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University of Bayreuth, Press Release No 017/2024 -  7 February 2024 

Another puzzle of genetic research has been decoded

A research team from Bayreuth has discovered how RNA transport works in cells. Using single-molecule microscopy, they were able to visualize transport molecules and mRNA have thus partly deciphered how mRNA gets to the intended location. The findings have now been published in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. 

What for?

The term mRNA has been known since the corona pandemic and the associated vaccine debate: mRNAs contain "blueprints" for the body's own proteins, which are vital for oxygen transport in the blood, antibody formation or blood clotting, for example. mRNA must be able to overcome the nuclear barrier or move in a cell in a targeted manner. The basic research published here has deciphered how RNA is transported to the right place within the cell so that it can fulfill its task there.

RNA must be transported within the cell in order to be translated at the right place. However, the motor proteins dynein and kinesin actually move in opposite directions. "We want to understand why the transport still succeeds and why the genetic material to be transported does not simply remain in place," explains Prof. Dr. Janosch Hennig, Chair of Biochemistry IV at the University of Bayreuth, who was involved in the research. Together with Dr. Simone Heber and Dr. Anne Ephrussi at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EBML) in Heidelberg, the mRNA, microtubule and kinesin were made visible using a special technique called single-molecule microscopy. This revealed that a specific protein, a tropomyosin isoform, becomes active and thus prevents the tug-of-war between kinesin and dynein. The researchers have also created a spatial structural model of this kinesin-tropomyosin interaction.

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RNA transport in a cell: The kinesin motor proteins (pink) move along microtubules (blue) as if on "highways".

"We have taken a big step forward here," says Janosch Hennig: "We now know that tropomyosin prevents certain processes and helps to adjust the direction of mRNA transport. This means, for example, that RNA transport could be specifically switched on or off in certain cell types. This is still a dream of the future, but another step has been made."

Publication: Simone Heber, Mark A. McClintock, Bernd Simon, Eve Mehtab, Karine Lapouge, Janosch Hennig, Simon L. Bullock & Anne Ephrussi: „Tropomyosin 1-I/C coordinates kinesin-1 and dynein motors during oskar mRNA transport“; Nat Struct Mol Biol (2024). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41594-024-01212-x

Janosch Hennig

Prof. Dr. Janosch HennigBiochemistry IV

University of Bayreuth
Phone: +49 (0)921 / 55-3540
E-Mail: janosch.hennig@uni-bayreuth.de

Portraitbild von Anja Maria Meister

Anja-Maria Meister

PR Spokesperson University of Bayreuth

Phone: +49 (0) 921  55 - 5300
E-mail: anja.meister@uni-bayreuth.de