News Archive


Schematic showing how amino acid inputs control the activity of the growth-regulating mTORC1 pathway

Scientists discover essential amino acid sensor in key growth-regulating metabolic pathway

October 8, 2015

Whitehead Institute scientists have at last answered the long-standing question of how the growth-regulating pathway known as mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) detects the presence of the amino acid leucine—itself a key player in modulating muscle growth, appetite, and insulin secretion.

Diagram of antiparallel beta-sheet structure of the enzyme catalase:

Enhanced-sensitivity NMR could reveal clues on how proteins fold

October 8, 2015

Until now, it has been difficult to fully characterize the different structures that proteins can take on in their natural environments. However, using a new technique known as sensitivity-enhanced nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), Whitehead Institute and MIT researchers have shown that they can analyze the structure that a yeast protein forms as it interacts with other proteins in a cell.

Microscope image of a B lymphocyte showing the location of the mitochondria in relation to the nucleus and plasma membrane

Hydrogen peroxide induces signals that link the mitochondrial respiratory chain to specific cellular pathway

October 5, 2015

Countering the prevailing theory that cellular hydrogen peroxide signaling is broad and non-specific, Whitehead Institute scientists have discovered that this reactive oxygen species (ROS) in fact triggers a distinct signal transduction cascade under control of the mitochondrial respiratory chain—the Syk pathway—that regulates transcription, translation, metabolism, and the cell cycle in diverse cell types. Hydrogen peroxide and other ROS mediate cellular responses in aging and myriad common chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and neurodegeneration. Understanding how these signals function may point to new therapy targets for these conditions.

New methodology tracks changes in DNA methylation in real time at single-cell resolution

September 24, 2015

Whitehead Institute researchers have developed a tool that allows scientists to monitor changes in DNA methylation over time in individual cells. Certain diseases, including cancer, cause changes in DNA methylation patterns, and the ability to document these alterations could aid in the development of novel therapies.

Diagram of RAB35's role in oncogenesis

New role for an old protein: Cancer causer

September 3, 2015

A protein known to play a role in transporting the molecular contents of normal cells into and out of various intracellular compartments can also turn such cells cancerous by stimulating a key growth-control pathway.

Diagram of cancer versus normal stem cells

Variations in cell programs control cancer and normal stem cells

September 3, 2015

In the breast, cancer stem cells and normal stem cells can arise from different cell types and tap into distinct yet related stem cell programs, according to Whitehead Institute researchers. The differences between these stem cell programs may be significant enough to be exploited by future therapeutics.

Slides of tagged cells

Cellular recycling complexes may hold key to chemotherapy resistance

September 2, 2015

Upsetting the balance between protein synthesis, misfolding, and degradation drives cancer and neurodegeneration. Recent cancer treatments take advantage of this knowledge with a class of drugs that block protein degradation, known as proteasome inhibitors. Widespread resistance to these drugs limits their success, but Whitehead researchers have discovered a potential Achilles heel in resistance. With such understandings researchers may be able to target malignancy broadly, and more effectively.

Picture of Whitehead Institute

Tenure track faculty position at Whitehead Institute and Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

September 1, 2015

Whitehead Institute and Department of Biology at M.I.T. are seeking an outstanding scientist for a tenure track faculty position at the Assistant Professor level. 

Diagram of CDPK1 in its active and inactive forms

Tiny antibodies point to vulnerability in disease-causing parasites

August 24, 2015

By teasing apart the structure of an enzyme vital to the parasites that cause toxoplasmosis and malaria, Whitehead Institute scientists have identified a potentially ‘drugable’ target that could prevent parasites from entering and exiting host cells.

Photo of CampBio students

Amgen Foundation grant bolsters Whitehead Institute’s science education programs for middle school students

August 11, 2015

Whitehead Institute has strengthened its popular science education programs for middle schoolers this year thanks to a new grant from the Amgen Foundation.

Electron microscope image of a mitochondrion

Amino acid shortage curbs proliferation in cells with mitochondrial dysfunction

July 31, 2015

According to Whitehead Institute researchers, cells with malfunctioning mitochondria are unable to proliferate due to a shortage of the amino acid aspartate, not because of an energy crisis, as was once thought. Mitochondrial dysfunction plays a role in a host of relatively rare disorders as well as neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson’s disease.

Forks colliding: How DNA breaks during re-replication

June 4, 2015

Leveraging a novel system designed to examine the double-strand DNA breaks that occur as a consequence of gene amplification during DNA replication, Whitehead Institute scientists are bringing new clarity to the causes of such genomic damage. Moreover, because errors arising during DNA replication and gene amplification result in chromosomal abnormalities often found in malignant cells, these new findings may bolster our understandings of certain drivers of cancer progression.


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