Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

From Gene to Protein – New Insights of MDC/BIMBS Researchers

19.05.2011
How do genes control us? This fundamental question of life still remains elusive despite decades of research. Genes are blueprints for proteins, but it is the proteins that actually carry out vital functions in the body for maintaining life.
Diseases such as cancer are characterized by altered genes, but also by disturbed protein production. But how is protein production controlled? Researchers of the Max Delbrück Center (MDC), Germany, have now comprehensively quantified gene expression for the first time. According to their latest findings, control mainly occurs in the cytoplasm of the cell and not in the ‘high-security tract’ of the cell nucleus (Nature doi:10.1038/nature10098)*.

Corrected 2nd paragraph with additions

The results also highlight where gene expression can get out of control. The research was enabled by the close collaboration of a team led by the biologists Björn Schwanhäusser, Matthias Selbach, the systems biologist Jana Wolf and the biologist Wei Chen of the Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology (BIMSB) of the MDC (Nature doi:10.1038/nature10098)*.The Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology (BIMSB) was launched by the MDC in 2008, supported by start-up funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Senate of Berlin. The focus of Medical Systems Biology is not on genes and their proteins as isolated components, but on their regulation and their interaction with each other and on their relevance for disease processes. Since its inception, the internationally renowned BIMSB has become a beacon in the Berlin research landscape. It works closely with other institutions in numerous research networks and participates in excellence clusters with the Berlin universities, collaborating in particular with Humboldt University and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and also with New York University.

Proteins are the major building blocks of life. “They control virtually all biological processes ranging from heartbeat and oxygen transport up to and including thinking,” Matthias Selbach explained. The blueprint for proteins is stored in the genes in the cell nucleus. The messenger RNA (mRNA) formed in the cell nucleus (transcription) brings a copy of the blueprint to the protein factories of the cell in the cytoplasm, to the ribosomes. There the information of the mRNAs is used for protein production (translation). The fundamental question was which of the two processes, i.e. transcription or translation, plays the dominant role in regulating cellular protein levels.

The starting point of the MDC researchers was to measure the turnover of cellular mRNAs and proteins and mRNA and protein levels. They used high-throughput technologies such as quantitative mass spectrometry and the latest sequencing techniques, which are available close by at the MDC / BIMSB. In total, they quantified proteins and mRNAs for more than 5,000 genes. By means of mathematical modeling, the researchers drew conclusions from the collected data about the control of protein levels. Intriguingly, they observed that cellular protein levels mainly depend on translation of mRNAs in the protein factories of the cytoplasm. “The ribosomes ultimately determine protein abundance. Some mRNAs are translated into only one protein per hour, others are translated 200 times,” Matthias Selbach said.

Cells work in an energy-efficient way
Furthermore, the researchers found that cells use their resources very efficiently. Most mRNAs and proteins of abundantly expressed housekeeping genes (these genes maintain the normal operations of the body) are very stable. In this way the cell saves valuable energy, because protein production consumes many resources. In contrast, proteins responsible for rapid signaling processes are typically unstable. Cells can therefore quickly adapt to changes in their surroundings. This may also explain why the decisive control step takes place in the cytoplasm and not in the nucleus. Since it constitutes the last step in the production chain, this allows cells to respond dynamically to their environment.

The researchers hope their results will also be relevant for diseases. "So far, this is purely basic research,” Matthias Selbach stressed. "But we also know that the production of proteins is disturbed in many diseases, for example cancer." Very little is known about where the process gets out of control. Until now, researchers focused almost exclusively on the nucleus to find answers to this question. The new findings, however, show that the protein factories in the cytoplasm are of great significance. Perhaps this is where the key to understanding diseases can be found.

*Global quantification of mammalian gene expression control
Björn Schwanhäusser1, Dorothea Busse1, Na Li1, Gunnar Dittmar1, Johannes Schuchhardt2, Jana Wolf1, Wei Chen1 & Matthias Selbach1

1Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Robert-Rössle-Str. 10, D-13092 Berlin, Germany. 2MicroDiscovery GmbH, Marienburger Str. 1, D-10405 Berlin, Germany.

Barbara Bachtler
Press Department
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch
Member of the Helmholtz Association
Robert-Rössle-Straße 10; 13125 Berlin; Germany
Phone: +49 (0) 30 94 06 - 38 96
Fax: +49 (0) 30 94 06 - 38 33
e-mail: presse@mdc-berlin.de

Barbara Bachtler | Max-Delbrück-Centrum
Further information:
http://www.mdc-berlin.de/
http://www.mdc-berlin.de/en/bimsb/index.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>