Research note: When intracellular communications fail – fireworks!

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Scientists have been fascinated by how organelles within the cell communicate with each other to carry out crucial biological functions. Now a Yale team led by neuroscientists Rui Dong and Pietro De Camili have shown that a protein called VAP helps tether one organelle (the endoplasmic reticulum) to another (endosomes) to affect its function. In the accompanying movie of a cell without VAP, endosomes (pictured in green) are propelled like rockets by an excess of actin microfibers (in red) induced by the absence of VAP. Researchers note that a mutation of VAP results in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and a mutation that affects the link of endosomes to actin results in Parkinson’s disease. Thus, disruption of these mechanisms, described in the July 14 issue of the journal Cell, may be implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases.

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