Coordinated protein breakdown and synthesis: a key to healthy growth of cells

Aug 16, 2012

The cells in our bodies are involved in a continuous process of breakdown and re-growth that is essential to life itself. During a process that can be likened to self-cannibalism, the proteins within the cells are broken down into their component amino acids, which then act as the building blocks for the growth and renewal of cells. Serious diseases may result from a disruption of this process. This is the case with cancer, where cancerous cells grow quickly, but the ability of the cells to digest themselves is compromised.

It has been well known that growth factors (molecules that stimulate and regulate cellular growth) stimulate the synthesis of new proteins as part of their role in promoting cell growth and division. A team of researchers led by Prof. Barry Posner of McGill University’s Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) have now, for the first time, been able to show that in order to assure the ongoing supply of needed for new synthesis, growth factors also stimulate a coordinated or regulated increase in protein breakdown within cells to generate free amino acids. This recycling of amino acids ensures that cells are optimally adapted to their environment.

“It’s a bit like people who are building a house. As they use material from a prepared stack of wood they must assure that new wood will be available lest their building supply be depleted,” explains Barry Posner.

Working with cells from the livers of rats, the researchers were able to show that promote an increase in acidification within cells. This acidification leads to increased protein breakdown that is essential to the recycling of amino acids on which healthy cells depend.

This discovery, which was published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, may open further avenues of exploration for cancer and diabetes researchers, and could point the way to the development of new drugs to treat these diseases.

Explore further: Ephemeral soap bubbles give clue to how cells develop with regular shapes in tissues

Related Stories

How cells sense nutrients and fuel cancer cell growth

Oct 06, 2011

In cancer, genes turn on and off at the wrong times, proteins aren't folded properly, and cellular growth and proliferation get out of control. Even a cancer cell's metabolism goes haywire, as it loses the ability to appropriately ...

Biologists uncover a novel cellular proofreading mechanism

Nov 11, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- To make proteins, cells assemble long chains of amino acids, based on genetic instructions from DNA. That construction takes place in a tiny cellular structure called a ribosome, to which amino acids are ...

Research aims to starve breast cancer cells

Aug 29, 2011

The most common breast cancer uses the most efficient, powerful food delivery system known in human cells and blocking that system kills it, researchers report.

Recommended for you

Reading a biological clock in the dark

19 hours ago

Our species' waking and sleeping cycles – shaped in millions of years of evolution – have been turned upside down within a single century with the advent of electric lighting and airplanes. As a result, ...

Scientists see how plants optimize their repair

Oct 20, 2014

Researchers led by a Washington State University biologist have found the optimal mechanism by which plants heal the botanical equivalent of a bad sunburn. Their work, published in the Proceedings of the Na ...

User comments : 0