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Researchers determine binding structure of PP1

New research offers predictions for how protein phosphatase 1 — a protein necessary for turning on and off a wide range of biological processes — binds to 43 of its approximately 200 suspected targets.

The predictions were derived from structures of PP1 bound to three proteins. A picture and full description of one of these structures were recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Meng Choy, a senior research associate, and a team of University co-authors.

Comparing the newly discovered PP1 structure to the previously discovered ones allowed the researchers to determine two “binding motifs,” or common zones on the protein that bind different targets in a similar manner, said co-author Rebecca Page, associate professor of biology, in a University press release.

Learning how PP1 binds different targets is key to understanding how it behaves in different situations, which could help potential future studies examining the possibility of PP1 as a drug target.

Scientists currently do not understand PP1’s specific mechanisms well enough to interfere with detrimental processes without short-circuiting necessary ones. “It’s not like you could just target the PP1 active site for, let’s say, diabetes, because then you are going to affect drug addiction, Alzheimer’s disease and all these other diseases at the same time,” Page said in the release.


Rats learn better while looking down, study finds

A recent study suggests rodents learn tasks four to six times faster if they are looking down, not straight ahead, at visual stimuli.

The research, conducted by Rebecca Burwell, professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences, was published in the Journal of Visualized Experiments.

Results suggest a contrast between human and rodent subjects in psychology experiments: Humans tend to learn best when visual stimuli are presented in front of them, while rats learn better when images are projected below them. This finding makes sense due to the structure of rodents’ eyes, Burwell said in the release. They have an especially high number of photoreceptors and retinal ganglion cells in the upper part of their retina, which makes them adept at looking downward.

“For anyone interested in using rats or mice as a model for visual information processing, presenting the information on the floor makes good sense behaviorally and biologically,” Burwell said in the release.


Prof. named director of research facility

Professor of Pediatrics Catherine Gordon was named medical director of Lifespan’s newly launched Clinical Research Center, according to a Lifespan press release. The center’s creation was announced Monday.

“By bringing together this outstanding collection of resources, we intend to significantly increase the capacity of our faculty to engage in important clinical research that will improve the clinical care and lives of our patients,” said Peter Snyder, Lifespan’s senior vice president and chief research officer.

The center will provide researchers a place to meet with participants in clinical studies, helping hospitals affiliated with Lifespan expand the scope and scale of their research, Gordon said in the release.

The space will also serve as a site for experimenters to work on designing their studies and to analyze their collected results with medical oversight and nursing support. Medical researchers will also be able to store specimens used in clinical trials at the new space.

Lifespan hospitals are the main teaching hospitals for students at the Alpert Medical School, and many researchers affiliated with Lifespan are Brown faculty members.



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