Peroxisomes are cell organelles that act as waste disposal systems in our bodies. They dispose of toxic substances and fats, preventing serious illnesses. The proteins known as “Pex” keep the peroxisomes functioning properly. A team of researchers at Münster University used a high-tech microscope to study these complex processes at the atomic level. They discovered that peroxisomes play a crucial role in fat metabolism, converting fats into usable energy. Without peroxisomes, harmful amounts of certain fats can accumulate, leading to health problems like Alzheimer’s and cancer. Specific enzymes are needed for each process, but these enzymes cannot easily pass through the biological membrane surrounding the peroxisomes. They have to be imported with the help of the Pex proteins. Once inside, the enzymes are recycled or disposed of by the peroxisomal AAA-ATPase complex. This complex unpacks and unfolds spent proteins, keeping the peroxisomes clean and functional. Malfunctions in peroxisomal biogenesis are often caused by mutations in the Pex proteins. The researchers used cryogenic electron microscopy to study the atomic details of the peroxisomal AAA-ATPase complex. They found that Pex1 and Pex6 work together to pull out a substrate from the membrane, allowing it to be recycled. This new understanding can help uncover the causes of metabolic disorders related to peroxisomes.
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