p53 determines organ size

Dec 15, 2010

In studies conducted on the fruit fly, researchers at IRB Barcelona (Spain) headed by ICREA Professor Marco Milan have revealed that organs have the molecular mechanisms to control their proportions. In this process the protein p53 plays a crucial role. The study is published today in the prestigious journal PLoS Biology.

The correct establishment of organ proportions, which occurs during , is vital for the proper function of all organisms. Alterations in the mechanisms responsible for these processes cause fatal errors in and even cause their death. In the Renaissance period, Leonardo da Vinci, in his famous picture of the "Vitruvian man", reflects the importance of the size of the human beings and of the organs it holds.

Hormones, such as and steroidal hormones, contribute to maintaining this equilibrium. "What we have demonstrated is that the organs themselves also have the mechanisms to maintain a balance of shapes and to grow in a coordinated fashion", states Milán.

Organs have decision-making capacity

The tumour suppressor is activated in response to stress, such as that caused by oncogenic mutations, chemical agents or physical stimuli like ultraviolet radiation. This protein induces the death of those cells in which the stress has caused irreversible damage and that can become cancerous. In addition, p53 impedes the proliferation of cells that have self-repairing capacity. In this study the researchers used the wing primordium of the fruit fly "Drosophila melanogaster" as a model. The primordium is responsible for forming the adult wing and was used to study how this stress affects remaining healthy tissue.

Headed by Milán, the study shows that when some specific cells of the wing primordium are subjected to stress, not only is the growth of this part of the organ reduced but also that of the remaining section. As a result, adult flies have smaller but proportional wings. "These experiments indicate that stressed cells send signals to the remaining tissues in order to reduce their growth in order to allow damaged tissue to repair itself and allow the organ to grow in a coordinated manner", explains Milán. When p53 was suppressed in stressed , the resulting wings were disproportional. This observation indicates that this protein is crucial for the coordinated growth of the different parts of an organ. Again, nature dictates that size is not relevant but proportions are.

Explore further: Geneticists solve 40-year-old dilemma to explain why duplicate genes remain in the genome

More information: PLoS Biology (2010) DOI:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000566

Provided by Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New function discovered in cancer prevention protein

Jun 07, 2010

Protein 53 is very important in protecting against cancer given that it prevents cancer-causing mutations from accumulating and its inactivation is closely linked to the proliferation of tumour cells. UAB (Universitat Autonoma ...

Protecting cells from their neighbors

Aug 03, 2009

Almost all organisms evolve from a single cell, a fertilised egg. In the first hours after fertilisation, the fate of its future development is determined. It is dictated by the separation of cells that will become sperm ...

Tuning in on cellular communication in the fruit fly

Feb 18, 2009

In their ongoing study of the processes involved in embryonic development in fruit flies, researchers at WPI's Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center at Gateway Park have identified the function of a protein that sticks ...

Recommended for you

MaxBin: Automated sorting through metagenomes

Sep 29, 2014

Microbes – the single-celled organisms that dominate every ecosystem on Earth - have an amazing ability to feed on plant biomass and convert it into other chemical products. Tapping into this talent has ...

User comments : 0