1. Researchers here have discovered, for the first time, how a cell assembles its
internal machinery required for cell movement. This finding by Dr Thomas Leung and
his team in the GSK-IMCB Group from the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology
(IMCB), under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), is
fundamental to the understanding of how a cell responds to its external environment.
It has widespread implications in the fields of cancer growth and spread, woundhealing,
learning and memory, and developmental biology.
2. The researchers discovered a complex of three proteins that directly regulates
the myosin1 network within a cell, thus generating traction force to propel the cell
forward. This action of the tripartite protein complex may be likened to a spring in a
toy motorcar – when the protein complex assembles and moves backwards within
the cell, it resembles the wound up “engine” of the toy car that has been pulled
backwards. Subsequent disassembling of the protein complex and the resultant
forward movement of the cell can be likened to the released spring which unleashes
the earlier stored potential energy to propel the car forward. The latest finding was
published in the October 2008 issue of Cell, one of the top scientific journals.
3. Said Professor Michael Sheetz, who is William R Kenan Jr Professor of Cell
Biology at the Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University and also
Distinguished Visiting Professor at the National University of Singapore, “This is an exciting paper because Leung’s group has discovered an unexpected step in cell
migration and contractility — a complex of three proteins including a form of myosin,
that is responsible for assembling most of the other myosin components involved in
motile processes. The assembly mechanism has been a major mystery and is critical
in a variety of diseases from cardiovascular to aging. Now we have a new tool to
understand the bases of these critical processes.”
4. Of the three proteins MRCK, LRAP35a and MYO18A, MRCK was discovered
by the GSK-IMCB group ten years ago, while the other two had hitherto unknown
functions. Dr Thomas Leung, who headed the research at the IMCB, said, “The
success of the work relies on the commitment and perseverance of the team. A
major contributor, Dr Ivan Tan, is a home-grown scientist who has been working on
this project for many years and he has had several clues as to how the system
functions for some time, but it was only recently that the jigsaw puzzle was put
together. The system has the potential to unravel other as yet undiscovered
mechanisms that coordinate the different ‘engines’ for proper cell migration.”
5. The research by the GSK-IMCB Group is supported by the GlaxoSmithKline
(Singapore) Research Fund that was set up in 1989. Professor Louis Lim, Head of
the GSK-IMCB Group said, “The 2008 Cell paper represents the culmination of many
years of industry and dedication on the part of Dr Thomas Leung and Dr Ivan Tan.
Dr Leung has been responsible for defining the role of other signalling enzymes
along with other members of the GSK-IMCB Group, and we are very glad to
acknowledge the support of the GSK (Singapore) Research Fund throughout these
6. The GSK-IMCB Group also published a landmark paper entitled, “A brain
serine/threonine protein kinase activated by Cdc42 and Rac12” in top journal, Nature,
back in 1994. The paper has been cited more than 900 times by scientists around
the world to date.
1 Myosin is the most common protein found in muscle cells, and is responsible for the elastic and
contractile properties of muscle. A different form of myosin is involved in cell movement.
2E. Manser, T. Leung, H. Salihuddin, Z-S. Zhao and L. Lim (1994). A brain serine/threonine protein kinase
activated by Cdc42 and Rac1. Nature 367: 40 - 46.
For more information, please contact:
Ms Wang Yunshi
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
Tel: +65 6826 6443
Notes to the Editor:
The research findings described in the press release can be found in the article “A
Tripartite Complex Containing MRCK Modulates Lamellar Actomyosin Retrograde
Flow”, in the October 3, 2008 print issue of Cell.
Authors: Ivan Tana , Jeffery Yonga,b, Jing Ming Donga, Louis Lima,c and Thomas
a The GSK-IMCB Group, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Agency for
Science, Technology and Research, Singapore
b Department of Anatomy, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of
c Department of Molecular Neuroscience, Institute of Neurology, University College
* Corresponding author: Thomas Leung, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB)
The Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) is a member of Singapore’s
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and is funded through
A*STAR’s Biomedical Research Council BMRC). It is a world-class research
institute that focuses its activities on six major fields: Cell Biology, Developmental
Biology, Structural Biology, Infectious Diseases, Cancer Biology and Translational
Research, with core strengths in cell cycling, cell signalling, cell death, cell motility
and protein trafficking. Its recent achievements include leading an international
consortium that successfully sequenced the entire pufferfish (Fugu) genome. The
IMCB was awarded the Nikkei Prize 2000 for Technological Innovation in recognition
of its growth into a leading international research centre and its collaboration with
industry and research institutes worldwide. Established in 1987, the Institute
currently has 35 independent research groups with more than 400 staff members.
For more information, please visit: www.imcb.a-star.edu.sg
About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research, or A*STAR, is Singapore's lead
agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant
knowledge-based Singapore. A*STAR actively nurtures public sector research and
development in Biomedical Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering, with a
particular focus on fields essential to Singapore's manufacturing industry and new
growth industries. It oversees 14 research institutes and supports extramural
research with the universities, hospital research centres and other local and
international partners. At the heart of this knowledge-intensive work is human capital.
Top local and international scientific talent drive knowledge creation at A*STAR
research institutes. The Agency also sends scholars for undergraduate, graduate
and post-doctoral training in the best universities, a reflection of the high priority
A*STAR places on nurturing the next generation of scientific talent.
For more information, please visit: http://www.a-star.edu.sg