In a paper published Jan. 21 in the journal Molecular Cell, the UC Davis team and their collaborators at the National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins University report that Bax, a factor known to promote cell death, is also involved in regulating the behavior of mitochondria, the structures that provide energy inside living cells.
Mitochondria constantly split and fuse. The proteins that control the splitting of mitochondria also promote a process called apoptosis, or programmed cell death. In contrast, the proteins that control mitochondrial fusion help protect against cell death. Cell death can happen when cells are starved of oxygen, for example during a heart attack or stroke.
Yeast have a single protein that controls outer membrane fusion, but both human and mouse cells have two proteins, called MFN1 and MFN2, which control outer membrane fusion. Using mitochondria from cells derived from genetically modified "knockout" mice, Suzanne Hoppins, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis, and Jodi Nunnari, a professor of molecular cell biology, studied how these two proteins work together and the role specific genes play in that process.
The research team discovered that these proteins combine with themselves or each other to form a tether between two mitochondria, leading to fusion. All three combinations -- MFN1/MFN1, MFN1/MFN2 and MFN2/MFN2 -- can promote membrane fusion, but the combination of MFN1/MFN2 is by far the most efficient, Hoppins said.
Hoppins also found that a soluble form of Bax, a protein that triggers apoptosis, can also stimulate mitochondria to fuse. It acts only through the MFN2/MFN2 combination, she found.
The form of Bax that promotes mitochondrial fusion is different from the type that leads to cell death, Nunnari said. Bax leads to cell death when it inserts itself in the mitochondrial membrane. In its soluble, free-floating form, it causes mitochondria to fuse instead.
MFN1 and MFN2 are found in different amounts in different body organs. MFN2 is more abundant in the brain and heart -- tissues where cell death can have disastrous consequences.
The paper shows how MFN2 could act to protect the brain or heart from cell death, by using Bax in a different form, Nunnari said.
"This shows that the fusion machine is both positively and negatively regulated in cells and opens doors to finding the regulatory mechanisms and discovering ways to increase or decrease the sensitivity of cells to apoptosis," Hoppins said. That could lead to new drugs that save cells, for heart disease and stroke, or that kill cells, for cancer.
Co-authors of the study are UC Davis graduate student Megan Cleland; UC Davis postdoctoral researchers Frank Edlich and Soojay Banerjee; and Richard Youle, a senior investigator at the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke; and J. Michael McCaffery, a professor at Johns Hopkins University.
The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health. Hoppins recently received a K99 "Young Investigator" award from the NIH.Media contact(s):
Andy Fell, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-4533, firstname.lastname@example.org
Andy Fell | EurekAlert!
'Y' a protein unicorn might matter in glaucoma
23.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology
Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry
23.10.2017 | Rice University
Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
23.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
23.10.2017 | Life Sciences
23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine