Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed a new probe that allows them to watch protein activity in living cells. In their initial study, which focused on a protein tentatively linked to the spread of cancerous cells, the team both proved their new technique works and revealed surprising new details about the protein’s activity.
The protein in this study, neuronal Wiskott–Aldrich syndrome protein (N-WASP), is naturally found in every cell in the body and is known to be involved in a wide range of cellular processes. One of its key functions is believed to be guiding cellular growth and movement within the body, including when tumor cells metastasize, or spread, from one organ to another.
“To our knowledge this is the first probe of its kind that allows us to actually see in a living system where, when and how proteins are activated,” says first author Michael E. Ward, a graduate student in anatomy and neurobiology. “This is significant progress in moving from examining the biochemistry of ground up cells to being able to study it in an intact cell.”
Gila Z. Reckess | WUSTL
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