Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Opening the Gate to the Cell's Recycling Center

16.07.2010
In cells, as in cities, disposing of garbage and recycling anything that can be reused is an essential service. In both city and cell, health problems can arise when the process breaks down.

New research by University of Michigan cell biologist Haoxing Xu and colleagues reveals key details about how the cell's garbage dump and recycling center, the lysosome, functions. These insights, which may lead to better understanding of conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) and Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, suggest new avenues of treatment for these and other diseases that cause nerves and muscles to malfunction.

The research, published this week in the online, multidisciplinary journal Nature Communications, focused on gateways called calcium channels in the lysosome membrane. Calcium channels, which also are found in the membranes surrounding muscle and nerve cells, are made of proteins that respond to signals in the form of electrical impulses. When the proper signal comes along, the proteins open the channel, allowing calcium to pass through. The calcium, in turn, triggers some vital process such as muscle contraction or the release of a hormone or neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger involved in nerve transmission).

Scientists know a lot about the workings of calcium channels in the surfaces of muscle and nerve cells, but understanding what goes in the lysosome---a tiny pouch hidden inside the cell---has been a challenge, said Xu. Consequently, the exact identity of the protein involved and how it becomes activated have remained a mystery.

To explore the channel and its workings, Xu's group modified a technique known as the patch clamp, in which a scaled-down pipette and electrodes are attached to a cell membrane to record the activity of one or more proteins making up the channel. With their modification, which they call the lysosome patch clamp, the researchers determined that a protein called TRPML1 serves as the calcium channel in lysosomes and that a lipid known as PI(3,5)P2 carries the signal that activates the protein.

This particular protein and lipid aren't obscure characters previously unknown to science. A mutation in the gene that produces TRPML1 is known to cause Type IV mucolipidosis (ML4), a genetic disorder that affects mainly Jews of Eastern European background and results in mental retardation, poor vision and diminished motor abilities. And mutations in the enzymes needed to make PI(3,5) P2 cause a variety of neurodegenerative diseases including ALS and CMT.

The protein TRPML1 also is of interest because of the unusual way it does its work.

"While other channel proteins are in the 'passenger' seats of the membrane traffic, TRPML1 is in the 'driver' seat," said Xu, an assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology. This suggests that manipulating TRPML1 channel activity using channel activators or inhibitors could affect membrane traffic.

"If you can activate the channel, it might be possible to overcome the membrane traffic defects caused by the disease-causing mutations. Luckily, small-molecule chemicals that can stimulate TRPML1 channel activity are already available, " Xu said.

He and collaborator Miriam Meisler, a human genetics professor at the U-M Medical School, have experiments underway to see if they can prevent or reverse the course of disease in a mouse model of ALS by increasing activity of the TRPML1 channel.

If the strategy is successful, Xu hopes to explore its use in treating other neurological diseases.

"If the system we're studying turns out to be compromised in more common diseases, the method of increasing channel activity could have important implications for their treatment," he said.

Xu's coauthors on the Nature Communications paper are postdoctoral fellows Xian-ping Dong, Xiping Cheng and Yanling Zhang; graduate students Dongbiao Shen, Xiang Wang, and Qi Zhang; and undergraduate students Taylor Dawson and Xinran Li, all at U-M; Lois Weisman, who is the Sarah Winans Newman Collegiate Professor in the Life Sciences at U-M; and Markus Delling of Children's Hospital Boston.

The research was funded by the U-M Department of Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology; the U-M Biological Sciences Scholars Program; the U-M Initiative on Rare Disease Research, the Michigan Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the National Institutes of Health.

More information:

Haoxing Xu: http://www.mcdb.lsa.umich.edu/faculty_haoxingx.html

Nature Communications: http://www.nature.com/ncomms/index.html

Nancy Ross-Flanigan | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University

nachricht Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

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...

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

Researchers shoot for success with simulations of laser pulse-material interactions

29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Igniting a solar flare in the corona with lower-atmosphere kindling

29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

As sea level rises, much of Honolulu and Waikiki vulnerable to groundwater inundation

29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>