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Scientists eavesdrop on the exciting conversations within cells
Date:2/25/2009

Scientists have discovered the secrets of a sophisticated molecule that plays a role in many aspects of human health from fertility to blood pressure; digestion to mental health. This has opened up the potential for discovery of new drugs to treat an enormous variety of conditions.

In research supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Wellcome Trust a team from the University of Cambridge shows how a molecule the IP3 receptor arranges itself into clusters to help broadcast vital chemical messages around cells in the form of calcium. The work is published today (25 February) in Nature.

Team leader, Professor Colin Taylor said: "Almost everything a cell does is regulated by calcium, and we know there are many diseases in both humans and animals, such as stroke or an irregular heart beat, in which calcium regulation goes wrong. But the real puzzle is trying to understand how calcium which is amongst the simplest of all chemicals can manage to control lots of different things at the same time. What we have found is a crucial part of that puzzle.

"Imagine you're trying to find a dancing partner at a party. You might whisper the request to several people, or you might shout it out to everyone. Some of your handful of whispered requests might be ignored and some may have you heading for the dance floor. If you shout loud enough, everyone gets to decide whether to respond. It's rather similar with messages transmitted by calcium signals: they can evoke very different responses in cells depending on whether they are whispered or shouted."

The research published today shows that when cells are stimulated, their IP3 receptors receive instructions telling them to both gather into clusters and to open and allow calcium to pass. Furthermore, IP3 receptors behave very differently when they are alone as opposed to clustered, and these differences help determine whether the calcium
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Contact: Nancy Mendoza
press.office@bbsrc.ac.uk
01-793-413-355
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Source:Eurekalert

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