Scientists ID New Proteins in Programmed Cell Death

Findings may lead to novel drug targets for stroke, infectious diseases, study says

THURSDAY, Aug. 21, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. researchers have identified 170 more proteins to add to the 91 already known to be associated with programmed cell death, or apoptosis.

They also uncovered new information about how these proteins may function. The findings may help in the development of new drug treatments for stroke and a number of diseases, the researchers said.

For this study, a team at the Scripps Research Institute in California used a new technique they named PROtein Topography and Migration Analysis Platform (PROTOMAP) to analyze proteolysis, the act of enzymes breaking down larger proteins into smaller components.

It's believed that more than 500 enzymes are involved in proteolysis, a critical driver of apoptosis and processes such as blood coagulation, infectious diseases and the onset of cancer.

Along with identifying the 170 new proteins involved in apoptosis, the researchers learned more about how these proteins function.

It had been believed that protein breakdown during proteolysis was a process of disassembling proteins for disposal, and that only a few of the breakdown products remained to serve specific functions.

But the Scripps team said it appears that most protein breakdown products actually serve new functions, and only a handful are fully degraded.

They said the new proteins identified in this study should be studied more closely, because some may prove good targets for drugs to treat conditions in which apoptosis goes awry, such as strokes, in which brain cells are killed prematurely.

The study was published in the Aug. 22 issue of the journal Cell.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about stroke.

SOURCE: Scripps Research Institute, news release, Aug. 21, 2008
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