New research from scientists at the University of Kent has shown for the first time how the structures inside cells are regulated – a breakthrough that could have a major impact on cancer therapy development.
A team from Kent's School of Biosciences uncovered the mechanism whereby the physical properties of the internal structures within cells – known as actin filaments – are 'fine-tuned' to undertake different functions.
While some of these actin filaments appear to completely stable, providing a framework for the cell, others are more dynamic, allowing the cell to respond rapidly to changes in its environment.
The researchers - PhD students Matthew Johnson and Daniel East, who were led by Dr Daniel Mulvihill - used yeast cells to mimic those in humans. They utilised a novel biology 'trick' to switch the location of molecules which bind to, and stabilise, the actin polymer and modulate the movement of molecular motors.
In this way, they uncovered the mechanism which determines the functional characteristics of actin filaments in all cells and orchestrates cellular activity. It is expected the breakthrough could have a major impact on the development of therapies for a variety of diseases, including cancer.
The research, titled Formins Determine the Functional Properties of Actin Filaments in Yeast, by Matthew Johnson, Daniel A. East and Daniel Mulvihill, is published in the current issue of the journal Current Biology. See: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982214005995
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Notes to editors
Established in 1965, the University of Kent – the UK's European university – now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.
Kent has been ranked: top 10 for overall student satisfaction in the 2013 National Student Survey; 20th in the 2014 and 2015 Guardian University Guide; 28th in the Sunday Times University League Table 2013; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.
In 2014 it received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.
The University is worth £0.6 billion to the economy of the South East, with its students contributing £211 million to that total, and directly or indirectly supports almost 6,800 jobs in the region (source: Viewforth Consulting 2009-10).
In the last Research Assessment Exercise, Kent placed 24th out of 159 UK institutions for its world-leading research, while 97% of its academic staff work in schools or centres where the research is rated as either internationally or nationally excellent.
Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, it is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (http://www.kent.ac.uk/about/partnerships/eastern-arc.html).