Changing the cell biology textbook

November 16, 2011 at 11:19 am Leave a comment

Earlier this year, a team of seven scientists, including several from the University of Alberta, made a discovery that will lead to some of the key information contained in cell biology textbooks being revised.

The team showed that the cells of all eukaryotes contain five adaptor protein complexes (APs) confounding existing assumptions that only four APs are present in cells.

 “As recently as 2004 I was quoted in the scientific literature stating categorically that there were no more than four APs,” says the study’s lead author Professor Margaret  Robinson.  “It just goes to show that you can’t be too certain that you’ve found everything there is to find. And even more importantly it illustrates just how vital it is to carry out fundamental research, to provide the knowledge needed to feed into the translational research that could ultimately lead to cures for diseases.”

Dr Joel Dacks, an evolutionary cell biologist specializing in evolution and diversity of the eukaryotic membrane-trafficking system first alerted the team to an  ‘orphan’ protein in a soil amoeba, which bore a weak family resemblance to the medium-sized subunits of AP complexes, but did not seem to fit the profile of the other family members. Through painstaking reseach, Dacks and colleagues were eventually able to relate the ‘orphan’ protein to the AP family due to its ability to get together with two large proteins and a small protein to make a fifth AP complex.

The identification of AP-5 may prove helpful in the understanding of conditions such as hereditary spastic paraplegia – though the scientists involved in its discovery stress that their research is at an early stage. “We are really excited to have found that there is a medical connection, but much further research will be needed to how loss of AP-5 leads to this particular disorder.”

Thanks to the University of Cambridge for this story.

Entry filed under: Biotechnology News and Info from Canadian Universities, Cell Culture. Tags: , .

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