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By Eloise Bevan, technical Analyst at Jumpstart

Researchers from Australia have recently developed a new proteomics (study of proteins) technique called ‘ubiquitin clipping’, in collaboration with scientists at the MRC Laboratory of molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK. Ubiquitin is a small regulatory protein that is found in most tissues of eukaryotes organisms; those who have cells with a cell nucleus enclosed within its membrane.

Ubiquitin is capable of linking to other proteins in the cell, as a single unit or in longer straight or branched chains. Ubiquitin was only discovered in 1975 and since then studies and techniques for practical applications have been continuously developed and investigated.

One such technique is called ubiquitination; the addition of ubiquitin to a substrate protein, which in turn alters the function and the activity of the protein within the cell. This technique can be used for protein degradation, altering the cellular location of proteins, affecting protein activity and for promoting or preventing protein interactions. However, ubiquitination is limited by its inability to detect and distinguish between the different branching structures that ubiquitin can form in a cell.

However, the recent development of ubiquitin clipping enables scientists to measure varying ubiquitin chain architectures. This is achieved by pre-treating the protein samples and then subsequent processing of the sample with electrolysis and mass spectrometry methods. This allows for the creation and analysis of high-definition cellular maps which demonstrate how proteins are modified by the ubiquitination process in a much greater detail than before as branching structures are now distinguishable.

This discovery is believed to lead to significant advances in the study and understanding of disease development and the response to existing therapies. Through performing ubiquitin clipping, detailed maps and data can be gathered and analysed for the development of drugs and techniques, for the prevention, mitigation and/or elimination of a range of different and currently un-resolved diseases. This includes different cancer types, inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. The technique is currently being applied to patient study samples and is hopeful that solutions and answers to these life-changing diseases can be found.

The findings were published in Nature

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