PUMC Academic Symposium 74: Frontier Research on Organelle Interactions


The 74 CAMS & PUMC Academic Symposium was held on November 11, 2016, at Assembly Hall, Dongdan Santiao, Beijing, attended by more than 40 experts from PUMC, CAMS Cancer Hospital & Institute, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Institute of Materia Medica, Institute of Medicinal Plant Development, Institute of Laboratory Animal Sciences, Institute of Radiation Medicine, as well as from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). The theme was "Frontier Research on Organelle Interactions". Research fellows Tao Xu, Hong Zhang, and Xiaochen Wang of CAS Institute of Biophysics and research fellow Bo Huang of CAMS Institute of Basic Medical Sciences gave keynote speeches.

Research fellow Xu gave a systematic, all-round introduction to the frontiers and hot spots of organelle research, taking the organelle interaction network as a point of penetration. Latest molecular biological research and new-generation microscopical technology have demonstrated that different organelles interact in complex ways with one another and form an interaction network. Between organelles with different functions is there not only transport vesicles that move functional proteins between locations, but membrane contacts established and sustained for the exchange of lipid, small molecule active materials, creating an organelle interaction network. The formation of the organelle interaction network plays a crucial role in maintaining the steady equilibrium of organelles, regulating its dynamic change and mediating the transduction of signals between organelles, and at the same time is necessary for the cell to exert a variety of important physiological functions. When chaotic, interactions between organelles may lead to many serious disorders such as diabetes, metabolic disorders, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, developmental defects, tumors, immune disorders, etc. Therefore, analyzing the dynamic change of the organelle interaction network under physiological conditions and molecular mechanisms for its abnormalities is of great importance to understanding, preventing, and treating related diseases.

Research fellow Wang talked about latest research findings on a vital organelle - the lysosome. The lysosome had long been seen as the material recovery terminal within the cell until recently, when a study found that the lysosome could also function as a hub for signaling, regulate substance and energy metabolism within the cell, and play a role in the occurrence and development of a range of serious diseases. Wang had succeeded in using C. elegans as a model organism to unravel the molecular mechanism that governs the dynamic change of the lysosome in cell fate determination, a discovery which attracted great attention from the experts present.

Research fellow Zhang introduced one of the frontier fields of cell biology, the membrane contact. The membrane contact refers to the state where two organelles of different types are close to but not blend with one another (with an intermembrane distance of about 30 nm). Within an eukaryotic cell, various tube- and sheet-like extensions of the nuclear membrane form the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), which may form membrane contact sites (MCS) between membranous organelles, such as cytoplasmic membranes, mitochondria, Golgi, endosomes and lipid droplets. The contact of the ER with other heterogenetic membrane structures is highly dynamic and requires different types of exocyst and effector to experience different types of stimulation. Previous studies of the structures and functions of the ER were focused primarily in yeast and cell lines cultured in vitro. Studies are still rare as to the structures and functions of the ER within multicellular organisms. However, many riddles remain unsolved as to how the ER in a multicellular organism reacts to the course of development and signals from the outside and how regulate and sustain its dynamic form in different tissues. This point of penetration is expected to lead to major breakthroughs.

Research fellow Huang introduced a new way of thinking for efficient tumor treatment, i.e. using the microparticles derived from tumor cells which carry information of the parent cell. He presented findings which his research team had made in pathological, physiological, and translation research of microparticles, which show that microparticles can not only be used as a natural-carrier anti-tumor drug for efficient inhibition of tumors but also as a novel vaccine that can be used in the immunotherapy of tumors. The interactions between microparticles and effector cells were also discussed.

Participants at the symposium discussed how to strengthen the combination of basic research and clinical medicine, expressed willingness to boost collaboration on future research work, and proposed taking rare genetic diseases with significantly unusual dynamic change of organelles as the point of penetration to together advance the country's organelle research and related fields.

(Academic Symposium Office)