Proteins of cells change their structure and role if they are warm. This became known to scientists from the Center for Biotechnology Dresden and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Germany.
Decades of research have shown that different organisms react similarly to temperature changes. For example, when they are too warm, their cells stop growing and stop the production of proteins necessary for growth and reproduction.
Instead, they begin to produce proteins that protect cells from damage. But researchers do not know how cells recognize heat stress and what mechanisms cause a change in their production.
For research, scientists used yeast. So they were able to determine the protein Ded1p, which changes its structure with temperature and reprograms the entire cell. They modeled his behavior in the laboratory without other components and saw that the protein is evenly distributed in the cytoplasm of the cell, but with increasing temperature it is collected in dense structures using the phase separation process. This allowed them to conclude that Ded1p is able to sense temperature and acts as a thermometer inside the cell.
“This tells us that evolution endowed cells with high thermal sensitivity so that organisms can adapt to temperature fluctuations. This gives us hope that organisms can cope with global warming, ”explained Professor Simon Alberti, who led the study. He also added that the discovery has a more general meaning: the researchers discovered a mechanism inside the cell that helps the body cope with environmental changes and not just heat stress.
Scientists have suggested that cells can cope with a wide variety of alarms using proteins that are phase-separated to trigger different gene expression programs. In further studies, they want to determine whether this mechanism can help determine a person’s disease in advance – for example, age-related neurodegenerative diseases.