Total Pageviews

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

PP1: An Enzyme that Really Gets Around

        My bogarted zircon article was explored in the comments last week so let's radically switch gears and party the human enzyme PP1, an enzyme I had not even heard of until yesterday.

        [To review from high school biology and chemistry: An enzyme is a substance produced by a living organism that acts as a catalyst to bring about a specific biochemical reaction (such as the generic enzyme shown above).] Enzymes are a complicated-looking group of structures (see above). The Wikipedia introduction to the specific enzyme PP1 is:

         Phosphoprotein phosphatase 1 (PP1) belongs to a certain class of phosphatases known as protein serine/ threonine phosphatases. This type of phosphatase includes metal-dependent protein phosphatases (PPMs) and aspartate-based phosphatases. PP1 has been found to be important in the:

1. control of glycogen metabolism
2. muscle contraction
3. cell progression
4. neuronal activities 
5. splicing of RNA
6. mitosis 
7. cell division
8. apoptosis
9. protein synthesis,
10. and regulation of membrane receptors and channels.

        In other words, this complex, New Year's Eve party-looking enzyme is part of so many processes in the human body that changing one part of PP1 for one disease (such as a cure for cancer) can radically affect the PP1 which is involved in other processes in the body (such as a cure for Alzheimer's disease):

         Brown University researchers yesterday published this press release about PP1 advances yesterday:

         From the photo and gif of enzymes above you'll note these are wildly complicated, interactive human structures. Below is the illustration that accompanies the Brown University article: (The main researcher is Dr. Rebecca Page, though the team includes several Brown scientists).

                                               Credit: Page lab / Brown University

             The enzyme PP1, the tan mass above, is everywhere in the body and has a role in nearly every biological process. That function is shaped by more than 200 regulatory proteins that bind to PP1, including one called PNUTS, the blue/purple and pink structures above. And, certainly learning more about PNUTS will cost significantly more than peanuts. And, note my great restraint in making no PNUTS or PP (1 or otherwise) jokes. I will leave that up to you.

              Unravelling how regulatory proteins bind to PP1 is a large part of understanding and possibly curing diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's. And, yes, it is a very long and winding road from this Brown University research to cures for these human diseases.


              This topic is quite new to me. I would appreciate your insights, thoughts, suggestions on this newly developing area of research.


Word Woman (Scientific Steph)
Agent for Change


  1. Enjoy this most assertive day of the year as you March fo(u)rth into the world!

  2. What's the backstory here, Steph? What makes a petroleum geologist suddenly interested in an enzyme that's so ubiquitous that it makes drug companies run away (since you clearly can't mess with it without messing up everything else)?

  3. Just the press release from Brown in my inbox. That's the whole back story! Truly. I had never heard of it before yesterday.

    Do you know more you might share?

  4. Nope. Not sure I ever heard of PP1 until today. Looks like it may be too universal to be clinically relevant, though biochem is not my thing. (Now, PNUT or PP jokes, on the other hand...) Certainly not one of the enzymes we measure or manipulate in primary care. The only enzymes that show up in my inbox are pitches from ".ru" domains for phophodiesterase type 5 inhibitors, but I've got a spam filter for those.

  5. Now, here's a coincidence: from the same pre-publication issue of PNAS, another biological news item, of more general interest, with relevance to arctic drilling, even!

    1. That Pithovirus photo is pretty cool--like an elongated, mustached critter. Nibbling on mastodons holds less thrill for me, though.

      Maybe we'll go back to Arctic drilling next week...;-)

  6. It looks soooo complicated...unraveling it seems completely mind-boggling to me.

    Did not know about phophodiesterase type 5 inhibitors before today (well, not under that name anyway).

    Enzymes are pretty interesting though. It's amazing our bodies function as well as they do with all that catalyst partying going on! I thought the gif was quite illustrative.

  7. SS,
    That enzyme-party gif, a Mardi Gras mobile in a hurricane, tided me through the more challenging (for me, anyway) bio-chem material. These P.,R.I. researchers of PP1 may be planting seeds that may lead to elimination of cancer and other scourges. That's worthwhile use of human and monetary resources, in my book.

    Regarding the pithovirus, the "resurrection of a more sinister nature..." The "Once-a-Commie..." Ruskies and the "snobbish-look-down-their-pince-nezes-at-us" French are responsible!
    Sounds like time for another James Bond caper. (Bond is American, right?)

    1. Agreed, lego. Thanks for sticking with the $1 words...

      And I thought somebody would say PP or 1 but not both ;-).

  8. Two science education articles were released today.

    A Champion of change and STEM Education:

    STEM Education

    And College Board changing SAT (again). Time to jettison it entirely?:

    SAT Changes

  9. I think the adage "you can't test quality into a product" applies to education as well.

    1. So true jan.

      Kids in Denver Public Schools taking tests all week. Blech! The only happy ones are like my neighbor kid senior who gets the week off.

      Way too much money in the college testing industry, as well as sunk in tuition.

  10. SS,
    I was poised to link the NYT SAT story into this post until I noticed that you had already linked it. I like jan's application of academic testing to his adage, and tend to agree with you that jumbo-jettisoning of SAT may be in order... But what to replace it with? How to evaluate?

    Too bad colleges and employers couldn't somehow get to really know the aptitude/gifts/qualities of their prospective students/employees. For example, even after "knowing" you and jan for a year or less, I would feel very confident in admitting you to my university (were you of that age) or hiring you for almost any job I had open, even non-geological or non-medical jobs. You're talents are abundant and evident.
    (SkyDiveBoy's application/resume, of course, I would summarily [and merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily] toss into the trash.)

    Quick riddle of the day:
    Q: What is the new name for the SAT Test?
    A: The T Test (The SA has been eliminated.)
    or, perhaps more exactly,
    A: The (SA)T Test (The SA has become optional.)

  11. Is that a statistical student t-test joke, lego? I like it!

    Ha, do you suppose sdb comes over here for a look? sdb, is that you? And where is RoRo...she's been away for awhile.

    Grades and teacher recommendations would be enough for PEOTS College. And likewise, you are all in with flying colors.

  12. But isn't T Test redundant in this case? Like PIN Number or ATM Machine? Maybe it should just be called the --- ? (And, no penalty for guessing what goes in the blank.)

    1. jan,
      Good point. I'll add another syndrome to the myriad that afflict me.

      If I start a puzzle blog I guess I should at least know how to embed links, as you did with your NYT SAT story. I was going to link it like this:

    2. Lego, hope you go for it.

      If you use blogger in the compose setting (vs. HTML setting), it has a nifty link icon that walks you through the linking process, no HTML knowledge needed. That works for your blog but not comments.

      If you want to make a link in a comment, you may use basic HTML code described here: HTML LINKING

      It really isn't that complicated if you think of opening tag, URL, name for your link, closing tag. Hope that helps.

    3. Feel free to practice here, Lego.

      I tried to put the instructions directly here but it just reads the HTML code so you don't see what tags I used. . .The link above is pretty straightforward.

  13. I like calling it the ---. And no penalty for either what goes in the blank or comes out of your bank to take the ---.

    Any big plans for pi day coming up on 3/14/14? Though I guess it really doesn't work well in Canada, mon dieu!

    1. In the good ol’ USA, Pi Day should be even better next year 3/14/15..., and, rounded up, the year after that. In the pre-USA era, Pi Day had a banner year during the centennial of Columbus’s voyage.

      Thank, SS, for letting inviting me to practice links on your excellent PEOTS blog. (I received no such invitation from Blaine, but will practice there too.)

      Pi Day fine, but I prefer celebrating a ratio of a different color, although there seems to be some confusion about when to observe this day. No confusion about how to observe it... with moments of silence, of course.



    2. SS,
      When I tried to link the word “different” (above) to the link below,,
      Blogger said I couldn’t use “http” in my reference field. So I removed “http://” (Now this is what I call practice!)

    3. If you don't use http in the address, the link will only look internally in my blog, rather than going to the entire web.

      And there's always Tau Day!

    4. No Pi Day plans but, no fooling, I'm looking forward to the palindromic 4/1/14...

    5. Indeed, our days are (happily) numbered.

  14. Our own Uncle John has done much research with PP1 inhibitors. How wild is that?!