Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UNC scientists pinpoint link between light signal and circadian rhythms

30.12.2010
In a new paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Aziz Sancar, MD, PhD, the Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the UNC School of Medicine, and his colleagues have taken an important step in understanding the underlying molecular signals that influence a broad array of biological processes ranging from the sleep-wake cycle to cancer growth and development.

Scientists who work in this field, known as chronobiology, have identified the genes that direct circadian rhythms in people, mice, fruit flies, fungi and several other organisms. However, the mechanisms by which those genes interact with light in the organism's environment have not been well understood.

Circadian rhythms are the physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow the earth's 24 hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism's environment.

About 15 years ago, Sancar discovered a human protein called cryptochrome which acts as a core component of the molecular clock in mammals. The protein is also found in fruit flies, other insects, and plants.

"Cryptochrome 'resets' the circadian clock, but we were not sure how it worked," said Sancar, who is also a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Using fruit flies (Drosophilia melanogaster), the team purified cryptochrome and developed a biochemical test that shows when and how the protein transmits signals.

"We can now detect the protein at work. When we expose cryptochrome to blue light in fruit flies, a millisecond of light exposure has a half-life during which we can examine the mechanism in the laboratory," said Sancar. "We can follow the molecular signals after light exposure and have a reliable model to test various hypotheses about how light interacts with the circadian systems we know are so important to biological processes."

The research may be useful to scientists who study the circadian clock's relationship to sleep disorders, jet lag, cancer, bipolar disorder, depression and other diseases.

Sancar's research collaborators include Nuri Ozturk, PhD, Christopher Selby, PhD, and Yunus Annayev, BSc, of UNC-Chapel Hill's Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and Donping Zhong, PhD from the Ohio State University.

The research was supported by the US National Institutes of Health.

Ellen de Graffenreid | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.unc.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Making fuel out of thick air
08.12.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht ‘Spying’ on the hidden geometry of complex networks through machine intelligence
08.12.2017 | Technische Universität Dresden

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Midwife and signpost for photons

11.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas

11.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

PhoxTroT: Optical Interconnect Technologies Revolutionized Data Centers and HPC Systems

11.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>