Overturning a scientific stereotype, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have discovered a new role for a key protein involved in muscle contraction and shown it is present not just in the cytoplasm of cells but in the nucleus as well.
Actin has been pigeonholed as a molecular motor, explains Primal de Lanerolle, professor of physiology and biophysics at UIC. "Whenever cells move or divide, actin is involved, like its partner myosin." "But in the nucleus," de Lanerolle said, "actin acts instead like a binding protein. It recruits other proteins in the very complicated process our bodies use to transcribe DNA segments into messages made of RNA." These messages travel out to the cytoplasm, where they serve as templates for building proteins, including actin itself. "If actin is blocked, transcription cant begin," de Lanerolle said.
The finding is published in the current issue of Nature Cell Biology and follows an earlier discovery by de Lanerolle and his colleagues that actins cohort, myosin, the other compound involved in muscle contraction, is also present in the nucleus.
Sharon Butler | EurekAlert!
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