News FocusCell Biology

A New Finger on the Protein Destruction Button

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Science  08 Oct 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5438, pp. 223-225
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5438.223

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The timely eradication of proteins that drive cell division is vital to keeping normal growth from turning into runaway malignancy. Before proteins are eliminated, however, they have to be tagged for disposal by attachment of a small protein called ubiquitin. New research, including that reported on page 309, has identified a molecular motif--the so-called RING finger--as instrumental in bringing about that ubiquitin addition. The RING finger is present in more than 200 proteins, many of whose functions are currently unknown. So the discovery is expected to touch off a wave of research on how these proteins might regulate cell activities, and also exploration of how the chain of protein destruction might be restored in some case to halt the growth of cancer cells.