Posted February 16, 2007

Discovery sheds light on cellular processes


A new discovery by Temple University’s Dale Haines and Natalia Shcherbik advances our knowledge of basic cell biology and leads scientists to a better understanding of molecular processes that occur within the cell.

Haines, an associate professor of biochemistry at the Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology at the School of Medicine, and senior author of the study, and Shcherbik, a postdoctoral fellow, recently had their work published in the Feb. 9 issue of the highly prestigious journal Molecular Cell.

“We were able to show a novel molecular process by which protein-protein interactions are controlled at the cell membrane,” Haines said.

Specifically, Haines and Shcherbik demonstrated, using unique biochemical approaches, that protein interactions are disrupted by a protein tag termed poly-ubiquitin and a separase complex called Cdc48/p97.

This is important because the expression of Cdc48/p97 is known to be perturbed in human diseases such as Paget’s Disease and cancer.

A better molecular understanding of this separase complex could lead to new therapeutic approaches.

“Like any discovery of this nature, it is very important to determine the universality of this mechanism and if it is perturbed in human disease,” Haines said. “These are areas of active investigation in the laboratory. Considering the abundance of Cdc48p/p97 [estimated to represent 1 percent of total protein in the cell], we feel that this activity will impinge on a large number of cellular processes.”

The Haines laboratory receives funding for this project from the National Institutes of Health and the Fels Research Foundation.