Just as a car can speed up and slow down by changing gears, so do a bunch of proteins in the cell.
These proteins, called motor proteins, are important to arrest neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease, and also for brain development.
A study by a five-member team from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) at Navy Nagar has found that the dynein motor protein uses a gear mechanism to work better in a team, thereby generating large forces required for many processes in the cell including cell division.
Any disruption in the working of these motor proteins can lead to neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's. The findings are significant as antiviral therapies can be developed using the information on the behaviour of the motor proteins.
As people grow old, proteins inside the cells start folding into other structures. It is dyneins that carry and transport the misfolded proteins into a compartment of the cell where degradation takes place.
"When moving inside the cell, each dynein shows a special ability to shift gears and catch up. The leading Dynein moves slow [by shifting to low gear], while the lagging dyneins move faster [because they are in high gear]," said Arpan Rai, lead author. "This allows dyneins to bunch close together, share their load equitably, and therefore generate large forces."
"If dyneins fail to work as a team, these proteins aggregate and cause neurodegeneration that can lead to Parkinson's disease," said professor Roop Mallik from TIFR.