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February 22, 2010

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Cellular metabolism find may lead to new drugs

LOCAL researchers have discovered a major regulatory switch in cellular metabolism, potentially leading to new drugs that treat metabolic disorders.

More than 80 percent of diseases, including cancers, are caused by an unbalanced metabolism, scientists said. Drugs that modulate the "switch" might benefit patients with metabolic disorders.

Fudan University researchers found that a protein modification - acetylation, a reaction that introduces an acetyl functional group into a protein molecular chain - can activate enzymes that catalyzes intermediate metabolism.

"We found acetylation a prevalent modification in enzymes for the first time," said Zhao Shimin, a major researcher and a professor at the university's School of Life Sciences.

Researchers discovered about 900 acetylated proteins in liver cells, compared with the 100 previously known ones. They believe the acetylated proteins are also widespread in other body parts.

Previously, phosphorylation, another protein modification, was broadly accepted as the key modification of metabolic enzymes.


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