Mechanism of sculpting the plasma membrane of intestinal cells identified

Aug 01, 2011

The research group of Professor Pekka Lappalainen at the Institute of Biotechnology, University of Helsinki, has identified a previously unknown mechanism which modifies the structure of plasma membranes in intestinal epithelial cells. Unlike other proteins with a similar function, the new protein – named 'Pinkbar' by the researchers - creates planar membrane sheets.

Further research investigates the potential connection of this with various intestinal disorders. The study was published in the prestigious Nature Structural & Molecular Biology journal.

A dynamic surrounds all eukaryotic cells. Membrane plasticity is essential for a number of cellular processes; changes in the structure of the plasma membrane enable cell migration, cell division, intake of nutrients and many neurobiological and immunological events.

Earlier research has shown that certain membrane-binding proteins can 'sculpt' the membrane to generate tubular structures with positive or negative curvature, and consequently induce the formation of protrusions or invaginations on the surface of the cell. These membrane-sculpting proteins are involved in various vital cellular processes and can control the shape of the plasma membrane with surprising precision. Many of them have also been linked to severe diseases such as cancer and neurological syndromes.

Identified by Anette Pykäläinen, a member of Professor Lappalainen's group who is currently finalising her dissertation, the new membrane sculpting protein has a different mechanism than other proteins studied previously. Instead of generating positive and negative curvature, the Pinkbar protein is able to produce planar membrane sheets. Lappalainen's group determined the membrane-sculpting mechanism of Pinkbar in collaboration with an American research group. In humans, Pinkbar is only found in where it may be involved in the regulation of intestinal permeability. In the future, it will be important to identify the exact physiological function of Pinkbar in intestinal and to study the possible links of this protein to various intestinal disorders.

Explore further: Mycologist promotes agarikon as a possibility to counter growing antibiotic resistance

Provided by University of Helsinki

3 /5 (2 votes)

Related Stories

Molecular motors may speed nutrient processing

May 30, 2007

Matthew Tyska, Ph.D., recalls being intrigued, from the first day of his postdoctoral fellowship in 1999, with a nearly 30-year-old photograph. It was an electron micrograph that showed the internal structures of an intestinal ...

Finding microscopic motors in the gut

Jun 28, 2007

Digestion has a previously unsuspected mechanical dimension: Vanderbilt researchers have discovered that the tiny, hair-like protrusions that line the gut are filled with millions of molecular motors that produce streams ...

Researchers uncover secrets of salmonella's stealth attack

Apr 16, 2009

A single crafty protein allows the deadly bacterium Salmonella enterica to both invade cells lining the intestine and hijack cellular functions to avoid destruction, Yale researchers report in the April 17 issue of the jo ...

Recommended for you

YEATS protein potential therapeutic target for cancer

Oct 23, 2014

Federal Express and UPS are no match for the human body when it comes to distribution. There exists in cancer biology an impressive packaging and delivery system that influences whether your body will develop cancer or not.

Precise and programmable biological circuits

Oct 23, 2014

A team led by ETH professor Yaakov Benenson has developed several new components for biological circuits. These components are key building blocks for constructing precisely functioning and programmable bio-computers.

User comments : 0