Year of Chemistry. Celebrating the amazing advances and discoveries made by researchers within the discipline, the high profile journal Nature has showcased groundbreaking work by Oxford chemists led by Professors John Simons and Ben Davis.

Using an ultraviolet laser from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Laser Loan Pool, together with some clever computational work, the interaction of individual sugar units with short protein chains has been investigated in an environment free from solvent molecules.

Sugars can exist in two forms— however one is favoured over the other. The origins of this preference (termed the ‘anomeric effect’) are of great interest, because the two different forms interact differently with biological molecules such as proteins. Looking at these interactions in the absence of solvent removes external influences, so that the effect may be probed more thoroughly. What’s more, by understanding the physical mechanisms behind the anomeric effect, and their impact on interactions with other biological molecules, it may be possible for sugar molecules to be tailored for more effective use in drug development and delivery.

About Nicola Davis