Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute researchers have found that six proteins – five more than previously thought – are responsible for cell-to-cell communication that regulates the heart and plays a role in limiting the size of heart attacks and strokes.
The smallest of these proteins directs the largest in performing its role of coordinating billions of heart cells during each heartbeat. Together, the proteins synchronize the beating heart, the researchers determined.
"We now know these proteins exist," said Robin Shaw, MD, PhD, the senior author of the study published in the journal Cell Reports. "The findings advance our understanding of cell-to-cell communication at the root of healthy heart function. When there is less cell communication, which occurs in failing hearts, chances are greater of disturbances in heart rhythm that can result in disability or death."
Until now, scientists had recognized just one protein involved in cell-to-cell communication that occurs through conduits known as "gap junctions." The Cedars-Sinai researchers identified five additional proteins that regulate the rapid flow of electrical communication signals, coordinating heart cells to produce a stable heartbeat.
"The finding of alternative translation start sites within this important group of proteins adds startling diversity to a key biological process, namely that whereby heart cells communicate with each other electrically," said Eduardo Marbán, MD, PhD, director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. "The implications are major for arrhythmias and heart failure."
Through a phenomenon called "alternative translation," the protein-making machinery in each cell can produce shorter proteins from the same gene that encodes the largest of the proteins. Biologists had known of the existence of alternative translation but had not completely understood its physiological relevance. The Cedars-Sinai research team led by Shaw has expanded the understanding of this process and continues to study the precise role of the proteins produced by it.
The researchers also have determined that a class of drugs known as "mTOR inhibitors" – those already used for immunosuppression in organ transplants – can affect alternative translation, changing the balance of proteins in hearts cells, increasing the amount of electrical coordination in the heart. The findings suggest that mTOR inhibitors can be used to prevent erratic and sometimes fatal heart rhythms.
A properly beating heart is necessary to pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. When arrhythmias occur in the heart's main pumping chamber, the heart can stop, resulting in sudden cardiac arrest, the most common cause of death among heart patients. Preventing arrhythmias is a top clinical priority. The possibility of using mTOR inhibitors suggests that drugs used to treat transplanted hearts could also be used to treat failing hearts.
Cell-to-cell communication occurs in all other organs. The same proteins that help heart cells communicate also play a role in brain function, bone development and insulin production in the pancreas. These proteins also affect the contraction of muscle cells within the uterus during childbirth and may potentially suppress cancer cells. The finding that mTOR inhibitors improve cell-to-cell communication indicates that this class of drugs could be useful to treat multiple disorders.
Sally Stewart | EurekAlert!
On track to heal leukaemia
18.01.2017 | Universitätsspital Bern
Penn vet research identifies new target for taming Ebola
12.01.2017 | University of Pennsylvania
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...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.01.2017 | Life Sciences