BINDER Innovation Prize 2010
Prize for outstanding achievements in the field of cytology for Dr. Anne Spang (Basle University)
The various components in a cell, such as proteins, lipides and RNA (ribonucleic acid), must be correctly distributed to ensure the survival of the cell. The proteins, mRNA and lipides are asymmetrically distributed in most cells. Under certain circumstances the loss of this asymmetry can have disastrous consequences. Most types of cancer are based not only on a malformation of the cell, but also on a loss of polarity. One of the main questions that the team around Dr. Spang deals with is how protein and membrane transport develop in interaction with the membrane dynamics and how they contribute towards the maintenance of this polarity. In order to be able to answer this question, they are investigating the communication between the cellular cavities and the plasma membrane. As model systems they use the baker's yeast "Saccharomyces cerevisiae" and the thread worm "Caenorhabditis elegans", which are both very good systems for investigation of the development and maintenance of polarity in connection with intracellular transport. The last few years have made a decisive contribution towards a better understanding of this subject. The team at Basle University has identified a complex of proteins whose task it is to transport proteins to a specific domain in the plasma membrane of yeast cells. Interestingly, this transport is cell cycle regulated. Finally they have discovered a surprising connection between vesicular transport and mRNA localization and metabolism. This research will make a significant contribution to future successes in cancer research.