Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Mechanism discovered for attaching an “on” switch that helps cells accessorize proteins


St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital scientists advance understanding of how cells manage their vast array of proteins and how system failures can lead to cancer and other diseases

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital scientists have discovered how an important “on” switch is attached to the machinery that cells rely on to adapt thousands of proteins to meet changing conditions. The research appears in the current issue of the journal Cell.

The switch is a small protein called NEDD8. Problems with NEDD8 have been associated with several cancers, developmental disorders and infectivity of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. Drugs that target NEDD8 are in anti-cancer clinical trials. The ability of HIV to evade the anti-viral immune response depends in part on the ability of the virus to hijack the NEDD8 machinery.

NEDD8 is also a key component of the machinery that cells use to adapt to changing conditions. Just as individuals adapt to changes in their environment by donning gloves, boots, hats and other accessories, cells adapt by “accessorizing” proteins to modify their function.

NEDD8 is a specialized accessory. It functions as the “on” switch for accessorizing 10 to 20 percent of the thousands of proteins that do the work of cells. Those accessories mark some proteins for elimination, others for a change in function and others for relocation to different parts of the cell. Until now, however, how NEDD8 slipped into position was unknown.

Researchers showed how part of the machinery for accessorizing proteins, a component called cullin-RING, is first modified by NEDD8. The addition of NEDD8 transforms the ability of cullin-RING to accessorize other proteins. Those proteins are involved in important biological functions such as cell division, immune response and embryonic development.

“This discovery is a major advance in understanding the machinery cells use to regulate an astonishingly vast number of proteins they depend on as well as the diseases that arise when the system malfunctions,” said corresponding author Brenda Schulman, Ph.D., a member of the St. Jude Department of Structural Biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator.

Schulman and her colleagues study the machinery that manages the accessorizing process, whether the accessory is NEDD8 or a different small protein called ubiquitin. Ubiquitin accessorizes proteins though a process known as ubiquitination. Cullin-RING, which NEDD8 accessorizes, is a major command center of ubiquitination.

This study builds on an observation first author Daniel Scott, Ph.D., made shortly after joining Schulman’s laboratory in 2006. Scott, an HHMI research specialist III, showed that while ubiquitin could be coaxed into binding to and accessorizing cullin-RING, NEDD8 was the preferred partner.

Scott used a technique called X-ray crystallography to capture a crystal structure that explained why. In the process, investigators determined for the first time that different components of the ubiquitination machinery work cooperatively to align NEDD8 and cullin-RING. That alignment promotes the transfer of NEDD8 rather than ubiquitin to the proper site on cullin-RING. The transfer of NEDD8 allows other proteins to be accessorized with ubiquitin.

The mechanism outlined in this research establishes a paradigm for understanding protein regulation in cells, Schulman said. “This research sets the stage for broadly understanding this key aspect of protein regulation in cells,” Scott said.

The study’s other authors are Vladislav Sviderskiy and Shein Ei Cho, both of St. Jude; Julie Monda, formerly of St. Jude and now of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.; and John Lydeard and J. Wade Harper, both of Harvard Medical School, Boston.

The research was funded in part by a Cancer Center Support Grant (CA021765) from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH); grants (GM069530, AG011085) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the NIH; the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and ALSAC.

St. Jude Media Relations Contacts

Carrie Strehlau
(desk) 901-595-2295
(cell) 901-297-9875

Summer Freeman
(desk) 901-595-3061
(cell) 901-297-9861

Carrie Strehlau | Eurek Alert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Cancer HIV NEDD8 NIH conditions immune proteins thousands ubiquitination

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht High-arctic butterflies shrink with rising temperatures
07.10.2015 | Aarhus University

nachricht Long-term contraception in a single shot
07.10.2015 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Kick-off for a new era of precision astronomy

The MICADO camera, a first light instrument for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), has entered a new phase in the project: by agreeing to a Memorandum of Understanding, the partners in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, and Italy, have all confirmed their participation. Following this milestone, the project's transition into its preliminary design phase was approved at a kick-off meeting held in Vienna. Two weeks earlier, on September 18, the consortium and the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which is building the telescope, have signed the corresponding collaboration agreement.

As the first dedicated camera for the E-ELT, MICADO will equip the giant telescope with a capability for diffraction-limited imaging at near-infrared...

Im Focus: Locusts at the wheel: University of Graz investigates collision detector inspired by insect eyes

Self-driving cars will be on our streets in the foreseeable future. In Graz, research is currently dedicated to an innovative driver assistance system that takes over control if there is a danger of collision. It was nature that inspired Dr Manfred Hartbauer from the Institute of Zoology at the University of Graz: in dangerous traffic situations, migratory locusts react around ten times faster than humans. Working together with an interdisciplinary team, Hartbauer is investigating an affordable collision detector that is equipped with artificial locust eyes and can recognise potential crashes in time, during both day and night.

Inspired by insects

Im Focus: Physicists shrink particle accelerator

Prototype demonstrates feasibility of building terahertz accelerators

An interdisciplinary team of researchers has built the first prototype of a miniature particle accelerator that uses terahertz radiation instead of radio...

Im Focus: Simple detection of magnetic skyrmions

New physical effect: researchers discover a change of electrical resistance in magnetic whirls

At present, tiny magnetic whirls – so called skyrmions – are discussed as promising candidates for bits in future robust and compact data storage devices. At...

Im Focus: High-speed march through a layer of graphene

In cooperation with the Center for Nano-Optics of Georgia State University in Atlanta (USA), scientists of the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität have made simulations of the processes that happen when a layer of carbon atoms is irradiated with strong laser light.

Electrons hit by strong laser pulses change their location on ultrashort timescales, i.e. within a couple of attoseconds (1 as = 10 to the minus 18 sec). In...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

EHFG 2015: Securing healthcare and sustainably strengthening healthcare systems

01.10.2015 | Event News

Conference in Brussels: Tracking and Tracing the Smallest Marine Life Forms

30.09.2015 | Event News

World Alzheimer`s Day – Professor Willnow: Clearer Insights into the Development of the Disease

17.09.2015 | Event News

Latest News

NASA provides an infrared look at Hurricane Joaquin over time

08.10.2015 | Earth Sciences

Theoretical computer science provides answers to data privacy problem

08.10.2015 | Information Technology

Stellar desk in wave-like motion

08.10.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>