FEB 20, 2022 7:41 AM PST

When Cells Can't Take Out the Trash, Diseases Arise

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Defective proteins have to be eliminated to maintain good health, and when they aren't removed and they build up, serious disorders can occur. Both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease have long been associated with an accumulation of proteins that are folded improperly. Cellular structures called lysosomes are involved in waste disposal in cells, and in recent years, scientists have observed that lysosomal storage disorders are linked to an increased risk of Parkinson's. Some researchers have hypothesized that lysosomal damage plays a central role in the neurodegenerative disorder.

Image credit: Pxfuel

When cells detect waste, such as damaged proteins that have accumulated, they can initiate a cleanup process. The lysosome is sometimes known as the cell's recycling bin because damaged stuff can be brought there, and the parts get broken down in a process known as autophagy.

In Alzheimer's, damaged tau proteins are a known hallmark of the disease, and research has indicated that in the early stages of the disorder, problems with lysosomes and autophagy arise in cells. These defects are thought to play a role in the progression of the disease. In Parkinson's, if there is damage in organelles called mitochondria, they're not removed properly. That breakdown happens in areas of the brain where dopamine is released, leading to motor dysfunction. Defects in autophay are also thought to play a role in Parkinson's.

An international team of researchers has now learned more about the autophagy process. Autophagosomes are tiny sacs that form around the damaged parts of cells that are being sent to the lysosome for degradation. Reporting in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the research team revealed new details about the proteins that generate the autophagosome, and how they are structured.

Additional findings from the team were reported in Nature Communications. If cells can't get enough nutrients, a process called bulk autophagy might be initiated. But when specific things get flagged for cleanup, selective autophagy occurs. This study has shown that in yeast, a protein called Vac8 orchestrates the interaction between various molecules involved in autophagy and a cell structure called the vacuole. Vac8 is anchored to the vacuole, and its role in selective autophagy had been unclear until this research.

A detailed understanding of autophagy and the formation of autophagosomes may provide new insights into neurodegenerative diseases and other disorders.

Sources: Medical University of Vienna, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Nature Communications

 

About the Author
BS
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
APR 22, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
A Missing Link Between Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes is Found
APR 22, 2022
A Missing Link Between Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes is Found
Prokaryotic cells, which include all bacteria and archaea, are ancient, and relatively simple compared to eukaryotic cel ...
MAY 02, 2022
Immunology
A Gene Defect That Causes Deadly Reactions to Viruses & Vaccines
MAY 02, 2022
A Gene Defect That Causes Deadly Reactions to Viruses & Vaccines
For many years, researchers have stressed the need to add diverse populations to genetic studies, which have often cente ...
MAY 12, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Gut Bacteria Composition Predicts Resposnse to Statins
MAY 12, 2022
Gut Bacteria Composition Predicts Resposnse to Statins
The composition of the gut microbiome is predictive of patient responses to statins. The corresponding study was publish ...
JUN 03, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
Poultry Vaccine Led to Increase in Antibiotic Resistance in Salmonella
JUN 03, 2022
Poultry Vaccine Led to Increase in Antibiotic Resistance in Salmonella
The Salmonella bacterium is a common cause of foodborne illness, and it isn't unusual to find strains of the microbe in ...
JUN 04, 2022
Immunology
Deciphering the Signals Between Invaders & Immune Cells
JUN 04, 2022
Deciphering the Signals Between Invaders & Immune Cells
Our immune system is a crucial, and has to be ready to respond to a variety of external threats that we are constantly e ...
JUN 08, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
Some Bacteria Can Shed Their Wall When Infected with a Virus
JUN 08, 2022
Some Bacteria Can Shed Their Wall When Infected with a Virus
It was long thought that when the membrane of a cell lost its integrity and broke down, the cell would die; cells cannot ...
Loading Comments...