Revealing a hidden structure in essential metabolic machinery: Uncovering subcompartments in peroxisomes

The hidden structure of essential metabolic machinery

**Peroxisomes contain cells that convert fatty molecules to energy and useful materials like myelin, which protects nerve cells. Peroxisome dysfunction in humans has been associated with severe metabolic disorders. However, peroxisomes could also be important for age-related disorders, neurodegeneration, cancer, and obesity. **

Bartel stated that peroxisomes, which are found in plants, yeast, and humans, are highly conserved. There are even hints to suggest that these structures are general characteristics of peroxisomes.

She said, \”Peroxisomes have been a part of eukaryotes since a long time. There are many eukaryotes that show peroxisomes which are larger or smaller and easier to see. People didn’t pay much attention to these observations, because they were caused by known mutations.

Wright’s hypothesis is that the researchers don’t know what these subcompartments are for.

Wright explained that when you talk about beta-oxidation or fat metabolism, the molecules no longer want to be submerged in water. When you think about a traditional biochemical reaction, you have a substrate floating in a cell’s water environment (the lumen) and interacting with enzymes. That doesn’t work well if your substrate doesn’t like to be in water.

He said that if the membranes are used to solubilize water-insoluble metabolites and to allow better access lumenal enzymes it could be a strategy for more efficiently dealing with this type of metabolism.

Bartel added that the discovery provides a context for better understanding peroxisomal diseases.

She said that \”this work could give us an understanding of some symptoms and possibly investigate the biochemistry causing them.\”

Zachary Wright, a Rice University biochemist in his first year of graduate studies, discovered a secret inside cellular machinery. This piece is essential to all life forms of higher order from yeast to human beings.

What Wright saw in 2015–subcompartments inside organelles called peroxisomes–is described in a study published today in Nature Communications.

Bonnie Bartel, Wright’s Ph.D. advisor, and member of the National Academy of Sciences, said that this was the most surprising thing their lab had ever discovered. This requires us to rethink all we thought we understood about peroxisomes.


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