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RING Finger proteins target cellular molecules for disposal

(Embargoed) CHAPEL HILL - Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have discovered another facet to the molecular engine that targets cell proteins for elimination.

The discovery was made in Drosophila, fruit flies, which share with mammals the same group of genes that code for proteins involved in regulating this targeting process. A report of the findings appears June 7 in the journal Developmental Cell.

The destruction of proteins during the cycle of cell growth and division is as important as protein production. Depending on when in the cycle it occurs, a breakdown in this proteolysis process can either stop a cell from dividing and replicating its chromosomes, or it can result in cell growth run amok, becoming cancerous. Because of its implications for health and disease, exactly how proteolysis is regulated, how cells "know" which proteins to eliminate and when, is the subject of intense scientific investigation.

"Many proteins that are important regulators of progress through the cell division cycle are inactivated by being destroyed, reduced to their component parts at particular times in the cycle. And that destruction, through ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis, is necessary for cell cycle regulation," said the report's senior author Dr. Robert J. Duronio, associate professor of biology at UNC and a member of the Program in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the School of Medicine.

This proteolysis process involves attachment to other proteins of the small protein, ubiquitin. The attachment is a signal for proteolysis; it tells the proteolytic machine to destroy the ubiquitinated protein, to chew it up and decompose it.

"A family of enzymes in cells puts ubiquitin onto the target proteins. And among the most important members of this family are E3 ubiquitin ligases," Duronio said. "These have received a lot of attention because they're thought to be the enzymes that recognize which proteins wi
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Contact: Leslie H. Lang
LLANG@MED.UNC.EDU
919-843-9687
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
6-Jun-2002


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