Using an enzyme of the Japanese mushroom Grifola frondosa (Maitake or dancing mushroom), proteins can be identified without knowing the organism's genetic composition.
This advance simplifies the study of proteins lying at the root of such diseases as cancer and diabetes. Utrecht University Prof. Albert Heck's research group announced this breakthrough on the website of the scientific journal Nature Methods.
Proteins play a critical role in disease and growth processes of humans, animals and plants. Identification was previously only possible when the genetic composition of the organism in question was known. Thanks to Heck's discovery, this is now a thing of the past. Heck used an enzyme from the Japanese mushroom Grifola frondosa to identify proteins. This makes it possible to study the proteins of an organism of which the genetic composition is – as yet – unknown (e.g. exotic animal species). In addition, research into proteins responsible for such diseases as cancer and diabetes, which usually undergo modification as a result, is much more effective.
In order to study the role proteins play in biological processes, the proteins themselves are cleaved into peptides, which are analysed using a mass spectrometer. The measurements produce a unique ‘fingerprint’ for each peptide. In the past, a protein could only be identified using the fingerprint after comparing the fingerprint to a database of known genetic compositions. The enzyme of the Japanese mushroom that Heck used cleaved the proteins in such a way that the peptides produced simplified fingerprints. As a result, the proteins could be identified even though the organism's genome has not been mapped out. This greatly simplifies protein identification.