SALT LAKE CITY University of Utah researchers and their colleagues have identified the gene that is mutated in a hereditary form of a rare neuroendocrine tumor called paraganglioma (PGL). The gene, called hSDH5, is required for activation of an enzyme complex that plays a critical role in the chemical reactions that take place within cells to convert biochemical energy into usable energy. This study will be published in the journal Science, to be released online in Science Express on July 23, 2009.
Paragangliomas are rare, generally benign tumors that arise from cells called glomus cells, which are located along blood vessels and play a role in regulating blood pressure and blood flow. Approximately 25 percent of paragangliomas are hereditary. Of the four familial PGL syndromes, three forms have previously been associated with mutations in genes of the succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) complex, an enzyme complex involved in the ability of cells to extract energy from nutrients.
Studies in Yeast
"Defects in mitochondria, the power sources of the cell, have been implicated in a variety of human disorders, including cancer," says Jared Rutter, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry at the University of Utah School of Medicine, investigator at the University's Huntsman Cancer Institute, and lead author of the study. "Because it is incredibly difficult to perform in-depth studies in humans, we decided to use a much simpler model system, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, in order to study mitochondrial functions before going back to humans and determining whether what we learned in yeast was also relevant to humans. Following this strategy, we first characterized a mitochondrial protein called Sdh5 in yeast and then moved on to study its potential role in human disease."
Sdh5 is a mitochondrial protein that is highly conserved, meaning that it has remained largely unchanged throughout the course of evolution
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University of Utah Health Sciences