Tag: Protein Function

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.

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.

Transmembrane protein SLC38A9 appears to act as a nutrients sensor for the mTORC1 metabolic pathway

Scientists identify first nutrient sensor in key growth-regulating metabolic pathway

January 7, 2015

Scientists in the lab of Whitehead Institute Member David Sabatini have for the first time identified a protein that appears to be a nutrient sensor for the key growth-regulating mTORC1 metabolic pathway. 

Diagrams of DNA "goody bags"

Special chromosomal structures control key genes

October 7, 2014

Scientists have long theorized that the way in which the roughly three meters of DNA in a human cell is packaged to fit within a nuclear space just six microns wide, affects gene expression. Now, Whitehead Institute researchers present the first evidence that DNA structure does indeed have such effects—in this case finding a link between chromosome structure and the expression and repression of key genes.

Diagram of the Sestrins' role in mTORC1 regulation

New protein players found in key disease-related metabolic pathway

September 25, 2014

Cells rely on the mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) pathway—which senses the availability of nutrients—to coordinate their growth with existing environmental conditions. The lab of Whitehead Member David Sabatini has identified a family of proteins that negatively regulate the branch upstream of mTORC1 that senses amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

Images of tissue sections from breast cancer patient biopsies

Master heat-shock factor supports reprogramming of normal cells to enable tumor growth and metastasis

July 31, 2014

Long associated with enabling the proliferation of cancer cells, the ancient cellular survival response regulated by Heat-Shock Factor 1 (HSF1) can also turn neighboring cells in their environment into co-conspirators that support malignant progression and metastasis.

Graphic summary

Lost in translation? Not when it comes to control of gene expression during Drosophila development

May 29, 2014

The lab of Whitehead Member Terry Orr-Weaver has conducted perhaps the most comprehensive look yet at changes in translation and protein synthesis during a developmental change, using the oocyte-to-embryo transition in Drosophila as a model system. One of the insights from this research is that a surprisingly large number of mRNAs that are translationally regulated.

Schematic of how interrupting ATPIF1 rescues cells with mitochondrial dysfunction

Scientists find potential target for treating mitochondrial disorders

March 27, 2014

Mitochondria, long known as “cellular power plants” for their generation of the key energy source adenosine triphosphate (ATP), are essential for proper cellular functions. Mitochondrial defects are often observed in a variety of diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease, and are the hallmarks of a number of untreatable genetic mitochondrial disorders whose manifestations range from muscle weakness to organ failure. Whitehead Institute scientists have identified a protein whose inhibition could hold the key to alleviating suffering caused by such disorders.

Image comparing a surface form and cave form of the fish Astyanax mexicanus

Rapid evolution of novel forms: Environmental change triggers inborn capacity for adaptation

December 12, 2013

A team of researchers from Harvard Medical School and Whitehead Institute report that, at least in the case of one variety of cavefish, one agent of evolutionary change is the heat shock protein known as HSP90.

Image showing how cells with and without normal FLCN gene react to nutrients

Gene responsible for hereditary cancer syndrome found to disrupt critical growth-regulating pathway

November 7, 2013

Whitehead Institute scientists report that the gene mutated in the rare hereditary disorder known as Birt-Hogg-Dubé cancer syndrome prevents activation of mTORC1, a critical nutrient-sensing and growth-regulating cellular pathway.   

Microscope image of filamentation in Candida albicans with and without amphotericin B resistance

Understanding the evolution of drug resistance points to novel strategy for developing better antimicrobials

October 29, 2013

The most common fungal pathogen in humans, Candida albicans, rarely develops resistance to the antifungal drug amphotericin B (AmB).  This has been puzzling as the drug has been in clinical use for over 50 years. Whitehead Institute scientists have now discovered why.  The genetic mutations that enable certain strains of C. albicans to resist AmB simultaneously render it highly susceptible to environmental stressors and disarm its virulence factors.

Schematic showing nerve cells and person with Parkinson's disease within a yeast cell

Yeast, human stem cells drive discovery of new Parkinson’s disease drug targets

October 24, 2013

Using a discovery platform whose components range from yeast cells to human stem cells, Whitehead Institute scientists have identified a novel Parkinson’s disease drug target and a compound capable of repairing neurons derived from Parkinson’s patients.

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