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How molecules get to the right place at the right time
Date:4/20/2011

In a multicellular organism, different cells fulfill a range of diversified functions. Often such specialization depends on the delivery of molecular goods to distinct places within a cell. It ensures that particular functions only occur at defined cellular sites. This establishment of intracellular asymmetry in the otherwise fluid environment of the cell cytoplasm requires active transport processes. Messenger RNAs (mRNA) represent an especially important type of freight. They are copies of genetic information stored in the nucleus. In the cytoplasm the information encoded in mRNAs is used for the synthesis of proteins. Obviously it makes sense to manufacture certain proteins at their future site of action. "Unfortunately, we know very little about the molecular basis of this freight system," says Dr. Dierk Niessing, who heads a research group affiliated with the Helmholtz Zentrum Mnchen at LMU's Gene Center. "We have now deciphered how one of these transport complexes from yeast cells recognizes its cargo mRNA and initiates assembly." The new findings might also be applicable to higher organisms, where transport processes are especially critical for cell function. For instance, the activity and plasticity of synapses - the interfaces between neurons that are responsible for the transmission of nerve impulses -- is dependent on the transport of specific mRNAs from the nucleus along the nerve fibers. In cases where localization is essential, the misdirection of goods causes chaos and result in cell death.(PloS Biology, 19 April 2011)

All cells containing a nucleus also possess a cytoskeleton made up of filamentous protein strands that course through intracellular space like a rail network. Motor proteins "walk" along two types of these strands, called actin filaments and microtubules. On their way, they can carry different types of freight like membrane vesicles, messenger RNAs, proteins and even whole organelles. Disruption of these networks c
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Contact: Luise Dirscherl
dirscherl@lmu.de
49-892-180-2706
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitt Mnchen
Source:Eurekalert

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