Research led by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital investigators suggests that safeguarding cell survival and maintaining a balanced immune system is just the start of the myeloid cell leukemia sequence 1 (MCL1) protein’s work.
Nearly 20 years after MCL1 was discovered, scientists have identified a second form of the protein that works in a different location in cells and performs a different function. This newly identified version is shorter and toils inside rather than outside mitochondria where it assists in production of chemical energy that powers cells. The research appears in today’s online edition of the scientific journal Nature Cell Biology.
The finding will likely aid the development of cancer drugs. Many cancers feature high levels of MCL1 or extra copies of the gene, and there is widespread interest in the protein for its potential to treat cancer. Until now, however, those efforts have focused solely on MCL1’s role on the outer mitochondrial membrane, where it blocks cell death via the apoptotic or cell suicide pathway. This study highlights another role.
“We believe this newly identified form of MCL1 that works inside the mitochondria is probably essential for tumor cell survival. If that proves to be correct, then strategies to block the protein from getting into mitochondria offer a new therapeutic approach for cancer treatment,” said Joseph Opferman, Ph.D., an associate member of the St. Jude Department of Biochemistry and a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences. He is the paper’s senior author.
Opferman has a longstanding interest in MCL1, which belongs to the BCL2 family of proteins that are critical regulators of apoptosis. Unlike other BCL2 proteins, MCL1 is required for embryonic development and for the survival of a variety of normal cell types. The protein is also essential for cancer cell survival.
Until now, however, researchers were unsure how to reconcile MCL1’s varied roles with its status as a member of the BCL2 family of proteins. BCL2 proteins were widely believed to work exclusively on the outer mitochondrial membrane.
“In this study, we show that MCL1 has two forms and two important, but completely different functions,” said Rhonda Perciavalle, Ph.D., a University of Tennessee Health Science Center graduate student in Opferman’s laboratory and the study’s first author. Along with working on the outer mitochondrial membrane to help protect cells from apoptosis, investigators demonstrated that MCL1 works internally to facilitate mitochondrial energy production in the mitochondrion’s matrix.
Using a variety of laboratory techniques, researchers showed that inside the mitochondrion, MCL1 promotes the normal structure of the inner membrane, where much of the work of energy production is done. The loss of the inner mitochondrial form of MCL1 hampers the ability of cells to produce energy, thus impeding their ability to proliferate.
“The results help explain why the loss of this single pro-survival molecule, MCL1, has such a dramatic impact. We are now working with tumor models to determine if this newly identified form of MCL1 is essential for cancer cells,” Opferman said. Perciavalle said the two forms might work together to protect cancer cells from apoptotic death and to provide them with the fuel and nutrients to sustain their unchecked growth and spread.
Work is also underway to learn precisely how MCL1 functions inside the mitochondria in both normal and cancer cells. Investigators are also interested in the relative importance of the two versions of MCL1 in different tissues under a variety of different conditions.
The other authors are Daniel Stewart, Brian Koss, John Lynch, Sandra Milasta, Madhavi Bathina, Jamshid Temirov, Stephane Pelletier, John Schuetz and Douglas Green, all of St. Jude; and Megan Cleland and Richard Youle, of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
The research was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center Support Grant and ALSAC.St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Summer Freeman | Newswise Science News
Microscope measures muscle weakness
16.11.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Good preparation is half the digestion
16.11.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Stoffwechselforschung
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences