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Ubiquitination in real-time: A world first at the Université de Montréal


Biochemistry department featured in December issue of the prestigious Nature Methods scientific publication

The biochemistry department of the Université de Montréal salutes the brilliant research performed by Julie Perroy, post-doctoral trainee, and Stéphanie Pontier, graduate student, on the protein ubiquitination process. Their article describing this research work appears in the year-end review of the Nature Methods scientific publication. The work was performed under the direction of Michel Bouvier, Professor and Director of the Biochemistry Department of the Université de Montréal and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Signal Transduction and Molecular Pharmacology. Doctor Muriel Aubry, Professor, Biochemistry Department, also collaborated in the project.

As explained in their article, which was also featured in a News and Views article sponsored by the journal, Perroy and Pontier succeeded in demonstrating that the ubiquitination process of a given protein can be monitored dynamically, in real time, on living cells.

The study was made possible through the use of the BRET technique, developed previously in Professor Bouvier’s laboratory. Thanks to these results, the different roles played by ubiquitin, a small protein that is attracting great interest, will become better known.

Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2004

The work of Professor Bouvier and his team is part of the leading edge of an international research movement, which includes the 2004 winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Aaron Ciechanover, Avram Hershko and Irwin Rose, for their work on the role of ubiquitin in protein degradation. The three researchers will receive their prize on December 8 at Stockholm University, only a few days after the publication date of Nature Methods.

The research work of Professor Bouvier and his collaborators has had a major impact, which is likely to increase rapidly. "In the coming weeks, I expect we will have many requests for the biological material needed to implement this technique," noted Professor Bouvier. " As with our past projects, we will definitely welcome researchers from around the world, coming to our laboratory to learn on-site how to use the BRET technique. This will stimulate interesting intellectual exchanges, and attract students to join our research laboratory."

The close timing between the appearance of the article and the Nobel Prize announcements will also generate interest in the results of this study, he added. "This will help specialists and general public alike to understand the importance of ubiquitin, and particularly its health implications."

Medical and pharmaceutical applications

In recent years Professor Bouvier and his research team have been concerned with hormonal receptors for G proteins, whose regulation seem closely tied to the ubiquitination process. These receptors have great pharmaceutical importance, as they are acted upon by more than half of the prescription medications currently being prescribed, for diseases as varied as high blood pressure, ulcers, migraine, etc.

Professor Bouvier worked with several valued partners in the Groupe de Recherche Universitaire sur le Médicament (GRUM), including: the Chemistry department, several departments of the Faculty of Medicine, the Pharmacy Faculty of the Université de Montréal, Sainte-Justine Hospital and CHUM. One of the missions of GRUM is to establish a high content screening facility that would allow the identification of the chemical components with therapeutic potential. The recent results on observation and monitoring of ubiquitination in real time, in living cells, will help to better target therapeutic molecules from which new medications might be produced.

Sophie Langlois | EurekAlert!
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