New approach for investigating protein function

New approach for investigating protein function

Illuminate newsletter index page, September 2019
September 2019

Professor David Kommander
Professor David Kommander has been investigating how
removing ubiquitin proteins may help treat cancer and
neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson's disease.

Australian researchers are among the first in the world to have access to a new approach to understand intricate changes that control how proteins function in our cells in health and disease.

The new proteomics technique called ‘ubiquitin clipping’ allows researchers to create high definition maps of how proteins are modified by a process called ubiquitination.

The research, published in Nature, was led by Institute researcher Professor David Komander, who undertook the work at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK.

Ubiquitin architecture

Professor Komander said protein ubiquitination could impact all cellular processes.

“Ubiquitination can change how proteins function, potentially altering their activity, redirecting them to different parts of the cell, or regulating their interactions with other proteins,” Professor Komander said.

Insights for disease

The technique provides a new level of detail for understanding the role of ubiquitination in cells. It could uncover subtle changes that contribute to a range of diseases including cancer, inflammatory conditions and neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

“This is a revolutionary technique that enables a new level of detailed experimentation. It’s the difference between describing a house based solely on the number of walls, windows and doors it has, versus looking at the detailed architectural plans,” he said.
 

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Professor David Komander pictured giving a presentation

Professor David Komander provides an introduction to the ubiquitin code and its potential for tackling diseases such as Parkinson's disease.

Two male researchers standing in a laboratory

Our researchers have revealed how a key protein protects against the death of neurons that occurs in Parkinson's disease.