New technique nets scientists haul of key proteins

Researchers “catch” close to 10,000 proteins involved in cytoskeleton formation
Published: 9 January 2020

Using a new microscopic "fishing" technique, scientists from the Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM), Université de Montréal and McGill University have successfully snagged thousands of proteins that play a key role in the formation of the cell skeletons or cytoskeletons. Cell skeletons, whose primary function is to give the cells their shapes, are also involved in things like muscle contraction. They are made up of an interlocking network of protein filaments that connect the cell nucleus to the cell membrane. While some of these proteins are already well known, the function of others is yet to be discovered.

In a paper published recently in Nature Cell Biology, a team led by cell biologist Jean-François Côté, who is affiliated with McGill University, and based at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM), went fishing using 56 different “baits” to “catch” proteins among the human cells they were incubating in their laboratory. They were so successful that they caught close to 10,000 proteins whose functions remains to be determined in some cases.

Through their research, Côté and his team have not only discovered the missing link in a particular process of cytoskeleton formation known as the Rho process, but they have also demonstrated the effectiveness of their unique "fishing" method as a way of catching proteins. Côté now plans to use it to better understand how other molecular switches work, especially those in the Ras family, proteins that lie at the centre of many types of cancer.


To read: “Mapping the proximity interaction network of the Rho-family GTPases reveals signalling pathways and regulatory mechanisms” in Nature Cell Biology by Halil Bagci et al


The research was funded by Institut Pasteur, France, Max-Delbrueck-Center for Molecular Medicine, Germany, OHRI, Canada, the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Transat Chair in Breast Cancer Research.

About McGill University

Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill University is Canada’s top ranked medical doctoral university. McGill is consistently ranked as one of the top universities, both nationally and internationally. It is a world-renowned institution of higher learning with research activities spanning two campuses, 11 faculties, 13 professional schools, 300 programs of study and over 40,000 students, including more than 10,200 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 12,800 international students making up 31% per cent of the student body. Over half of McGill students claim a first language other than English, including approximately 19% of our students who say French is their mother tongue.


Katherine Gombay

McGill Media Relations Office


katherine.gombay [at]


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