Navigation Links
Study sheds light on how cells transport materials along crowded intercellular 'highways'

Worcester, Mass. The interior of an animal cell is like a small city, with factoriescalled organellesdedicated to manufacturing, energy production, waste processing, and other life functions. A network of intercellular "highways," called microtubules, enables bio-molecular complexes, products, and other cargo to move speedily about the cell to keep this vital machinery humming. A new paper published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences sheds new light on how cells manage to keep traffic flowing smoothly along this busy transportation network that is vital to the survival of cells and whose failure can lead to a variety of diseases, including Alzheimer's and cancer.

The study, "Motor transport of self-assembled cargos in crowded environments", is co-authored by Jennifer Ross, assistant professor of physics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Erkan Tzel, assistant professor of physics at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), and Leslie Conway and Derek Wood, graduate students of physics at UMass Amherst. It examines how proteins called motors (the trucks of the intercellular transport network) cooperate to minimize traffic jams and maximize the distance traveled by cargos.

In the study, the researchers used quantum dots (nanometer-sized semiconductors that reflect brightly in microscopy images) as cargo. In the laboratory, they attached these tiny cargos to individual motor proteins and then allowed those proteins to attach to a microtubule. Motor proteins are able to "walk" along microtubules by attaching and detaching parts of their structure to the microtubule, much like the hand-over-hand motion of a person climbing a rope. The researchers observed how the quantum dots moved along the microtubule as they created more and more traffic by adding more and more motor proteins to the highways of this simplified transportation system.

They found that the dots moved more slowly as the traffic increased, but that they were able to travel farther before becoming detached from the microtubule. They also observed the pausing of the quantum dots, with the number of pauses increasing, but the length of the pauses decreasing, as the concentration of motor proteins is increased. The authors hypothesize that as the concentration of motor proteins increased, several of them became bound to each quantum dot. Much like trucks driving side-by-side down a multilane highway, the motor proteins likely became attached to different protofilaments along the microtubule (microtubules are made of 13 parallel protofilaments arranged into a hollow tube).

As an individual protein encountered an obstacle (another motor protein, for example), the motion of the dot would pause until the force exerted by the other proteins attached to the dot caused it to become detached from the blocked protein. The greater the number of proteins pulling the dot along the microtubule, the greater the force acting on it and the more quickly it would become detached from blocked proteins (and thus, the briefer the pauses in its forward motion).

In this way, motor proteins were able to cooperate to move cargo around roadblocks and to keep cargo attached to the microtubules despite heavy traffic, Tzel says. "This is the first study to really look at the operation of the intracellular transportation system crowded conditions that are typical of living cells," he noted.

"It is important to understand how this system works and what can keep it from functioning properly because it is vital to the survival of all animal cells and motor proteins that make many fundamental biological processes, such as cell division, possible," he adds. "When the transport mechanism fails to work properly, it can lead to a variety of illnesses, including neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington's and Alzheimer's, and to cancer."


Contact: Michael Dorsey
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Related biology news :

1. Study by UC Santa Barbara researchers suggests that bacteria communicate by touch
2. Law that regulates shark fishery is too liberal: UBC study
3. New study will help protect vulnerable birds from impacts of climate change
4. Study jointly led by UCSB researcher supports theory of extraterrestrial impact
5. BYU study: Using a gun in bear encounters doesnt make you safer
6. 15-year study: When it comes to creating wetlands, Mother Nature is in charge
7. Pycnogenol (French maritime pine bark extract) shown to improve menopause symptoms in new study
8. Crystal structure of archael chromatin clarified in new study
9. EU-funded study underlines importance of Congo Basin for global climate and biodiversity
10. University of Houston study shows BP oil spill hurt marshes, but recovery possible
11. Study demonstrates cells can acquire new functions through transcriptional regulatory network
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Study sheds light on how cells transport materials along crowded intercellular 'highways'
(Date:6/22/2016)... LOS ANGELES , June 22, 2016 ... of identity management and verification solutions, has ... cutting edge software solutions for Visitor Management, ... ® provides products that add functional ... The partnership provides corporations and venues with ...
(Date:6/15/2016)... New York , June 15, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... a new market report titled "Gesture Recognition Market by ... and Forecast, 2016 - 2024". According to the report, ... USD 11.60 billion in 2015 and is estimated ... reach USD 48.56 billion by 2024.  ...
(Date:6/2/2016)... 2016 The Department of Transport Management ... 44 million US Dollar project, for the , ... Personalization, Enrolment, and IT Infrastructure , to ... and implementation of Identity Management Solutions. Numerous renowned international vendors ... Decatur was selected for the most compliant and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... CLEVELAND , June 27, 2016  Global ... average 4.6 percent through 2020 to $7.2 billion.  ... (food and beverages, cleaning products, biofuel production, animal ... and biotechnology, diagnostics, and biocatalysts). Food and beverages ... gains driven by increasing consumption of products containing ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... ... on what they believe could be a new and helpful biomarker for malignant ... Click here to read it now. , Biomarkers are components in ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 27, 2016 , ... ... operations for Amgen, will join the faculty of the University of North ... adjunct professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at UNC Kenan-Flagler, with a focus on ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... 24, 2016  Regular discussions on a range of subjects ... the two entities said Poloz. Speaking at a ... , he pointed to the country,s inflation target, which ... "In certain areas ... have common economic goals, why not sit down and address ...
Breaking Biology Technology: