Finding may have further impact on heart disease and stroke prevention research
Irvine, Calif., June 7, 2000 -- UC Irvine researchers who study the link between nutrition and molecular activity in the body have discovered how a major regulatory protein stabilizes cholesterol levels in cells, a finding that may provide further clues on how genetics influence heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Timothy F. Osborne and Mary K. Bennett of UCI's Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry isolated a key regulating protein as it bound with other proteins to initiate the gene activity that stabilizes blood levels of cholesterol. To do this, the scientists used an observational method -- called the chromatin immunoprecipitation technique (CHIPS) -- new to their research, which for the first time allowed observation of this interaction within living cells.
Their findings appear in the June 6, 2000 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Understanding how proteins react to cholesterol levels in cells gives researchers greater information on how to adjust this activity to balance these levels in people who have irregular amounts of cholesterol in their blood. Although cholesterol is important for maintaining cell structure and rigidity, high levels of certain types of cholesterol are significant contributing factors to heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death among American adults.
"If we can understand more about how these regulatory proteins work, we can find ways to make their interaction more efficient and independent of the cholesterol levels within the cells," Osborne said. "Therapeutically, we may be able to develop ways to have cells remove excess cholesterol from the blood to keep it from accumulating there, which can lead to the buildup of arterial plaque and to potential heart attacks and strokes."