Chemical measuring method hailed by biologists – University of Copenhagen

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09 July 2012

Chemical measuring method hailed by biologists

Protein breakthrough

A new method used to understand the functioning of proteins may be crucial in the quest for sustainable energy. The measurement method, developed at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Chemistry has been added to the international organization Faculty of 1000’s list of the most important research results of 2012.


For renewable energy researchers, metal containing proteins are practically The Holy Grail. When living cells move energy from place to place in the form of electrons it is primarily via metalloproteins. So the researcher able to explain the functioning of metalloproteins might also be able to open the gateway for sustainable energy sources such as artificial photosynthesis.

"-With our method it's become fast to figure out how a protein needs to be constructed in order to transport electrons- and thus energy.

Chemist Jens Jørgen Led

Chemists at the university of Copenhagen have developed a method that can quickly analyze how one of these important proteins function. Their method has recently been hailed as one of the year’s most important research results.

Analysis of metalloproteines will make it easier to construct conductive molecules


The measurements cut years to hours

Jens Jørgen Led, Jens Jørgen Led, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Chemistry, together with his former doctoral student D. Flemming Hansen, has developed a simple combination of measurements and calculations. Previously, researchers could only analyse mettaloprotein function if they were willing to devote a couple years to the task. In part, this was due to the fact that researchers needed to deploy a range of incredibly time-consuming methods in order to eventually obtain results. The new method is able to solve the same tasks in a matter of hours.

Among the most important results

The team’s results were published in the February edition of the renowned Journal of the American Chemical Society. In itself, this demonstrates the value of these results. Recently, the article was added to the Faculty of 1000 (F1000), a collaborative community of 10,000 highly esteemed biology and medical researchers who explore research papers and assess their significance. Simply being selected for the F1000 online library means that many expert researchers consider the article to be among the most important of 2012.

Proteins are nature’s own wiring

Metalloproteins are key to green plant photosynthesis, i.e. – their ability to convert light into sugar. And respiration processes in animal cells- The conversion of sugar and oxygen into energy. According to Jens Jørgen Led, the new method allows chemists to figure out how to build molecules with similar interesting properties.

- With our method we can now find out more quickly how a protein needs to be put together in order to transport electrons and thereby, energy. It is important knowledge to possess if you want to use chemical methods to build molecules that solve tasks better than ever. For example, if you want to convert sunlight directly to useful energy forms. Electricity for example, explains Led.

Simple measurements combined with complex calculations

Led’s and Hansens method makes use of a combination of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometry measurement method, a relatively easy one for chemists to perform, and the ‘Natural Bond Orbitals’ method of calculation which can still only be used by experts in biophysical chemistry. Led is already confident that the method can be simplified even more.

The work leading up to the publication was supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, the Carlsberg Foundation and the Lundbeck Foundation.


Chemist Jens J. Led, tlf. 35 32 03 25