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The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), one of the National Institutes of Health, supports all research featured in this digest. Although only the lead scientists are named, coworkers and other collaborators also contributed to the findings.

In This Issue... February 16, 2012

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Shiga toxin (green) and epidermal growth factor (red).Credit: Somshuvra Mukhopadhyay

Cool Image: Manganese's Toxic Turnaround

Adam Linstedt and Somshuvra Mukhopadhyay • Carnegie Mellon University

Ordinarily, dangerous proteins taken up by the cell are routed via a compartment called the endosome to the lysosome, where they're destroyed. Shiga toxin, which can cause diarrhea and kidney failure, escapes this fate by hitching a ride on the GPP130 protein. The toxin eventually reaches the cell's watery interior, where it halts protein production and kills the cell. Pictured here, Shiga toxin (green) is sorted from the endosome into membrane tubules (red) that pinch off and move to the Golgi apparatus, where GPP130 resides. Manganese disrupts the toxin's usual movement. Early work in animal models suggests manganese could offer an inexpensive, life-saving treatment for millions of people worldwide. Read more... Link to external Website

New Test for Enzyme Deficiency Disease

Jeffrey D. Esko • University of California, San Diego School of Medicine

Cells are the ultimate recyclers: They constantly break down and reuse proteins, lipids and other molecules. When a cell's recycling system fails, the situation mimics what a city experiences when sanitation workers strike—a build-up of toxic waste. Children lacking an enzyme that recycles certain complex carbohydrates can develop a difficult-to-diagnose metabolic condition abbreviated MPS. The disorder is progressive and impairs the child's physical and mental development. A new test enables simple, reliable detection of MPS and a way to monitor the success of treatment, which, if started early enough, can prevent permanent damage. Read more... Link to external Website

NIH's National Center for Research Resources and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases also supported this work.

Caption: Lysosomes are like cellular recycling centers. A new technique allows early detection of a devastating disease caused by deficiency of a lysosomal enzyme. High res. image (JPG, 48KB)
Centrioles (green) serve as anchor points for cilia (red)

Flatworms Give Clues About the Human Centrosome

Wallace Marshall • University of California, San Francisco
Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado • Stowers Institute for Medical Research

Researchers recently discovered that flatworms, known for their regenerative powers, lack centrosomes, key cellular structures found in animals that help separate chromosomes during cell division. Centrosomes are made of centrioles, which also produce structures called cilia that help move fluid and mucus across vital organs. Like animals, flatworms have centrioles. But the research revealed that dividing cells of flatworms don't have centrioles, suggesting that centrosomes may have evolved for reasons other than cell division. Studying these organisms will help shed light on the function of centrosomes in humans, which has been a mystery until now. Read more... Link to external Website

Caption: Centrioles (green) act as anchors for cilia (red) in freshwater flatworms. Credit: Juliette Azimzadeh, University of California, San Francisco. High res. image (JPG, 154KB)
Structure of the CYP17A1 enzyme

Enzyme's Structure Could Lead to Improved Prostate, Breast Cancer Drugs

Emily Scott • University of Kansas

Knowing the shape of an enzyme can help researchers design drugs that bind to it and block its activities. Researchers have determined the structure of CYP17A1, an enzyme associated with prostate and breast cancer. Follow-up studies with the structure indicate that the most promising current treatments bind to CYP17A1 very differently than previously predicted via computational modeling—a strategy used when structural details aren't available. In addition to showing how these drugs work, the enzyme's structure reveals new opportunities to improve these drugs or design new ones. Read more... Link to external Website

This work was also supported by NIH's National Center for Research Resources.

Caption: Structure of CYP17A1 with the drug abiraterone (grey sticks) bound near the heme (black sticks). Credit: Emily Scott. High res. image (JPG, 201KB)
Findings cover

Body Bacteria

Elizabeth Grice • University of Pennsylvania

Did you know the largest human organ is your skin and that there are billions of bacteria and fungi living there? In the latest issue of Findings, meet Elizabeth Grice, a postdoctoral fellow studying the skin microbiome. She wants to learn how and why bacteria colonize certain places on the body, and she's particularly interested in determining differences between bacterial communities on healthy and diseased skin. Grice hopes her work will lead to new insights for treating chronic wounds that are common in people who have diabetes or limited mobility. Read more...

Caption: Findings cover.

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This page last reviewed on February 16, 2011