Navigation Links
Caught in the act: Researchers capture key moments in cell death

Scientists at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute have for the first time visualised the molecular changes in a critical cell death protein that force cells to die.

The finding provides important insights into how cell death occurs, and could lead to new classes of medicines that control whether diseased cells live or die.

Cell death, called apoptosis, is important for controlling the number of cells in the body. Defects in cell death have been linked to the development of diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative conditions. Insufficient cell death can cause cancer by allowing cells to become immortal while excessive cell death of neurons may be a cause of neurodegenerative conditions.

Dr Peter Czabotar, Professor Peter Colman and colleagues in the institute's Structural Biology division, together with Dr Dana Westphal from the institute's Molecular Genetics of Cancer division, made the discovery which is published in the latest edition of the journal Cell.

Dr Czabotar said activation of the protein Bax had long been known to be an important event leading to apoptosis, but until now it was not known how this activation occurred. "One of the key steps in cell death is that holes are punched into a membrane in the cell, the mitochondrial membrane," Dr Czabotar said. "Once this happens the cell is going to go on and die. Bax is responsible for punching the holes in the mitochondrial membrane and visualising its activation brings us a step closer to understanding the mechanics of cell death."

Using the Australian Synchrotron, Dr Czabotar and colleagues were able to obtain detailed three-dimensional images of Bax changing shape as it moved from its inactive to active form. The active form ruptures mitochondrial membranes, removing the cell's energy supply and causing cell death.

"By using the powerful X-ray beams created by the synchrotron, we obtained structures of Bax that were really exciting," Dr Czabotar said. "Bax is activated when small protein fragments called BH3-peptides bind to it. We saw that these peptides open up the Bax molecule like a key unlocking a padlock. This unlocked form of Bax can bind to another Bax molecule, which can then form larger Bax complexes that can go on to break up membranes in the cell.

"As well as explaining the detail of how cell death occurs, our research could provide clues about how to design potential new therapeutic agents that target Bax," Dr Czabotar said. "Now that we can see how Bax changes its shape to move from the inactive to the active form, it may be possible to block Bax activation, to prevent cell death in conditions such as neurodegenerative disorders, where illness is caused by excessive cell death. Similarly, agents that drive Bax into its active form could force immortal cells such as cancer cells to die, providing the basis for a potential new class of anti-cancer agents."

Contact: Vanessa Solomon
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Related biology news :

1. Study by UC Santa Barbara researchers suggests that bacteria communicate by touch
2. UC Santa Barbara researchers discover genetic link between visual pathways of hydras and humans
3. Researchers attempt to solve problems of antibiotic resistance and bee deaths in one
4. UNH researchers find African farmers need better climate change data to improve farming practices
5. Ottawa researchers to lead world-first clinical trial of stem cell therapy for septic shock
6. Researchers uncover molecular pathway through which common yeast becomes fungal pathogen
7. Researchers print live cells with a standard inkjet printer
8. Columbia Engineering and Penn researchers increase speed of single-molecule measurements
9. Researchers reveal how a single gene mutation leads to uncontrolled obesity
10. Researchers discover novel therapy for Crohns disease
11. New paper by Notre Dame researchers describes method for cleaning up nuclear waste
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Caught in the act: Researchers capture key moments in cell death
(Date:4/6/2017)... Forecasts by Product Type (EAC), ... End-Use (Transportation & Logistics, Government & Public Sector, Utilities ... Generation Facility, Nuclear Power), Industrial, Retail, Business Organisation (BFSI), ... you looking for a definitive report on the $27.9bn ... ...
(Date:4/4/2017)... April 4, 2017   EyeLock LLC , a ... the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has ... the linking of an iris image with a face ... represents the company,s 45 th issued patent. ... very timely given the multi-modal biometric capabilities that have ...
(Date:3/30/2017)... NEW YORK , March 30, 2017 ... by type (physiological and behavioral), by technology (fingerprint, AFIS, ... recognition, voice recognition, and others), by end use industry ... travel and immigration, financial and banking, and others), and ... Europe , Asia Pacific ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. , Oct. 11, 2017  SkylineDx ... London (ICR) and University of Leeds ... to risk-stratify patients with multiple myeloma (MM), in a multi-centric ... The University of Leeds is the ... UK, and ICR will perform the testing services to include ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... San Diego-based team building ... corporate rebranding initiative announced today. The bold new look is part of a ... company moves into a significant growth period. , It will also expand its service ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... firm Parks Associates announced today that Tom Kerber , ... Meeting , October 11 in Scottsdale, Arizona . Kerber ... smart safety and security products impact the competitive landscape. ... Parks Associates: Smart Home Devices: Main Purchase Driver ... "The residential security market has experienced continued growth, and the introduction ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... DIEGO , Oct. 9, 2017  BioTech ... biological mechanism by which its ProCell stem cell ... critical limb ischemia.  The Company, demonstrated that treatment ... amount of limbs saved as compared to standard ... the molecule HGF resulted in reduction of therapeutic ...
Breaking Biology Technology: