Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study Provides New Details of Fundamental Cellular Process

24.01.2012
Study of plant hormone could have far-reaching implications for cell biology and disease research

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.
“This type of finding once again demonstrates the importance of identifying, mapping and understanding fundamental cellular and molecular processes because of the profound implications for human health,” said Xu, Director of the VARI Center for Structural Biology and Drug Discovery and co-author of the current Science study. “Proteins with similarities to plant ABA receptors are also found in humans and further studies in this area could reveal important implications for people with cellular stress disorders.”

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/335/6064/85.abstract

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/335/6064/46.full

About Van Andel Institute
Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent research and educational organization based in Grand Rapids, Mich., dedicated to preserving, enhancing and expanding the frontiers of medical science, and to achieving excellence in education by probing fundamental issues of education and the learning process. VARI, the research arm of VAI, is dedicated to probing the genetic, cellular and molecular origins of cancer, Parkinson and other diseases and working to translate those findings into effective therapies. This is accomplished through the work of over 200 researchers in 18 on-site laboratories and in collaborative partnerships that span the globe. VARI is affiliated with the Translational Genomics Research Institute, (TGen), of Phoenix, Arizona.

Joe Gavan | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.vai.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Exciting Plant Vacuoles
14.06.2019 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht A microscopic topographic map of cellular function
13.06.2019 | University of Missouri-Columbia

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: MPSD team discovers light-induced ferroelectricity in strontium titanate

Light can be used not only to measure materials’ properties, but also to change them. Especially interesting are those cases in which the function of a material can be modified, such as its ability to conduct electricity or to store information in its magnetic state. A team led by Andrea Cavalleri from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg used terahertz frequency light pulses to transform a non-ferroelectric material into a ferroelectric one.

Ferroelectricity is a state in which the constituent lattice “looks” in one specific direction, forming a macroscopic electrical polarisation. The ability to...

Im Focus: Determining the Earth’s gravity field more accurately than ever before

Researchers at TU Graz calculate the most accurate gravity field determination of the Earth using 1.16 billion satellite measurements. This yields valuable knowledge for climate research.

The Earth’s gravity fluctuates from place to place. Geodesists use this phenomenon to observe geodynamic and climatological processes. Using...

Im Focus: Tube anemone has the largest animal mitochondrial genome ever sequenced

Discovery by Brazilian and US researchers could change the classification of two species, which appear more akin to jellyfish than was thought.

The tube anemone Isarachnanthus nocturnus is only 15 cm long but has the largest mitochondrial genome of any animal sequenced to date, with 80,923 base pairs....

Im Focus: Tiny light box opens new doors into the nanoworld

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have discovered a completely new way of capturing, amplifying and linking light to matter at the nanolevel. Using a tiny box, built from stacked atomically thin material, they have succeeded in creating a type of feedback loop in which light and matter become one. The discovery, which was recently published in Nature Nanotechnology, opens up new possibilities in the world of nanophotonics.

Photonics is concerned with various means of using light. Fibre-optic communication is an example of photonics, as is the technology behind photodetectors and...

Im Focus: Cost-effective and individualized advanced electronic packaging in small batches now available

Fraunhofer IZM is joining the EUROPRACTICE IC Service platform. Together, the partners are making fan-out wafer level packaging (FOWLP) for electronic devices available and affordable even in small batches – and thus of interest to research institutes, universities, and SMEs. Costs can be significantly reduced by up to ten customers implementing individual fan-out wafer level packaging for their ICs or other components on a multi-project wafer. The target group includes any organization that does not produce in large quantities, but requires prototypes.

Research always means trying things out and daring to do new things. Research institutes, universities, and SMEs do not produce in large batches, but rather...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Concert of magnetic moments

14.06.2019 | Information Technology

Materials informatics reveals new class of super-hard alloys

14.06.2019 | Materials Sciences

New imaging modality targets cholesterol in arterial plaque

14.06.2019 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>