Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

“Hairy” Vehicles in 3D

19.05.2011
They move cells, process external signals or ensure the correct arrangement of the internal organs.

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:
Bhogaraju, S., Taschner, M., Morawetz, M., Basquin, C. and Lorentzen, E. (2011), Crystal Structure of the Intraflagellar Transport Complex 25/27, EMBO Journal, May 19, 2011.
Contact:
Dr. Esben Lorentzen
Structural Biology of Cilia
Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry
Am Klopferspitz 18
82152 Martinsried
Germany
E-Mail: lorentze@biochem.mpg.de
Anja Konschak
Public Relations
Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry
Am Klopferspitz 18
82152 Martinsried
Germany
Tel. +49 89 8578-2824
E-Mail: konschak@biochem.mpg.de

Anja Konschak | Max-Planck-Institut
Further information:
http://www.biochem.mpg.de
http://www.biochem.mpg.de/en/rg/lorentzen/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

nachricht How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>