Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Cell Culture
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Light at the Ends of the Tunnel

Published: Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Last Updated: Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Illuminating the structure of the human nuclear pore complex.

Imagine a tunnel the width of a car, which could expand to grant passage to trucks, and bend when earthquakes shook the ground around it. To find such a tunnel, you need look no further than your own body: there are thousands in each of your cells. Called nuclear pore complexes, these tunnels control traffic in and out of the cell’s nucleus. When scientists in the Beck group at EMBL Heidelberg determined what one of the nuclear pore’s main building blocks – Nup107 – looks like and how it is arranged, they found clues to the tunnel’s flexibility.

“The nuclear pore complex always looks like a perfect ring in the pictures, but in practice we know that it’s not – it’s very floppy,” says Martin Beck. “We found that Nup107 has four hinges where it can bend, to allow this floppiness. There might be two biological reasons for this: it might prevent the pore from breaking if the nuclear membrane is pulled or distorted, and it could also allow the pore to expand a bit to transport very large cargoes.”

Nup107 is shaped like a Y, and scientists at EMBL and elsewhere had been amassing evidence that 8 copies of this Y-shaped piece line up head-to-tail to form the nuclear pore’s ring shape. Khanh Huy Bui and Alexander von Appen, both in the Beck group, discovered that this is not a simple head-to-tail chain. Working with visiting PhD student Amanda DiGuilio, they found that the ring is formed by pairs of pieces, like a chain of tandem bicycles. Eight of these pairs form a ring at either end of the nuclear pore tunnel. This puts the definitive number of Nup107 copies in the nuclear pore at 32, in agreement with a study published earlier this year in which the Beck, Lemke and Bork groups calculated how many copies of each piece make up the nuclear pore.

Once assembled – and unlike most man-made tunnels – nuclear pores are not left permanently in place. They have to be dismantled – along with the membrane they sit in – for our cells to divide. Scientists knew that this disassembly is accomplished by adding phosphate tags to the nuclear pore, and the EMBL researchers have now found that those tags are inserted at the points where the Y-shaped pieces attach to each other, effectively prising apart the tunnel’s building blocks.

In the current study, published recently in Cell, Beck and colleagues used single particle electron microscopy and mass spectrometry to figure out how the molecules within each Y are arranged, and how the Ys connect to each other. They then fitted those pieces into the overall image of the whole ring, which they obtained through electron tomography.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Scientific News
Novel Tumor Treatment
In the first published results from a $386,000 National Cancer Institute grant awarded earlier this year, a paper by Scott Verbridge and Rafael Davalos has been published.
Personalized Drug Screening for Multiple Myeloma Patients
A personalized method for testing the effectiveness of drugs that treat multiple myeloma may predict quickly and more accurately the best treatments for individual patients with the bone marrow cancer.
Cancer-Fighting Tomato Component Traced
The metabolic pathway associated with lycopene, the bioactive red pigment found in tomatoes, has been traced by researchers at the University of Illinois.
Some Gut Microbes May Be Keystones of Health
University of Oregon scientists have found that strength in numbers doesn’t hold true for microbes in the intestines. A minority population of the right type might hold the key to regulating good health.
The Life Story of Stem Cells
A model analyses the development of stem cell numbers in the human body.
Novel Stem Cell Line Avoids Risk of Introducing Transplanted Tumors
Progenitor cells might eventually be used to repair or rebuild damaged or destroyed organs.
Tissue Engineers Recruit Cells to Make Their Own Strong Matrix
Extracellular matrix is the material that gives tissues their strength and stretch. It’s been hard to make well in the lab, but a Brown University team reports new success. The key was creating a culture environment that guided cells to make ECM themselves.
Towards Patient-Specific Drug Screening
A new breakthrough by the 3D stem cell printing team at Heriot-Watt could pave the way to individually tailored drug testing regimes, both reducing the need for animal testing and ensuring that patients receive drugs which are most effective for their individual needs.
Artificial Kidney Research Gets A Boost
Development of a surgically implantable, artificial kidney — a promising alternative to kidney transplantation or dialysis for people with end-stage kidney disease — has received a $6 million boost.
Improving the Efficiency of Red Blood Cell Production
Study points to way of significantly reducing cost of laboratory-produced cells.

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos