TGAC reveals novel insights into the induction of autophagy in leading science publication

August 5, 2014 by Hayley London

Tamás Korcsmáros, TGAC-IFR Computational Biology Fellow, in collaboration with the NetBiol group, releases new study on the bioinformatics analysis of the possibilities of autophagy induction in 40 unicellular parasitic species that could help to identify novel therapeutic targets, especially for patients with colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), published in Nature's Scientific Reports.

Autophagy is a highly conserved self-degradation process of eukaryotic cells, and has found to be important in various cellular processes including stress-response, protein metabolism, differentiation and ageing. Autophagy can be found in essentially all eukaryotic species examined so far. In the gut, autophagy provides a powerful means of removing intracellular pathogens, and the malfunction of autophagy is related to (IBD) and cancer progression. A better understanding of the effect of particular bacterial species on the regulation of human intestinal autophagy could help to identify prognosis markers for IBD and .

Autophagy is also essential in many unicellular parasites, such as Taxoplasma, Trypanosoma and Plasmodium, and found important in their life-cycle transitions. However, how autophagy is induced in these parasites remained largely unrevealed. This newly published study provides a better understanding of autophagy in unicellular parasites that could help to therapeutically target these parasites without effecting human autophagy.

The study examines the full genome sequence of 40 unicellular protist parasites. Surprisingly, the research presented no gene that would code for any component of the Atg1/ULK1-like autophagy inducing complex, generally known to be essential in autophagy regulation in eukaryotes. Therefore, in these parasites, autophagy is induced independently of an Atg1-like protein kinase system. The results are in agreement with previous large-scale data showing that some ATG genes in these organisms exhibit differential expression patterns; suggesting that autophagy in these protists is induced mainly at the post-transcriptional level. Understanding Atg1-independent autophagy induction mechanisms in these parasites may lead to novel pharmacological interventions, not affecting human Atg1/ULK1-dependent autophagy.

Tamas, commented: "We're very happy that this bioinformatics study is published in such a key journal. With a detailed sequence analysis we showed that potential Atg1/ULK1 orthologs presented in many previous studies are not true counterparts of the functional autophagy inducers known in humans and many other eukaryotes. I hope our study will facilitate future experiments to understand how these dangerous parasites regulate autophagy and how we could medically use this information to overcome infectious diseases. I am particularly proud that this is my first paper since I moved to TGAC, this study is a specific example why detailed and biologically precise analysis is vital to our research, the expert knowledge and methodology at the Institute will help with the data analysis of many more genomes."

The scientific paper, titled: "Starvation-response may not involve Atg1-dependent induction in non-unikont " by Tamás Korcsmáros and NetBiol Group is published in Nature, Scientific Reports.

Explore further: Autophagy-addicted breast cancers killed by anti-malaria drug, chloroquine

More information: "Starvation-response may not involve Atg1-dependent autophagy induction in non-unikont parasites." László Földvári-Nagy, Eszter Ari, Péter Csermely, Tamás Korcsmáros & Tibor Vellai. Scientific Reports 4, Article number: 5829 DOI: 10.1038/srep05829. Received 08 April 2014 Accepted 04 July 2014 Published 25 July 2014

Related Stories

Zombie cancer cells eat themselves to live

April 5, 2014

A University of Colorado Cancer Center study recently published in the journal Cell Reports and presented today at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Conference 2014 shows that the cellular process ...

Recommended for you

We've all got a blind spot, but it can be shrunk

August 31, 2015

You've probably never noticed, but the human eye includes an unavoidable blind spot. That's because the optic nerve that sends visual signals to the brain must pass through the retina, which creates a hole in that light-sensitive ...

Biologists identify mechanisms of embryonic wound repair

August 31, 2015

It's like something out of a science-fiction movie - time-lapse photography showing how wounds in embryos of fruit flies heal themselves. The images are not only real; they shed light on ways to improve wound recovery in ...

New 'Tissue Velcro' could help repair damaged hearts

August 28, 2015

Engineers at the University of Toronto just made assembling functional heart tissue as easy as fastening your shoes. The team has created a biocompatible scaffold that allows sheets of beating heart cells to snap together ...

Research identifies protein that regulates body clock

August 26, 2015

New research into circadian rhythms by researchers at the University of Toronto Mississauga shows that the GRK2 protein plays a major role in regulating the body's internal clock and points the way to remedies for jet lag ...

Fertilization discovery: Do sperm wield tiny harpoons?

August 26, 2015

Could the sperm harpoon the egg to facilitate fertilization? That's the intriguing possibility raised by the University of Virginia School of Medicine's discovery that a protein within the head of the sperm forms spiky filaments, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.