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German and Israeli scientists gain new insights into protein disposal
Date:5/28/2013

Cells have a sophisticated system to control and dispose of defective, superfluous proteins and thus to prevent damage to the body. Dr. Katrin Bagola and Professor Thomas Sommer of the Max Delbrck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch as well as Professor Michael Glickman and Professor Aaron Ciechanover of Technion, the Technical University of Israel in Haifa, have now discovered a new function of an enzyme that is involved in this vital process. Using yeast cells as a model organism, the researchers showed that a specific factor, abbreviated Cue1, is not only a receptor and activator for a component of the degradation apparatus, but also contributes to ensuring that the defective protein is marked with a molecular tag for degradation (Molecular Cell, doi: org/10.1016/j.molcel.2013.04.005)*.

Proteins are molecular machines in the cells of an organism. Different types of proteins perform many different functions: They transport materials to their destination, ward off pathogens, enable chemical reactions in the cell and much more. Many proteins are produced in a cell organelle, the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), are then folded and subsequently transported to their destination.

Some proteins are only required for a specific, time-limited purpose and must be degraded once their purpose has been served. But errors also frequently occur during production and folding. These defective proteins are not functional and can even harm the organism. Therefore they, too, must be degraded.

The cells therefore have a sophisticated system to dispose of defective, superfluous proteins. In the ER there is a special process for protein degradation, known as ER-associated degradation (ERAD). This system contains a number of enzymes that cooperate to ensure that a defective protein is marked with a molecular tag, the molecule ubiquitin. This process is called ubiquitylation. A chain of four to six molecules serves as degradation signal. A
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Contact: Barbara Bachtler
bachtler@mdc-berlin.de
49-309-406-3896
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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