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May K. = [meɪ keɪ]

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Protein Art: CDK5-P25 Complex [Jul. 31st, 2013|01:52 pm]

Dear readers of my blog,

I have to apologize for not being active for a while! I have received many great protein orders and little by little I am working on their realization. But unfortunately, I have a quite tough time this year as the final countdown of my PhD began. I will make up for the missing posts as soon as I can. Thank you for your understanding and patience! Here is a small reward:

Protein Data Bank ID: 1H4L

Protein Name: CDK5-P25 Complex

Organism: Homo sapiens

Title of Drawing: “Baby Dragon Playing with a Toy House

Cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (CDK5) is an enzyme which triggers the phosphorylation of a key protein of the reelin signaling pathway. Via this pathway CDK5 is involved in neuronal migration and positioning. For its activation CDK5 needs a cofactor, p35 (a fragment of p35 called p25 is shown in the bottom part of this drawing). Recent studies have shown that CDK5 is required already early on during brain development [1].

Similar to ‘playing games’, CDK5 is necessary for a proper development of children’s brain. This baby dragon playing with his toy house illustrates these connections.
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Call for Art & Science Exhibition Proposals for ISMB ECCB 2013 in Berlin [Mar. 20th, 2013|05:40 pm]

Call for Art & Science Exhibition Proposals – ISMB/ECCB 2013
Scientists and artists are invited to submit images and videos that illustrate research projects, scientific principles and draw a link between art and science.

Images and videos will automatically enter an online contest for a $200 (USD) award.

Read more...Collapse )

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Exciting News [Feb. 28th, 2013|04:23 pm]

The negative news for the start:

  • Unfortunately, my entry for the ''International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge' is not among the winners. Here are the 2012 winners. However, a huge "Thank You" to all who supported me!

Now the positive ones:

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Protein Art: Neurophysin I, carrier protein for Oxytocin [Jan. 29th, 2013|10:55 pm]
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Protein Data Bank ID: 2HNU
Protein Name: Neurophysin I (Carrier for Oxytocin)
Organism: Bos taurus
Title of Drawing: Mother Bear with Baby

Neurophysin I together with oxytocin are both cleavage products of the precursor protein preprooxyphysin. Once preprooxyphysin has been cleaved, neurophysin acts as carrier protein for oxytocin. Oxytocin is a well-known hormone. It has many functions, especially in the field of human relationships. For example, it plays an important role in bonding between mother and child. Sometimes a view of a baby face is enough to induce a release of oxytocin.
So mother bear and its baby is a direct illustration of the function of oxytocin and hence its carrier protein neurophysin I.
Here you can see a TED talk about the role of oxytocin. And here is an easy accessible video for the Russian-speaking readers.
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Hurray!:))) [Nov. 2nd, 2012|11:16 am]

UPD: Thank you very much for your help! The winners will be announced in February. Looking forward with excitement!)

My entry has been chosen as one of the top 10 in its category in the International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge! Now I need your help: If you vote for me, my entry may be designated the People’s Choice.
The 2013 winning entries will be published in a February 2014 issue of the journal Science!!

There seem to be troubles with the login, therefore the voting procedure might be a little complicated:

1. Follow this lin and click “Register”

2. Follow the link you will get in the verification e-mail

3. Follow this link to login (it is important to use this link as otherwise you the login procedure might not work out)

4. Find my entry “Nature playing chess” and click on “Vote for this entry” (it might be difficult to find as it is written in gray letters)

Thank you so much for your help and sorry for the inconvenience!


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Protein Art: GSK-3 [Oct. 30th, 2012|10:29 pm]
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Protein Data Bank ID: 1Q3W
Protein Name: GSK-3
Organism: Homo sapiens
Title of Drawing: “Kitti's hog-nosed bat“

This protein was drawn for a friend working on the same floor as I do.

The enzyme Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 (GSK-3) mediates the transfer of phosphate groups to specific amino acid residues (serine or threonine) of its target protein. Usually phosphorylation by GSK-3 leads to the inhibition of the target. This kinase is involved in many processes of living organisms, one of which is the storage of glucose. This protein is of high interest to researchers as it seems to be implicated in many different diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Type II diabetes, some forms of cancer, and Bipolar Disorder.
So in the run-up to Halloween we should follow the example of the glucose storing GSK-3 and stock up on candies!
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Protein Art: Nanobody [Sep. 5th, 2012|09:00 pm]
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Protein Data Bank ID: 1MEL
Protein Name: Nanobody
Organism: Camelus dromedarius
Title of Drawing: “Bedouin Riding a Camel“

It is not only the drawing showing a dromedary, but also the inspiring protein originates from a dromedary camel.

This small protein is called nanobody. Sounds cool, but what is a nanobody? It is a fragment of an antibody, in this case an antibody from a camel. Antibodies serve our immune system, they can bind pathogenic substances and protect our body from dangerous invaders. Antibodies are widely used in medicine and biology, e.g for passive immunization or targeting of substances (mostly proteins) of interest. In both fields nanobodies have their advantages. They are stabler and much smaller than conventional antibodies and can pass narrow holes. So literally, for this nanobody camel it is easy to go through the eye of a needle.

In the following illustration you can see how small the nanobody (right) is compared to the conventional antibody (left) and to the camel antibody (middle). The antigen binding regions (variable domains) are shown in yellow and green. The nanobody corresponds to the variable domain of the camel antibody.

Image source:

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Protein Art: Collagen [Sep. 4th, 2012|11:12 pm]
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Protein Data Bank ID: 3HON
Protein Name: Collagen XVIII Trimerization Domain
Organism: Homo sapiens
Title of Drawing: Allusion to Walter Moers' "Alter Sack" from "The Little Asshole"

This is a trimerization domain from human collagen XVIII. Collagens are well known for their function as structural proteins. We all know that collagen is an important component of skin, bones, and muscles. Not many of us know that there are over 20 different types of collagen, one of them (type XVIII) turned out to have a function rather untypical for collagen. Like other collagen family members collagen XVIII consists of three helical chains. The formation of this triple helical structure is dependent on the here shown trimerization domain. Once the trimerization domains of three collagen chains have found each other and assembled, the chains start aligning and acquiring a helical structure. This happens in a zipper-like manner. Cleavage of collagen XVIII results in a small protein called endostatin. Endostatin prevents the formation of blood vessels and is a possible agent for cancer treatment.

Image modified from:

The old geezer in my drawing was supposed to be an allusion to the “Old Curmudgeon” (scenes with curmudgeon on YouTube; in german) from “The Little Asshole”, cartoon by a german comic creator Walter Moers... The same day that I was finishing this drawing, I occasionally stumbled upon a cartoonist unknown to me by then. His book was offered by the bookstore on our campus. The cartoonist's name is Jean-Marc Reiser. I liked his obscene cartoons and couldn’t resist the special offer, so I bought the book. When I came home I searched the Web for more cartoons. And that is what I found:

Image source:,1010993.aspx

Now compare Reiser’s “handicapé” to Moes’ ”old curmudgeon”.

Image source:

Indeed, I found out that Moers was a big fan of Reiser. Thus, my tribute to Walter Moers at the same time turned out to be a tribute to Jean-Marc Reiser.
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Protein Art: IκBα [Mar. 24th, 2012|12:18 am]
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Protein Data Bank ID: 1NFI
Protein Name: Ankyrin Repeat Domain of IκBα
Organism: Escherichia coli
Title of Drawing: "Five Seals"

I know, I’m a little late. But I don't want to miss this post as March 22. was the International Day of Seals. So here are the seals based on the IκBα protein, which, by the way, has been suggested by Diego, a guest of my blog.

IκBα belongs to the family of proteins which can inhibit the nuclear factor NF-κB. Therefore, first, it is important to understand the function of the latter protein. NF-κB is a transcription factor, meaning that it can go to the nucleus and bind DNA thereby controlling the transcription of special genes. This translocation to the nucleus requires some activating processes. In the case of NF-κB activation happens upon stress such as irradiation, free radicals, bacterial and viral intrusion, etc. This leads to a specific response helping the cell to overcome these stress conditions. In an unstressed situation NF-κB is inactive. IκBα is responsible for the inactivation of NF-κB by binding and sequestering it in the cytoplasm, thereby preventing its translocation to the nucleus. This inhibition is necessary to avoid chronic activation of NF-κB which might lead to cancer. It is the here shown ankyrin repeat domain of IκBα by which it masks the nuclear localization signals domain of NF-κB. Generally, the ankyrin repeat domain is responsible for protein-protein interactions and can be found in many different proteins.
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Protein Art: LplA [Mar. 18th, 2012|09:30 pm]
Protein Data Bank ID: 2AAI
Protein Name: Lipoate-Protein Ligase A
Organism: Escherichia coli

Recently two students who used to work in our lab asked me to draw a special protein. Lipoate-protein ligase A (LplA) is an enzyme which catalyzes the attachment of lipoic acid to specific enzymes. This allows lipoic acid to act as a coenzyme primarily in oxidative decarboxylation reactions. Recently, this ability of LplA was used to label proteins with fluorescent tags [*].
And here are the outcomes:

“A Pashtun Man”

Instead of boring you with more information about the protein I decided to write a little bit about Pashtuns. They are an Iranian ethnic group which primarily can be found in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pashtuns speak Pashto which belogs to the group of Eastern Iranian languages. One of their distinctive features is a very complicated system of tribes and clans. One example of Pashtun traditional garments is the so-called Pakul [*], a hat which you can see on the head of the drawn man.

One possible memory aid could go as follows: Like the Pakul helps to identify a Pashtun, LplA can help to identify proteins by labeling them.

Just turn the protein image through 180° and you will see a completely different motif which has absolutely no connection to the previous one.

"Sick Rat Dreaming of a Piece of Tart"

Here the fatty tart might remind us of the fact that LplA is involved in the attachment of lipoic acid which in its turn is involved in the lipid metabolism.
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