Rewrite the textbooks and revisit old experiments, because there's a new cog in our cellular machinery that has been discovered by researchers from the University of Alberta and the University of Cambridge Institute for Medical Research.
Inside every cell that isn't bacterial, there is a "membrane trafficking system." It has long been known to have four protein complexes, called adaptins, which are all involved in moving things in, out and around the cell. Joel Dacks, in the Department of Cell biology in the U of A Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, along with Cambridge colleague Margaret Robinson, have discovered there is a fifth adaptin. According to their research it has been around for billions of years, but no one has been able to spot it.
"What this does for cell biology is open up a whole new avenue of research," said Dacks. "We thought there were four big players in the processes of how things got moved around in the back half of the cell. There's a fifth player on the field; we just couldn't see it."
Understanding how trafficking works in cells is vital because when something goes wrong in this system, oftentimes this is when you get disease. Mutations in genes involved in trafficking are implicated in a number of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's, Huntington's disease and ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
"We already have one disease where we know where this complex is involved," said Dacks. It is called hereditary spastic paraplegia which causes increasing leg spasms and eventually loss of mobility.
"More importantly it goes back to that idea that to understand the diseased cell, we have to know what a healthy one really looks like. You need to understand the basic map of the cell to be able to identify how it has gone wrong. We have discovered a previously unrecognized major feature on that map."
[link to www.physorg.com