But the small hair-like structures at the surface of cells can only fulfill these tasks, if their transport system supplies them with all essential building blocks. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) in Martinsried near Munich, Germany, now managed for the first time to decipher the three-dimensional structure of one part of this complex transport system. That way, they were able to gain important insights into its functional mechanisms. These results can possibly help to prevent pathogenic disruptions. (EMBO Journal, May 19, 2011)
The molecular structure of the two proteins IFT25 and IFT27 forming a macromolecular complex. Picture: Esben Lorentzen / Copyright: MPI of Biochemistry
They are situated at the surface of eukaryotic cells and only five to ten micrometers (0.0005 to 0.001 centimeters) long: the cilia. As inconspicuous as these hair-like structures are at first sight, as important are the tasks they fulfill in the body. By distributing specific messenger substances during the development of the embryo, the cilia ensure the correct arrangement of the internal organs. Mistakes in ciliary function can thus result in situs inversus, a condition where the left/right arrangement of the inner organs in the body is reversed. Moreover, motile cilia give the sperm cells mobility and move the egg cells from the ovaries to the uterus along the fallopian tube. Functional disruptions can lead to infertility for men or to a dangerous pregnancy outside the uterus for women. The sensory cilium serves as the antennae of the cell by transmitting signals from the environment and, in doing so, permit different sensory perceptions. These sensory cilia are for example found on photoreceptor cells of the eye and on olfactory neurons. Damage to these types of cilia can thus lead to blindness or the loss of smell.
Although cilia fulfill various tasks, they all have a similar structure: Certain molecules that are essential for the buildup and the preservation of the functioning cilia are transported along a bundle of fibers in the interior of the cilium. Disruption of this transport system, which scientists call intraflagellar transport (IFT), can lead to errors during the assembly of the cilia and thus cause diseases with mental and physical disorders.
Even though the importance of IFT and the cilium to human health has been known for a long time, a structural and mechanistic understanding of IFT has been completely missing. Scientists from the research group of Esben Lorentzen studying “Structural Biology of Cilia” at the MPIB, now succeeded in resolving the structure of a key part of the IFT complex at the molecular level: With the aid of X-ray crystallography, they were able to map this part of the IFT complex in 3D and thus could analyze its structure and functional mechanisms.
“The part of the IFT complex mapped in our study plays an essential role for the regulation of the IFT process. Hence, our findings provide a first step to decipher and understand the structure and the underlying mechanisms of the whole IFT complex”, so says Sagar Bhogaraju, the PhD student at the MPIB who carried out the experiments. In turn, a better understanding of the transport system in the cilium could help to uncover the causes for disruptions and to prevent errors, say the scientists. In this way diseases which occur as a consequence of damaged cilia could potentially be inhibited one day. [UD]Original Publication:
For a chimpanzee, one good turn deserves another
27.06.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in den Naturwissenschaften (MPIMIS)
New method to rapidly map the 'social networks' of proteins
27.06.2017 | Salk Institute
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
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...
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...
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...
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)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
28.06.2017 | Awards Funding
28.06.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy