Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Critical 'traffic engineer' of the nervous system identified

Date:
September 10, 2010
Source:
University of Georgia
Summary:
Scientists have identified a critical enzyme that keeps traffic flowing in the right direction in the nervous system, and the finding could eventually lead to new treatments for conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

A new University of Georgia study published in the journal Nature has identified a critical enzyme that keeps traffic flowing in the right direction in the nervous system, and the finding could eventually lead to new treatments for conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Related Articles


"There was no medical or any other applied science drive for this project; it was purely curiosity about how transport inside cells works," said study co-author Jacek Gaertig, professor in the cellular biology department in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "But it looks like we have identified an important enzyme that acts in the nervous system."

He explained that cells contain a network of tubes known as microtubules that are made of protein and serve as tracks for the shuttling of materials from one part of the cell to another. The traffic signs on this microtubule network are chemical additions such as acetylation marks. Microtubules in parts of neurons in the brain that send signals, for example, are loaded with acetylation marks. Microtubules in parts of neurons that receive signals, on the other hand, have few.

Acetylation marks were discovered in 1983, and researchers recently determined their role in regulating the binding of the motor proteins that shuttle materials along microtubules. What has been unclear for more than 25 years, however, was the cellular process by which these acetylation marks are formed. In other words, which enzyme decides where the traffic signs go?

Through a series of studies using the microscopic protozoan Tetrahymena, the nematode C. elegans, zebrafish and human cancer cells, Gaertig and his colleagues revealed that an a protein known as MEC-17 is the traffic engineer in charge of microtubule acetylation.

MEC-17 acts as an enzyme to catalyze the acetylation reaction on microtubules, and is involved in the sensation of touch in the nematode. Its depletion in zebrafish, which are commonly used as a model organism to study basic processes, results in neuromuscular defects. Importantly, several research groups have previously reported that the levels of acetylation marks on microtubules are altered in human neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington's, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Gaertig said that with the enzyme identified and its mechanism of action known, it is now possible for drug manufacturers to search for compounds that block or enhance its activity.

Graduate student Shilpa Akella and postdoctoral associate Dorota Wloga in Gaertig's lab studied the enzyme in the protozoan and in vitro, while Jihyun Kim and Natalia Starostina in the lab of Edward Kipreos, professor of cellular biology, showed how it worked in the nematode and found that the enzyme is active in human cancer cells. The lab of associate professor and Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar Scott Dougan deduced its role in zebrafish, and Sally Lyons-Abbott and Naomi Morrissette at the University of California-Irvine biochemically purified microtubules that are marked by MEC-17.

"Working together allowed us to use all kinds of models to establish that this microtubule acetylation process using MEC-17 is an evolutionarily conserved function," Gaertig said. "Without close collaboration, that would not have been possible."

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Jyothi S. Akella, Dorota Wloga, Jihyun Kim, Natalia G. Starostina, Sally Lyons-Abbott, Naomi S. Morrissette, Scott T. Dougan, Edward T. Kipreos & Jacek Gaertig. MEC-17 is an α-tubulin acetyltransferase. Nature, September 8, 2010 DOI: 10.1038/nature09324

Cite This Page:

University of Georgia. "Critical 'traffic engineer' of the nervous system identified." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100908132207.htm>.
University of Georgia. (2010, September 10). Critical 'traffic engineer' of the nervous system identified. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100908132207.htm
University of Georgia. "Critical 'traffic engineer' of the nervous system identified." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100908132207.htm (accessed April 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Liberia Sees Resurgence of Drug Trafficking as Ebola Wanes

Liberia Sees Resurgence of Drug Trafficking as Ebola Wanes

AFP (Apr. 1, 2015) The governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone have been busy fighting the menace created by the deadly Ebola virus, but illicit drug lords have taken advantage of the situation to advance the drug trade. Duration: 01:12 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stigma Stalks India's Leprosy Sufferers as Disease Returns

Stigma Stalks India's Leprosy Sufferers as Disease Returns

AFP (Apr. 1, 2015) The Indian government declared victory over leprosy in 2005, but the disease is making a comeback in some parts of the country, with more than a hundred thousand lepers still living in colonies, shunned from society. Duration: 02:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
7-Year-Old Girl Gets 3-D Printed 'robohand'

7-Year-Old Girl Gets 3-D Printed 'robohand'

AP (Mar. 31, 2015) Although she never had much interest in prosthetic limbs before, Faith Lennox couldn&apos;t wait to slip on her new robohand. The 7-year-old, who lost part of her left arm when she was a baby, grabbed it as soon as it came off a 3-D printer. (March 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Solitair Device Aims to Takes Guesswork out of Sun Safety

Solitair Device Aims to Takes Guesswork out of Sun Safety

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 31, 2015) The Solitair device aims to take the confusion out of how much sunlight we should expose our skin to. Small enough to be worn as a tie or hair clip, it monitors the user&apos;s sun exposure by taking into account their skin pigment, location and schedule. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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