Communication and signalling within cells is controlled by minute changes to the proteins involved. Scientists have already studied three of these communication channels in detail, but a fourth, using phosphorylation of histidine, could as yet not be monitored experimentally. Now researchers at Utrecht University have developed a method to do exactly that. The first, unexpected insight gained from the technique is that histidine phosphorylation seems to be just as important as the other three communication channels. The results of their research were published in Nature Methods on 29 January.
Scientists had long thought that histidine phosphorylation was a signalling route that only occurred to a limited extent in simple organisms, such as bacteria. The other three communication channels, using phosphorylation of serine, threonine or tyrosine, were thought to be more important in higher organisms. However, recently an increasing amount of evidence is accumulating revealing that the phosphorylation of histidine definitely plays a role in higher organisms, including humans, as well. “It’s therefore fascinating that we can finally conduct research in this area”, explains research leader Simone Lemeer from Utrecht University.