Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists identify protein with a crucial role in cell death

14.07.2006
Ageing, and the processes of deterioration that go with it, are largely attributable to cells that die off in a controlled manner.

Therefore, gaining better understanding of this controlled cell death is very important in the fight against deterioration diseases like dementia. In this light, researchers from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) connected to the K.U.Leuven, in collaboration with researchers from the Dulbecco-Telethon Institute hosted by the Veneto Institute of Molecular Medicine in Padua (Italy), have now discovered the function of the PARL protein. By studying mice that are unable to produce PARL, the researchers have discovered the significance of this protein in controlled cell death. An important step toward a good understanding of the ageing processes and of diseases like Parkinson’s disease.

The cells’ energy suppliers

Every living thing is composed of cells. There are a number of different cell types (brain cells, for example), each with its own particular function. To be able to perform their work, cells need energy. And this is what the mitochondria - which convert oxygen into the necessary energy - are responsible for. Given this vital function, scientists have suspected that the inner workings of a cell depend largely on how the mitochondria function. Therefore, it has been suspected that poorly functioning mitochondria can, among other things, lead to a disturbance in brain cells and thus contribute to Parkinson’s disease.

A noble stranger...

This starting assumption brought two top researchers together: Bart De Strooper, who has extensive experience in Alzheimer research and is thus also interested in the causes of Parkinson’s disease, and Luca Scorrano, who specializes in the functioning and effect of mitochondria. They set out to study PARL, a protein thought to interact with Presenilin, one of the major players in Alzheimer’s disease. Previous research had already indicated that the link between PARL and Presenilin is negligible. It was understood that PARL is important to the cell’s mitochondria, but the protein’s particular function has remained unknown for a long time.

‘Knock-out’ mice

To obtain insight into PARL’s function, the researchers used mice - called ‘knock-out’ mice - that were no longer able to produce this protein. These mice deteriorated very rapidly - losing muscular strength after only 4 weeks, which greatly reduced their capacity for breathing - and, after 8 to 12 weeks, they died. Thus, a lack of PARL leads to weakening of (muscle) cells, a phenomenon that also occurs in the normal ageing process. This result spurred the researchers on to find out the function of PARL.

Controlled cell death

During our lifetime, cells die off in a controlled manner - a process called apoptosis. In addition to supplying energy, mitochondria also ensure the integration and amplification of apoptosis signaling in the cell. From the research of De Strooper and Scorrano, it turns out that PARL is a key to initiating apoptosis in the mitochondria. Although the mitochondria of the knock-out mice have a normal development and are able to convert oxygen into energy, they have apparently lost their protection against apoptosis, and so the cells die off more quickly. Therefore, PARL plays a crucial role in the cells’ dying off process and, consequently, probably also in the origin of diseases of ageing, like Parkinson’s disease.

Ann Van Gysel | alfa
Further information:
http://www.vib.be

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

nachricht The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>