Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have determined how two proteins help create organelles, or specialized subunits within a cell, that play a vital role in maintaining cell health. This discovery opens the door for research on substances that could interfere with the formation of these organelles and lead to new therapies for cancer.
The study, published online ahead of print on December 2, 2012, by the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, focuses on the structure and function of the two proteins, ATG12 and ATG5. These proteins need to bond correctly to form an organelle called the autophagosome, which acts like a trash bag that removes toxic materials and provides the cell with nutrition through recycling.
"Our study focuses on one of the big mysteries in our field," said Takanori Otomo, the TSRI scientist who led the effort. "These proteins are linked, but no one has explained why clearly. We're very excited to have determined the structure of these linked proteins so that the information is available to do the next level of research."
Asking Questions, Finding Answers
At the beginning of the study, Otomo and colleagues knew that many proteins work together to form autophagosomes as part of the process known as autophagy, which breaks down large proteins, invasive pathogens, cell waste, and toxic materials. As part of this process, one key protein, LC3, attaches to a lipid, or fat molecule, on the autophagosome membrane. Yet LC3 cannot attach to a lipid without the help of ATG12 and ATG5, and a cell will only form an autophagosome if the linkage, or conjugate, between these two molecules has been established.
Otomo and colleagues set out to determine the shape of the ATG12-ATG5 conjugate, and to find out why it was needed for LC3 lipidation.
Using a method called X-ray crystallography, the scientists were able to unveil the details of this conjugate. When ATG12 and ATG5 come together, they form a rigid architecture and create a surface area that is made up of evolutionarily conserved amino acids and facilitates LC3 lipidation. The researchers confirmed this finding by mutating those conserved amino acids , which prevented an autophagosome from forming.
Otomo and colleagues also identified a surface on the ATG12-ATG5 conjugate that binds to ATG3, another enzyme required to attach LC3 to the lipid.
Toward Better Understanding and New Cancer Treatments
With this new knowledge, the researchers hope to design molecules that inhibit autophagosome formation, a direction of research that has implications for cancer treatment. A drug that directly inhibits ATG3 binding, for example, could be used in coordination with current therapies to make cancer treatments more effective, preventing a cancer cell from recycling nutrients and prolonging its survival.
"Ultimately, we'd like to understand the molecular mechanisms of each step of autophagy," he said, "As we make progress toward this goal, we will have a better idea of how to manipulate the pathway for therapeutic purposes. This field is still young and there are a lot of unknowns. This work is just the beginning."
In addition to Otomo, authors of the paper, "Structure of the human ATG12~ATG5 conjugate required for LC3 lipidation in autophagy," include Chinatsu Otomo and Zoltan Metlagel of TSRI, and Giichi Takaesu of Keio University in Tokyo, Japan.
This research was supported by National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant GM092740 and by funds from Japan Science and Technology Agency through the Keio Kanrinmaru Project.
Mika Ono | EurekAlert!
One step closer to reality
20.04.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie
The dark side of cichlid fish: from cannibal to caregiver
20.04.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy