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Cells can eat parts of themselves, with help from one protein

Date:
September 7, 2010
Source:
Rockefeller University Press
Summary:
Like some people, cells eat when they are under pressure -- but they consume parts of themselves. A multi-function protein helps control this form of cannibalism, according to a new article.

Sites of autophagy (green) are reduced in cells lacking HMGB1 (left) compared with control cells (right).
Credit: Tang, D., et al. 2010. J. Cell Biol. doi:10.1083/jcb.200911078.

Like some people, cells eat when they are under pressure -- but they consume parts of themselves. A multi-function protein helps control this form of cannibalism, according to a study in the September 6 issue of the Journal of Cell Biology.

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Cells often respond to hunger or stress by digesting some of their contents. The process, known as autophagy, helps free nutrients and clean up cytoplasmic trash such as worn-out organelles and misshapen proteins. A team led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute discovered a link between this form of cellular recycling and the protein HMGB1. The team showed HMGB1 to be a critical pro-autophagic protein that enhances cell survival and limits programmed cell death.

The findings suggests that blocking HMGB1 could benefit cancer patients, since tumor cells often rev up autophagy to withstand chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation treatment.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rockefeller University Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mitch Leslie. With HMGB1's help, cells dine in. The Journal of Cell Biology, September 6, 2010; vol. 190 no. 5 708 DOI: 10.1083/jcb.1905iti3

Cite This Page:

Rockefeller University Press. "Cells can eat parts of themselves, with help from one protein." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100906141215.htm>.
Rockefeller University Press. (2010, September 7). Cells can eat parts of themselves, with help from one protein. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100906141215.htm
Rockefeller University Press. "Cells can eat parts of themselves, with help from one protein." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100906141215.htm (accessed March 31, 2015).

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