With HMGB1's help, cells dine in

September 6, 2010
Sites of autophagy (green) are reduced in cells lacking HMGB1 (left) compared with control cells (right). Credit: Tang, D., et al. 2010. J. Cell Biol. doi:10.1083/jcb.200911078.

Like some people, cells eat when they are under pressure -- but they consume parts of themselves. A multi-function protein helps control this form of cannibalism, according to a study in the September 6 issue of the Journal of Cell Biology.

Cells often respond to hunger or stress by digesting some of their contents. The process, known as autophagy, helps free nutrients and clean up cytoplasmic trash such as worn-out organelles and misshapen proteins.

A team led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute discovered a link between this form of cellular recycling and the protein HMGB1. The team showed HMGB1 to be a critical pro-autophagic that enhances cell survival and limits programmed cell death.

The findings suggests that blocking HMGB1 could benefit cancer patients, since often rev up autophagy to withstand , immunotherapy, and radiation treatment.

Explore further: Targeted virus compels cancer cells to eat themselves

More information: Tang, D., et al. 2010. J. Cell Biol. doi:10.1083/jcb.200911078

Related Stories

Targeted virus compels cancer cells to eat themselves

May 2, 2006

An engineered virus tracks down and infects the most common and deadly form of brain cancer and then kills tumor cells by forcing them to devour themselves, researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center ...

Cell recycling protects tumor cells from anti-cancer therapy

March 6, 2008

Cells have their own recycling system: Discarded cellular components, from individual proteins through to whole cellular organs, are degraded and the building blocks re-used in a different place. The scientific term for this ...

Recommended for you

A new path for killing pathogenic bacteria

August 24, 2016

Bacteria that cause tuberculosis, leprosy and other diseases, survive by switching between two different types of metabolism. EPFL scientists have now discovered that this switch is controlled by a mechanism that constantly ...

Researchers image roots in the ground

August 23, 2016

It's a familiar hazard of vacation time: While you're conspicuously absent, your colleagues in the office forget to water and fertilize the plants - often leaving behind nothing but a brownish skeleton. Whether a plant thrives ...

0 comments

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.