Using an enzyme found in the venom of the brown recluse spider, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have discovered a new way to open molecular pores, called ion channels, in the membrane of cells. The research team – Zhe Lu, MD, PhD; Yajamana Ramu, PhD; and Yanping Xu, MD, PhD of the Department of Physiology at Penn – screened venoms from over 100 poisonous invertebrate species to make this discovery.
The enzyme, sphingomyelinase D (SMase D), splits a lipid called sphingomyelin that surrounds the channel embedded in the cell membrane. As a result, the channel opens to allow the passage of small ions into and out of the cell, thereby generating electrical currents.
The new study, published online earlier this month in the journal Nature, describes how SMase D opens one type of ion channel called a voltage-gated potassium channel (from brain, but experimentally expressed in the membrane of an oocyte, or egg cell) without changing the membrane voltage. The finding introduces a new paradigm for understanding the gating of ion channels and lays the conceptual groundwork for designing new drugs to control ion-channel activity in medical intervention.
Voltage-gated ion channels are embedded in the cell membranes of most types of cells. It has been known for over half a century that the channels open and close in response to changes in electric voltage across the cell membrane, hence their name. In some the cells, (commonly called "excitable"), such as nerve, muscle, heart, and hormone-secreting cells, the channels underlie electrical signaling. They selectively allow the passage of small ions such as sodium, potassium, or calcium into and out of the cell. The precisely controlled passage of ions generates the electrical currents that enable nerve impulse transmission, hormone secretion, and muscle contraction and relaxation. When there are changes to the channel, such as by mutations in a channel gene, disease can result. For example, mutations in some channel genes cause cardiac arrhythmias, including a form of the lethal long QT syndrome.
Voltage-gated ion channels are also present in the so-called non-excitable cells (such as immune, blood, and bone cells) whose membrane voltage stays largely constant, as opposed to the excitable cells whose membrane voltage constantly varies in a precisely controlled manner. How the activity of channels in non-excitable cells is regulated has been a long-standing biological mystery. This new finding that SMase D can open ion channels without changing membrane voltage provides a clue to the mystery.
Karen Kreeger | EurekAlert!
GLUT5 fluorescent probe fingerprints cancer cells
20.04.2018 | Michigan Technological University
Scientists re-create brain neurons to study obesity and personalize treatment
20.04.2018 | Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
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
23.04.2018 | Earth Sciences
23.04.2018 | Trade Fair News
23.04.2018 | Information Technology