Cells are the building blocks of the human body. They are a focus of scientific study, because when things go wrong at the cellular and molecular level the consequences for human health are often significant.
A new finding based on multiple collaborations between UNC and Duke scientists over several years points to new avenues for investigation of cell metabolism that may provide insights into diseases ranging from neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease to certain types of cancers.
The finding, published today in the journal Nature Cell Biology, builds on a discovery that co-author Donita Brady, PhD, made when she was a graduate student in pharmacology at UNC, working in the lab of Adrienne Cox, PhD, associate professor in the departments of pharmacology and radiation oncology and a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. A similar observation was made at the same time by Kian-Huat Lim, MD/PhD, then working in the lab of Christopher Counter, PhD, associate professor in Duke University's departments of pharmacology and cancer biology and radiation oncology.
Both scientists observed that a protein related to a gene called Ras, which is known to be associated with several different types of cancer, was concentrated in a part of the cell called the mitochondria. Mitochondria are known as the cell's "power plant" because they produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a source of chemical energy for cells. Brady and Lim noticed that the interaction of two proteins called RalA and Aurora-A, when present in the cell's mitochondria, caused those "power plants" to behave oddly during cell division.
For cellular reproduction and division to remain on a healthy track, the mitochondria have to redistribute themselves proportionately into the 'daughter' cells during mitosis – the process of cell division. So the team knew that this process was important.
Meanwhile, the scientific team was also redistributing itself, with Brady moving on to a postdoctoral fellowship at Duke and beginning to work with David Kashatus, PhD, a UNC-trained biochemist also working in Dr. Counter's lab. There, the team started to look into the 'odd' mitochondria, and found that the RalA protein is at the beginning of a chain of protein signals that regulate how the mitochondria distribute themselves in cell division. If these proteins are disrupted, the mitochondria don't divide properly during mitosis through a process called fission and don't distribute themselves proportionately within the 'daughter' cells. One result is a decrease in the level of the cellular 'fuel', ATP.
"This suggests a number of future avenues for inquiry," says Dr. Cox. "We know that cellular metabolism is regulated through this process. Now that we know more about its disruption, the team will examine cellular metabolism in normal cells compared to cells where mitochondrial fission and re-fusion have been disrupted. There are implications for a number of diseases including cancer and neurodegenerative disorders, where we suspect that underlying cellular metabolism may play a role."
She adds, "As scientists and educators, one of our roles is to teach graduate students the principles of successful collaboration. The close proximity of strong universities like UNC and Duke promotes the exchange of ideas between labs and investigators, resulting in discoveries with high potential, like this one."
Ellen de Graffenreid | EurekAlert!
Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH
Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences