The gene coding for a protein usually reveals clues about how that protein will react in the lab and how best to isolate it from other molecules. The Wnts are unusual, however, because the way they behave in the lab differs from what the gene suggests. Roeland Nusse, PhD, professor of developmental biology at the School of Medicine and one of the first to isolate a Wnt (pronounced "wint") gene, reports how his lab members overcame these hurdles in the April 27 advance online edition of the journal Nature.
"We found that the protein is modified, explaining why it has been difficult to isolate," said Nusse, who is also an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Although the protein's structure suggests it should dissolve easily in water, Karl Willert, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Nusse's lab, found that an attached fat molecule makes the protein shun water and prefer the company of detergents instead.
With a Wnt in hand, researchers could finally confirm previous hints that the protein helps stem cells maintain their youthful state. This work, led by Irving Weissman, MD, the Karel and Avice Beekhuis Professor of Cancer Biology, involved cells in the bone marrow called hematopoietic stem cells that generate all blood cells throughout a person's life. When these cells divide, some offspring go on to become red blood cells, immune cells and other blood compo
Contact: Amy Adams
Stanford University Medical Center