Michael Braukus Headquarters, Washington D.C.

September 23, 1993 (Phone: 202/358-1979) EMBARGOED UNTIL NOON EDT David B. Drachlis Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. (Phone: 205/544-0034) RELEASE: 93-166 PROTEIN CRYSTAL GROWTH RESEARCH TAKES STEP TOWARD NEW DRUGS Results from a Spacelab crystal growth experiment flown aboard the Space Shuttle last summer have brought researchers a step closer to understanding the molecular structure of proteins which will aid scientists in developing more effective disease-fighting, anti-parasitic drugs. During the first United States Microgravity Laboratory (USML-1) mission, Shuttle flight STS-50, crystals of Malic Enzyme were produced that showed a dramatic improvement in resolution over Earth-grown crystals. "The USML-1 crystals were of such high quality that they make it possible for researchers to determine the structure of this important protein," said Dr. Lawrence DeLucas of the Center for Macromolecular Crystallography at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. DeLucas flew as a payload specialist on USML-1 and is a principal investigator on many of the protein crystal growth experiments. This success follows 2 years and several hundred ground-based crystallization trials, during which researchers were unable to produce any crystals of high enough quality to allow determination of this protein's structure.

"On USML-1, using experiment hardware specifically designed for the mission, we learned how to grow the high quality Malic Enzyme crystals," explained DeLucas. "Then on Shuttle mission STS-57 in June of this year, we produced additional crystals of comparable quality. Now, we just need a few more flights to accumulate enough of these superior crystals to complete the process of structure identification." Protein crystal growth experiments have flown on 18 Space Shuttle missions since April 1985, producing a number of crystals of a quality significantly superior to Earth-grown crystals. - more -2Researchers already have used superior space-grown crystals to improve their knowledge of the structure of several proteins. Space grown crystals have contributed to the refinement of molecular structures of: - Gamma Interferon, a protein important in anti-viral research and for treatment of certain types of cancer; - Human Serum Albumin, the most abundant protein in human blood which is responsible for distribution of many different drugs, including aspirin, to various body tissues; - Elastase, a key protein known to cause the destruction of lung tissue in patients suffering from emphysema; and - Factor D, a protein important in inflammation and other immune system responses. Protein crystal growth experiments also have produced superior quality crystals of: - Isocitrate Lyase, a protein important for the development of anti-fungal drugs; - Canavalin, a protein isolated from edible plants whose structure is of interest because the information can be used to genetically engineer more nutritious plants; and - Proline Isomerase, a protein important in and used as a drug for

diabetes. "Although valuable new information was obtained from these initial experiments, additional high quality crystals are needed to obtain the final structures for many of these proteins," explained DeLucas. "Also, a constant supply of the crystals is necessary for the drug design phase for those proteins associated with various diseases." "The experimental results gathered to date have conclusively demonstrated that protein crystals of superior size and quality can be produced in space," DeLucas pointed out. "And the results clearly indicate the need for continued, constant and long-term access to this unique microgravity environment." During the record 14-day USML-1 mission, DeLucas and mission specialists Dr. Bonnie Dunbar and Carl Meade investigated techniques for improving the success rate for protein crystal growth experiments and tested a variety of procedures being considered for similar experiments to be performed aboard space station. - end -