Destroy to Create

The ubiquitin protein degradation system has a distinct role in neurogenesis.

Neural stem cell culture. Fluorescent light micrograph of a group of neural stem cells (neurosphere) in culture, showing the stem cells migrating out of the central neurosphere (pale region).
© Riccardo Cassiani-Ingoni / Photo Researchers, Inc.

Destroying proteins may seem like an odd way of promoting new growth, but this is exactly what happens in neurogenesis. Certain controlling factors are permanently turned off by the ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS), allowing neuronal growth to proceed. Without this tight control of neurogenic genes, a cell can become predisposed to cancer or end up in a developmental dead end.

The UPS controls the degradation of unwanted proteins in the cell by marking target proteins with chains of ubiquitin. Proteins labeled with polyubiquitin chains are recognized and broken down by the proteasome, a large protein complex found in all eukaryotes....

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