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Hopkins researchers put proteins right where they want them
Date:4/14/2010

Using a method they developed to watch moment to moment as they move a molecule to precise sites inside live human cells, Johns Hopkins scientists are closer to understanding why and how a protein at one location may signal division and growth, and the same protein at another location, death.

Their research, published Feb. 14 in Nature Methods, expands on a more limited method using a chemical tool to move proteins inside of cells to the periphery, a locale known as the plasma membrane.

"Where a particular protein is activated and the timing of that activation influence how a cell responds to outside stimulus," says Takanari Inoue, Ph.D., an assistant professor of cell biology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "Our goal with this newly expanded tool is to manipulate protein activities in many places in cells on a rapid timescale."

Cells cleverly have resolved the predicament of needing to respond to a near infinite array of external stimuli temperature, for instance even though they employ only a limited number of molecular players. The notion is that a single protein assumes multiple roles by changing its location or altering the speed and duration of activation.

Chemical signaling inside cells connects protein molecules through complex feedback loops and crosstalk, Inoue says, so knowing exactly how each protein contributes to which signals at what locations requires the ability to rapidly move proteins of interest to specific organelles found in cells. These include mitochondria (the power generators of cells) and Golgi bodies (the delivery systems of cells).

The Hopkins team chose the signaling protein Ras as the molecule it would attempt to send packing throughout a cell's interior. A regulator of cell growth that's often implicated in cancer, Ras has been long studied and it's known to be a molecular switch. However, no one has had the ability to discern what Ras does at di
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Contact: Maryalice Yakutchik
myakutc1@jhmi.edu
443-287-2251
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert  

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