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A new way of looking at molecular motors

An innovative method of categorizing myosin--one of three molecular "motors" that produce movement within the cells of the body--has dramatically increased the amount of information available about these essential proteins, laying groundwork for development of treatments for conditions ranging from certain kinds of blindness and kidney disease to neurodegenerative disorders and parasitic diseases such as malaria.

All complex organisms use myosin and its relatives, kinesin and dynein, to move substances around inside cells and to help cells move from one place to the other. Myosins also help parasites enter and infect hosts. Defects in the motors play a role in a variety of human and animal disorders, including retinitis pigmentosa (which causes blindness), polycystic kidney disease, brain development defects, neurodegenerative diseases, muscular dystrophy, skin pigmentation problems, and genetic hearing loss.

Researchers led by Dominique Soldati, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) international research scholar at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, have developed a new system of classifying myosins. Up to now, researchers have only studied approximately 130 myosins at a time. The new system includes 250 myosins and increases the number of myosin subclasses from 18 to 24, enabling researchers to better understand each myosin's function.

"Myosins that belong to the same class work in similar ways but can have very different functions," explained Soldati. "We will have to discover the myosins' functions one by one, and the better we understand how they are related, the faster that will occur."

The new classification system also describes common evolutionary links between subclasses and protein components within myosins themselves. It includes myosins from insects, algae, parasites, and animals that have not been studied before.

The work will appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, with adva
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Source:Howard Hughes Medical Institute


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