The editors of Science Signaling, a peer-reviewed scientific journal focusing on the process of basic cellular communication and development, have nominated a discovery made at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School as one of the Signaling Breakthroughs of 2010. The discovery identifies a role for the protein kinase complex mTORC2, which works to control production and quality control of newly synthesized proteins to safeguard against abnormal cell growth that can lead to neurodegenerative disorders and cancer.
Cell signaling is a process of communication at the cellular level that manages cell activity, such as formation or repair, during the cell’s lifespan. According to the Science Signaling editorial, the kinase mTOR is an essential element in cell signaling, as it coordinates information about growth factor, energy status and nutrient availability to regulate cell growth. mTOR signals these development mechanisms through distinct complexes, mTORC1 and mTORC2.
In its research, led by Estela Jacinto, PhD, assistant professor of physiology and biophysics at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, the team showed that mTORC2 can associate with ribosomes, elements within the cell machinery that make proteins through translation of genetic information. By binding near the “birth canal” of ribosomes, mTORC2 modifies the emerging new protein to control its quality and prevent premature degradation. In the study, mTORC2 was found to control the quality of a protein, Akt that is often defective in cancer. Any disruption to the cell signaling process, including the absence of mTORC2, prohibits proper cell function and may cause cancer and other biological or physical disorders.
“Our findings imply that the functions of mTORC2 could be targeted for therapeutics against cancer and particularly for diseases that are caused by abnormal protein quality control, such as neurodegenerative and aging-related disorders.” said Dr. Jacinto.
The function of mTOR in linking protein synthesis with quality control was previously unknown until the findings of Won Jun Oh, a post-doctoral fellow, and Chang-chih Wu, a doctoral candidate, both members of the Jacinto lab and along with Dr. Jacinto, co-authors of the study, were published in the journal European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) in December 2010. The study was noted as an Editor’s Choice in the December 2010 issue of Science Signaling, which is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
According to Science Signaling, the list of 2010 Breakthroughs of the Year was compiled as a result of nominations by members of the journal’s Editorial Board. Nominations represented the most exciting advances in signal transduction research of 2010. In its editorial, the journal said, “Although any major advance in cell signaling is fair game for inclusion, we suggested that nominators pay particular attention to unexpected developments and advances likely to open up new research directions.”
As one of the eight schools of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey with 2,800 full-time and volunteer faculty, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School encompasses 22 basic science and clinical departments, hosts centers and institutes including The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the Child Health Institute of New Jersey, the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, and the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey. The medical school maintains educational programs at the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate levels for more than 1,500 students on its campuses in New Brunswick, Piscataway, and Camden, and provides continuing education courses for health care professionals and community education programs.To learn more about UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, log on to rwjms.umdnj.edu. Find us online at www.Facebook.com/RWJMS and
Jennifer Forbes | Newswise Science News
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