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Well-placed Fat

Protein involved in hereditary spastic paraplegia influences lipids in muscle and brain

09 June 2020

Well-placed Fat

Tiny balls of fat blobbing around your cells, long thought to be basic fat storage devices, are in fact subtle masters of processes from energy supply to infection. The location of these lipid droplets is important, not least because they can cause disease when out of place. Researchers investigating their positioning in cells of people with hereditary spastic paraplegia may have found what directs them. Spastin is a protein that, when mutated, causes hereditary spastic paraplegia. Looking at cells with this mutation, researchers found that spastin (red, left) distribution in the cell coordinates endoplasmic reticulum (a structure involved in processing proteins, green) growth along structural microtubules (pink). Lipid droplet positioning relies on this machinery, and since spastin also guides other molecules involved, problems arise when it misfires. Any changes to the lipid landscape can cause the disease, and understanding this process might help develop new markers for diagnosis and treatment.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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