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Archive - Mar 10, 2013

Selectively Manipulating Protein Modifications

Protein activity is strictly regulated. Incorrect or poor protein regulation can lead to uncontrolled growth and thus cancer or chronic inflammation. Members of the Institute of Veterinary Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Zurich have identified enzymes that can regulate the activity of medically important proteins. Their discovery enables these proteins to be manipulated very selectively, opening up new treatment methods for inflammations and cancer. The work was published online on March 10, 2013 in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. A related article was also published online at the same time in the same journal. For a healthy organism, it is crucial for proteins to be active or inactive at the right time. The corresponding regulation is often based on a chemical modification of the protein structure: Enzymes attach small molecules to particular sites on a protein or remove them, thereby activating or deactivating the protein. Members of the Institute of Veterinary Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Zurich, in collaboration with researches at other institutes, have now discovered how the inactivation of a protein, which is important for medicine, can be reversed. An important protein modification is ADP-ribosylation, which is involved in certain types of breast cancer, cellular stress reactions, and gene regulation. So-called ADP-ribosyltransferases attach the ADP ribose molecule to proteins, thereby altering their function. In recent years, many ADP-ribosyltransferases have been discovered that can convey single or several ADP-riboses to different proteins. Enzymes that can remove these riboses again, however, are less well known. Professor Michael Hottiger's team of researchers has now identified a new group of such ADP-ribosylhydrolases.

Telomere Length in Heart Disease Patients Can Predict Life Expectancy

Can the length of strands of DNA in patients with heart disease predict their life expectancy? Researchers from the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City, who studied the DNA of more that 3,500 patients with heart disease, say yes it can. In the new study, presented Saturday, March 9, 2013, at the American College of Cardiology's Annual Scientific Session in San Francisco, the researchers were able to predict survival rates among patients with heart disease based on the length of strands of DNA found at the ends of chromosomes known as telomeres—the longer the patient's telomeres, the greater the chance of living a longer life. The study is one of 17 studies from the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center that are being presented at the scientific session, which is being attended by thousands of cardiologists and heart experts from around the world. Previous research has shown that telomere length can be used as a measure of age, but these expanded findings suggest that telomere length may also predict the life expectancy of patients with heart disease. Telomeres protect the ends of chromosome from becoming damaged. As people get older, their telomeres get shorter until the cell is no longer able to divide. Shortened telomeres are associated with age-related diseases such as heart disease or cancer, as well as exposure to oxidative damage from stress, smoking, air pollution, or conditions that accelerate biologic aging. "Chromosomes by their nature get shorter as we get older," said John Carlquist, Ph.D., director of the Intermountain Heart Institute Genetics Lab. "Once they become too short, they no longer function properly, signaling the end of life for the cell. And when cells reach this stage, the patient's risk for age-associated diseases increases dramatically." Dr.

Maternal Care: How Mother Deer Protect Their Future Leaders

Do mothers invest more care in their sons if they believe their child is destined to be a king, president, or a high-powered leader? The answer is definitively yes – as long as those mothers and their sons happen to have hooves. New research from Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah reports that, just like the classic tale of Bambi, females from the deer family are more likely to invest more in the survival and health of their male offspring if there is a good chance those sons will become a “Great Prince of the Forest.” “Our research demonstrates clearly that a mother’s investment in her offspring was evident during adulthood, even though offspring live independently of their mothers from a very young age,” said Dr. Brock McMillan, associate professor of wildlife ecology at BYU. The comprehensive study of deer and elk from the Intermountain West found that the most dominant males at the time of death were those who were born into the most favorable maternal conditions 5 to 15 years before. While favorable maternal conditions are largely tied to the health of the expectant mother, there are additional elements at play. A mother’s investment happens both in the womb and during the first few months of life. During those early stages of life, mothers take care to provide more excellent nourishment through lactation as well as better habitats for the baby. “Male deer and elk live independently of their mothers for several years in highly variable environments,” Dr. McMillan said. “They live through severe winters with deep snow and little to eat, dry summers with poor quality food, and years of injuries and ailments associated with everyday life.