Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Clearing Clutter

Protein clutter in neurological disease prevents neurons forming microtubules causing loss of function

30 December 2020

Clearing Clutter

When enough unwanted paper and rubbish accumulates on your desk, it can impede productivity. Hard workers inside our body can be crowded out too, and a study has shown that centrosomes – organisational centres of the cell, which choreograph the production of structural microtubules – can be overrun by accumulations of protein. This dangerous clutter is found in patients with neurological conditions like Parkinson’s, and was long known to form near the centrosome. Now it's clear that they obstruct the centrosome’s essential work, preventing the growth of microtubules in experiments (bottom row), compared to healthy cells (top row, with red network seen rapidly regrowing in the right panel). Without the microtubules, nerve cells lose structure and function, and can ultimately die, leading to the devastating symptoms we associate with neurological disease. Identifying ways to protect the centrosome and clean up the accumulations could provide new ways of improving the outlook for patients.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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