New drug targets for preventing cell death

Feb 28, 2008

A new compound that blocks an early step in cell death could lead to a novel class of drugs for treating heart attacks and stroke.

When cells are deprived of oxygen -- during a heart attack, for example -- they start to die through a tidy process called apoptosis or programmed cell death. Early in apoptosis, the mitochondria -- complex structures that supply energy to the cell -- divide into pieces, holes appear in their membranes and proteins such as cytochrome c leak out. These events trigger other processes, ending in cell death.

"Mitochondria divide like crazy during apoptosis," said Jodi Nunnari, professor of molecular and cellular biology at UC Davis and senior author on the paper. Nunnari's lab has been studying the fundamental processes of mitochondrial division for several years.

The researchers screened 23,000 compounds to find those that blocked mitochondrial division in yeast cells. From three "hits" they picked the most effective, named mdivi-1.

They found that mdivi-1 blocks mitochondrial division dynamin, one of a class of proteins found in both yeast and mammals that can assemble itself into a spiral garrotte around the mitochondrion and cut it in two. Mdivi-1 interfered with the self-assembly of dynamin in both yeast and mammalian cells.

Mdivi-1 also blocked the process that punches holes in the mitochondrial membrane, preventing leakage of cytochrome c. The researchers found that this process could also be traced back to the effect of mdivi-1 on dynamin.

Dynamins could be a target for drugs that prevent cells from dying -- during strokes, for example, or during heart attacks or in diseases where nerve cells progressively deteriorate and die, Nunnari said. She also noted that the work would not have been possible without having first gained a fundamental understanding of how mitochondrial division works.

Source: University of California - Davis

Explore further: Movantik approved for constipation from opioids

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

China demand to fuel Hong Kong iPhone grey market

7 hours ago

Wealthy mainland Chinese looking to buy the new iPhone 6 next week could expect to pay an eye-watering US$2,500 for the handsets in Hong Kong, following Apple's decision to delay the launch in China.

Netflix sets sights on European screens

7 hours ago

US online streaming giant Netflix will launch the second phase of its European expansion plan on Monday as it sets about seducing French viewers with a "House of Cards"-style drama set in Marseille.

Prosecutors target credit card thieves overseas

21 hours ago

Criminals from around the world buy and sell stolen credit card information with ease in today's digital age. But if they commit their crime entirely outside the United States, they may be hard to prosecute.

SpaceX's next cargo launch set for Sept 20

21 hours ago

SpaceX's next unmanned cargo trip to restock supplies at the International Space Station is scheduled for September 20, the US space agency said Friday.

Recommended for you

Big cities take aim at prescription painkillers

19 hours ago

Some of the nation's largest cities are ratcheting up their criticism of prescription painkillers, blaming the industry for a wave of addiction and overdoses that have ravaged their communities and busted local budgets.

World Health Organization policy improves use of medicines

20 hours ago

In this issue of PLOS Medicine, Kathleen Holloway from WHO and David Henry (University of Toronto, Canada) evaluated data on reported adherence to WHO essential medicines practices and measures of quality use of medicines from 5 ...

User comments : 0