Supercharging proteins

David Liu's group supercharged green fluorescent protein (left) with a super positive (middle) and super negative (right) charge. Credit: David Liu / Reprinted with permission from American Chemical Society,J Am Chem Soc, 129:10110–2, 2007." />David Liu's group supercharged green fluorescent protein (left) with a super positive (middle) and super negative (right) charge. Credit: David Liu / Reprinted with permission from American Chemical Society,J Am Chem Soc, 129:

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Kerry Grens

Kerry served as The Scientist’s news director until 2021. Before joining The Scientist in 2013, she was a stringer for Reuters Health, the senior health and science reporter at...

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Mar 1, 2008
<figcaption>David Liu's group supercharged green fluorescent protein (left) with a super positive (middle) and super negative (right) charge. Credit: David Liu / Reprinted with permission from American Chemical Society,J Am Chem Soc, 129:10110–2, 2007.</figcaption>
David Liu's group supercharged green fluorescent protein (left) with a super positive (middle) and super negative (right) charge. Credit: David Liu / Reprinted with permission from American Chemical Society,J Am Chem Soc, 129:10110–2, 2007.

One day in March of 2006, postdoc Mike Lawrence walked into David Liu's laboratory at Harvard University in a slightly anxious mood. He'd been in the lab for nine months with little to show in terms of good results, and he was hoping this day might turn things around. He had taken on a bold new project with his labmate, Kevin Phillips, to test whether changing the charge of surface residues on a protein could reduce its propensity for aggregating.

Preventing aggregation could be appealing for a number of reasons: understanding neurodegenerative diseases, extending the shelf life of protein therapeutics, and producing better-behaving proteins for lab work such as crystallography. In all of these examples, a...

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