New insight in how cells' powerhouse divides

Sep 02, 2011
A new study involving CU-Boulder and UC-Davis may help scientists better understand mitochondrial diseases and conditions. Credit: NIH

New research from the University of California, Davis, and the University of Colorado at Boulder puts an unexpected twist on how mitochondria, the energy-generating structures within cells, divide. The work, which could have implications for a wide range of diseases and conditions, was published today (Sept. 2) in the journal Science.

"It's a paradigm shift in cell biology," said Jodi Nunnari, professor and chair of at UC Davis and a co-author of the paper.

Mitochondria produce for a cell's needs. They are wrapped in two membranes, have their own DNA, and can divide to produce new mitochondria. When this division is not properly controlled, it can result in cell death. Defects in mitochondria have been linked to a wide range of degenerative conditions and diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

The research team led by Gia Voeltz, assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology at CU-Boulder, and Nunnari, at UC Davis, investigated how another structure in the cell, the or ER, is related to mitochondrial division.

The ER is a of sacs and tubules that spreads out from the nucleus and is distributed throughout the cell. It is thought to play a role in a range of , including making secretory protein and lipids, and transporting molecules around the cell.

The team found that in both yeast and , mitochondrial division overwhelmingly occurred at points where the two structures, mitochondria and ER, touched.

Previous work by Nunnari's lab and others has shown that mitochondrial division is regulated by dynamin related protein-1, which assembles into a ligature that tightens around the sausagelike mitochondrion and causes it to divide.

Nunnari and Voeltz found that these and other proteins linked to mitochondrial division were also found where the ER and mitochondria touched. Their study indicates that ER tubules first squeeze the mitochondrion, then dynamin-related proteins assemble on the surface to complete the job. This new function for the ER expands and transforms our view of cell organization, Nunnari said.

Explore further: Computer simulations visualize ion flux

Provided by University of California - Davis

5 /5 (4 votes)

Related Stories

Cell death pathway linked to mitochondrial fusion

Jan 24, 2011

New research led by UC Davis scientists provides insight into why some body organs are more susceptible to cell death than others and could eventually lead to advances in treating or preventing heart attack or stroke.

New mitochondrial control mechanism discovered

May 04, 2011

Scientists have discovered a new component of mitochondria that plays a key part in their function. The discovery, which is presented in the journal Cell Metabolism, is of potential significance to our understanding of both ...

Genetic map reveals clues to degenerative diseases

Aug 24, 2011

An international research team, spearheaded by Dr. Tim Mercer from The University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), has unlocked the blueprints to the ‘power plants' of the cell in an effort that ...

Recommended for you

Research helps identify memory molecules

4 hours ago

A newly discovered method of identifying the creation of proteins in the body could lead to new insights into how learning and memories are impaired in Alzheimer's disease.

Computer simulations visualize ion flux

5 hours ago

Ion channels are involved in many physiological and pathophysiological processes throughout the human body. A young team of researchers led by pharmacologist Anna Stary-Weinzinger from the Department of Pharmacology ...

Neutron diffraction sheds light on photosynthesis

5 hours ago

Scientists from ILL and CEA-Grenoble have improved our understanding of the way plants evolved to take advantage of sunlight. Using cold neutron diffraction, they analysed the structure of thylakoid lipids found in plant ...

DNA may have had humble beginnings as nutrient carrier

Sep 01, 2014

New research intriguingly suggests that DNA, the genetic information carrier for humans and other complex life, might have had a rather humbler origin. In some microbes, a study shows, DNA pulls double duty ...

Central biobank for drug research

Sep 01, 2014

For the development of new drugs it is crucial to work with stem cells, as these allow scientists to study the effects of new active pharmaceutical ingredients. But it has always been difficult to derive ...

User comments : 0