New tool for studying biological processes could lead to development of new drugs

Scientists from Loughborough University and the University of Oxford have made a significant breakthrough in cellular research by developing a small molecule probe that has the potential to enhance our understanding of a crucial cellular messenger and pave the way for the development of new therapeutic drugs. Their research paper, titled “Expedient synthesis and luminescence sensing of the inositol pyrophosphate cellular messenger 5-PP-InsP5,” was recently recognized as Pick of the Week in the prestigious journal Chemical Science.

The innovative probe created by the research team binds specifically to a cellular messenger called inositol pyrophosphate or ‘5-PP-InsP5.’ This molecule plays a vital role in various biological processes, including cell growth, programmed cell death, enzyme regulation, and most recently, blood glucose level regulation. Due to its involvement in multiple cellular functions, 5-PP-InsP5 presents an attractive target for the development of therapeutic drugs.

However, the detection of 5-PP-InsP5 has been a challenge in biomedical and drug discovery research because no specific probes for this molecule existed until now. The collaborative team from Loughborough University and the University of Oxford, led by Dr. Stephen Butler, Dr. Felix Plasser, and Professor Barry Potter, combined their expertise in chemical synthesis and computational modeling to create a probe that binds exclusively to 5-PP-InsP5 and emits a bright red light when bound.

By measuring the intensity and duration of this emitted light, researchers can now quantify the levels of 5-PP-InsP5 during various biological processes. This breakthrough enables a deeper understanding of the molecule’s precise functions, mechanisms, and its potential for therapeutic applications.

Dr. Stephen Butler emphasized the significance of the research, stating that their laboratory’s goal is to develop molecular tools with practical applications. He expressed excitement about the potential of this probe as a drug discovery tool, enabling high-throughput screening of drug-like molecules that modulate biological processes involving 5-PP-InsP5. Moreover, considering the existence of other inositol pyrophosphates with emerging roles in biology, the probe design features established in this project could facilitate the detection, synthesis, and exploitation of these molecules as well.

Professor Barry Potter, from the University of Oxford, highlighted his enthusiasm for the research, given his extensive scientific career focused on inositol phosphates. He described the emergence of these new pyrophosphate messengers with their diverse biological functions as truly exciting for the field and emphasized the need for innovative techniques to study them. The paper’s collaborative approach and timely development of a technique to measure such a messenger for the first time are expected to drive further advancements in this area.

The study’s co-lead authors, Megan Shipton and Fathima Jamion, expressed their delight in working as part of the collaborative team and their contribution to unraveling the biological roles of 5-PP-InsP5. They celebrated the publication of their combined work in a top-tier chemistry journal and eagerly anticipate how it will fuel future research in this promising field.

This groundbreaking research marks a significant step forward in the study of 5-PP-InsP5 and its implications for drug discovery and therapeutic development. The development of a specific probe for this crucial cellular messenger opens up new possibilities for understanding its functions and mechanisms, and may ultimately lead to the development of novel therapeutic interventions.

Source: Loughborough University

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