vaults: novel cell particles

Kids: FAQs


Q: Vaults are so large, Why weren't they discovered sooner?

A: In a highly magnified view of a cell the particle would look like a uninteresting grey blob. Vaults were only identified after they were purified by accident. They were able to be seen in an electron microscope using a negative stain. With this method, the purified vault particle is covered with a stain that surrounds it and settles in surface depressions to reveal its unusual outline and contours.

Q:What is the function of vaults?

A: The precise function of vaults is still unknown. Their size, shape and location at nuclear pores suggests that they may be a plug of the pore complex. Their hollow interior and role in cancer indicates that they may be carriers. The fact that one of the high molecular weight vault proteins (p240 or TEP1) is a component of telomerase may indicate a role in assembly, transport or regulation of ribonucleoprotein particles.

Q:Why engineer vaults?

A: Engineering vaults is a way to change their structure so that they can be used for new things. For example: vaults engineered to contain a drug could be used to deliver drugs to cells of the body.

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