Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Ancient enzymes function like nanopistons to unwind RNA

DEAD-box proteins function as recycling nanopistons when unwinding RNA

Molecular biologists at The University of Texas at Austin have solved one of the mysteries of how double-stranded RNA is remodeled inside cells in both their normal and disease states. The discovery may have implications for treating cancer and viruses in humans.

The research, which was published this week in Nature, found that DEAD-box proteins, which are ancient enzymes found in all forms of life, function as recycling "nanopistons." They use chemical energy to clamp down and pry open RNA strands, thereby enabling the formation of new structures.

"If you want to couple fuel energy to mechanical work to drive strand separation, this is a very versatile mechanism," said co-author Alan Lambowitz, the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Regents Chair in Molecular Biology in the College of Natural Sciences and Director of the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology.

In all cellular organisms RNA (ribonucleic acid) plays a fundamental role in the translation of genetic information into the synthesis of proteins. DEAD-box proteins are the largest family of what are known as " RNA helicases," which unwind RNA.

"It has been known for some time that these enzymes do not function like traditional helicases," said Eckhard Jankowsky, professor of biochemistry at Case Western Reserve University Medical School. "The manuscript now provides the critical information that explains how the unwinding reaction works. It marks a major step towards understanding the molecular mechanics for many steps in RNA biology."

Lambowitz said that the basic insight came when Anna Mallam, a post-doctoral researcher in his lab, hypothesized that DEAD-box proteins function modularly. One area on the protein binds to an ATP molecule, which is the energy source. Another area binds to the double-stranded RNA.

"Once the second domain is latched on to the RNA," said Mallam, "and the first has got its ATP, the 'piston' comes down. It has a sharp edge that drives between the two strands and also grabs on one strand and bends it out of the way."

Lambowitz, Mallam and their colleagues uncovered this mechanism in Mss116p, a DEAD-box protein in yeast. The mechanism is almost certainly universal to the entire family of the proteins, however, and therefore to all domains of life.

"Every DEAD-box protein that we know about has the same structure," said Lambowitz, "and they all presumably use the same mechanism."

Lambowitz said that the Mss116p proteins are particularly useful as a universal remodeling device because they can bind to any RNA.

"It recognizes the geometry of double-stranded RNA," he said. "It doesn't care about the sequence, and doesn't care about what it that particular RNA molecule's function is. It just sees it and binds and for that reason can be incorporated into many different cellular processes."

This flexibility of DEAD-box proteins is essential to the functioning of healthy cells, which rely on a range of RNA molecules for basic processes, including protein synthesis.

It's also hijacked in cancers, where over-expression of DEAD-box proteins may help drive uncontrolled cell proliferation, and in infections caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses, which rely on specific DEAD-box proteins for their propagation.

"This is basic science," said Lambowitz. "Its major significance is in understanding, at the root, how this mechanism works. But when you understand how DEAD-box proteins function both in normal cellular processes and in disease processes, you can absolutely begin to think about how they might be targeted in things like cancer and viruses."

"You can even envision, in the far future, how they be incorporated into artificial nanomachines, for switches and other mechanical devices inside and outside the cell."

Daniel Oppenheimer | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Strong, steady forces at work during cell division
20.10.2016 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

nachricht Disturbance wanted
20.10.2016 | Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's MAVEN mission observes ups and downs of water escape from Mars

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>