By Sola Ogundipe
A group of researchers from the University of Copenhagen has taken a significant step towards understanding the reasons for both diabetes and growth hormone deficiency.
A publication in the scientific journal PLOS Biology, reveals findings explaining the body’s ability to regulate certain hormones.
Some people suffering from diabetes or affected by poor growth most likely have problems with the so-called PICK1 protein, a protein that plays a decisive role in the formation of both growth hormone and insulin in the human body.
Professor Ulrik Gether from the Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, who has made the new discoveries together with his research colleagues Ole Kjærulff, Birgitte Holst and Kenneth Madsen note that the growth hormone is released by the brain and insulin by the pancreas.
Experiments show that PICK1 deficiency leads to growth hormone and insulin deficiency in both fruit flies and mice. In mice, we can clearly see that the animals become small and fat and less tolerant to sugar when deficient in PICK1.
“Different cells produce different kinds of hormones, and store the hormones for secretion into the bloodstream when required.
Up until now, this has been a poorly understood mechanism which, among other things, plays a key role in the development of diabetes and poor growth, the scientists explain that: “Given what we now know about the PICK1 protein, we are in a position to say far more about what might have gone wrong when someone is suffering from the two diseases.
The group wishes to continue looking at whether changes in the PICK1 protein can lead to some people being short, overweight, and diabetic.
Hormones are chemicals that regulate the body’s functions via the blood in an ingenious transport system. In the so-called Golgi complex — an organelle made up of four to eight flat discs or cisternae arranged in a stack — traffic is bustling with proteins and hormones being modified, sorted and packaged so they can be sent out to destinations both within and outside the cells.
These proteins and hormones include insulin and growth hormone. The proteins and hormones are packed into small transport particles called vesicles, and they remain there until the cells receive a signal to send the hormones off. The molecular dynamics that has been mapped through identifying PICK1 has shown itself to be a critical component in relation to diabetes and poor growth.
The researchers started by looking at PICK1 in fruit flies’ brains.
PICK1 is part of the basic cellular process which is vital for fruit flies, mice and probably also humans being able to form and store important hormones such as insulin and growth hormone. We don’t yet know exactly what our discoveries mean for the development of diabetes and poor growth in humans, but hopefully our new knowledge will lead to better prevention and treatment in the future.
Until now, very little has been known about how the vesicles are formed, and how the cell builds up its hormone stores. The new research findings suggest that the PICK1 protein is crucial to the actual vesicle formation by being able to form the vesicles and provoke their budding-off from the Golgi complex, thereby ensuring sufficient storage capacity of the hormones.