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

eed to be transported to the cell membrane are first furnished with a molecule of fatty acid, or lipid. This process, known as palmitoylation, equips the membrane proteins with a kind of address label and ships them off to the cell membrane. The cell uses this directed transportation from the Golgi apparatus to the cell membrane as a means of countering the permanent 'leakage' into other membranes that occurs. This is important because, besides the cell membrane, the cell is filled with membranes from organelles connected to one another via vesicles. Consequently, palmitoylated membrane proteins, originally intended for the cell membrane only, also reach other locations. With time, these proteins would then be distributed randomly throughout the cell.

The scientists in Dortmund were able to use cutting-edge microscopy techniques to monitor customised molecular probes in living cells and thereby analyse the location and the transportation of palmitoylated proteins in real time. What they found is that palmitoylation takes place predominantly at the Golgi apparatus. From there, palmitoylated proteins reach the cell membrane on the surface of the vesicles that are pinched off. In order to prevent the proteins from building up in other membranes, special enzymes remove the lipid anchor from all palmitoylated proteins indiscriminately. The proteins then swim freely throughout the cell until they find themselves thrown back into the transport mechanism of the Golgi apparatus. In this way, the cell ensures that misdirected proteins are quickly and continually fed back into the transport network and conveyed to their correct destination. "A state of this kind, one which is not in equilibrium and can only be sustained by constant energy consumption, is what characterises all life in contrast to complex non-living systems like crystals, which occupy a state of equilibrium with minimal energy consumption," explains Philippe Bastiaens, Head of the Department of Syste
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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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