Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Protein 'rescues' stuck cellular factories


Using a powerful data-crunching technique, Johns Hopkins researchers have sorted out how a protein keeps defective genetic material from gumming up the cellular works.

The protein, Dom34, appears to "rescue" protein-making factories called ribosomes when they get stuck obeying defective genetic instructions, the researchers report in the Feb. 27 issue of Cell.

"We already knew that binding to Dom34 makes a ribosome split and say 'I'm done,' and that without it, animals can't survive," says Rachel Green, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. "In this study, we saw how the protein behaves in 'real life,' and that it swoops in only when ribosomes are in a very particular type of crisis."

Ribosomes use genetic instructions borne by long molecules called messenger RNA to make proteins that cells need to get things done. Normally, ribosomes move along strands of messenger RNA, making proteins as they go, until they encounter a genetic sequence called a stop codon. At that point, the protein is finished, and specialized recycling proteins help the ribosome disconnect from the RNA and break up into pieces.

Those pieces later come together again on a different RNA strand to begin the process again. From Green's earlier work with Dom34, it appeared that the protein might be one of the recycling proteins that kicks in at stop codons.

To see if that was the case, Green used a method for analyzing the "footprints" of ribosomes developed at the University of California, San Francisco. In 2009, scientists there reported they had mashed up yeast (a single-celled organism that is genetically very similar to higher-order animals) and dissolved any RNA that wasn't protected inside a ribosome at the time. They then took the remaining bits of RNA — those that had been "underfoot" of ribosomes — and analyzed their genetic makeup. That sequence data was then matched to the messenger RNA it came from, giving the researchers a picture of exactly which RNA — and thus, which genes — were being turned into protein at a given moment in time.

Green and postdoctoral fellow Nick Guydosh, Ph.D., adapted this method to see what Dom34 was up to. Guydosh wrote a computer program to compare footprint data from yeast with and without functioning Dom34 genes. The program then determined where on messenger RNAs the ribosomes in cells without Dom34 tended to stall. It was at these points that Dom34 was rescuing the ribosomes in the normal cells, Guydosh says.

"What many of these 'traffic jams' had in common was that the RNA lacked a stop codon where the ribosome could be recycled normally," he says. For example, some of the problem messenger RNAs were incomplete — a common occurrence, as chopping up messenger RNAs is one way cells regulate how much of a protein is produced.

In others, the RNA had a stop codon, but something strange and unexpected was going on in these latter cases: The ribosomes kept going past the place where the stop codon was and went into a no man's land without protein-making instructions. "Ribosomes kept moving but stopped making protein, at least for a time," Guydosh says. "As far as we know, this 'scanning' activity has never been seen before — it was a big surprise."

"What these results show us is why we need Dom34 to survive: It's the only protein that can rescue ribosomes stuck on RNAs," says Green. "Without it, cells eventually run out of the ribosomes they need to make protein."


Link to the Cell paper:

This study was funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (grant number R01GM059425), the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

Shawna Williams | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Medical Medicine Protein RNA RNAs animals factories genes proteins ribosome ribosomes

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Two decades of training students and experts in tracking infectious disease
27.11.2015 | Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften Hamburg

nachricht Increased carbon dioxide enhances plankton growth, opposite of what was expected
27.11.2015 | Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Siemens to supply 126 megawatts to onshore wind power plants in Scotland

27.11.2015 | Press release

Two decades of training students and experts in tracking infectious disease

27.11.2015 | Life Sciences

Coming to a monitor near you: A defect-free, molecule-thick film

27.11.2015 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>