Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Breakdown of Barriers in Old Cells May Hold Clues to Aging Process

26.01.2009
Like guards controlling access to a gated community, nuclear pore complexes are communication channels that regulate the passage of proteins and RNA to and from a cell’s nucleus.

Recent studies by researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies offer new insights about the pores’ lifespan and how their longevity affects their function.

Their findings, reported in the Jan. 23 issue of Cell, may provide clues to one of the most enduring questions of biology: how and why cells age. They also offer a new, promising avenue of investigation for scientists pursuing intervention strategies for neurodegenerative diseases.

“We still have a very poor understanding of the mechanisms behind cell aging. It has been known for some time that the gene expression profile of an aging cell changes and somehow is linked to age-related diseases, but no one really knows why. Our work could provide an explanation for why we observe age-dependent defects in cells,” says Martin Hetzer, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Salk’s Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory.

Made up of 30 different proteins, nuclear pore complexes assemble during cell division and penetrate the membrane separating the nucleus from the cytoplasm. Their job is traffic control on the world’s busiest thoroughfare: Each one mediates approximately 1,000 transport events a second. Since nuclear pore complexes are as essential to nondividing cells as they are to dividing ones, the Salk team wanted to determine what happens to them over time. Do they turn over in nondividing cells, or do they remain in place for the life of the cell?

Because most of the cells in our body are not actively dividing, the answer would have implications for aging and age-related diseases. “Many of the neurons in the cortex area of the brain are as old as we are; they are nondividing for a very long time,” explains Hetzer.

Approximately half the proteins in the nuclear pore complex make up the central scaffold, or core, while the other, peripheral proteins attach to the scaffold. Using C. elegans, a tiny roundworm that as an adult consists entirely of nondividing cells, Hetzer and his group found that while the peripheral proteins are continually exchanged, the proteins comprising the scaffold remain in place for the life of the cell.

Although the scaffold proteins are detectable, their genes are no longer active. The same held true in nondividing rat neurons. “If proteins are there, but transcripts of the information making the protein are no longer there, they have to be very stable,” says Hetzer, noting that whereas most proteins turn over in minutes or hours, the ones comprising the scaffold in the nuclear pore complex remained intact for the entire lifespan of an organism. “We discovered one of the most stable structures in our cells.”

“It’s a novel concept,” adds first author Maximiliano A. D’Angelo, Ph.D., a research associate in the Hetzer lab. “No one really saw a structure that would last for the entire life of the cell.”

Hetzer and his group then set out to ascertain how these stable proteins hold up over time. Since one of the functions of the nuclear pore complex is to set a permeability barrier between the nucleus and cytoplasm, the researchers developed a reporting system that would scrutinize the barriers to see how efficient they were at excluding inappropriate molecules, much as security auditors keep tabs on airport baggage screeners’ ability to detect and block contraband.

What they found was that in aging cells, one of the proteins composing the scaffold structure becomes damaged, and the permeability barrier deteriorates; molecules that should be restricted to the cytoplasm invade the nucleus.

“Because some cells live for a long time, the accumulation of damage in the long-lived nuclear pore complexes can impair their function and have important consequences for cell homeostasis and survival,” says D’Angelo. “It may also play a significant role in the aging process.”

In particular, a protein called tubulin, which is strictly a cytoplasmic protein, shows up as long filaments that co-opt a large part of the nucleus. For more than 100 years, pathologists had been aware of these filaments, but their origins were unknown. Associated with several neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s, the filaments are found particularly in the substantia nigra of many Parkinson’s patients, the part of the brain that is involved in dopamine production and that is affected by the condition.

Hetzer’s team hypothesizes that it is the age-dependent defects in the scaffold proteins that undermine the nuclear permeability barrier. “We predict that when the permeability barrier is impaired, molecules are either lost from the nucleus or can leak into the nucleus and thereby change gene expression profiles,” says Hetzer. “This could be a general aging mechanism, and it provides an explanation for the origin of these filaments, which have been known by pathologists for a long time.”

By finding ways to prevent or reverse the leakage, the Salk researchers may be on course to identify novel approaches to treating these perplexing, devastating, and costly conditions.

In addition to Hetzer and D’Angelo, postdoctoral researcher Marcela Raices, Ph.D., and doctoral candidate Siler H. Panowski of Dr. Andrew Dillin’s laboratory at the Salk Institute contributed to this study. The research was carried out with funding from the NIH.

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to fundamental discoveries in the life sciences, the improvement of human health, and the training of future generations of researchers. Jonas Salk, M.D., whose polio vaccine all but eradicated the crippling disease poliomyelitis in 1955, opened the Institute in 1965 with a gift of land from the City of San Diego and the financial support of the March of Dimes.

Gina Kirchweger | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.salk.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Newly designed molecule binds nitrogen
23.02.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Atomic Design by Water
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>