Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Research reveals how cells protect against stress

15.08.2002


Stress happens, and over the eons all species of living things have evolved all sorts of ways to cope. Now, new research has revealed that organisms as diverse as humans and plants share a common set of stress-protection maneuvers that are choreographed by the metabolic machinery in their cells.



The research led by Sarah M. Assmann, the Waller Professor of Plant Biology at Penn State, will be published in the 15 August 2002 issue of the journal Nature.

"We have shown, in more detail than was known before, the chain of cellular events that begins with an environmental stress and ends with an organism’s protective response to that stress," Assmann says. "We also have discovered some previously unknown steps in that process."


Among the team’s discoveries is that one cellular-processing step that originally was discovered in human cells also occurs in plant cells. "A human autoimmune disease and a disorder associated with breast cancer are known to result from a defect in this process, " Assmann says.

Specifically, the Assmann team studied a process triggered in plants by abscisic acid (ABA), a hormone that plants produce when they are stressed by drought. Assmann’s lab discovered two years ago that the ABA hormone activates a type of protein called a kinase, which attaches phosphate groups to other proteins. The resulting cascade of events ultimately causes closure of microscopic pores on the plants’ leaves in an effort to limit the loss of moisture.

In the present research, Assmann’s group found that one of the targets of this ABA-activated kinase is a specific protein that binds RNA. Assmann’s group further discovered that the ABA-induced phosphorylation of the RNA-binding protein caused its association with the RNA encoding dehydrin, a protein known to confer stress-resistance to plant cells.

Scientist have long known that, in both plant and animal cells, proteins designed to do particular jobs are produced from the genetic blueprint contained in the DNA inside the nucleus. In a process known as transcription, nuclear machines first copy the genetic code from the DNA molecules into a "transcribed" RNA molecule and then moves the RNA from the nucleus into the cell’s cytoplasm, where it is "translated" into a protein. But Assmann and other researchers are discovering that RNA-binding proteins mediate a lot of cut-and-paste processing of the newly transcribed "raw" RNA before it is remodeled into "messenger" RNA and allowed to leave the nucleus carrying the blueprint for making a protein.

"A new paradigm that our research suggests is that the ABA hormone regulates the protein complement of a cell not only by controlling the initial transcription process but also by controlling the proteins involved in post-transcriptional remodeling of RNA molecules, including RNAs that encode stress-protective proteins," Assmann explains.

Another of Assmann’s discoveries is that ABA regulates the formation of mysterious islands within the cell’s nucleus called "nuclear speckles." Scientists do not yet know a lot about nuclear speckles in plants, but they do know that nuclear speckles in human cells contain proteins associated with the remodeling of RNA.

By expressing in plant cells the RNA-binding protein with a green fluorescent tag attached, Assmann’s group was able to observe the localization of this protein within the living cell. As she watched through the microscope Assmann observed, for the first time, that ABA induced the relocation of the RNA-binding protein within the nucleus. Upon treatment of the plant tissue with ABA, the fluorescently-tagged RNA-binding proteins quickly gathered together into nuclear speckles that looked like green-glowing islands inside the cell’s nucleus. "To our knowledge, such hormonally induced aggregation of RNA-remodeling proteins into nuclear speckles has not previously been observed either in plant or in animal cells," Assmann says.

In addition to giving researchers these and other important details about the processes that produce protective proteins, Assmann’s research also eventually could give farmers more control over the moisture content of their crops." Our research points to a gene-regulation process that, if turned off after a crop matures, would assure that the pores on a plant’s leaves would stay open, allowing it to dry more quickly in the field," Assmann explains. "In a crop like feed corn, for example, such control would be economically beneficial to farmers, who get a better price for their crop if it has reached its optimal moisture content."


In addition to Assmann, other members of the research team include Jiaxu Li, lead postdoctoral associate, postdoctoral associates Sona Pandey and Carl K.-Y. Ng, Ken-ichiro-Shimazaki and Toshinori Kinoshita at Kyushu University (Japan), and Steven P. Gygi of Harvard Medical School.

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation. Photos: high resolution images for publication are available to reporters from a link at http://www.science.psu.edu/alert/Assmann8-2002.htm

Additional Contact Information:
Sarah M. Assmann: phone 814-863-9579, email sma3@psu.edu

Barbara K. Kennedy | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Making fuel out of thick air
08.12.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht ‘Spying’ on the hidden geometry of complex networks through machine intelligence
08.12.2017 | Technische Universität Dresden

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Midwife and signpost for photons

11.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas

11.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

PhoxTroT: Optical Interconnect Technologies Revolutionized Data Centers and HPC Systems

11.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>