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 Scientists unlock ability to generate new sensory hair cells
22.02.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital

nachricht New insights into the information processing of motor neurons
22.02.2017 | Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microhotplates for a smart gas sensor

22.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Scientists unlock ability to generate new sensory hair cells

22.02.2017 | Life Sciences

Prediction: More gas-giants will be found orbiting Sun-like stars

22.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>