August 20, 2008

Protein Complex in Cell Cilia Identified

U.S.-led scientists say they've identified a critical protein complex in the growth of cell cilia that might have a key role in many serious diseases.

The team led by the New York University Cancer Institute said the protein complex regulates the formation of primary cilia, which are found on virtually all mature human cells and are essential to normal cell function.

The researchers led by Professor Brian Dynlacht, director of the institute's Genomics Facility, said the antenna-like structures once thought to be vestigial remnants of cell evolution have recently emerged as a focal point of research in developmental cell biology.

"We are trying to understand the regulation of processes that are fundamental to normal cell development and health in humans," said William Tsang, first author of the study. "Defective cilia are implicated in a wide range of serious illnesses such as polycystic kidney disease, retinal degeneration, and neurological disorders. Inappropriate activation of signaling molecules that normally reside at the primary cilium, may lead to certain cancers."

The scientists said their findings might help identify potential targets for future drug design.

The research that included investigators from Spain and Finland is published in the journal Developmental Cell.