Access keys

Skip to content Accessibility Home News, events and publications Site map Search Privacy policy Help Contact us Terms of use

Researchers identify protein essential for healthy gut cell development

Copyright: NIH Image Gallery on Flickr by CC 2.0
News from: University of East Anglia

Scientists have uncovered key processes in the healthy development of cells which line the human gut, furthering their understanding about the development of cancer.

A University of East Anglia (UEA) study, published today in the journal Open Biology, shows that a protein called ninein is essential for normal tissue development in the gut.

The research aimed to unravel some of the poorly-understood mechanisms involved in rearranging the internal ‘skeleton’ – cytoskeleton – in cells that are undergoing a shape change during normal development.

Using ‘mini-guts’ created in the lab, they studied the tubular filaments which are part of the cytoskeleton called microtubules, and their dramatic rearrangements during the formation of certain types of cells found for example in the gut.

Dr Mette Mogensen said: “Formation of columnar epithelial cells like those lining the gut involves reorganisation of the microtubules, as well as the assembly of new Microtubule Organising Centres (MTOCs) which anchor one end of the microtubules to cell surfaces.

“We found that this process can only happen correctly when the protein ninein is present. We also found that the microtubule-associated protein CLIP-170 is needed for the relocation of ninein to the new MTOCs.

“The correct organisation of microtubules in columnar gut cells leads to the formation of a transcellular array. As well as influencing cell shape, microtubules form these tracks for the transport of vesicles and molecules within cells, which enables nutrient uptake.

“Loss of this transcellular microtubule array leads to loss of tissue architecture, function and ultimately cancer, so formation of these new MTOCs is critical.”

Researchers used ‘mini-guts’ during the study, generated from stem cells that are isolated from gut tissue and grown in a special medium. They formed structures in culture that mimic normal gut including columnar cells with transcellular microtubule arrays and new MTOCs.

The research was funded by the BBSRC, Anatomical Society and BigC Appeal.

Ninein is essential for apico-basal microtubule formation and CLIP-170 facilitates its redeployment to non-centrosomal microtubule organizing centres’ will be published in the journal Open Biology.

ENDS

Notes to editors

For more information or to arrange interviews or photographs, please contact the UEA Press Office (see external contact below).

About University of East Anglia

The University of East Anglia is a UK Top 15 university and ranks in the top 1% of universities in the world. Known for its world-leading research and outstanding student experience, it has achieved a Top 10 rating in the National Student Survey every year since the survey began. UEA is a leading member of the Norwich Research Park – one of Europe’s biggest concentrations of researchers in the fields of environment, health and plant science.

About BBSRC

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by government, BBSRC invested £473 million in world-class bioscience, people and research infrastructure in 2015-16. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes.


Header image copyright: NIH Image Gallery on Flickr by CC 2.0

External contact

Lucy Clegg, Press Office, University of East Anglia


+44 1603 592764


Tags: health human health University of East Anglia cancer microbes biology press release