The research team
identified several proteins involved in cell suicide, using experimental
techniques from several disciplines, including Biochemistry, Structural
Biology, Neurobiology, and Plant Science.
‘Cell suicide is linked to brain health and food security. It causes destruction of neurons in neurodegenerative diseases and confers disease resistance to plants, thereby, increasing crop yield and ensuring food security.’
The study, published
, was co-led by Professor
Bostjan Kobe, PhD, who is an ARC Laureate Fellow at the School of Chemistry and
Molecular Biosciences and Affil Professorial Research Fellow at the Institute
for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, Australia.
who co-led the study were from the Australian National University, Griffith
University in Queensland and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial
Research Organization (CSIRO) in Canberra, Australia. There were also a large
number of international collaborators from the UK and USA.
Why is Cell Suicide an Important Phenomenon
technically termed as programmed cell death or apoptosis, is a normal
phenomenon in the living world for the maintenance, regeneration, and renewal
of life. Cellular suicide is observed in both plants and animals, including
humans. Cellular suicide confers certain advantages during the life cycle of an
organism and is crucial for sustaining life. It is also a key component of the
immune response in humans - infected cells commit suicide for the benefit of
the body as a whole.
In the present study,
while studying proteins involved in the cell death pathway in human neurons,
the researchers stumbled upon how cell death occurs in plants. In this regard,
Kobe says: "We've found common
ways human and plant cells bring about cell suicide."
How is Cell Suicide Linked to Brain Health?
Cell suicide is
linked to brain health in the context of neurodegenerative diseases, which
affect millions of people across the world. Neurodegenerative diseases can
occur due to a variety of pathologic processes, all of which are linked to the
common phenomenon of brain cell death.
The research team identified a distinct protein, known as sterile
alpha and TIR motif-containing protein-1 (SARM-1) that is encoded by the SARM-1
gene. SARM-1 is a human-specific protein and
is associated with the breakdown of brain cells across all types of
The research team deciphered the three-dimensional (3D) structure of
SARM-1, which may facilitate the development of novel drugs that could
slow-down or even halt the progression of brain cell death. This could emerge
as an effective treatment strategy for neurodegenerative diseases
How is Cell Suicide Linked to Food Security?
Food security is becoming a major global
, arising largely from the demand-and-supply gap - there are too many mouths to feed compared to the food that is
. A greater understanding of cell death pathways
could lead to the development of disease-resistant plants, which will increase
crop yields, reduce wastage, and ensure food security.
diseases are responsible for the destruction
of over 15 percent of crops even before they are harvested.
disease-resistant genes in plants can help to protect them against disease.
However, the underlying mechanism of action of these genes is poorly
understood. The research team has found that similar
to human neuronal cells, plant cells that become infected also undergo cell
suicide, which helps in resisting the disease by leaving the uninfected healthy
Kobe concludes: "This takes us a step closer to making effective
synthetic resistance genes that can be used to provide additional protection in
Australia and worldwide from crop diseases."
- Cell Suicide Could Hold Key for Brain Health and Food Security - (https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2019/08/cell-suicide-could-hold-key-brain-health-and-food-security)