UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The mechanics behind how an important process within the cell traps material before recycling it has puzzled scientists for years. But Penn State researchers have gained new insight into how this process seals off waste, much like a trash bag.
The process, called autophagy, allows cell waste and damaged material in the cell to be recycled into energy or new proteins. But while scientists know that a membrane called the phagophore must close around this waste material before it can be recycled, the exact mechanisms behind how these membranes close has been a mystery.
In a recent study published in Nature Communications, the researchers designed a special process called an assay that allowed them to study the several stages of autophagy as the autophagosomes — like trash bags — open and seal around cell waste. Using this process, they found key insights into how phagophores close, sealing off the autophagosome.
In the study, the researchers used the new assay, which is patent pending, to identify that a mechanism — “endosomal sorting complexes required for transport (ESCRT)” — plays a role in autophagosome closure. Specifically, a component of ESCRT called “CHMP2A” is involved in how the
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