New protein finding may herald breakthrough in disease cure

Updated: Jul 08, 2013, 12:52 PM IST

Washington: Scientists have developed the first roadmap for ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter proteins, which are crucial components of every cell and are also involved in tumour resistance.

Scientists have struggled with understanding how ABC transporter proteins work and communicate with other proteins. Igor Stagljar , Professor in the Faculty of Medicine`s Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research and his team, including first author Dr. Jamie Snider, have solved the mystery by using Membrane Yeast Two-Hybrid (`MYTH`) technology to see how these transporter proteins interact with other vital components in the cell.

Stagljar, who is also cross-appointed to the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, said that the cell systems are complex and they need to have a solid grasp of how the individual pieces fit together in order to understand why certain diseases occur and how to best treat them.

ABC transporter proteins act as cellular gatekeepers by retaining nutrients and expelling toxins from the cell. If these proteins are not working properly, it can cause a number of diseases including: cystic fibrosis, age-related macular degeneration, Tangier disease, and Dubin-Johnson syndrome.

ABC proteins can also cause cancer cells to reject chemotherapy drugs which makes treatment less effective.

Stagljar said that their discovery shows how ABC transporter protein s effect cancer and other diseases, and this knowledge can help us develop better, more targeted drugs. This is truly momentous.

The study has been published today in Nature Chemical Biology.