A recent Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) study published in the journal Science investigating the molecular structure and function of an essential plant hormone could profoundly change our understanding of a key cell process, and might ultimately lead to the development of new drugs for a variety of diseases.
The study builds on earlier work by the same team of investigators at VARI that was published in the journal Nature in 2009. That study shed light on how plants respond when they are under stress from extreme temperatures, drought and other harsh environmental conditions and was later named by Science as one of the top scientific breakthroughs of 2009.
Understanding how cells talk
In signal transduction – the basic process of intercellular and intracellular communication – enzymes known as kinases and phosphatases serve as the opposing partners and key regulators of this process.
VARI scientists mapping the structure of the receptor for Abscisic acid (ABA), a plant hormone that controls growth, development and responses to environmental stress, discovered that ABA regulates the stress-response pathway by affecting an enzyme belonging to the phosphatase family - which in turn binds to a kinase.
“This process has been little understood,” said Karsten Melcher, Ph.D., Head of the VARI Laboratory of Structural Biology and Biochemistry and co-author of the study. "We believe that the activation mechanism may in many cases also be structural. Phosphatases inactivate the active site like a plug – changing the shape of the kinase.”
"The textbook assumption has been that enzymatic phosphatases inhibit kinases only by taking away phosphates from the kinases. There have been few recorded examples of non-enzymatic phosphatases inhibiting kinases."
Knowing that these enzymes mimic the structure of the opposing enzyme enables scientists to more accurately develop mechanisms to activate or inhibit intercellular and intracellular communication. Inhibiting or activating this process in plant cells could lead to plants that more readily survive drought or other conditions of stress.
Possible impact on the treatment of diseases
In mammalian cells the ability to impact communication has numerous and far-reaching implications. For example, applications that inhibit or activate cell communication in out-of-control metastasizing cancer cells have enormous potential to affect tumor growth.
Writing in the journal Science, where the study was published on January 6, Jeffrey Leung notes that “molecular mimicry might be a common mechanism in many biological processes involving kinase-phosphatase complexes…The structural studies on the core ABA signaling proteins establish a new paradigm for kinase-phosphatase co-regulation and coevolution.”
The possibility of broader scientific implications is also noted by Melcher.
“The current studies take a step back from application and focus back on fundamental cellular mechanisms with a broad implication beyond ABA signaling,” said Melcher.
In their 2009 study in Nature, Melcher and H. Eric Xu, Ph.D., used X-ray crystallography to detail precisely how ABA works at the molecular level. One of ABA’s effects is to cause plant pores to close when plants are stressed so that they can retain as much water as possible.In a follow-up 2010 study published in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, the VARI team identified several synthetic compounds that fit well with ABA’s many receptors to have the same effect. By finding compounds that can close these pores, researchers’ findings could lead to sprays that use a plant’s natural defenses to help it survive harsh environmental conditions.
The lead authors of the current Science study are Fen-Fen Soon, Ley-Moy Ng, and Edward Zhou. The project was carried out in conjunction and collaboration with scientists from the National University of Singapore, Purdue University, The Scripps Research Institute, Scripps Florida, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Synchrotron Research Center of Northwestern University, and University of California at Riverside.
Links to the study and to the Science editorial cited above can be found here:
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/335/6064/46.fullAbout Van Andel Institute
Joe Gavan | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > Cellular > Nature Immunology > Structural Biology Laboratory > VAI > VARI > biological process > cellular communication > cellular mechanism > environmental conditions > mental conditions > molecular process > plant cell > plant hormone > signaling protein > synthetic biology > treatment of disease
Discovery of genes involved in the biosynthesis of antidepressant
09.12.2019 | Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research
Scientists have spotted new compounds with herbicidal potential from sea fungus
09.12.2019 | Far Eastern Federal University
Using a clever technique that causes unruly crystals of iron selenide to snap into alignment, Rice University physicists have drawn a detailed map that reveals...
University of Texas and MIT researchers create virtual UAVs that can predict vehicle health, enable autonomous decision-making
In the not too distant future, we can expect to see our skies filled with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) delivering packages, maybe even people, from location...
With ultracold chemistry, researchers get a first look at exactly what happens during a chemical reaction
The coldest chemical reaction in the known universe took place in what appears to be a chaotic mess of lasers. The appearance deceives: Deep within that...
Abnormal scarring is a serious threat resulting in non-healing chronic wounds or fibrosis. Scars form when fibroblasts, a type of cell of connective tissue, reach wounded skin and deposit plugs of extracellular matrix. Until today, the question about the exact anatomical origin of these fibroblasts has not been answered. In order to find potential ways of influencing the scarring process, the team of Dr. Yuval Rinkevich, Group Leader for Regenerative Biology at the Institute of Lung Biology and Disease at Helmholtz Zentrum München, aimed to finally find an answer. As it was already known that all scars derive from a fibroblast lineage expressing the Engrailed-1 gene - a lineage not only present in skin, but also in fascia - the researchers intentionally tried to understand whether or not fascia might be the origin of fibroblasts.
Fibroblasts kit - ready to heal wounds
Research from a leading international expert on the health of the Great Lakes suggests that the growing intensity and scale of pollution from plastics poses serious risks to human health and will continue to have profound consequences on the ecosystem.
In an article published this month in the Journal of Waste Resources and Recycling, Gail Krantzberg, a professor in the Booth School of Engineering Practice...
03.12.2019 | Event News
15.11.2019 | Event News
15.11.2019 | Event News
09.12.2019 | Earth Sciences
09.12.2019 | Information Technology
09.12.2019 | Life Sciences