A common result of scorpion stings, pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. ECU microbiologist Dr. Paul Fletcher believed that scorpion venom might be used as a way to discover how pancreatitis occurs – to see which cellular processes are affected at the onset of the disease.
Fletcher pinpointed a protein production system found in the pancreas that seemed to be targeted by the venom of the Brazilian scorpion Tityus serrulatus and then contacted NC State physicist Dr. Keith Weninger, who had studied that particular protein system.
“This particular protein system has special emphasis at two places in the body – the pancreas and the nervous system,” Weninger says. “In the pancreas, it is involved in the release of proteins through the membrane of a cell.” The pancreas specializes in releasing two kinds of proteins using separate cells: digestive enzymes that go into the small intestine and insulin and its relatives that go into the bloodstream, yet this same release mechanism is important in all of our cells for many processes.
Cells move components in and out through a process called vesicle fusion. The vesicle is a tiny, bubble-like chamber inside the cell that contains the substance to be moved, stored and released – in this case, proteins like enzymes or hormones. The vesicle is moved through the cell and attaches to the exterior membrane, where the vesicle acts like an airlock in a spaceship, allowing the cell membrane to open and release the proteins without disturbing the rest of the cell’s contents. The proteins that aid in this process are known as Vesicle Associated Membrane Proteins, or VAMPs.
Weninger provided Fletcher with two different VAMP proteins found in the pancreas, VAMP2 and VAMP8. They were engineered to remove the membrane attachments so they could be more easily used for experiments outside cells and tissues. Fletcher’s team demonstrated that the scorpion venom attacked the VAMP proteins, cutting them in one place and eliminating the vesicle’s ability to transport its protein cargo out of the cell.
The results were published in the March 5 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
“We found that a particular enzyme in the scorpion’s venom removes a peptide, or small protein, that allows the vesicle to fuse with the cell membrane,” Fletcher says. “If you remove a pancreatic cell’s ability to absorb or release components, you end up with pancreatitis.”
“Viruses often exploit the same mechanism of vesicle fusion, but in reverse, in order to invade cells and replicate,” Weninger adds. “This work furthers our understanding of a basic cellular process and may lead to treatments for viruses and advances in treatments like chemotherapy, by allowing targeted drug delivery only to cancer cells.”
The Department of Physics is part of NC State University’s College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.
Tracey Peake | EurekAlert!
Unique genome architectures after fertilisation in single-cell embryos
30.03.2017 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
30.03.2017 | Medical Engineering