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November 1, 2007

Computer project helps predict structure of protein

With the aid of thousands of home computers around the world, UW and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) researchers have made a breakthrough in predicting the three-dimensional structure of a naturally occurring protein. The scientists reported their work in the October issue of the journal Nature.

David Baker, UW professor of biochemistry and an HHMI investigator, led a team of researchers that was trying to use computational methods to predict protein structure. Understanding a protein’s complex structure can help scientists understand its function and can suggest new ideas for designing drugs to affect that protein.

For their work, Baker and his colleagues relied on Rosetta@home, a project that harnesses the computing power of more than 150,000 home computer users around the world to tackle the complex problems of protein structure prediction.

The researchers used data from Rosetta@home to predict, for the first time, the structure of a small, naturally occurring globular protein using only the sequence of amino acids that make up the protein. The findings suggest that computer prediction of protein structures, at least for smaller proteins, can provide very accurate models for what those proteins look like in nature.

To learn more about the research, visit the HHMI Web site:

For more information about Rosetta@home or to sign up and donate your extra computer power to the project, visit: