Multiple Sclerosis is a neurological disease affecting around 100,000 people in the UK. The myelin sheath, which insulates nerve fibres, gets broken down – this means that nerve impulses cannot be transmitted.
One of the major proteins in the myelin sheath is Myelin Basic Protein (MBP). It is an unusual protein, it lacks a defined 3-D structure and so it can 'fall apart' quite easily. If this happens, then the myelin sheath is attacked by an auto-immune response. One possibility is that phosphorylation of the MBP (adding a phosphate group to specific amino acids) triggers the unfolding of the protein.
We will be looking at how the human MBP protein behaves in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This is normal brewer’s and baker’s yeast, but its biochemistry is startlingly similar to humans. We will see how the protein is 'processed' by the yeast and try to identify which pathways are involved. This will be possible in yeast since there are entire libraries of strains each of which has one single non-essential gene knocked-out and this represents an enormously powerful tool in dissecting the biochemistry involved.