Protein Balance in the Reproductive System Can Prevent Disease (Biology)

Scientists at the University of Cologne found out that the protein balance in sex cells influences protein accumulation in other tissues through specific signaling / publication in ‘Science Advances’

A recent study shows that a healthy reproductive system can prevent disease-related protein buildup in distant tissues, such as neurons, and the change in mitochondria – the cells’ powerhouses. A protein imbalance, for example an accumulation of damaged proteins in brain cells, can lead to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Because these diseases are associated with the aging process and the reproductive system is one of the first tissues to decrease as we age, Dr. David Vilchez and his team will find out whether the status of the protein balance, called protein homeostasis or proteostasis, of germ cells has an influence on other tissues and organs. Using a model organism, the nematodeCaenorhabditis elegans, the scientists show that when proteins accumulate, the germ cells emit certain signals (Wnt signals) that bring about changes in the mitochondria. This in turn leads to protein accumulation in other tissues such as muscles or neurons. The article ‘Systemic regulation of mitochondria by germline proteostasis prevents protein aggregation in the soma of C. elegans’ has now been published in Science Advances .

“We were very astonished to see that we can change the mitochondrial network of the entire organism simply by inducing protein clumps in germ cells. This change has also caused protein accumulations in neurons, “said Guiseppe Calculli, first author of the study. In the future, it would be of great interest to investigate whether germ-specific proteins also accumulate during the aging process and whether this process contributes to the age-associated aggregation of proteins that are characteristic of pathologies such as Huntington’s disease or ALS.

“Our results open a new door to understanding why protein aggregates accumulate in the neurons of patients with Huntington’s disease and ALS. Since these aggregates can contribute to the neurodegeneration characteristic of these diseases, which is still incurable, a further understanding of the process discovered here can lead to new therapeutic approaches, ”explained Vilchez, research group leader at the Excellence Cluster for Aging Research CECAD and the Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne (ZMMK) and head of the study.


Featured image: Above: Mitochondria in the healthy muscle of C. elegans. Bottom: fragmented mitochondria in muscle after aggregation of proteins has been induced in the germline © University of Cologne

Provided by University of Cologne

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