In Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and other diseases, the manner in which cells recycle waste is jeopardised in spite of it being a crucial process to cellular health. Researchers at the Neuromed Institute in Italy report that the process is more complex and interrelated than previously perceived.
The researchers conducted a study investigating a novel cell clearing organelle (autophagoproteasome) in baseline and stimulated conditions. It was published in the journal known as Frontiers in Neuroanatomy. It gave a better understanding of the cellular recycling process and potential insights into how cellular dysfunctions in ALS and other diseases work.
Researchers discovered that what was perceived previously to be two cellular separate processes is actually two parts of one process. These distinct processes converge into what is known as an organelle and minor difference may be significant. Recent data strongly challenged the concept of two morphologically distinct and functionally segregated compartments.
The present study provides a solid morphological evidence indicating that the two major clearing pathways of eukaryotic cells (autophagy and proteasome) converge at the level of single organelles to form a novel organelle named autophagoproteasomes.
Autophagy is a normal and regular cell process with a cleaning mechanism by which the dysfunctional or no longer necessary components of a cell are eliminated. It is essential to cell survival, more so during times of body or cell stress. It allows the degradation and recycling of unnecessary or dysfunctional components of a cell thus maintaining the levels of cellular nutrition and energy. It is an adaptive response to stress which supports human survival.
When this mechanism is disrupted, it can cause multiple pathologies, more so neurodegenerative diseases. These are attributed to the accumulation and non-clearance of harmful abnormal proteins, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Francesco Fornai, a professor of anatomy at the University of Pisa and head of the neurobiology and movement disorders unit in the Neuromed Institute spoke in a news release. He mentioned that, over the last decade, the prevalent view considered two independent pathways.
However, going by recent findings, it showed that both processes converge towards this single organelle, marking it as the actual endpoint. Upon further exploration inside the organelle, it was found that the two molecular systems coexist and interact giving rise to a complex and sophisticated cleaning apparatus.
When it comes to ALS, researchers have observed complications in the movement of cellular vesicles carrying proteins that are bound to be recycled. In other diseases, it has been observed that there are deficits in enzymes designed to degrade specific proteins.
The researchers liked it to a housekeeping service strike inside cells. Going forward, they noted that understanding the whole process better may contribute to ways to pharmacologically treat the individual components that are engaged.
Fornai and his research team aided in advancing further studies by recently participating in the making of new International Autophagy Guidelines. They introduced their finding of that endpoint organelle known as an autophagoproteasome organelle in cellular waste recycling. The study of autophagoproteasomes was carried out when autophagy was either suppressed or stimulated.