Case Western Reserve University scientists have discovered how a family of proteins cation diffusion facilitators (CDFs) regulates an important cellular cycle where a cell's energy generated is converted to necessary cellular functions. The finding has the potential to inform future research aimed at identifying ways to ensure the process works as designed and, if successful, could lead to significant breakthroughs in the treatment of Parkinson's, chronic liver disease and heart disease.
The results of this research were posted online June 22 by the journal Nature and will be published in the print edition at a later date.
"CDF is a major protein family type found in all forms of life," said senior author Mark R. Chance, PhD, the Charles W. and Iona A. Mathias Professor of Cancer Research, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. "Mutations or altered regulation of human CDFs modify the concentrations of metal ions critical to cell function and are associated with key human diseases, including those affecting endocrine, neurologic, hepatic and cardiovascular systems."
To understand how the cell cycle works, envision a gate to human cells that controls the flow of substances necessary to maintain cell survival. When and how that gate opens and closes is critical to fundamental cellular functions, and in turn, to human health. CDFs ensure the gate's seamless operation by controlling the flow of metal ions as energy is cycled. In this investigation, Case Western Reserve scientists sought to understand the intricate details of CDF molecular function and mechanisms of transport.
Chance and his colleagues studied a form of CDF found in bacteria where the protein YiiP functions like a motor, using energy in the form of a gradient of protons (hydrogen atoms) to pump zinc ions out of cells.
While zinc is pushed successfully out of the cell, a flow of protons is pulled into it. A perfectly functioning
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Case Western Reserve University