Ageing and some of its pathologies may be related to a cellular identity crisis
A membrane-bound nucleus is what defines eukaryotic cells. To traffic macromolecules between the nucleus and the cytoplasm, the nuclear envelope has huge nuclear pore complexes (NPCs) consisting of more than 1 000 protein subunits in humans called nucleoporins. These NPCs are extremely long-lived and remain incorporated in the nuclear membrane for the entire life of the cell. Defects in nucleoporins play a role in cancer and ageing, and recently a link was found between nucleoporins, a key gene regulator and maintenance of cell identity in neural progenitor cells (that differentiate into neurons and glial cells). The EU-funded EAGER project is investigating the complicated relationship between cell type-specific gene regulation, cellular identity and ageing and disease.
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