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3D organization of yeast MAP-kinase modules

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Tracking signals in cells

Signals exchanged between cells on a microscopic level shed light on intricate biological systems. The results could help to understand disease and develop treatments.


The body is made up of billions of different cells with different functions. Cells can be divided into two types: prokaryotic cells that are basic, such as bacteria, and eukaryotic cells which are more complex, such as amoeba and yeasts. Eukaryotic cells contain numerous signalling pathways used to transmit information from the plasma membrane (a cell's outer membrane) to the nucleus (a cell's 'core', containing its genetic material). Because there are so many pathways in a cell, it is almost impossible to tell how a given stimulus leads to a precise response. Such information on specific pathways is important in understanding biological behaviour, studying diseases and developing treatments. An EU-funded research project – ′3D organisation of yeast MAP-kinase modules′, i.e. intracellular signalling systems in yeast, (MAPK modules) will help scientists tease out the secrets of eukaryotic cells and how they function. Over the last decade, research has shown that signalling pathways are controlled by specific proteins called scaffolding proteins. These bind pathway members and restrict them to act only on one another. In yeast, as in mammals, several of these scaffold proteins for MAP-kinase modules have been identified. The project plans to identify the exact mechanism by which these scaffold molecules physically control the transmission of signalling information. Extensive laboratory testing is being undertaken to identify these specific mechanisms, in conjunction with advanced technology such as X-ray crystallography, electron cryomicroscopy and bioinformatics. The project team has already identified hundreds of signalling proteins implicated in eukaryotic cells, a feat that will have much impact on medical research. In other words, when the project objectives are achieved, research scientists will have a much clearer idea of the internal workings of eukaryotic cells. This knowledge will help advance biology and medicine in novel ways.

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