Researchers at Michigan State University have discovered a protein that does its best work with one foot in the grave.
The study, which appears in the current issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, focuses on the nontraditional lifestyle of Retinoblastoma tumor suppressor proteins, which could lead to new ways to treat cancer.
"Retinoblastoma proteins are unique in that they use controlled destruction to do their jobs in a timely but restrained fashion," said Liang Zhang, a lead author and MSU cell and molecular biology graduate student. "This is an unusual way for proteins to act."
As an organism grows, proteins essential for fueling its prosperity typically toe a tight line, performing their jobs at the right place and time. If these proteins go rogue, disasters such as cancer can result.
Retinoblastoma proteins, which could be labeled as rebellious as opposed to rogue, perform acts of valor rather than destruction. And just like fireworks, they save their best work for the finale.
Proteins' lifecycles end with degradation, and like most living things they become weaker and less efficient at their jobs near the end of their lives. For Retinoblastoma proteins, however, their destruction is linked to their ability to efficiently control excessive cell growth.
Using the fruit fly Drosophila, MSU researchers isolated the specific region that controls the protein's ability to degrade. Strikingly, this is the same region the protein uses to hit its stride and exert its full power to suppress genes related to unrestrained cell growth. Other categories of genes, such as those linked to cell death, may not be influenced by this specific region that controls degradation. This sheds light on a single mechanism that controls both living and dying at the genetic level.
Identifying this mechanism in fruit flies could be beneficial to humans. David Arnosti, MSU biochemist and director of MSU's Gene Expression in Disease Development initiative, noted the genetic similarities between humans and Drosophila, describing fruit flies as "resembling little people with wings."
"By revealing the molecular details about the regulation of the fly Retinoblastoma protein, we can start to understand the possible roles of the human counterparts in cancer," he said.
Michigan State University: http://www.newsroom.msu.edu
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Free-living songbirds show increased stress hormone levels when nesting under white street lights. But different light spectra may have different physiological effects as this study finds, suggesting that using street lights with specific colour spectra may mitigate effects of light pollution on wildlife
Scientists identify the condition aphantasia, in which people cannot create images in their head
The dust in our homes contains an average of 9,000 different types of fungi and bacteria, a study suggests.
A mosquito can bear up to 23 times its total body weight on each leg, which is crucial for landing on water – the insect's secret is way it stands
Tropical species with smaller geographical ranges are more likely to die out in a warming climate than those that can adapt by ‘invading’ new regions
Most people think of bacteria as germs, signs of filth, or unwanted bringers of disease. Slowly, that view …
The gloomy octopuses crowded at Jervis Bay, Australia, appear to spit and throw debris such as shell at each other in what could be an intentional use of weapons
Therapies based on hormones that make us more trusting enhance our natural placebo effect – a finding that could alter the way clinical trials are conducted
The blind, hairless babies born recently at Washington D.C.'s National Zoo are completely dependent on their mothers—who can sometimes accidentally crush them.
The poop-hoarding insects have an amazingly advanced internal GPS that allows them to navigate by day or night.