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 A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

nachricht CWRU researchers find a chemical solution to shrink digital data storage
22.06.2017 | Case Western Reserve University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

Im Focus: Optoelectronic Inline Measurement – Accurate to the Nanometer

Germany counts high-precision manufacturing processes among its advantages as a location. It’s not just the aerospace and automotive industries that require almost waste-free, high-precision manufacturing to provide an efficient way of testing the shape and orientation tolerances of products. Since current inline measurement technology not yet provides the required accuracy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is collaborating with four renowned industry partners in the INSPIRE project to develop inline sensors with a new accuracy class. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is scheduled to run until the end of 2019.

New Manufacturing Technologies for New Products

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation

22.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Plant inspiration could lead to flexible electronics

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

A rhodium-based catalyst for making organosilicon using less precious metal

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>