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

August 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: How cells sense nutrients and fuel cancer cell growth

Related Stories

How cells sense nutrients and fuel cancer cell growth

October 6, 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 ...

Your body recycling itself -- captured on film (w/ Video)

September 13, 2010

Our bodies recycle proteins, the fundamental building blocks that enable cell growth and development. Proteins are made up of a chain of amino acids, and scientists have known since the 1980s that first one in the chain determines ...

Biologists uncover a novel cellular proofreading mechanism

November 11, 2011

( -- 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

August 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

Microbe hunters discover iron-munching microbe

October 25, 2016

A microbe that 'eats' both methane and iron: microbiologists have long suspected its existence, but were not able to find it - until now. Researchers at Radboud University and the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology ...

Study reveals human ability to make ourselves sound bigger

October 25, 2016

Research from the University of Sussex suggests that humans are unique among primates in being able to intentionally alter the frequencies of our voices to sound larger or smaller than we really are, a capacity that is likely ...

New method of estimating biodiversity based on tree cover

October 25, 2016

Historically, conservationists have protected species by placing large swaths of land into preserves and parks. However, only 13 percent of the world's land area is located in protected natural land. Most of the planet's ...


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.