Scientists at Johns Hopkins and the University of Texas Medical Branch have created a new tool that easily reveals when and where a key cellular signal is active. The development, described in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, should speed identification of the signals triggers and effects in normal processes and in conditions such as asthma, allergy, inflammation, lung disease and heart disease.
The tool -- a special fluorescent protein -- probes the activity of cyclic AMP in living cells and represents biologys growing application of a fluorescent phenomenon to study the molecular changes that reveal cells inner workings. Much like a child might pass along a visitors request to a grown-up, cyclic AMP carries messages from hormones or other molecules "knocking" at the cells door to proteins inside the cell. But because cyclic AMP uses just a handful of proteins to pass on many messages, scientists have had a hard time figuring out how it can trigger the right cellular response to each one.
"Scientists suspected that timing and location of cyclic AMP activity was important, but there was no easy way to study cyclic AMP inside cells in real time and in real space," says Jin Zhang, Ph.D., senior author of the study and an assistant professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences and of neuroscience in Johns Hopkins Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences. "This new fluorescent protein can be directed to the nucleus or to other parts of the cell, so we can now follow cyclic AMP activity in real time and space."
Joanna Downer | EurekAlert!
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