A new research project uses the Canadian Light Source to help researchers understand the protein responsible for regulating heartbeats. Errors in this crucial protein’s structure can lead to potentially deadly arrhythmias, and understanding its structure should help researchers develop treatments. This protein, calmodulin (CaM), regulates the signals that cause the heart to contract and relax in almost all animals with a heartbeat.
“Usually you find some differences between versions of proteins from one species to another,” explains Filip Van Petegem, a professor in the University of British Columbia’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. “For calmodulin that’s not the case—it’s so incredibly conserved.”
It also oversees hundreds of different proteins within the body, adjusting a broad array of cellular functions that are as crucial to our survival and health as a steady heartbeat.
Image: A surface representation of the disease mutant CaM (D95V, red) in complex with the piece of the voltage-gated calcium channel (blue).