Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Molecular muscle: Small parts of a big protein play key roles in building tissues

24.03.2011
Researchers hope pieces will help promote wound healing, shut down fibrosis and cancer

We all know the adage: A little bit of a good thing can go a long way. Now researchers in London are reporting that might also be true for a large protein associated with wound healing.

The team at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at Imperial College reports in the Journal of Biological Chemistry that a protein generated when the body is under stress, such as in cases of physical trauma or disease, can affect how the protective housing that surrounds each cell develops. What's more, they say, tiny pieces of that protein may one day prove useful in preventing the spread of tumors or fibrosis.

At just 174 nanometers in diameter, tenascin-C is pretty big in the world of proteins, and it looks a lot like a spider with six legs, which are about 10 times longer than its body. Thanks to those long legs, tenascin-C can do real heavy lifting when it comes to wound healing.

"Tenascin-C plays many roles in the response to tissue injury, including, first of all, initiating an immune response and, later, ensuring proper tissue rebuilding," explains Kim Midwood, who oversaw the project.

When the injury alarm is rung, tenascin-C shows up on the scene and attaches to another protein, fibronectin. Together, tenascin-C and fibronectin help to construct the housing, or extracellular matrix, that surrounds each cell.

"The extracellular matrix is the home in which the cells of your body reside: It provides shelter and nutrients and also sends signals to the cell to tell it how to behave," says Midwood. "To make a finished tissue, the matrix must be carefully built."

Tenascin-C's job is a temporary one. When your hand is cut, for example, it appears at the edges of the wound and then goes away when scar tissue develops, says postdoctoral research associate Wing To: "Tenascin-C is thought to play a major role during the rebuilding phase of tissue injury by promoting regeneration of tissue that has been damaged."

If the extracellular matrix were a construction site, tenascin-C could be seen as the scaffold upon which the weaving of fibronectin threads, or fibrils, is done. "Tenascin-C has multiple arms, and we have shown that it has multiple binding sites for fibronectin," Midwood says. "In this way, it can bind to many fibronectin fibrils at once and help to form the whole tissue by linking the fibrils together. Then, when the repair is done, the scaffolding is taken down."

Midwood and To systematically determined where tenascin-C and fibronectin bind together. They also identified small parts of tenascin-C, known as domains, that can bind to only one fibronectin fibril apiece.

"The small domains act as caps of the scaffold. No more fibronectin fibrils can bind once these caps are in place," Midwood says. So, in essence, they found that certain pieces of tenascin-C determine when fibril building should stop once enough, but not too much, tissue is made.

The findings could be especially useful for creating therapies for conditions in which there is aberrant extracellular matrix deposition, such as in cancers, fibrotic conditions or chronic non-healing wounds, adds To.

In abnormal conditions, such as in the case of a tumor cell, "the home that's made of fibronectin helps it to survive, shelters it and provides signals that enable it to proliferate," says Midwood. "As the tumor thrives, the home keeps on growing, expanding to destroy the existing neighborhood."

Similarly, in fibrotic diseases, tissue rebuilding rages out of control – with too much fibronectin assembly – so that it takes over the whole affected organ, Midwood says.

"In the end, we found that tenascin-C has both stop and go functions cleverly concealed in the same molecule," Midwood says. "The large spiderlike protein may provide a scaffold for building, and the small domains of the protein block excess building. Small domains may be therapeutically useful in situations where too much fibronectin drives disease."

If certain domains can stop uncontrolled matrix deposition in conditions where there is an increase in unwanted extracellular matrix, such as in fibrosis, then they could be useful tools for controlling such diseases.

Meanwhile, To says, in conditions with high levels of tenascin-C degradation by enzymes, for example in nonhealing chronic wounds, that may expose active tenascin-C domains, "if we can stop the production of these domains during disease progression with specific inhibitors, maybe we could help ameliorate the condition.

Similarly we could try and get the cells to make tenascin-C variants that are not as easily broken down by enzymes to help facilitate wound healing."

Midwood and To's paper was named a "Paper of the Week" by the Journal of Biological Chemistry's editorial board, landing it in the top 1 percent of all papers published over the year in the journal. The project was funded by the charity Arthritis Research UK and by the Kennedy Institute Trustees, and the paper will appear in a forthcoming print issue of the journal.

About the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

The ASBMB is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with more than 12,000 members worldwide. Most members teach and conduct research at colleges and universities. Others conduct research in various government laboratories, at nonprofit research institutions and in industry. The Society's student members attend undergraduate or graduate institutions. For more information about ASBMB, visit www.asbmb.org.

Angela Hopp | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.asbmb.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

nachricht The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>