Fruit fly spermatid. Sigi Benjamin-Hong, Rockefeller University.

All cells, such as the fruit fly spermatid shown here, recycle various molecules, including malformed or damaged proteins. How? Actin filaments (red) in the cell draw unwanted proteins toward a barrel-shaped structure called the proteasome (green clusters), which degrades the molecules into their basic parts for re-use. New research reveals the role of one enzyme, tankyrase, in the regulation of such protein degradation. In a preliminary study, a molecule originally developed to treat colon cancer inhibits tankyrase, thus blocking proteasome activity. Because abnormally high rates of proteasome activity have been linked to cancer, the findings may be clinically useful.

Featured in the May 16, 2013, issue of Biomedical Beat.