"Mystery gene" that matures the skeleton of the cell found

Published date04 October 2022
Publication titleJerusalem Post, The: Web Edition Articles (Israel)
As one of the most abundant molecules in a cell, actin is a main component of our cell skeleton. The protein has many purposes including playing an important role in cell division, giving shape to the cell to make it more firm, helping to propel cells forward, and providing strength to our muscles

While much is known about actin, how the final form of the protein is made and which gene is behind it remained unclear – until a research group at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, led by Thijn Brummelkamp, discovered a "mystery gene" that provides an answer. He excels at tracking down genes and proteins that no one else has been able to find.

Most recently, as published in the peer-reviewed journal Science, Brummelkamp and his team found the gene that guarantees the creation of the final form of actin.

Brummelkamp, whose mission is to discover the functions of our genes, has developed many methods for that purpose. He and his team use haploid cells which contain only one copy of each gene instead of two: one from the father and one from the mother. Using this method, they looked for the gene that matures actin which in turn matures the skeleton of the cell.

A protein isn't finished maturing until it can fully perform its function in the cell. Usually, a protein needs an essential amino acid to be removed first, which happens when it is cut from the protein by a pair of molecular scissors.

While this occurs with actin – and it is known from which side the amino acid is cut off – no one has been able to find which enzyme acts as the molecular scissors in this process.

Discovering the molecular scissors that cut the specific amino acid

In search of this enzyme, a member of Brummelkamp's team, Peter Haahr...

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