Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Food for Thought: Cells Dine on Their Own Brains to Stay Fit and Trim

10.01.2003


Eating your own brain may not sound like a sensible approach to prolonging your life, but researchers at the University of Rochester have discovered that some single-celled organisms essentially do just that to keep themselves healthy. The findings are published in this month’s issue of Molecular Biology of the Cell.



David Goldfarb, professor of biology at the University of Rochester, studied the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and found that contrary to what biologists have believed, the cell would "eat" its own nucleus to rid itself of aged or damaged sections. Though it’s long been known that cells frequently break down and recycle various cell parts in a process called autophagy (after the Greek for "self-eating"), biologists thought that eating the nucleus was strictly off-limits. The nucleus, after all, is sort of the control center of the cell, and where the cell stores its most precious possessions such as its DNA. Eating it would be a bit like lunching on your own brain.

Goldfarb, however, found that the yeast can eat its nucleus by taking it apart piece by piece, removing non-essential bits and leaving behind the essential components such as the chromosomes.


"In human society, the business of collecting and recycling garbage isn’t a very glamorous enterprise, but in the less prestige-oriented world of cells, it’s invaluable," says Goldfarb. "We now know just how critical this process is, since a unique and elegant autophagic mechanism evolved to allow the piecemeal degradation of an otherwise essential organelle."

Autophagy is really a family of related processes that identify and deliver useful organic molecules, called macromolecules, to the cell’s lysozymes or vacuoles. Lysozymes and vacuoles are much like our own stomachs, filled with acid and hydrolytic enzymes capable of reducing macromolecules to their minimal parts. These parts are then shuttled where they are used either to stoke the metabolic fires or as building materials for new macromolecules. The only part of the cell thought to escape this fate is the nucleus, which is as essential to a cell as our brains are to us. Biologists had always thought that taking a bite out of the nucleus would effectively end a cell’s life.

Goldfarb found that when the yeast cell wants to recycle some of the macromolecules from its nucleus, it sends a vacuole to pinch off a teardrop-shaped portion of the nucleus and "digest" it. This unique process, called piecemeal microautophagy of the nucleus (PMN), occurs at Velcro-like junctions between the vacuole and the nuclear membranes. Nucleus-vacuole junctions were first described in 2000 by the Rochester group and remain the best-understood, inter-organellar junction apparatus in nature.

"It’s possible that PMN may not only recycle damaged or useless portions of the nucleus," says Goldfarb. "It’s possible that PMN increases the life span of yeast cells which, like humans, age and die."

Although it’s unknown if PMN is at work in human cells, there are a number of cases such as Bloom’s disease where pieces of human nuclei are pinched off into the cytoplasm. Scientists have no idea how or why this happens, but the new findings could provide an important foundation on which to build an understanding.

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Jonathan Sherwood | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.rochester.edu/pr/News/NewsReleases/scitech/goldfarb-autophagy.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Microscope measures muscle weakness
16.11.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

nachricht Good preparation is half the digestion
16.11.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Stoffwechselforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

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...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

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...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

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...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>