Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Building bridges within the cell -- using light

02.08.2017

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.


Proteins are the building blocks of the 'bridge' between organelles in the cell.

Credit: Yun Huang and Yubin Zhou

"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.

Media Contact

Holly Shive
hshive@tamhsc.edu
979-436-0613

http://www.tamu.edu 

Holly Shive | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Mass spectrometry sheds new light on thallium poisoning cold case
14.12.2018 | University of Maryland

nachricht Protein involved in nematode stress response identified
14.12.2018 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

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...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

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...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

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...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

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...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>