April, 2004

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Basic Research

Research on a Membrane Protein by Chinese Academy of Sciences Published in Nature

On March 18th 2004, the journal, Nature, published an article entitled "Crystal structure of spinach major light-harvesting complex at 2.72 ? resolution". The article reported a research accomplished by the Institute of Biophysics of Chinese Academy of Sciences in collaboration with the Institute of Botany of Chinese Academy of Sciences. A color figure of the crystal structure was selected as a cover picture of this issue of Nature.

Researches on the mechanism of photosynthesis are always longstanding projects in the world. LHC-II is the most abundant major light-harvesting complex in green plants. It is a complex molecular system composed of proteins, chlorophyll molecules, carotenoid molecules and lipids. The complexes are originally integral parts of biological membranes. It is extremely difficult to isolate and crystallize such a highly hydrophobic complex.

The research team, led by the Principle Investigator and Professor Wenrui Chang from the Institute of Biophysics of Chinese Academy of Science, worked extremely hard for six years on this project showing their utmost fortitudes. They finally succeeded in determining the three-dimensional structure of this important complex just recently. The group from the Institute of Botany of Chinese Academy of Sciences, led by Prof. Tingyun Kuang, CAS member, isolated and purified this important photosynthetic membrane protein (LHC-II) after years of hard work. This is a great achievement made by uniting the sciences of biochemistry, X-ray crystallography and structural biology. They took the lead in making a breakthrough in this highly challenging and pioneering research field of the world, advancing Chinese researches on photosynthetic mechanism and 3-D membrane protein structure to a higher level.

Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica: Researchers of Qinghaosu Research Group Honored with Prince Mahidol Award

Chinese researchers have been bestowed the 2003 Prince Mahidol Award in medicine for their contributions to the development of an antimalarial medicine Qinghaosu and its derivatives. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand conferred the awards on January 29, 2004 at the Chakri Throne Hall in Bangkok. The Prince Mahidol Award Foundation under Royal Patronage of the King of Thailand was established on January 1, 1992. This is second time for Chinese researcher to win the award. Professor Ying Li of Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica attended the ceremony and gave a lecture entitled "Study of Qinghaosu and its Derivatives in China" on behalf of the China Cooperative Research Group on Qinghaosu and its Derivatives as Antimalarials before the ceremony.

Qinghaosu drugs, a new type of antimalarial for treatment of drug-resistant and drug-sensitive malaria, come from extensive and cooperative research of many Institutes and scientific researchers throughout China between 1970s-1980s. This invention has been universally acknowledged as an outstanding medicinal achievement. Qinghaosu, an antimalarial principle of Artemisia annua L. possessed fast action, low toxicity and high activity. However, there was a great demand for improvement on its poor solubility and high recrudescence rate. Artemether, an oil-soluble Qinghaosu derivative, was elaborated by the Qinghaosu research group of Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica. It is 6 times as active as Qinghaosu and it can decrease its recrudescence rate from 48% to 7%. Its oil solution formulation makes it easy to rescue the severe malaria patients.

Along with the widely usage of Qinghaosu drugs, over 10 millions of malaria patients worldwide have been saved. Qinghaosu and its derivatives have become the most important drugs for malaria control in the developing tropical countries.

China and UK to Cooperate in Building Wildlife Germplasm Bank

Zhu Chen, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences met a group of British visitors on March 3 headed by Peter Grane, Member of the British Royal Society and Director of the Royal Arboretum, the Kew Garden. The two sides deliberated on the Agreement for long-term science and technology cooperation on the Project for Building the Southwest China Wildlife Germplasm Bank, a key National Science Project undertaken by Kunming Institute of Botany, in cooperation with the Millennium Seek Bank, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a consensus was reached in this regard.

Key Ingredients Triggering Biological Activities in TCM Found

Dr. Liu Jikai from Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, together with his cooperator Dr. T. Honkel from Bayer Pharma Research Center in Wuppertal, Germany, reported the research results about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) recently. In order to ascertain what individual constituents are responsible for the bioactive properties, they extract the common characters of composition of huge formula to provide a scientific explanation for their modes of action. They consider polyphenols and saponins as the key infredients in TCM remedies responsible for most of the observed biological effects, reflecting the specific requirements within the TCM philosophy of treatment based on the investigation of its chemical composition.

Professor Qi Zhou Won the 3rd GenOway Prize for Transgenic Technologies

Prof. Qi Zhou, a researcher at the CAS Institute of Zoology, was awarded the 2004 genOway Prize for Transgenic Technologies at the 5th Trans-Tech-Meeting held from March 14 to 16 at Uppsala, Sweden.
Prof. Zhou won the award for his significant contribution to the first cloned rats in the world. The rat is one of the most widely used animal models in scientific research. Cloning will aid in the development of genetically modified rat models of greater predictability and quality. Scientific results obtained from these models will contribute to the development of innovative therapeutics for major pathologies such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, obesity, diabetes and neurological disorders.

The prize has been established to recognize scientist who has made outstanding achievement in transgenic research. The previous prize was awarded to Dr. K.J. McCreath, PPL Therapeutics, Roslin, Edinburgh, UK. Dr. McCreath's work has contributed to the production of gene-targeted sheep by nuclear transfer from cultured somatic cells.
Prof. Zhou, 34, received his Doctorial degree from the Northeast Agricultural University in 1996. He entered the CAS Institute of Development Biology in the following year as postdoc scholar and got an Associate Professor position in 1999. In the same year, Prof. Zhou began working in the Institute National de Recherche Agronomique (INRA) in France. He joined the CAS Institute of Zoology in 2001 through the "Hundred Talents" Program, a CAS initiative to recruit qualified personnel.

Progress in Basic Research of SARS Coronavirus

Using ultra-high resolution scanning electron microscope (SEM, Hitachi S-5200), the research group led by Prof. Xiyun Yan (Institute of Biophysics, CAS) revealed the three-dimensional surface ultrastructure of SARS-CoV virus, together with Prof. Sishen Xie (Institute of Physics, CAS) and Prof. Wuchun Cao (Military Academy of Medical Sciences).
Under SEM, SARS-CoV particles appear round and full with numerous tiny projections. Most virus bear a diameter between 80 and 250nm, while a few 400nm "super" particles can be found occasionally with identical shape and surface structure. All particles have regular flower-shaped projections corresponding to the spike. Further magnification revealed that the spike is a trimer composed of three S protein subunits. These findings have been published on the April issue of Antiviral Therapy this year.

CAS Academic Divisions Held Symposium on Intensifying China's Basic Research

The Academic Divisions of CAS invited some of the Beijing-based CAS member for a symposium on "Further Intensifying China's Basic Research" in Beijing on the afternoon of 26 February. The CAS members conducted in-depth discussions on how to improve and upgrade China's basic research level for higher competence in serving China's socioeconomic development. Present at the meeting include CAS members Zizhao Gan, Yue Wang, Chongyu Wang, Kui Wang, Zhemin Zheng, Shupeng Chen, Guanxian Xu, Fuyu Yang, Zhensheng Li, Le Yang and Lei Guo.

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Twenty-eighth Issue (June, 2003)
Twenty-nineth Issue (August, 2003)
Thirtieth Issue (October, 2003)
Thirty-first Issue (December, 2003)
Thirty-second Issue (February, 2004)

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