In a new study published in the prestigious journal Nature, researchers took a look at protein complexes present in 9 different species, ranging from the baker’s yeast to humans. What makes this study special is the sheer size of the study, as more than 13,000 proteins were experimentally studied. The researchers also used a computational approach to study over a million protein complexes in 122 species whose sequenced genome was available. This is three times the number previously known.
Proteins are the workhorses of biology, they are small molecular machines that are responsible for speeding up chemical reactions in the cell, provide structural support, help with transport of substances, copy our genetic material, manage the communication in and between our cells and are even involved in their own synthesis. Many proteins fulfill their roles when in association with other proteins. We call these associations protein complexes.
The striking similarity between all living things, a testament of the validity of evolution, has been well known. In this study the researchers chose species that span an evolutionary distance of about a billion years. This new study adds yet another example of this similarity, the protein complex named Commander is found in humans, flies, frogs and sea urchins. Recently it was discovered that defects in one of the proteins of the Commander complex are responsible for a human disease characterized by brain defects. To test if the Commander complex was also involved in brain development in other animals the researchers manipulated the protein in frogs and found that the frog embryos have similar defects as the human disease.
It is hoped that this map will help scientists to better translate findings from animal studies to humans.
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