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Transportation governed by simple rules
Date:5/3/2010

All life on earth is threatened by chaos. In this sense, a cell is like a ship which could at any moment sink in a sea of chaos. It must constantly consume energy to maintain the same level of order to avoid going under metaphorically speaking, the infiltrating water of chaos needs to be pumped out, permanently. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology in Dortmund have now discovered how cells ensure the correct distribution of proteins throughout their interior. What they have found is that many of the proteins which need to be transported to the cell membrane are furnished with a kind of anchor consisting of a fatty acid, which serves to embed the proteins in the cell membrane. But since the membrane is also from where they gain access to the cell organelle, the anchor is removed from the proteins after a short while. So the cell adopts an unspecific approach to plugging this leak, unlike when transporting them to the membrane. In discovering this, the scientists have lifted the lid on the simple principle that cells use to control the complex localisation of proteins and thereby maintain a high level of order. Furthermore, these findings may also pave the way for new methods of cancer therapy: in an additional study the scientists successfully managed to jumble the spatial distribution of the cancer protein Ras using a new inhibitor, thereby disrupting its transforming signals. (Cell, 23 April 2010; Nature Chemical Biology, 25 April 2010)

Within a cell there are a huge number of substances that need to be transported. An organelle known as the Golgi apparatus serves as the 'shunting yard' for the process. Proteins and other substances are made ready to do their respective jobs and prepared for transportation inside the Golgi, which is surrounded by a membrane of its own. Little bubbles (vesicles) are pinched off from the membrane and directed towards their ultimate destinations. Many of the proteins which n
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Contact: Philippe Bastiaens
philippe.bastiaens@mpi-dortmund.mpg.de
49-023-113-32200
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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