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May K. = [meɪ keɪ]

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Protein Art: Collagen [Sep. 4th, 2012|11:12 pm]
May K. = [meɪ keɪ]
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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: www.nature.com/nrc/journal/v3/n6/full/nrc1094.html

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: http://www.chapitre.com/CHAPITRE/fr/BOOK/reiser-jean-marc/l-annee-des-handicapes,1010993.aspx


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


Image source: http://www.booklooker.de/Filme/Walter-Moers/id/A000dvNd11ZZI

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]
May K. = [meɪ keɪ]
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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]
May K. = [meɪ keɪ]
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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Protein Art: Ricin [Jan. 31st, 2012|08:45 pm]
May K. = [meɪ keɪ]
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Protein Data Bank ID: 2AAI
Protein Name: Ricin
Organism: Ricinus communis
Title of Drawing: “The Demon”

Inspired by vls_777: http://vls-777.livejournal.com/1035581.html.


Ricin is a highly toxic protein from the castor oil plant. Few seeds of this plant are enough to kill an adult. But how does this protein influence our body? Ricin consists of two chains, A and B. Chain B (shown in the lower part of the drawing covering the feet of the demon and the cat) can bind the surface of our cells and thereby facilitates the penetration of chain A. Chain A (represented as the upper part of the demon’s body) is the actual evildoer. It is an enzyme which can inactivate ribosomes, the indispensable part of the machinery for protein generation. Thus, the organism dies due to lack of essential proteins. There were several attempts to use ricin as a warfare agent.



However, Ricinus communis has also useful features. As it can be derived from the its name, the castor oil plant is the source of castor oil. Especially in former times this oil was commonly used as a laxative.
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Protein Art: PII [Dec. 15th, 2011|10:59 pm]
May K. = [meɪ keɪ]
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Protein Data Bank ID: 2XG8
Protein Name: PII
Organism: Synechococcus elongatus
Title of Drawing: “Bee and Flower”

The request for the current protein, PII, came from a scientist who is working in my department. His little daughter is my namesake, her name is also Maya. So maybe while drawing I was inspired by the famous German cartoon “Maya the Bee”.


PII is a signal transduction protein. It can be mainly found in bacteria and plants. PII can control the activities of a bunch of enzymes, trancription factors, and transport proteins. The protein can bind several components involved in carbon and nitrogen metabolism and thereby regulate the levels of these essential substances. However, the exact role of PII for plants remains unclear.

Like the bee in this drawing serves the flower (by fertilizing it), the PII protein contributes to important metabolic processes of the plant.

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Protein Art: Alcohol Dehydrogenase [Nov. 10th, 2011|10:52 pm]
May K. = [meɪ keɪ]
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Protein Data Bank ID: 1ADC
Protein Name: Alcohol Dehydrogenase (ADH)
Organism: Equus caballus (Horse)
Title of Drawing: “Drunken Girl”

This time the drawing doesn't have exactly the same look as the protein, but it is involved in the very same activity, in breaking down alcohol.

roman_kr asked me to draw an ethanol molecule. But as I can draw only proteins, I suggested him that I could draw the alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), an enzyme which breaks down ethanol in our liver.


How much alcohol we can stand, directly depends on the amount of ADH in our body. Thus, to all proud hard drinkers: It's not you coping with all these alcohol amounts... always remember that there are these sweet little ADH girls in your body without whose help you would be lost.

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Protein Art: Toll-Like Receptor & MD-2 [Oct. 24th, 2011|11:02 pm]
May K. = [meɪ keɪ]
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Protein Data Bank ID: 3FXI
Protein Name: TLR4-MD-2 Complex
Organism: Homo sapiens
Title of Drawing: “Wall Street Bullfighting”

Some time ago bellamar inspired me to draw the toll-like receptor. And here is the result which is also consistent with the latest news.


The TLR4-MD-2 complex shown here contributes to the activation of the innate immune system and thereby prevents a bunch of organisms (including ours) from pathogens. Together with the myeloid differentiation factor 2 (MD-2) toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) can bind lipopolysaccharides, molecules from the surface of many bacteria.

The nervous crowd corresponds to TLR4 and the bull represents MD-2. The pathogenic lipopolysaccharid is not shown, but would be located on the back of the bull, virtually riding it. The presented structure is only the half of the native complex. Hopefully, our society will soon develop a similar mechanism to protect itself from pathogens attacking our financial system.
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1CMO: Runx1 [Sep. 20th, 2011|09:24 pm]
May K. = [meɪ keɪ]
The next lj-user who asked me to draw his protein was [info]alleukemist. One of the proteins he's dealing with is Runx1. I have produced two variants for him. In these drawings you see the protein from two different perspectives.


"The Tourist"


"The Hounter"


Runx1 is a transcription factor. It means that this protein can bind and regulate certain regions of DNA. Runx1 plays a role in the production of blood cells. People with a defective variant of this protein can develop a certain type of leukemia.
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Protein Art: Adenylate Kinase [Sep. 2nd, 2011|10:25 pm]
May K. = [meɪ keɪ]
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In the previous post I offered to draw your "favorite" proteins. By the way, the offer is still open, don't hesitate to ask!

Protein Data Bank ID: 1AEK
Protein Name: Adenylate Kinase
Organism: Escherichia coli
Title of Drawing: “Caesar”

One of esya's choices was adenylate kinase. Thank you for the input, and of course you can have a high-resolution version if you like! This drawing is rather faraway from the original protein backbone (which you see on the left) but to me, it resembled Caesar. So here we go:


Adenylate kinase is an enzyme which catalyzes a transfer of phosphate groups between adenine nucleotides (molecules which are also part of our DNA). One of the molecules resulting from this reaction (ATP) is subsequently hydrolyzed and leads to release of energy which can be used, for example, to drive our muscles.
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Taking Orders [Aug. 1st, 2011|06:04 pm]
May K. = [meɪ keɪ]
Dear friends and readers of my blog,
as I am always looking for new inputs for my protein art, I decided to post a call for protein structures.
Are you working on a certain structure or you just heard of a protein and you would like to see it in form of a funny drawing?
Just ask me in the comments on this post and I will try to fulfill your orders!
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