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New information on the waste-disposal units of living cells
Date:1/11/2012

UC Berkeley and the QB3 Institute, are the senior authors of a paper describing this work in the journal Nature. The paper is titled "Complete subunit architecture of the proteasome regulatory particle." Other co-authors were Gabriel Lander, Eric Estrin, Mary Matyskiela and Charlene Bashore.

At any given moment, a human cell typically contains about 100,000 different proteins, with certain proteins being manufactured and others being discarded as needed for the cell's continued prosperity. Unwanted proteins are tagged with a "kiss-of-death" label in the form of a polypeptide called "ubiquitin." A protein marked with ubiquitin is delivered to any one of the some 30,000 proteasomes in the cell barrel-shaped complexes which act as waste disposal units that rapidly break-down or degrade the protein. The 2004 Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to a trio of scientists who first described the proteasome process, but a lack of structural information has limited the scientific understanding of the mechanics behind this process.

Nogales, an expert on electron microscopy and image analysis, and Martin, who developed the new protein expression system used in this work, combined the expertise of their respective research groups to study the proteasome regulatory particle in yeast. The particle features 19 sub-units that are organized into two sub-complexes, a "lid" and a "base." The lid contains the regulatory elements that identify the ubiquitin tag marking a protein for destruction, and the base features a hexameric ring that pulls the tagged protein inside the chamber of the proteasome barrel where it is degraded.

"The lid consists of nine non-ATPase proteins including ubiquitin receptors that accept properly tagged proteins but prevent a protein not marked for degradation from engaging with the proteasome," Nogales says. "Since degradation is irreversible, it is critical that only ubiquitin-tagged proteins engage the proteasome. Interes
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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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