Proteins are the body's workhorses, and like horses they often work in teams. There exists a modern day team of multiple chaperone proteins that help other proteins fold into the complex 3D shapes they must achieve to function. This is necessary to avert many serious diseases caused when proteins misbehave.
But what happened before this team of chaperones was formed? How did the primordial cells that were the ancestors of modern life keep their proteins folded and functional?
Scientists from the University of Michigan discovered that an extremely simple, ancient chemical called polyphosphate can perform the role of a chaperone. It likely played that role billions of years ago, and still keeps its old job today.
"Polyphosphate has likely been present since life began on Earth, and is thought to exist in all living creatures," said postdoctoral researcher Michael Gray. "This means it's extremely important, but no one really knew what it was for.
"We found that bacteria accumulate polyphosphate to defend against disease-causing, protein unfolding conditions. Purified polyphosphate works well to protect proteins in the test tube, showing that this simple chemical can substitute for the complex team of protein chaperones."
The discovery unravels a longstanding evolutionary mystery that could lead to new strategies for treating protein folding diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, which occur when proteins misfold or pile up.
"Once we know how to manipulate the levels of polyphosphate in cells and organisms, we should be able to improve protein folding and develop countermeasures against protein folding diseases," said Ursula Jakob, the U-M professor in charge of the research.
Their work appears in the journal Molecular Cell. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health and Howard Hughes Medical Institute. U-M co-authors include Wei-Yun Wholey, Claudia Cremers, Robert Bender, Antje Mueller-Schickert, Nico Wagner, Nathaniel Hock, Adam Krieger, Erica Smith and James Bardwell.
Laura Bailey | Newswise
Stress triggers key molecule to halt transcription of cell's genetic code
28.05.2015 | Stowers Institute for Medical Research
Chemists discover key reaction mechanism behind the highly touted sodium-oxygen battery
28.05.2015 | University of Waterloo
Using ultrashort laser pulses, scientists in Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have demonstrated the emission of extreme ultraviolet radiation from thin dielectric films and have investigated the underlying mechanisms.
In 1961, only shortly after the invention of the first laser, scientists exposed silicon dioxide crystals (also known as quartz) to an intense ruby laser to...
The only professorship in Germany to date, one master's programme, one laboratory with worldwide unique equipment and the corresponding research results: The University of Würzburg is leading in the field of biofabrication.
Paul Dalton is presently the only professor of biofabrication in Germany. About a year ago, the Australian researcher relocated to the Würzburg department for...
Physicists have developed an innovative method that could enable the efficient use of nanocomponents in electronic circuits. To achieve this, they have developed a layout in which a nanocomponent is connected to two electrical conductors, which uncouple the electrical signal in a highly efficient manner. The scientists at the Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel have published their results in the scientific journal “Nature Communications” together with their colleagues from ETH Zurich.
Electronic components are becoming smaller and smaller. Components measuring just a few nanometers – the size of around ten atoms – are already being produced...
Development and implementation of an advanced automobile parking navigation platform for parking services
To fulfill the requirements of the industry, PolyU researchers developed the Advanced Automobile Parking Navigation Platform, which includes smart devices,...
The world's first electrical car and passenger ferry powered by batteries has entered service in Norway. The ferry only uses 150 kWh per route, which...
20.05.2015 | Event News
18.05.2015 | Event News
12.05.2015 | Event News
28.05.2015 | Press release
28.05.2015 | Physics and Astronomy
28.05.2015 | Information Technology