- “Principal Beamline Scientist, Dr. Katherine McAuley demonstrates the sample handling set up on Diamond’s CRYSTAL beamline I03”
For the first time, scientists have now observed exactly how dynein transports cargo around the cell. This research could prove instrumental to the prevention of scenarios leading to nerve cell death and infection. The group discovered that dynein works because another protein, known as a ‘cargo adaptor’, attaches to it, causing it to bind with yet another protein: dynactin. This creates an intricate protein complex and sets off a reaction that causes dynein to move around the cell, transporting its cargo.
This research opens up exciting possibilities for further study. The team suspects that the cargo adapter that binds to dynein varies depending on the cargo that is being carried – so there will be a different adaptor for mitochondria, for mRNA, and so on. The next step is for researchers to investigate other cargo adapters, to expand our understanding of the transport network.
This is highly significant research; understanding exactly how the cellular transport network functions could allow us to intervene and prevent things from going wrong. This work could have future implications for the design of medical therapies for both neurological conditions and herpes.
Dr Andrew Carter comments: “dynein and dynactin are really challenging to work with, but my team did an amazing job. We found it fascinating to discover how it works and look forward to future developments in understanding how it contributes to human diseases”.
The research was supported by the I03 beamline at Diamond, where the team determined the crystal structure of part of the protein complex at the heart of the transport mechanism. The team also used cryo-electron microscopy at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. Cryo-EM is an advanced technique that allows scientists to study biological process in intricate detail, and Diamond is currently building its own cryo-EM facility, which will be opening in late 2015. Diamond’s Life Sciences Director, Dave Stuart comments: “Diamond is delighted to be home to this new facility and it is hoped that through this major advances in visualising sub cellular mechanisms will be made.”
The findings of the MRC team opens up many new possibilities for research into cellular transport networks and their role in disease. This work could be an early stage in discovering new ways of preventing things going wrong within the networks, thus leading to new therapies for some of nature’s most hard to treat diseases.