BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Newly published research by Indiana University structural biologist Joel Ybe and colleagues identifies a "topology switch" in the protein clathrin, the function of which may shed light on molecular processes involved in tumor suppression.
The paper, available in and featured on the front cover of the Jan. 16, 2013, issue of FEBS Letters, a journal of the Federation of European Biochemical Societies, could broaden scientists' understanding of the importance of clathrin and potentially lead to new strategies for controlling cancer.
"This is a totally unexpected but wonderful finding," Ybe said. "It has exciting implications for understanding the role that clathrin may play in the growth or suppression of tumors."
Ybe is a senior research scientist in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry in the IU College of Arts and Sciences. Co-authors of the paper are postdoctoral researchers Sarah Fontaine and Xiaoyan Lin; IU chemist Todd Stone; Sanjay Mishra, formerly at IU and now at Vanderbilt University; and Jay Nix of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Typically found in a three-legged form called a trimer, clathrin is best understood for its role in endocytosis, the process by which cells absorb proteins and other molecules. But recent research has suggested that clathrin in a one-legged form, or monomer, may have a role in suppressing tumors. Ybe and his team show how a "switch" in clathrin can be flipped to produce non-trimeric clathrin molecules.
"Clathrin is known to function as a trimer in receptor-mediated endocytosis, but the existence of the monomeric form and its role in tumor suppression is less well-accepted," said Alexandra Ainsztein, who oversees membrane trafficking grants at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health. "By providing evidence for a model in which a molecular shift de-trimerizes clathrin and changes its ce
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