5th de Duve Lecture: Watch the podcast!
Pascale Cossart enlightens us on the molecular and cellular bases of bacterial infections.
Jean-François Collet, researcher at the de Duve Institute, UCLouvain, and WELBIO investigator, and his team, have just made a discovery that will benefit scientists all over the world and has a great chance of being recorded in every biochemistry book on the planet!
A little background. Every living cell produces thousands of proteins, which are essential for life. A protein is made as a long filament: in this form, the protein is inactive. To be functional, it must quickly adopt a specific shape: this is called protein folding, because the filament folds into a helix, for example. Some diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease, are linked to problems with protein folding.
Living cells produce chaperones that help proteins to fold quickly and correctly, especially when in danger. One chaperone, GroEL, has been studied extensively around the world and is used as an example of a chaperone in most biology textbooks. The scientific world thought it knew everything about it... until the discovery at UCLouvain: Jean-François Collet's team (Emile Dupuy and Camille Goeman), in collaboration with other colleagues from UCLouvain (Yves Dufrêne), the VUB, the EMBL, the CNRS and the University of Nebraska, discovered that GroEL actually works with a partner, CnoX, to function properly.
In practice, proteins inside the cell have to deal with various, often unexpected, threats. It is as if a person were unexpectedly in the middle of a battlefield, desperately seeking shelter. How do you find the perfect place? Scientists already knew that proteins are not alone in this situation: they have a guardian, GroEL, to protect and shelter them. What Jean-François Collet's team has managed to capture in photographs is the interaction between this guardian GroEL and its hitherto unknown partner CnoX.
What is the point of this unexpected discovery? While it has no direct impact on patients or treatments, it clearly opens a new chapter in the life of GroEL: the revelation of the role of CnoX will allow scientists around the world to better study how proteins survive in the cell, a breakthrough in understanding the mechanisms involved in diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.
A molecular device for the redox quality control of GroEL/ES substrates.
Dupuy E, Van der Verren SE, Lin J, Wilson MA, Dachsbeck AV, Viela F, Latour E, Gennaris A, Vertommen D, Dufrêne YF, Iorga BI, Goemans CV, Remaut H, Collet JF.
Cell (2023) 186(5):1039-1049.e17
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