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UCLA researchers discover protein that shuttles RNA into cell mitochondria
Date:8/6/2010

Researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and the departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine have uncovered a role for an essential cell protein in shuttling RNA into the mitochondria, the energy-producing "power plant" of the cell.

The import of nucleus-encoded small RNAs into mitochondria is essential for the replication, transcription and translation of the mitochondrial genome, but the mechanisms that deliver RNA into mitochondria remain poorly understood.

In the current study, UCLA scientists show a new role for a protein called polynucleotide phosphorylase (PNPASE) in regulating the import of RNA into mitochondria. Reducing the expression of PNPASE decreased RNA import, which impaired the processing of mitochondrial genome-encoded RNAs. Reduced RNA processing inhibited the translation of proteins required to maintain the electron transport chain that handles oxygen to produce energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate, the energy currency of a cell. With reduced PNPASE, unprocessed mitochondrial RNAs accumulated, protein translation was inhibited and energy production was compromised, leading to stalled cell growth.

The study appears Aug. 5, 2010, in the peer-reviewed journal Cell.

"This discovery tells us that PNPASE regulates the energy producing function of mitochondria by mediating cytoplasmic RNA import," said Dr. Michael Teitell, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher and co-senior author of the study. "The study yields new insight for how cells function at a very fundamental level. This information provides a potential new pathway to control mitochondrial energy production and possibly impact the growth of cells, including certain types of cancer cells."

Mitochondria are described as cellular power plants because they generate most of the energy supply of the cell. In addition to supplying
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Contact: Kim Irwin
kirwin@mednet.ucla.edu
310-206-2805
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert  

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