How a new technique allows researchers to tune communication between organelles on the scale of nanometers
Each cell in the body is made up of a number of tiny sealed membranous subunits called organelles, and they send things like lipids back and forth to allow the cell to function. A process called membrane tethering is responsible for bridging the gap between organelles at a specialized subcellular zone called membrane contact sites and, now, researchers have a way to manipulate this tethering.
"For the first time, we're able to build bridges of different lengths in living cells to connect subcellular compartments with great temporal and spatial control," said Yubin Zhou, PhD, associate professor at the Texas A&M Institute of Biosciences and Technology and principal investigator on this work, which was the cover story this week in the journal Chemical Science.
Zhou's method, a variant of which he used in previous research to control immune cells, is called optogenetics, and involves using light to control the function of proteins. In this case, the proteins are the building blocks of the bridge between organelles, and the length of that bridge--even if the difference is only in nanometers--can influence the function of the cell because it is over the bridge that organelles exchange critical building blocks such as lipids and send messengers such as calcium ions.
When this process is disrupted, there can be devastating consequences like cell death and metabolic dysfunction. "The optogenetic tools developed in the study might hold great promise to rescue these detrimental conditions with a simple pulse of light," Zhou said. "The potential impact is likely to be broad and profound, in that it allows the use of non-invasive light, for the first time, to study and manipulate these subcellular structures that are considered to be one of the most challenging and elusive in mammalian cells."
Although this initial work focused on the connection between the plasma membrane of the cell and an organelle called the endoplasmic reticulum, future work will be broadened to other places of connection, such as between the endoplasmic reticulum and the mitochondria.
"These tools will furnish untapped potentials for scientists to conveniently rewire cell signaling, control protein-lipid associations, perturb intracellular communication among organelles and tweak the motion and behavior of proteins embedded within biological membranes," Zhou said. "It opens untold new research areas, and we believe this work could have wide implications for multiple disciplines."
The study was done in collaboration with the laboratory of Yun Huang, PhD, assistant professor at the Texas A&M Institute of Biosciences & Technology, who researches cancer.
Holly Shive | EurekAlert!
Mass spectrometry sheds new light on thallium poisoning cold case
14.12.2018 | University of Maryland
Protein involved in nematode stress response identified
14.12.2018 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy