Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New findings help explain speedy transported into and out of the cell's nucleus


'Fuzzy' interaction makes it possible for the nuclear pore complex to rapidly and selectively move large molecules

A cell does everything it can to protect its nucleus, where precious genetic information is stored. That includes controlling the movement of molecules in and out using gateways called nuclear pore complexes (NPCs).

Because it lacks a predictable structure, an FG Nup (green), a component of the nuclear pore complex, can interact quickly with a transport factor (purple) bound to large cargo. This interaction makes selective and rapid transport into and out of the nucleus possible.

Credit: Laboratory of Cellular and Structural Biology at The Rockefeller University

Now, researchers at The Rockefeller University, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and the New York Structural Biology Center have identified the molecular mechanism that makes both swift and cargo-specific passage through the NPC possible for large molecules. Their work appeared September 15 in eLife.

Scientists are paying close attention to this regulation since dysfunction in nuclear transport has been linked to many diseases, including cancers and developmental disorders.

While small molecules can easily pass in and out of the nucleus, the transport of large molecules such as proteins and RNA is more complex and less well understood. These are moved through the NPC rapidly, but also selectively to avoid allowing the wrong big molecules through.

It was already known that proteins called transport factors bind to large cargo and escort it through the NPC. A team led by Michael P. Rout, a professor at Rockefeller University and head of the Laboratory of Cellular and Structural Biology, and David Cowburn, a professor of biochemistry and of physiology & biophysics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, sought to explain the speed with which transport factors ferry large molecules across the NPC, a process that lasts only a few milliseconds.

"It's understood how these transport factors selectively choose and bind to their cargo," Rout says. "However, it's been unclear how such a specific process can also shepherd molecules through the nuclear pore complex so quickly."

At the center of the NPC, the transport factors and their cargo must pass through a selectivity filter made of proteins called FG Nups. These proteins form a dense mesh that normally prevents large molecules from getting through. Using a technique known as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, the researchers collected atomic-scale information about the behavior of the FG Nups, focusing on Nsp1, the most studied representative of the FG Nups.

Normally, proteins fold into large structures. Relative to small molecules such as water, these large protein structures move very slowly. This means their interactions are correspondingly slow.

The researchers measured the physical state of FG repeats with and without transport factors bound to them. They found that rather than folding like proteins generally do, the FG Nups are loose and string-like, remaining highly dynamic and lacking a predictable structure.

"Usually, binding between traditionally folded proteins is a time consuming, cumbersome process, but because the FG Nups are unfolded, they are moving very quickly, very much like small molecules. This means their interaction is very quick," explains Rout.

The disordered structure of the FG regions is critical to the speed of transport, allowing for quick loading and unloading of cargo-carrying transport factors. At the same time, because transport factors have multiple binding sites for FG Nups, they are the only proteins that can specifically interact with them -- making transport both fast and specific.

"We observed that there is minimal creation of a static well-ordered structure in complexes of FG Nups and transport factors," says Cowburn. "Our observations are, we propose, the first case where the 'fuzzy' property of an interaction is a key part of its actual biological function."

The team hopes this discovery will lead to detailed characterizations of nuclear transport pathways and to more close studies of the NPC's function. Ultimately, a better understanding of how the NPC works will not only provide new insight into the basic biology of cells, but also have implications for health and disease.

Wynne Parry | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Biology Rockefeller factors large molecules proteins small molecules

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Signaling Pathways to the Nucleus
19.03.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht In monogamous species, a compatible partner is more important than an ornamented one
19.03.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Ornithologie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

A new kind of quantum bits in two dimensions

19.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists have a new way to gauge the growth of nanowires

19.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>