Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Key Step In The 'Puncture' Mechanism Of Cell Death Revealed

Date:
May 12, 2008
Source:
Eliza Hall Institute
Summary:
Medical researchers have discovered a key step in the mechanism by which cells destroy themselves. In this process, called "apoptosis," certain proteins cause the cell to self-destruct by puncturing its "power plant." How the proteins do this has now been clarified. The discovery is an important step towards the identification of targets for drugs designed to regulate cell death.

A team of medical researchers led by Dr Ruth Kluck at Melbourne's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) has discovered a key step in the mechanism by which cells destroy themselves. In this process, called "apoptosis", certain proteins cause the cell to self-destruct by puncturing its "power plant." How the proteins do this has been clarified by the WEHI team. The discovery is an important step towards the identification of targets for drugs designed to regulate cell death.

Dr Kluck and her colleagues explore how cells engineer their own destruction. Properly regulated cell death is actually essential for good health. This is because our cells naturally have a limited life span. The worn out, damaged or unnecessary cells in our bodies are eliminated at the rate of one million per second and replaced by the same number of new cells for as long as we live.

If a cell fails to die when it reaches its "use-by" date, it may go on to multiply uncontrollably and form a cancer. Conversely, a person in whom too many cells self-destruct may develop a degenerative disease such as Alzheimer's.

The cell's self-destruction is driven by a protein called Bak that acts by puncturing the membrane of the mitochondria - the cell's power plant. Once this power plant is wrecked, the cell is doomed.

But how does Bak do this? The crux seems to be the way Bak can bind to itself and form complexes that damage the mitochondrial membrane. Dr Kluck and colleagues have discovered that cellular distress signals cause one segment of Bak to flip out and insert neatly into a groove on another Bak molecule. The Bak doublet then forms the larger complexes that can puncture the mitochondria and provoke the cell's self-destruction.

This insight into how apoptosis starts will assist in the development of drugs that can flick on the apoptosis "switch" to kill cancer cells more effectively. The development of drugs with the opposite effect is also important: to "switch off" unwarranted apoptosis in degenerative disorders.

Dr Kluck's team included Dr Grant Dewson, Mr Tobias Kratina, Ms Huiyan W Sim, Dr Hamsa Puthalakath, Prof Jerry Adams and Prof Peter M Colman. Their findings were published in Molecular Cell, on 9 May 2008.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Eliza Hall Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Eliza Hall Institute. "Key Step In The 'Puncture' Mechanism Of Cell Death Revealed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 May 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080512094440.htm>.
Eliza Hall Institute. (2008, May 12). Key Step In The 'Puncture' Mechanism Of Cell Death Revealed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080512094440.htm
Eliza Hall Institute. "Key Step In The 'Puncture' Mechanism Of Cell Death Revealed." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080512094440.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Two US Ebola Patients Leave Hospital Free of the Disease

Two US Ebola Patients Leave Hospital Free of the Disease

AFP (Aug. 21, 2014) Two American missionaries who were sickened with Ebola while working in Liberia and were treated with an experimental drug are doing better and have left the hospital, doctors say on August 21, 2014. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) Contains graphic content. He's only 17. But Johntrell Bowles has wanted to be a doctor from a young age, despite the odds against him. He was recently the youngest participant in a cadaver program at the Indiana University NW medical school. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
American Ebola Patients Released: What Cured Them?

American Ebola Patients Released: What Cured Them?

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) It's unclear whether the American Ebola patients' recoveries can be attributed to an experimental drug or early detection and good medical care. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins