Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New screen offers hope for copper deficiency sufferers

17.08.2010
Chemical-biology study reveals secrets of copper metabolism

Copper deficiency diseases can be devastating. Symptoms can range from crippling neurological degeneration in Menkes disease – a classic copper deficiency disease – to brittle bones, anaemia and defective skin pigmentation in gastric bypass patients. Unfortunately, very little is known about how the body uses this essential nutrient.

Knowing that melanocytes (the cells that give rise to hair, skin and eye pigmentation) are dramatically affected by the effects of copper deficiency, Elizabeth Patton from the University of Edinburgh, UK, and other colleagues from UK- and US-based labs decided to find out how melanocytes metabolise copper. Patton and her colleagues publish their results in Disease Models and Mechanisms on August 17, 2010 at http://dmm.biologists.org/.

Patton explains that zebrafish are a valuable research tool because they are an intermediate organism between mammals and the simpler creatures that scientists routinely use to study genetic disorders. She usually uses zebrafish to understand how melanocytes develop and how these cells can give rise to malignant melanoma, a lethal form of cancer. Testing compounds that she hoped might prevent malignant melanoma symptoms in zebrafish, she was puzzled to find a compound that caused the fish to lose their characteristic zebra-stripe patterns. After spending months trying to determine why the fish lost their stripes, she crossed paths with Jonathan Gitlin, a copper deficiency specialist from Vanderbilt University, USA, and realised that the stripeless fish might have copper deficiency.

To understand the molecular pathways involved in copper deficiency, Patton and Gitlin teamed up with Mike Tyers from the University of Edinburgh and developed an elegant method to probe copper metabolism in zebrafish. First, the team identified compounds that caused zebrafish to lose their stripes – indicating copper deficiency. Next, they identified the genes that each compound targeted by applying the compounds to yeast cells. Patton explains that most of the genes that control copper metabolism are very similar in yeast, zebrafish and humans, so the genes identified in this study should increase our understanding of what makes certain people susceptible to copper deficiency.

The team found that mutations in certain proteins that move nutrients around cells (trafficking components) increase the risk that carriers will be susceptible to copper deficiency when the copper supply is restricted, such as after gastric bypass surgery. Patton says, "You might have people with polymorphisms [variations in a single gene] in some of these trafficking components that are fine, but under certain environmental conditions some of the weaknesses are revealed."

This work demonstrates the utility of the coupled zebrafish-yeast approach for studying copper deficiency, but it can also be applied for studying other complex multifactorial diseases, particularly those with an environmental component. "There have been some beautiful studies looking at transport components in melanocytes, which have linked copper metabolism pathways with transport. What's new here is that we can investigate a gene-environment interaction," says Patton, who hopes to apply the method for studying cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome, a rare genetic disorder with crippling symptoms ranging from skin abnormalities to heart defects. In addition, her team plans to apply the method to investigate how drug candidates function in vivo.

REFERENCE: Ishizaki, H., Spitzer, M., Wildenhain, J., Anastasaki, C., Zeng, Z., Shaw, M., Erik Madsen, E., Gitlin, J., Marais, R., Tyers, M. Patton, E. E. (2010). Combined zebrafish-yeast chemical genetic screens reveal gene-copper nutrition interactions that modulate melanocyte pigmentation. Dis. Model. Mech. doi:10.1242/dmm.005769

Sarah Allan | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.biologists.com
http://dmm.biologists.org/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

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....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

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....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

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...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

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...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>