Researchers discover architecture for fundamental processes of life

May 13, 2008

A team of Canadian researchers has completed a massive survey of the network of protein complexes that orchestrate the fundamental processes of life. In the online edition of the journal Science, researchers from the Université de Montréal describe protein complexes and networks of complexes never before observed – including two implicated in the normal mechanisms by which cells divide and proliferate and another that controls recycling of the molecular building blocks of life called autophagy.

These processes are implicated in diseases such as cancers and autophagy has recently been shown to be involved in degenerative neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases. The discovery will fill gaps in basic knowledge about the workings and evolutionary origins of the living cell and provide new avenues to explore in linking these fundamental processes to human disease.

The study was led by Stephen Michnick, a Université de Montréal biochemistry professor and Canada Research Chair in Integrative Genomics, along with Université de Montréal co-first authors: Kirill Tarassov, Vincent Messier, Christian Landry and Stevo Radinovic. Collaborators from McGill’s Department of Biology included Canadian genomics pioneer Prof. Howard Bussey and Prof. Jackie Vogel.

“Our team systematically analyzed the interactions of proteins of bakers yeast, a unicellular organism confirmed to provide insight into fundamental processes shared by most living cells including those of humans,” explained Prof. Michnick.

New technology makes discovery possible

The examination of protein complexes was made possible by a unique technology developed by Prof. Michnick with his post-doctoral fellows and graduate students. The novel technology allows interactions between proteins to be studied in their nearly natural state in the cell. With this technology, the scientists performed approximately 15 million pair-wise tests to identify about 3,000 interactions between protein pairs.

Since protein-to-protein association largely defines their function, this is a major advancement towards scientific understanding of the inner life of human cells. Thanks to Prof. Michnick’s technology, the researchers also uncovered the architecture of protein complexes – key information necessary to determine how proteins work together to orchestrate complex biochemical processes.

“The technologies and resources developed for this study can be applied to investigate protein networks in more complex organisms including crop plant and human cells,” said Prof. Michnick. “They may also be used to link multiple genes implicated in complex human diseases to common cellular processes. What’s more, applications to diagnostic tests and the development of drugs and antibodies against human cancers can be readily envisioned.”

Source: University of Montreal

Explore further: Newly discovered metabolism certifies evolutionary advantage for yeast

Related Stories

Scientists create rice variety with high folate stability

September 22, 2015

Researchers from Ghent University succeeded in stabilizing folates in biofortified rice in order to prevent their degradation upon long term storage. They used two strategies: by linking folates with folate binding proteins ...

Scientists learn how to predict plant size

September 11, 2015

VIB and UGent scientists have developed a new method which allows them to predict the final size of a plant while it is still a seedling. Thanks to this method, which is based on the knowledge that a set of genes is associated ...

Molecular bodyguards for immature membrane proteins

September 7, 2015

During their formation within the cells, many proteins rely on the assistance of molecular protectors, so-called chaperones. They help the proteins to fold correctly and thus ensure the right final structure. The roles of ...

Recommended for you

The dark side of Nobel prizewinning research

October 4, 2015

Think of the Nobel prizes and you think of groundbreaking research bettering mankind, but the awards have also honoured some quite unhumanitarian inventions such as chemical weapons, DDT and lobotomies.

Internet giants race to faster mobile news apps

October 4, 2015

US tech giants are turning to the news in their competition for mobile users, developing new, faster ways to deliver content, but the benefits for struggling media outlets remain unclear.

Trade in invasive plants is blossoming

October 3, 2015

Every day, hundreds of different plant species—many of them listed as invasive—are traded online worldwide on auction platforms. This exacerbates the problem of uncontrollable biological invasions.

Fusion reactors 'economically viable' say experts

October 2, 2015

Fusion reactors could become an economically viable means of generating electricity within a few decades, and policy makers should start planning to build them as a replacement for conventional nuclear power stations, according ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.