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

Stem Cell Study Opens Door to Undiscovered World of Biology

Published: Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Last Updated: Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Bookmark and Share
Discovery published in Nature measures protein production.

For the first time, researchers have shown that an essential biological process known as protein synthesis can be studied in adult stem cells something scientists have long struggled to accomplish.

The findings from the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) also demonstrate that the precise amount of protein produced by blood-forming stem cells is crucial to their function.

The discovery, published online Sunday in Nature, measures protein production, a process known as translation, and shows that protein synthesis is not only fundamental to how stem cells are regulated, but also is critical to their regenerative potential.

“We unveiled new areas of cellular biology that no one has seen before,” said Dr. Sean Morrison, Director of the Children’s Research Institute, Professor of Pediatrics, and the Mary McDermott Cook Chair in Pediatric Genetics at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “No one has ever studied protein synthesis in somatic stem cells. This finding not only tells us something new about stem cell regulation, but opens up the ability to study differences in protein synthesis between many kinds of cells in the body. We believe there is an undiscovered world of biology that allows different kinds of cells to synthesize protein at different rates and in different ways, and that those differences are important for cellular survival.”

Dr. Adrian Salic’s laboratory at Harvard Medical School chemically modified the antibiotic puromycin in a way that made it possible to visualize and quantify the amount of protein synthesized by individual cells within the body.

Dr. Robert A.J. Signer, a postdoctoral research fellow in Dr. Morrison’s laboratory and first author of the study, realized that this reagent could be adapted to measure new protein synthesis by stem cells and other cells in the blood-forming system.

What they came across was astonishing, Dr. Morrison said. The findings suggested that different types of blood cells produce vastly different amounts of protein per hour, and stem cells in particular synthesize much less protein than any other blood-forming cells.

“This result suggests that blood-forming stem cells require a lower rate of protein synthesis as compared to other blood-forming cells,” said Dr. Morrison, the paper’s senior author.

Researchers applied the findings to a mouse model with a genetic mutation in a component of the ribosome the machinery that makes proteins and the rate of protein production was reduced in stem cells by 30 percent. The scientists also increased the rate of protein synthesis by deleting the tumor suppressor gene Pten in blood-forming stem cells. In both instances, stem cell function was noticeably impaired.

Together, these observations demonstrate that blood-forming stem cells require a highly regulated rate of protein synthesis, such that increases or decreases in that rate impair stem cell function.

“Amazingly, when the ribosomal mutant mice and the Pten mutant mice were bred together, stem cell function returned to normal, and we greatly delayed, and in some instances entirely blocked, the development of leukemia,” Dr. Morrison said. “All of this happened because protein production in stem cells was returned to normal. It was as if two wrongs made a right.”

Many diseases, including degenerative diseases and certain types of cancers, are associated with mutations in the machinery that makes proteins. However, why this is the case has yet to be understood. Discoveries such as this raise the possibility that changes in protein synthesis are necessary for the development of those diseases.

“Many people think of protein synthesis as a housekeeping function, in that it happens behind the scenes in all cells,” Dr. Signer said. “The reality is that a lot of housekeeping functions are highly regulated; they have just not been studied enough to recognize the difference among cells. I think what we are seeing with this study is just the tip of the iceberg, where the process of protein production is probably quite different in distinct cell types.”

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 2,700+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,800+ 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.

Related Content

Physiologists Uncover a New Code at the Heart of Biology
New “code” - the speed limit of assembly - dictate the ultimate function of a given protein.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Cell that Replenishes Heart Muscle Found by UT Southwestern Researchers
Researchers devise a new cell-tracing technique to detect cells that do replenish themselves.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Researchers Find Molecular Mechanisms within Fetal Lungs that Initiate Labor
Biochemists found that steroid receptor coactivators 1 and 2 (SRC-1 and SRC-2) proteins control genes.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
MAGE Genes Provide Insight into Optimizing Chemotherapy
UT Southwestern Medical Center scientists have identified a new biomarker that could help identify patients who are more likely to respond to certain chemotherapies.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Researchers Find New Mechanism That Controls Immune Responses
The findings appear online in the journal Science.
Friday, February 13, 2015
Protein Variant may Boost Cardiovascular Risk by Hindering Blood Vessel Repair
Researchers have found that apoE3 helps repair the lining of blood vessels.
Friday, September 19, 2014
UTSW Cancer Researchers Identify Irreversible Inhibitor for KRAS Gene Mutation
Irreversible inhibitor for KRAS gene mutation involved in lung, colon, and pancreatic cancers.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
UT Southwestern Researcher Selected for ASBMB Merck Award
Award recognizes Dr. Zhijian Chen’s outstanding contributions to research in biochemistry and molecular biology.
Friday, July 18, 2014
Cellular Force That Drives Allergy and Asthma Can be Blocked by Interferon
Type I interferons block the development of allergy- and asthma-driving Th2 cells.
Friday, June 20, 2014
Proteins Causing Daytime Sleepiness Also Tied to Bone Formation
Orexin proteins provide target for osteoporosis, UT Southwestern researchers find.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
New Mechanism Explains How Cancer Cells Spread
A protein critical to the spread of deadly cancer cells has been identified and how it works determined.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Dr. Beth Levine Receives 2014 Stanley J. Korsmeyer Award
Award recognizes Dr. Levine’s fundamental contributions to the understanding of autophagy.
Friday, February 07, 2014
Two UT Southwestern Scientists Earn Spots on Top 20 List
Dr. Eric Olson and Dr. Philip Thomas earn spots in translational research.
Saturday, February 01, 2014
Study Identifies Potential Therapeutic Target for Incurable, Rare Type of Soft-Tissue Cancer
UT Southwestern scientists study published online in Cell Reports.
Friday, December 27, 2013
Overexpressed Protein A Culprit in Certain Thyroid Cancers
Study by UT Southwestern researchers suggests a link between nervous system and cancer.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Scientific News
Analyzing Protein Structures in Their Native Environment
Enhanced-sensitivity NMR could reveal new clues to how proteins fold.
Biomarker Predicting Transplant Complications May be Key to Treating Them
A protein that can be used to predict if a stem cell transplant patient will suffer severe complications may also be the key to preventing those complications, an international research team based at the Indiana University School of Medicine reported Wednesday.
New Protein Cleanup Factors Found to Control Bacterial Growth
UMass Amherst researchers characterize previously mysterious proteolysis factors.
Proteins with ALS, Cancer Role Do Not Assume a Regular Shape
Our cells contain proteins, essential to functions like protein creation and DNA repair but also involved in forms of ALS and cancer, that never take a characteristic shape, a new study shows.
Key to Natural Detoxifier’s Reactivity Discovered
Results have implications for health, drug design and chemical synthesis.
New Protein Found in Immune Cells
Immunobiologists from the University of Freiburg discover Kidins220/ARMS in B cells and demonstrate its functions.
Cell's Waste Disposal System Regulates Body Clock Proteins
New way to identify interacting proteins could identify potential drug targets.
How a Molecular Motor Untangles Protein
Diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and prion diseases, all involve “tangled” proteins.
Compound Doubles Up On Cancer Detection
Researchers have found that tagging a pair of markers found almost exclusively on a common brain cancer yields a cancer signal that is both more obvious and more specific to cancer.
How Cell Growth Triggers Cell Division
Researchers in Jan Skotheim's lab have discovered a previously unknown mechanism that controls how large cells grow, an insight that could one day provide insight into attacking diseases such as cancer.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

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
2,700+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos