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Scripps Research scientists solve long-standing mystery of protein 'quality control' mechanism
Date:9/12/2010

LA JOLLA, CA September 9, 2010 Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have solved a long-standing mystery of how cells conduct "quality control" to eliminate the toxic effects of a certain kind of error in protein production. The findings may lead to a better understanding of a host of neurodegenerative diseases.

The research was published in an advance, online issue of the journal Nature on September 12, 2010.

"It is exciting because we are dealing not only with a process that is clearly relevant for physiology and disease," said Scripps Research Assistant Professor Claudio Joazeiro, who led the study, "but also with new biology."

The new study suggests how cells in eukaryotic organisms, like humans, sense and destroy "non-stop" proteins that remain stuck in the ribosome, the protein manufacturing plant of the cell.

Proteins "R" Us

It's hard to overemphasize the importance of proteins in the body, as they participate in virtually every cellular process. Proteins are the end result of one of the central tenets of biology (known as the "central dogma"), which tells us that DNA is used to make RNA, which, in turn, is used to make proteins. In healthy cells, the ribosome translates the code carried by a messenger RNA (mRNA) to link together protein building blocks (amino acids) in a particular order to form specific proteins.

But errors happenwhich is why the body has a host of different quality control mechanisms to ensure that the proteins that emerge from this process are flawless. When aberrant proteins escape these surveillance mechanisms, they accumulate and form "aggregates" that can be toxic to certain neuronal types, and disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases can result.

One element in mRNA essential to this protein manufacturing process is known as a "stop codon." A stop codon both signals the end of the mRNA coding sequence to the ribosome so it sto
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Contact: Mika Ono
mikaono@scripps.edu
858-784-2052
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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