Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists call for investigation of mysterious cloud-like collections in cells

Date:
September 1, 2014
Source:
Georgetown University Medical Center
Summary:
About 50 years ago, electron microscopy revealed the presence of tiny blob-like structures that form inside cells, move around and disappear. But scientists still don't know what they do -- even though these shifting cloud-like collections of proteins are believed to be crucial to the cell, and therefore could offer a new approach to disease treatment. Now, researchers are issuing a call to investigators to focus their attention on the role of these formations.

About 50 years ago, electron microscopy revealed the presence of tiny blob-like structures that form inside cells, move around and disappear. But scientists still don't know what they do -- even though these shifting cloud-like collections of proteins are believed to be crucial to the life of a cell, and therefore could offer a new approach to disease treatment.

In the Journal of Cell Biology, two researchers are issuing a call to investigators from various backgrounds, from biophysics to cell biology, to focus their attention on the role of these formations -- for which they coin a new unifying term "assemblages."

"I want to know what these assemblages are doing in Ewing sarcoma, the disease I concentrate on -- and I would think all other researchers who study human biology would want to know their functions in both health and disease," says Jeffrey Toretsky, MD, professor in the department of oncology and pediatrics at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

So Toretsky partnered with co-author Peter Wright, PhD, professor in the department of integrative structural and computational biology at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., to pull together all the biophysics and protein biochemistry knowledge available on assemblages into a review article. Toretsky also called on the expertise of chemists and physicists from Georgetown University.

The authors say these assemblages are often, but not always, made up of proteins that are intrinsically disordered, meaning that they do not assume a specific shape in order to fit like a lock and key onto other proteins. These intrinsically disordered proteins seem to find each other and then form into gel-like assemblages -- a process called "phase separation" -- that can trap and interact with other proteins and even RNA, biological molecules that help decode and regulate genes.

When their work is done -- whatever that is -- the assemblages dissolve, Toretsky says.

"It is only in the last five years that researchers have begun recognizing that proteins without fixed structures may have important transitional properties that change based upon their local abundance in cells," he says.

Toretsky suspects that if these assemblages play a role in disease, they could be targeted with a small molecule. "Current drug-discovery dogma suggests that it is very hard to make a small molecule to prevent two structured proteins from interacting. However, small molecules have a greater likelihood of disrupting intrinsically disordered protein-protein interactions," he says.

"This review links together very basic biologic phenomena of protein interaction with the potential for new drug discovery," Toretsky says. "It's an exciting challenge."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. J. A. Toretsky, P. E. Wright. Assemblages: Functional units formed by cellular phase separation. The Journal of Cell Biology, 2014; 206 (5): 579 DOI: 10.1083/jcb.201404124

Cite This Page:

Georgetown University Medical Center. "Scientists call for investigation of mysterious cloud-like collections in cells." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 September 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140901102307.htm>.
Georgetown University Medical Center. (2014, September 1). Scientists call for investigation of mysterious cloud-like collections in cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140901102307.htm
Georgetown University Medical Center. "Scientists call for investigation of mysterious cloud-like collections in cells." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140901102307.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Since the arrival of Ebola in Ivory Coast, Ivorians have been abandoning their pets, particularly monkeys, in the fear that they may transmit the virus. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
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