Just as homes have smoke detectors, cells have an enzyme that responds to a buildup of fatty acids by triggering the production of a key molecule in the biochemical pathway that breaks down these fatty acids, according to investigators at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. This breakdown of fatty acids, in turn, provides the cell energy while reducing the chance that excess fatty acids will accumulate.
The St. Jude discovery explains how the fatty acid-sensing enzyme PanK2 tailors production of this key molecule, coenzyme A (CoA), to the cell's energy demands. Understanding PanK2 function is also important because mutations in this enzyme cause an inherited neurodegenerative disease. A report on the discovery appears in the online pre-publication issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
"The results of this study show how and where a critical biochemical pathway for fatty acid breakdown is controlled by a specific enzyme," said Charles Rock, Ph.D., a member of the Infectious Diseases department at St. Jude. "It offers an explanation of why the absence of this enzyme can cause mitochondrial malfunction." Rock is a co-author of the PNAS paper.
The researchers showed that PanK2, is suppressed by CoA—the molecule this enzyme triggers the cell to make. CoA normally binds tightly to PanK2, shutting it down. When a buildup of fatty acids occurs in the cell, a molecule called carnitine shuttles them into the mitochondria. This combination of a fatty acid and carnitine, called acylcarnitine, liberates PanK2 from the bondage of CoA. Once free, PanK2 resumes its job of initiating the production of more CoA, which is needed for the breakdown of fatty acids—a process called beta-oxidation.
The St. Jude team demonstrated that PanK2 does its job of responding to increasing levels of fatty acids within a structure called the mitochondrion. Mitochondria are bags of enzymes in the cell that extract energy from nutrients. Most of the cell's energy-rich molecules called ATP are made in the mitochondria, and these ATP molecules serve as the "currency" with which the cell can "buy" all of the biochemical reactions that keep the cell alive and performing its functions. Virtually all cells have mitochondria, and disruption of their function can cause a variety of diseases.
"Our study showed the connection between the location of PanK2 in the mitochondria and its role in as a sensor of energy demand," said Yong-Mei Zhang, Ph.D., a researcher in the Infectious Diseases department at St. Jude and the report's senior author. "This is an ideal location for PanK2 because it can detect acylcarnitine as it enters the mitochondrion."
The importance of PanK2 is especially evident in individuals who have mutations in the PANK2 gene that give rise to PanK-associated neurodegeneration (PKAN), an inherited disease in which patients have intellectual impairment and difficulty in walking and speaking.
"The new understanding of PanK2 activity and its location in the cell suggests a potential treatment strategy for PKAN," said Roberta Leonardi, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the St. Jude Infectious Diseases department and first author of the PNAS article. "For example, reducing the level of fat in the diet and taking carnitine supplements might help PKAN patients cope with this debilitating disease."
"One of our challenges is how to develop an animal model of this disease that we can use to determine if reduced dietary fat and carnitine supplements offer hope in the treatment of PKAN in humans," said Suzanne Jackowski, Ph.D., a member of the Infectious Diseases department at St. Jude and a co-author of the report.
Summer Freeman | EurekAlert!
Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University
How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy