The factor of time gives scientists insight into cellular machines
Most things that happen in the cell are the work of molecular machines – complexes of proteins that carry out important cellular functions. Until now, scientists didnt have a clear idea of when proteins form these machines – are these complexes pre-fabricated or put together on the spot for each specific job? Researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), working closely with scientists from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), have now answered that question by drawing together many types of data in a fascinating new model. The work is published in this weeks edition of Science.
"Past studies of this type have usually left out a crucial element – time," says EMBL Group Leader Peer Bork. "But now a picture has emerged which is extremely dynamic."
The researchers discovered that in yeast, key components needed to create a machine are produced ahead of time, and kept in stock. When a new machine is needed, a few crucial last pieces are synthesized and then the apparatus is assembled. Holding off on the last components enables the cell to prevent building machines at the wrong times. Thats a different scenario from what happens in bacteria, which usually start production of all the parts, from scratch, whenever they want to get something done.
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