The Importance of Protein


Cilium, as shown through a microscope.

According to a recent article, researchers from Penn State University and the University of California have just discovered how a protein is important for the growth of healthy cells in mammals.  In previous research, Aimin Liu, co-author of the study and associate professor of biology at Penn State University, discovered that protein C2 calcium-dependent domain containing 3 (C2cd3) is necessary for cilia to grow on cell surfaces.

Cilia are hair-like structures that are found on the surface of mammalian cells, and are responsible for transmitting and processing information in the body.  Without cilia, cells can’t sense what’s going on around them and can’t communicate.  Cilia also filters bacteria, preventing it from entering the body’s organs.  A lack of cilia can lead to serious health conditions, such as polycystic kidney disease, blindness and neurological disorders.  According to researchers, their finding about cilia has important implications for human health.

Back in 1962, Liu and his colleagues first learned that C2cd3 was important for cilium formation after they discovered that mice lacking the protein had serious developmental problems.  At the time, however, researchers didn’t understand why a lack of C2cd3 led to these developmental problems, a question which has been answered by this new study.

The researchers knew that cilia grows from centriole, a structure that attaches itself to the inner surface of the cell and acts as an anchor.  Before it can grow cilia, a cell needs to amass a set of appendages at one end of the centriole, which allows appendages to attach the centriole to the cell’s surface so that the cilium can grow.  However, the researchers had no idea how the appendages were assembled.

New research revealed that when there is no C2cd3 protein, appendages aren’t assembled at the end of the centriole, meaning that the centriole isn’t linked to the cell membrane, and therefore can’t take on other proteins that allow for cilia to grow.  This means, according to Liu, that protein is required for the very first step of putting a cilium together.  Researchers hope that their findings will lead the way to better knowledge about additional cilium development, as well as better treatments for cilia-related diseases.  Abnormal function of cilia can lead to numerous diseases, such as cystic disorders of the kidney and liver, and can even lead to blindness or deafness.