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Controlling traffic on cellular highways

New treatments for spinal cord injuries and #neurodegenerative diseases may be arriving on the back of recent findings of researchers at the New Jersey based Rutgers University. Protein motors or kinesins or dyneins are like trucks that ferry life-sustaining cargo riding on slender cellular autobahns called microtubules. The Rutgers team has now discovered how cells manage this traffic by deploying enzyme-based signals.

“To stay alive and function, every cell in our body needs to transport the right amount of these cargoes to the right places inside cells at the right time,” said Robert O’Hagan, assistant research professor in the Human Genetics Institute of New Jersey and the Department of Genetics at Rutgers University. “Such traffic regulation involves a massive amount of organisation inside cells. Now we know a lot more about how that happens.”

The study herald new hope of future therapies for spinal cord and nerve injuries and neurodegenerative diseases. It addresses a central question in cell biology: how are the intracellular transport and the highway systems organised?

The scientists found that TTLL-11 is an enzyme that puts traffic signs composed of the amino acid glutamate on the microtubule highways to regulate the speed of the protein cargo trucks. CCPP-1 is an enzyme that takes down these glutamate traffic signs when there are too many of them.


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