Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

When Cells ‘Eat’ Their Own Power Plants; Pitt Scientists Solve Mystery of Basic Cellular Process

01.10.2013
A mix of serendipity and dogged laboratory work allowed a diverse team of University of Pittsburgh scientists to report in the Oct. 1 issue of Nature Cell Biology that they had solved the mystery of a basic biological function essential to cellular health.

By discovering a mechanism by which mitochondria – tiny structures inside cells often described as "power plants" – signal that they are damaged and need to be eliminated, the Pitt team has opened the door to potential research into cures for disorders such as Parkinson’s disease that are believed to be caused by dysfunctional mitochondria in neurons.

"It’s a survival process. Cells activate to get rid of bad mitochondria and consolidate good mitochondria. If this process succeeds, then the good ones can proliferate and the cells thrive," said Valerian Kagan, Ph.D., D.Sc., a senior author on the paper and professor and vice chair of the Pitt Graduate School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. "It’s a beautiful, efficient mechanism that we will seek to target and model in developing new drugs and treatments."

Dr. Kagan, who, as a recipient of a Fulbright Scholar grant, currently is serving as visiting research chair in science and the environment at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, likened the process to cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.

"You put the turkey in the oven and the outside becomes golden, but you can’t just look at it to know it’s ready. So you put a thermometer in, and when it pops up, you know you can eat it," he said. "Mitochondria give out a similar ‘eat me’ signal to cells when they are done functioning properly."

Cardiolipins, named because they were first found in heart tissue, are a component on the inner membrane of mitochondria. When a mitochondrion is damaged, the cardiolipins move from its inner membrane to its outer membrane, where they encourage the cell to destroy the entire mitochondrion.

However, that is only part of the process, says Charleen T. Chu, M.D., Ph.D., professor and the A. Julio Martinez Chair in Neuropathology in the Pitt School of Medicine’s Department of Pathology, another senior author of the study. "It’s not just the turkey timer going off; it’s a question of who’s holding the hot mitt to bring it to the dining room?" That turns out to be a protein called LC3. One part of LC3 binds to cardiolipin, and LC3 causes a specialized structure to form around the mitochondrion to carry it to the digestive centers of the cell.

The research arose nearly a decade ago when Dr. Kagan had a conversation with Dr. Chu at a research conference. Dr. Chu, who studies autophagy, or "self-eating," in Parkinson’s disease, was seeking a change on the mitochondrial surface that could signal to LC3 to bring in the damaged organelle for recycling. It turned out they were working on different sides of the same puzzle.

Together with Hülya Bayýr, M.D., research director of pediatric critical care medicine, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and professor, Pitt’s Department of Critical Care Medicine, and a team of nearly two dozen scientists, the three senior authors worked out how the pieces of the mitochondria signaling problem fit together.

Now that they’ve worked out the basic mechanism, Dr. Chu indicates that many more research directions will likely follow.

"There are so many follow-up questions," she said. "What is the process that triggers the cardiolipin to move outside the mitochondria? How does this pathway fit in with other pathways that affect onset of diseases like Parkinson’s? Interestingly, two familial Parkinson’s disease genes also are linked to mitochondrial removal."

Dr. Bayir explained that while this process may happen in all cells with mitochondria, it is particularly important that it functions correctly in neuronal cells because these cells do not divide and regenerate as readily as cells in other parts of the body.

"I think these findings have huge implications for brain injury patients," she said. "The mitochondrial ‘eat me’ signaling process could be a therapeutic target in the sense that you need a certain level of clearance of damaged mitochondria. But, on the other hand, you don’t want the clearing process to go on unchecked. You must have a level of balance, which is something we could seek to achieve with medications or therapy if the body is not able to find that balance itself."

Co-authors on this paper include Jing Ji, Ph.D., Ruben K. Dagda, Ph.D., Jian Fei Jiang, Ph.D., Yulia Y. Tyurina, Ph.D., Alexandr A. Kapralov, Ph.D., Vladimir A. Tyurin, Ph.D., Naveena Yanamala, Ph.D., Indira H. Shrivastava, Ph.D., Dariush Mohammadyani, Kent Zhi Qiang Wang, Ph.D., Jianhui Zhu, M.D., Ph.D., Judith Klein-Seetharaman, Ph.D., Krishnakumar Balasubramanian, Ph.D., Andrew A. Amoscato, Ph.D., Grigory Borisenko, Ph.D., Zhentai Huang, Ph.D., Aaron M. Gusdon, M.D., Amin Cheikhi, Erin K. Steer, Ruth Wang, Catherine Baty, D.V.M., Ph.D., Simon Watkins, Ph.D., and Ivet Bahar, Ph.D., all of the University of Pittsburgh.

This research was supported by National Institutes of Health grants AG026389, NS065789, F32AG030821, NS061817, HL70755, OH008282, U19AIO68021, NS076511, P41GM103712 and ES020693.

Allison Hydzik | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.upmc.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth
09.12.2016 | Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

nachricht Plant-based substance boosts eyelash growth
09.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

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

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>