Have you ever folded a protein with your hands?
You can do so by visiting our TeachingBASE. We invite you to create your own three-dimensional model of a protein using an A4 paper template.
By following the provided instructions we show you how to fold a triosephosphate isomerase (TIM) barrel. TIM barrels are some of the most common structural motifs found in proteins. In a TIM barrel eight α-helices and eight parallel β-strands form a solenoid that curves around to close on itself in a doughnut shape. Triosephosphate isomerase is a conserved metabolic enzyme that is involved in the production of chemical energy from sugar, a process called glycolysis.
This activity is suitable for use in the classroom as it gives the students an understanding of the structure / function relationships in proteins. Proteins are not only organized in linear chains of amino acids but need to take up a specific fold in order to be able to exert their functions.
A simple analogy: One could compare this to a pullover made of wool. Only when the thread is brought into its final “conformation” (knitted into a pullover) it will be able to warm the person wearing it.
The protein folding template and the instructions can be downloaded from the TeachingBASE on our ELLS teachers’ portal EMBLog: http://emblog.embl.de/ells/teachingbase
You can read more about the European Learning Laboratory for the Life Sciences (ELLS) at EMBL in this post.