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Paper offers insights into network that plays crucial role in cell function and disease
Date:2/5/2014

A new research paper from the labs of University of Notre Dame researchers Holly Goodson and Mark Alber helps resolve an ongoing debate about the assembly of a subcellular network that plays a critical role in cell function and disease.

Goodson and her former postdoctoral fellow Kamlesh Gupta (now a senior scientist at W. M. Keck Center for Transgene Research) from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry teamed up with Alber's group from the Department of Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics, to study the dynamical behavior of subcellular fibers called microtubules. The microtubule cytoskeleton is a dynamic polymer network that plays a crucial role in cell division, assembling into the remarkable machine that partitions the DNA. It also forms a transport network that helps cells distribute nutrients and building materials.

"This fiber network is analogous to a railway system, with the microtubules acting as rails for molecular engines that move cargo containers around the cell," Goodson said. "However, unlike human railway systems, which are stable over time, the microtubules are constantly being laid down and picked up."

The constant turnover of these structures is important because it enables the transport network to find its cargo and rearrange in response to cell movements and division. Because of its significance for cell function, this microtubule turnover process is the target of some key anticancer drugs.

The microtubule assembly and dynamics are precisely controlled, and a key regulator is the microtubule destabilizer known as stathmin. Stathmin's precise method of action has been open to debate and has remained controversial. One proposed model is that it reduces polymer indirectly by sequestering microtubule units. Another model is that stathmin acts directly on microtubules by an as yet unknown mechanism.

The new paper by the Goodson and Alber groups provides a resolution to this debate by explaining ho
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Contact: Mark Alber
malber@nd.edu
574-631-8371
University of Notre Dame
Source:Eurekalert

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