The mystery behind the building of muscle

December 13, 2011

Researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have discovered two proteins that are essential for the fusion of muscle cells to build muscle fibres. Their discovery might help us better understand and treat illnesses such as muscle-wasting disorders and diseases of bone over-growth, in which cellular fusion is an important feature.

Cellular fusion is necessary to form larger cells that have specific functions throughout growth. Among the tissues that depend on cell fusion are the placenta, skeletal muscle and bone reshaping cells.

The team showed that Jamb and Jamc, two cell surface proteins, must directly interact on neighbouring cells so that they can fuse together and form a normal muscle fibre. Loss of function of either of these proteins completely prevented cellular fusion which resulted in unusual muscles. The study concluded that the binding of Jamb and Jamc is therefore critical for the recognition and adhesion of muscle cells, which then allow them to fuse.

"Researchers have sought for decades to identify proteins that are essential for muscle fusion, but surprisingly little is known about the cell and molecular biology of cell fusion in vertebrates," explains Dr Gareth Powell, lead author of the research from the Sanger Institute. "There is a view within the field that several redundant receptor proteins initiate fusion. Because of this, when we first made the discovery, I genuinely assumed something had gone wrong.

"When I realised it wasn't a mistake, I was overwhelmed by what we'd found."

The researchers examined the role of the Jamb and Jamc proteins in zebrafish embryos that lacked functional forms of either protein. The modified embryos lacking either of the proteins failed to form normal muscle fibres which result from the fusion of many precursor cells. The abnormal muscles had many more - but thinner - muscle fibres.

Jamb and Jamc have been studied extensively and have well-characterised roles in the migration of white blood cells and the formation of sperm. This is the first time it has been reported that both proteins are involved in muscle development.

"To our knowledge, this is the first example of a vertebrate cell surface protein pair essential for cellular fusion. Our discovery has important implications for understanding the biological mechanisms of fusion and also muscle repair and development," says Dr Gavin Wright, senior author from the Sanger Institute. "Our ultimate goal is to discover whether or not there is a universal set of proteins that have the ability to fuse any cell type, not just muscle cells."

The expression of both Jamb and Jamb are not restricted to muscle cells and are expressed in other tissue types. The researchers suspect that additional proteins are required along with Jamb and Jamc in other cells to complete the fusion process.

This research represents an important starting point. Now that we know which proteins are involved, we now have a clear route towards understanding more about cellular fusion and how it is regulated. The eventual hope is that this discovery will pave the way towards applications and medical treatments that depend on cellular fusion.
-end-


Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

Related Proteins Articles from Brightsurf:

New understanding of how proteins operate
A ground-breaking discovery by Centenary Institute scientists has provided new understanding as to the nature of proteins and how they exist and operate in the human body.

Finding a handle to bag the right proteins
A method that lights up tags attached to selected proteins can help to purify the proteins from a mixed protein pool.

Designing vaccines from artificial proteins
EPFL scientists have developed a new computational approach to create artificial proteins, which showed promising results in vivo as functional vaccines.

New method to monitor Alzheimer's proteins
IBS-CINAP research team has reported a new method to identify the aggregation state of amyloid beta (Aβ) proteins in solution.

Composing new proteins with artificial intelligence
Scientists have long studied how to improve proteins or design new ones.

Hero proteins are here to save other proteins
Researchers at the University of Tokyo have discovered a new group of proteins, remarkable for their unusual shape and abilities to protect against protein clumps associated with neurodegenerative diseases in lab experiments.

Designer proteins
David Baker, Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Washington to speak at the AAAS 2020 session, 'Synthetic Biology: Digital Design of Living Systems.' Prof.

Gone fishin' -- for proteins
Casting lines into human cells to snag proteins, a team of Montreal researchers has solved a 20-year-old mystery of cell biology.

Coupled proteins
Researchers from Heidelberg University and Sendai University in Japan used new biotechnological methods to study how human cells react to and further process external signals.

Understanding the power of honey through its proteins
Honey is a culinary staple that can be found in kitchens around the world.

Read More: Proteins News and Proteins Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.