Welcome to The Visible Embryo

Home-- -History-- -Bibliography- -Pregnancy Timeline- --Prescription Drugs in Pregnancy- -- Pregnancy Calculator- --Female Reproductive System- -Contact
 

Welcome to The Visible Embryo, a comprehensive educational resource on human development from conception to birth.

The Visible Embryo provides visual references for changes in fetal development throughout pregnancy and can be navigated via fetal development or maternal changes.

The National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development awarded Phase I and Phase II Small Business Innovative Research Grants to develop The Visible Embryo. Initally designed to evaluate the internet as a teaching tool for first year medical students, The Visible Embryo is linked to over 600 educational institutions and is viewed by more than one million visitors each month.

Today, The Visible Embryo is linked to over 600 educational institutions and is viewed by more than 1 million visitors each month. The field of early embryology has grown to include the identification of the stem cell as not only critical to organogenesis in the embryo, but equally critical to organ function and repair in the adult human. The identification and understanding of genetic malfunction, inflammatory responses, and the progression in chronic disease, begins with a grounding in primary cellular and systemic functions manifested in the study of the early embryo.

WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform


The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a new Web site to help researchers, doctors and
patients obtain reliable information on high-quality clinical trials. Now you can go to one website and search all registers to identify clinical trial research underway around the world!



Home

History

Bibliography

Pregnancy Timeline

Prescription Drug Effects on Pregnancy

Pregnancy Calculator

Female Reproductive System

Contact The Visible Embryo

News Alerts Archive

Disclaimer: The Visible Embryo web site is provided for your general information only. The information contained on this site should not be treated as a substitute for medical, legal or other professional advice. Neither is The Visible Embryo responsible or liable for the contents of any websites of third parties which are listed on this site.
Content protected under a Creative Commons License.

No dirivative works may be made or used for commercial purposes.

Return To Top Of Page
Pregnancy Timeline by SemestersFetal liver is producing blood cellsHead may position into pelvisBrain convolutions beginFull TermWhite fat begins to be madeWhite fat begins to be madeHead may position into pelvisImmune system beginningImmune system beginningPeriod of rapid brain growthBrain convolutions beginLungs begin to produce surfactantSensory brain waves begin to activateSensory brain waves begin to activateInner Ear Bones HardenBone marrow starts making blood cellsBone marrow starts making blood cellsBrown fat surrounds lymphatic systemFetal sexual organs visibleFinger and toe prints appearFinger and toe prints appearHeartbeat can be detectedHeartbeat can be detectedBasic Brain Structure in PlaceThe Appearance of SomitesFirst Detectable Brain WavesA Four Chambered HeartBeginning Cerebral HemispheresFemale Reproductive SystemEnd of Embryonic PeriodEnd of Embryonic PeriodFirst Thin Layer of Skin AppearsThird TrimesterSecond TrimesterFirst TrimesterFertilizationDevelopmental Timeline
CLICK ON weeks 0 - 40 and follow along every 2 weeks of fetal development
Google Search artcles published since 2007
 
 

Home | Pregnancy Timeline | News Alerts |News Archive Aug 22, 2013

 

eIF4E

The structure of 4E (eIF4E) at cell pore opening.

Image credit:Volume 2, Issue 2, 207-215, 16 August 2012 Cell Reports






WHO Child Growth Charts

 

 

 

How untying knots promotes cancer

Researchers have long known that high levels of a specific protein in human cells are linked to tumor growth – but no one, until now, has fully understood how.

Now, a groundbreaking discovery by UC Davis graduate student Kateryna Feoktistova and Assistant Professor Christopher Fraser illuminates the way that the protein, eukaryotic initiation factor 4E (eIF4E), acts upon cancer-promoting messenger RNA molecules. When translated, this type of mRNA can trigger the runaway cell replication that results in malignancies.

Published in the August 13 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the results solve a decades-long scientific mystery and may lead to new, highly specific cancer treatments that will act only on growth-promoting cells as opposed to all cells.

"This protein is one the most important initiation factors in this cellular pathway, and there is a lot of energy in the cell that goes into regulating the level and availability of it," Fraser said. "To suddenly find this function is quite a transformative idea in the field; people can now try and study this new activity and its relation to growth-promotion and cancer."

With elevated eIF4E levels found in 30 percent of all major cancers, the protein is already a target of pharmaceutical research. Clinical trials are currently underway for drugs that act upon eIF4E's long-known function of binding the cap at the head of all mRNA.

But the protein's cap-binding activity doesn't fully explain its relationship to cancer.

Feoktistova and Fraser solved that mystery while studying a region at the head of mRNA strands, where many cancer-promoting mRNA are much more complex than typical mRNA.


In the cancer-promoting variants of mRNA, a highly knotted region at the start of the strand must be unwound before a ribosome can bind and begin translating the genetic code into the amino acids that build our cellular proteins.

Usually that knotted region prevents most of the ribosomes from starting the process, so cancer-promoting mRNAs aren't translated effectively.

But when high levels of eIF4E are present the 4E binds to a complex that activates another protein, 4A, which then is able to unwind the knot and translate the genetic code into proteins that can trigger tumor growth.


The man who originally discovered eIF4E in 1978, Professor Nahum Sonenberg of McGill University, expressed his enthusiasm for what he calls "logical, beautiful" research.

"This is really a big discovery -- it explains a lot of the biology that we have. At the beginning of my talks I used to emphasize that mRNAs are eIF4E-sensitive, but people would ask 'how does it work?' and I never had an answer," Sonenberg said. "In the last month, I have been able to mention Chris Fraser's paper and finally provide an explanation.

"It has made my life much easier," he joked.

Feoktistova, a fifth-year Ph.D. student who also got her undergraduate degree at UC Davis, made the breakthrough when she purified the individual components of eIF4E's larger protein complex and then observed the complex's activity with individual parts missing. It was during this process that she first noticed 4E's stimulation of 4A.

"Without 4E, the complex wasn't active. People hadn't studied it without 4E before because its individual protein components were very hard to separate," Feoktistova said.

Fraser added that it is necessary to maintain an interaction between 4E and the complex containing 4A in order to complete the unwinding.

"If you lose this connection, you stall the complex," he said. "But if you have a lot of 4E floating around in the cell, and the complex loses a 4E, another one can be easily found." (see illustration).

Now researchers can add the stimulation of 4A and its unwinding activity to 4E's long-known – and totally separate – cap-binding activity.


"Textbooks are likely to be revised once the finding is confirmed given the fundamental importance of this protein in cell physiology and the fact that essentially nothing new has been discovered regarding its function for several decades."

Dean James E. K. Hildreth, College of Biological Sciences


Fraser and Feoktistova's next steps will be to study the ways that 4E, 4A, and the rest of the complex work together translate mRNA.

Abstract
Elevated eukaryotic initiation factor 4E (eIF4E) levels frequently occur in a variety of human cancers. Overexpression of eIF4E promotes cellular transformation by selectively increasing the translation of proliferative and prosurvival mRNAs. These mRNAs possess highly structured 5′-UTRs that impede ribosome recruitment and scanning, yet the mechanism for how eIF4E abundance elevates their translation is not easily explained by its cap-binding activity. Here, we show that eIF4E possesses an unexpected second function in translation initiation by strongly stimulating eukaryotic initiation factor 4A (eIF4A) helicase activity. Importantly, we demonstrate that this activity promotes mRNA restructuring in a manner that is independent of its cap-binding function. To explain these findings, we show that the eIF4E-binding site in eukaryotic initiation factor 4G (eIF4G) functions as an autoinhibitory domain to modulate its ability to stimulate eIF4A helicase activity. Binding of eIF4E counteracts this autoinhibition, enabling eIF4G to stimulate eIF4A helicase activity. Finally, we have successfully separated the two functions of eIF4E to show that its helicase promoting activity increases the rate of translation by a mechanism that is distinct from its cap-binding function. Based on our results, we propose that maintaining a connection between eIF4E and eIF4G throughout scanning provides a plausible mechanism to explain how eIF4E abundance selectively stimulates the translation of highly structured proliferation and tumor-promoting mRNAs.

The work was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Original press release: http://www.wistar.org/news-and-media/press-releases/wistar-scientists-decipher-structure-nata-enzyme-complex-modifies-most