AgriLife Research study discovers new target for controlling cell division

microscopic image of two cells dividing

By measuring how efficiently individual proteins perform during cell division, biochemists with Texas A&M Agrilife Research have discovered that the enzymes that make lipids and membranes are synthesized with much greater efficiency when a cell is ready to split

That is a conclusion of collaborative research published this month in the European Molecular Biology Organization Journal, according to Michael Polymenis, an Texas A&M AgriLife Research biochemist, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University, and the paper’s lead author.

Polymenis said the finding provides new targets for controlling cell division in future studies. That’s important, he said, because dysregulated cell division is a factor in some diseases, such as cancer.

“Understanding the role of protein synthesis during cell division will shed light on when cells will initiate their division, how fast they will complete it, the number of successive cell divisions, and the coordination of cell proliferation with the available nutrients,” said Heidi Blank, an AgriLife assistant research scientist and the paper’s co-author.

The research profiled yeast cells from the time of cell birth to identify messenger RNAs as they translated into proteins. That showed the development of lipids late in the cell cycle and the connection to cell division.

The report, which included scientists from Texas A&M and The Buck Institute for Research on Aging, noted that no studies previously had “queried directly and comprehensively the efficiency with which each individual protein is made during cell division in growing cells.”

It turns out that not all proteins are made with the same efficiency, Polymenis said.

“If the dream of every cell is to become two cells as the Nobelist François Jacob famously quipped in 1971, then it is protein synthesis that makes cellular dreams come true,” he said. “Protein synthesis underpins much of cell growth and determines the rate at which cells proliferate.”

The research combined computational approaches to analyze the data by Rodolfo Aramayo, an associate professor in the University’s Department of Biology, and relied on Texas A&M’s state-of-the-art genome sequencing facilities, led by its director, Charlie Johnson.

The study was funded by AgriLife Research, Texas A&M and the National Institutes of Health.

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