Molecule of the Month: Ricin
The structure of ricin reveals how it kills cells and how vaccines can produce immunity against ricin poisoning
Ricin to the Rescue
Exploring the Structure
Ricin Vaccines (entries 2aai, 3srp and 4imv)
Since ricin poses a threat to our safety, researchers are working to develop methods to protect us from the toxin. The molecule shown here is an experimental vaccine that is designed to produce immunity against ricin. The vaccine is built from ricin, but with a few changes to make it less toxic. Hopefully, this type of vaccine will be used to protect people who are particularly at risk, such as the military or first responders. To compare two of these experimental vaccines (PDB entries 3srp and 4imv ) with the active toxin, click on the image for an interactive Jmol.
Topics for Further Discussion
- Researchers are looking for small molecule inhibitors that bind in the active site of ricin and block its action. You can find several examples of these in the PDB.
- Ricin is a glycoprotein, with several carbohydrate chains on its surface, and it is stabilized by several disulfide linkages. You can view these structural features in PDB entry 2aai.
May 2013, David Goodselldoi:10.2210/rcsb_pdb/mom_2013_5