When a protein misfolds, the results can be disastrous. An incorrect change in the molecules shape can lead to diseases including Alzheimers and Huntingtons. But scientists have discovered that misfolded proteins can have a positive side in yeast, helping cells navigate the dicey current of natural selection by expressing a variety of hidden genetic traits.
Whats more, at the center of this process is a prion, a protein that changes shape in a self-perpetuating way--much like the prion in mammals that is responsible for certain neurological conditions such as Mad Cow disease.
"This is the first time weve seen a prion affect a cell in a beneficial way that can determine the evolution of an organism," says Heather True, lead author of the paper, which will appear August 15 in the online edition of the journal Nature.
David Cameron | EurekAlert!
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