These wiring diagrams show the patterns of protein interactions in the cells of yeast, worm, and fly that are involved in an essential garbage-disposal function. The horizontal dotted lines indicate protein similarities between species, and the thick and thinner solid lines indicate direct and indirect, respectively, protein interactions within a species.
Researchers in California, Israel, and Germany have compared three distantly related species – baker’s yeast, a worm, and the fruit fly – and reported that protein “wiring” connections in one species are often conserved in all three. This first-of-its-kind analysis of three higher level organisms published in the February 8 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences supports both the concept of a basic wiring diagram for all eukaryotic cells, and the idea that more selective pharmaceuticals could be designed to tweak the wiring plan of human cells to more effectively treat diseases while also generating fewer side-effects.
"We’re basically now able to open the hood of yeast, worm, and fly cells and look at the protein interactions inside,” said Trey Ideker, a bioengineering professor at the University of California, San Diego and one of the nine co-authors of the paper. “Ultimately, this type of wiring analysis will help us more fully explain how the diversity of life developed on the planet, and more practically, how a pathogen differs from its human host, or a diseased cell differs from it healthy counterpart at the most informative level of detail.”
For centuries, systematic comparisons of animal, plant, and microbial species was based on painstaking measurements of anatomic features. Beginning in the late-1970s, DNA sequencing technology permitted biologists to identify the precise subunit sequence of every gene in the genomes of everything from malaria pathogens and mosquitoes to mouse and human. Databases of genomic information have been combined with databases that list the precise subunit sequence of proteins as well. Cross-species DNA and protein comparisons have become routine for all biologists with computerized search programs, the most popular of which is called BLAST.
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