Findings on cell communication may help fight three genetic diseases

CLEVELAND -- A study by two researchers at Case Western Reserve University's School of Medicine into the communication between the nucleus and cytoplasm of cells may aid in the development of molecular therapies for three genetic diseases.

Alan M. Tartakoff, professor of pathology and director of the Cell Biology Program, and Jayasri Nanduri, assistant professor in the Institute of Pathology, made some remarkable observations that appear in the August issue (published August 31) of Molecular Cell, a highly respected journal in cell/molecular biology. Their article is entitled "The Arrest of Secretion Response in Yeast: Signaling From the Secretory Path to the Nucleus, via Wsc Proteins and Pkclp."

Their study found unexpected coordination of cellular activities -- whether or not a cell can secrete proteins will profoundly regulate the transfer of genetic information from the nucleus to the cytoplasm and the structure of its nucleus.

This is important because it was previously thought that the secretory activity of cells was relatively unrelated to gene expression, which is key for controlling the growth of normal and cancer cells. The research also is important because the structural plasticity of the nucleus was not previously appreciated, and because these structural changes provide an opportunity to investigate how the cell nucleus normally maintains its characteristic structure and activities.

In a broader sense, this study provides a context in which to analyze several genetic diseases already being studied in Tartakoff's laboratory -- cystic fibrosis, Huntington's disease, and the fragile X syndrome.

Cells have two distinct compartments -- the nucleus, which houses genes, and the cytoplasm, which executes tasks assigned by the nucleus. Most components found in the nucleus are essentially absent from the cytoplasm -- and vice versa -- and many metabolic functions occur only in the nucleus or only in the cytoplasm.

Contact: George Stamatis
Case Western Reserve University

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