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Radical signal to the progeny

Hlobin protein found in roundworm model Caenorhabditis elegans that is able to generate free radical signals

Date:
December 1, 2015
Source:
Ghent University
Summary:
A globin protein has been discovered in the roundworm model Caenorhabditis elegans that is able to generate free radical signals. It is very likely that more unexpected globin discoveries will be made in this 1-mm worm as its genome encodes a staggering 33 globins, the majority of which the function is still enigmatic.
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In biology, free radicals are often regarded as the source of all evil and the major cause of molecular damage and aging. However, free radicals are indispensable as signaling molecules governing important functions in the body. Sasha De Henau, a researcher at the Biology Department of Ghent University in Belgium recently discovered a globin protein in the roundworm model Caenorhabditis elegans that is able to generate such free radical signals.

The best known globin is hemoglobin, functioning as an oxygen transporter in our blood, giving its red color. Together with his colleagues at the universities of Antwerp, Genova and Milano, dr. De Henau found that the worm globin has no such transport function as it is solidly linked to the plasma membrane where it donates electrons to oxygen, converting it to the free radical superoxide. This process occurs in the tissue surrounding the reproductive cells. A specific enzyme converts this superoxide into hydrogen peroxide, the aggressive compound that we use for wound disinfection and bleaching of teeth and hair. In the worm, only harmless concentrations of hydrogen peroxide are generated and this process occurs at different rates at both sides of the plasma membrane. This establishes a hydrogen peroxide gradient over the membrane that regulates the generation of reproductive cells. This free radical signal is absolutely required as genetic knockdown of the new globin results in sterility of the animal. This study is the first to recognize a globin as a free radical generator and also the signaling hydrogen peroxide gradient over the plasma membrane is a new concept to biology. Do humans also use special globines for intercellular communication? This is likely, as recently discovered human globins appear to be involved in cell signaling rather than oxygen transport. Maybe these human globins are also free radical generators using the same biological principles.

It is very likely that more unexpected globin discoveries will be made in this 1-mm worm as its genome encodes a staggering 33 globins, the majority of which the function is still enigmatic.


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Materials provided by Ghent University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sasha De Henau, Lesley Tilleman, Matthew Vangheel, Evi Luyckx, Stanislav Trashin, Martje Pauwels, Francesca Germani, Caroline Vlaeminck, Jacques R. Vanfleteren, Wim Bert, Alessandra Pesce, Marco Nardini, Martino Bolognesi, Karolien De Wael, Luc Moens, Sylvia Dewilde, Bart P. Braeckman. A redox signalling globin is essential for reproduction in Caenorhabditis elegans. Nature Communications, 2015; 6: 8782 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms9782

Cite This Page:

Ghent University. "Radical signal to the progeny: Hlobin protein found in roundworm model Caenorhabditis elegans that is able to generate free radical signals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 December 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151201130455.htm>.
Ghent University. (2015, December 1). Radical signal to the progeny: Hlobin protein found in roundworm model Caenorhabditis elegans that is able to generate free radical signals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 23, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151201130455.htm
Ghent University. "Radical signal to the progeny: Hlobin protein found in roundworm model Caenorhabditis elegans that is able to generate free radical signals." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151201130455.htm (accessed May 23, 2017).

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