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

mic Cell Biology at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology. Thus, the scientists have discovered a fundamental principle of life.

Complex task, simple solution

But how does the cell know which proteins need to be addressed to the cell membrane whilst they are in the Golgi apparatus? According to the scientists, any protein can obtain a lipid anchor if it has the amino acid called cysteine readily accessible on its surface. It would then be transported automatically to the cell membrane. Such transportation therefore does not require any receptors which specifically bind to the protein at the cellular site where it is supposed to go.

This is a fascinating example of how complex processes can be controlled with simple physical and chemical rules. At first glances, it would appear to be enormously challenging to identify the proteins that need to be transported to a certain location, to spot any that have been transported to the wrong place and to stop them radiating off from their ultimate destination. Yet the cell manages this in a really simple way without any additional receptors or regulatory mechanisms. Other self-organising systems, too such as insect colonies often work on relatively simple principles. They would otherwise be unable to handle the multitude of tasks they need to perform. "These findings represent a milestone. They will change the way research in cellular biology is done. It's only when we as scientists understand the principles by which life works that we are truly able to understand life. Focussing on the many different signalling pathways within the cell doesn't really help that much," says Philippe Bastiaens.

New substance inhibits cancer protein

The research group even went a step further, laying the foundations for the findings to potentially be applied in cancer therapy. The Ras protein is a prominent representative of the palmitoylated proteins. Mutations in the ras g
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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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