Scientists have found a new super hero, SOD1 which defends against free radicals and guards cell energy and metabolism. The new super hero is the result of a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. You can check out the original study or its abstract in the journal Cell, “SOD1 Integrates Signals from Oxygen and Glucose to Repress Respiration,” from authors Amit R. Reddi and Valeria C. Culotta. Volume 152, Issue 1, 224-235, 17 January 2013.
Just like a comic book super hero, you could say that the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD1) has a secret identity. Since its discovery in 1969, scientists believed SOD1’s only role was to protect living cells against damage from free radicals. Now, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have discovered that SOD1 protects cells by regulating cell energy and metabolism.
Transforming oxygen to energy for growth is key to life for all living cells, which happens either through respiration or fermentation. When oxygen is plentiful, respiration normally takes over; however certain cells fail to respire in spite of abundant oxygen and instead ferment, leading to uncontrolled cell growth—a hallmark of cancer. See, SOD1 – superoxide dismutase 1, soluble – Genetics Home Reference.
Switching between respiration and fermentation with superoxide dismutase
Using the baker’s yeast S. cerevisiae as well as a human cell line, researchers Valeria C. Culotta, PhD, and colleague Amit Reddi from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology determined that SOD1 transmits signals from oxygen and glucose to repress respiration. This signaling is accomplished through SOD1 protection of another enzyme known as casein kinase 1-gamma (CK1γ), which is an important key to the switch between respiration and fermentation.
“SOD enzymes are present in virtually all living cells, from the most ancient bacteria to every cell in the human body,” explained Culotta in the January 29, 2013 news release, ‘Super’ enzyme protects against dangers of oxygen. “I’ve been telling my students to think of SOD1 as a superhero. It not only defends cells from damaging free radicals, but also has a secret life as a guardian of cell energy and metabolism.”
SOD1 defends against free radicals and guards cell energy and metabolism.
“Our findings provide new clues as to how rapidly dividing cells—from yeast to human cancers—may escape the urge to respire and instead choose fermentation to promote rapid growth,” explained Culotta in the news release. “SOD1 has long been recognized as an important enzyme in protection from oxidative stress, but this work establishes an important new function for the enzyme in cellular metabolism,” said Vernon Anderson, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which partly funded the study.
“The results provide important insight into how SOD1 and oxygen radicals push cellular energy metabolism towards fermentation, a feature of some disease states, including cancer.” The research The JHU National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences Center and the National Institutes of Health grants GM050016 and GM093550 supported the research.
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