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Two-way traffic enable proteins to get where needed, avoid disease

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Posted November 27, 2013
2-way traffic enable proteins to get where needed, avoid disease
This is Dr. Graydon B. Gonsalvez, cell biologist at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University. Credit: Phil Jones
It turns out that your messenger RNA may catch more than one ride to get where it’s going.

Scientists have found that mRNA may travel one way down a cell, then board another, aptly named motor protein, and head in the opposite direction to get where it ultimately needs to be.

It’s a pretty important journey, because mRNA determines which proteins a cell expresses, differentiating a brain cell from, say, a muscle cell, said Dr. Graydon B. Gonsalvez, cell biologist at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.

“It used to be thought there was a relatively simple scenario where if a cargo needs to go here, it gets on one track and it goes that way,” said Gonsalvez, corresponding author of the study in the journal PLOS ONE.

But like a motorist on a backed-up interstate, scientists at MCG and the University of Cambridge, have found that mRNA needs the flexibility to maneuver around potentially numerous obstacles in its path to ultimately arrive at the right spot.

“The ability to reverse their tracks is important to their ability to eventually get where they need to go,” Gonsalvez said. And location is really everything, because the proteins need to be expressed in a specific location to function correctly.

While too much misdirection is incompatible with life, a little is OK and maybe even normal. But at levels in between, the health consequences can include Alzheimer’s, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and Fragile X syndrome, which can produce mild to severe intellectual deficits as well as physical characteristics such as flat feet and an elongated face. “Most human diseases come from not a loss of a process, but a compromise to the process,” Gonsalvez said.

Read more at: Phys.org

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