Scientists find gene sequences that stall protein synthesis

Mar 01, 2013
BYU scientists find gene sequences that stall protein synthesis

(Phys.org)—Machines don't always run smoothly – phone calls drop, computers crash and cars stall.

A new Brigham Young University study shows the same kinds of problems happen to the within our cells.

Known as ribosomes, these machines crank out the proteins that do nearly everything cells need to survive: Move things around, speed up chemical reactions to get energy from food, even make and copy DNA.

With all that ribosomes do right, it's only now coming to light how much can go wrong. As BYU biochemists report this month in the , these are just as prone to failure as man-made machines.

"Biologists tend to think of the ribosome as capable of making anything," said BYU professor and study author Allen Buskirk. "They think that ribosomes don't care what sequence you give them – that they just make whatever you tell them to make. And that's not true."

Even in a simple bacterial cell, there are thousands of different proteins, each made up of linked together end to end. Ribosomes have to build all these proteins accurately and quickly, using information copied off of DNA as to determine which amino acid goes where.

Buskirk and his students found a variety of that cause ribosomes to move in fits and starts or completely stall. Some of it may be strategic – buying time for the protein to fold properly as it comes off the ribosome, or regulating the expression of nearby genes in response to changing conditions in the cell.

In other cases, however, it seems more like a bug in the system. Buskirk and his co-authors explain in the new study how cells recover from those setbacks with systems that alleviate stalling or rescue stalled ribosomes.

Explore further: A mathematical theory proposed by Alan Turing in 1952 can explain the formation of fingers

More information: www.pnas.org/content/early/201… /1219536110.abstract

Related Stories

Study shows stressed-out cells halt protein synthesis

Jan 09, 2013

(Phys.org)—Cells experience stress in multiple ways. Temperature shifts, mis-folded proteins and oxidative damage can all cause cellular stress. But whatever the form of the stress, all cells quickly stop ...

Raising the blockade

Dec 14, 2012

At crucial points in the metabolism of all organisms, a protein with the unwieldy name of Translation Elongation Factor P (EF-P, for short) takes center stage. What it actually does during protein synthesis has only now been ...

Superbugs may have a soft spot, after all

Feb 26, 2013

The overuse of antibiotics has created strains of bacteria resistant to medication, making the diseases they cause difficult to treat, or even deadly. But now a research team at the University of Rochester has identified ...

Scientist uncovers switch controlling protein production

Dec 22, 2010

A scientist from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute has discovered a molecular switch that controls the synthesis of ribosomes. Ribosomes are the large machineries inside all living cells that produce proteins, ...

Recommended for you

Molecular gate that could keep cancer cells locked up

3 hours ago

In a study published today in Genes & Development, Dr Christian Speck from the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre's DNA Replication group, in collaboration with Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), New York, ...

The 'memory' of starvation is in your genes

6 hours ago

During the winter of 1944, the Nazis blocked food supplies to the western Netherlands, creating a period of widespread famine and devastation. The impact of starvation on expectant mothers produced one of the first known ...

Sugar mimics guide stem cells toward neural fate

Jul 30, 2014

Embryonic stem cells can develop into a multitude of cells types. Researchers would like to understand how to channel that development into the specific types of mature cells that make up the organs and other structures of ...

User comments : 0