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

energy, mitochondria also are involved in a broad range of other cellular processes, such as signaling, differentiation, death, control of the cell cycle and growth.

The study could have implications for studying and treating certain cancers, which rely on cellular energy to grow and spread, as well as mitochondrial disorders such as neuromuscular diseases. The study could also result in new ways to think about attacking neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson and Alzheimer diseases, which have recently been linked to the function of mitochondria.

"When we're talking about looking for ways to cure cancer, we fundamentally need to understand what makes cells grow and die and the mitochondrion is right at the heart of these issues," said Carla Koehler, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, Jonsson Cancer Center researcher and co-senior author of the study. "This new and novel pathway for transporting RNA into the mitochondria is shedding new light on the evolving role and importance of mitochondria function in normal physiology and a wide variety of diseases. If we can understand how this pathway functions in healthy cells we could potentially uncover defects that help in transforming normal cells into cancer cells."

PNPASE was identified in 2004 by Teitell and his team as they attempted to find proteins that interact with TCL1, a human lymphoma-promoting cancer gene that has been used to generate genetic models of lymphocyte cancer. Mass spectrometry uncovered PNPASE, which had a signature sequence that suggested that it trafficked into and localized within the mitochondria of cells.

Once localized, Teitell, Koehler and post-doctoral fellow Geng Wang turned their attention to the function of PNPASE, which generated the unexpected results reported in this study. Prior to their discovery, it was not known what pathway was used to get RNA into the mitochondria. PNPASE mediates the movement of RNA from the cell cytoplasm
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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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