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Status: 29.03.2017 03:26:47
The scientists of the Department of Molecular Toxicology are studying the damage to protein molecules in cells and tissues. This damage is caused by the biological phenomenon of “oxidative stress“, and by various other conditions, such as hyperglycemia (high blood glucose). Investigations focus on how (aging) cells deal with macromolecules that have undergone oxidative damage and modification, and with the effects of nutritional components on these processes.
In the course of metabolic processes, so-called reactive oxygen species (ROS) are formed which cause damage to and thus modification of endogenous lipids or proteins. Normally the cells are capable of neutralizing these ROS by cellular antioxidative systems. However, when such defense systems are impaired, the formation of ROS may exceed physiological levels and thus overburden repair and detoxification mechanisms. The cells thus enter a state of oxidative stress, which leads to damage to intracellular macromolecules such as proteins.
In their lifetime, proteins undergo modifications not only by ROS but also by other chemical compounds. In hyperglycemia, the spontaneous reaction of glucose with proteins is of particular interest. This results in the formation of modified proteins (so called AGEs - advanced glycation end products) that are often no longer functional.
In cells or tissues functioning normally, oxidatively altered or otherwise modified proteins are broken down and thus detoxified. However, in various metabolic situations, during illness or also old age, this protective function is insufficient. This causes modified proteins to accumulate and leads to a further dysfunction of the cells.
The researchers of the Department use model systems to investigate the physiological processes which cause damage to cellular proteins following oxidative stress. In this case, the protective effects of antioxidants and the fate of oxidized proteins are of particular interest. So scientists are studying the capability of various proteases and proteolytic mechanisms to break down oxidized and modified proteins. It is the goal of the Department of Molecular Toxicology to find out how cells cope with oxidatively damaged and modified proteins or lipids, and how nutrition can positively influence the systems involved in repair and detoxification.
The following projects serve to achieve these objectives: