There is much traffic in our cells. Many proteins, for example, need to travel from their production site in the cytoplasm to the nucleus, where they are used to read genetic information. Pores in the nuclear membrane enable their transport into and out of the cell nucleus. The Argovia Professor
"Dirty velcro" inside the nuclear pore
Nuclear pores are protein complexes within the nuclear membrane that enables molecular exchange between the cytoplasm and nucleus. The driving force is diffusion. Nuclear pores are lined with "velcro" like proteins. Only molecules specially marked with import proteins can bind to these proteins and thus pass the pore. But for all non-binding molecules the nuclear pore acts as a barrier. The researchers postulated that transport depends on the strength of binding to the "velcro" like proteins. The binding should be just strong enough that molecules to be transported can bind but at the same time not too tight so that they can still diffuse through the pore.
In an artificial system recreating the nuclear pore, the researchers tested their hypothesis. They coated particles with import proteins and studied their behavior on the molecular "velcro". Interestingly, the researchers found parallels in behavior to the velcro strip as we know it. On "clean velcro", the particles stick immediately. However, when the "velcro" is filled or "dirtied" with import proteins, it is less adhesive and the particles begin to slide over its surface just by diffusion. "Understanding how the transport process functions in the nuclear pore complex was decisive for our discovery," says Lim. "With the nanoscale 'velcro' we should be able to define the path to be taken as well as speed up the transport of selected particles without requiring external energy."
Potential lab-on-a-chip technology applications
Lim's investigations of biomolecular transport processes form the basis for the discovery of this remarkable phenomenon that particles can be transported selectively with a molecular "velcro". "This principle could find very practical applications, for instance as nanoscale conveyor belts, escalators or tracks," explains Lim. This could also potentially be applied to further miniaturize lab-on-chip technology, tiny labs on chips, where this newly discovered method of transportation would make today's complex pump and valve systems obsolete.
Keywords for this news article include: Nanoscale, Amino Acids, Cell Nucleus, Nuclear Pore, Nanotechnology, Nuclear Envelope, Cellular Structures, Intracellular Space,
Our reports deliver fact-based news of research and discoveries from around the world. Copyright 2014, NewsRx LLC
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