Shaping life

by Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen

We take our shape for granted. As we do the contours of our eyes and the curves of our heart. But for everything to be sculpted the way Nature has found it best for us to be, cells need to know when to multiply and when to stop multiplying, in addition to knowing how to remain close to one another while dealing with external forces such as the gravitational pull. It all comes down to a very delicate balance between biology and physics. Even a single cell needs to be able to counter surrounding tensions without which it would simply collapse and hence lose its three-dimensional status. Within every cell many different proteins are busy making sure that the cell's tension is sufficient for it not to collapse, whilst others promote cell proliferation and cell binding as an organ is gradually formed. Yes-associated protein - YAP - is one such protein that not only has a role in cell proliferation and tissue regeneration but also in organ shape and alignment.

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Protein Spotlight (ISSN 1424-4721) is a monthly review written by the Swiss-Prot team of the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics. Spotlight articles describe a specific protein or family of proteins on an informal tone. Follow us: Subscribe · Twitter · Facebook

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A little bit of praise!

“I recently stumbled upon your columns. Let me congratulate you on achieving the near impossible, for your articles have enabled me to successfully marry IT with the Life Sciences and better explain the concepts of bioinformatics to those who are not in the know of the field.

Your articles are very well written, lucid, and contain just enough information to excite the reader to want to learn more about the topic being discussed. They fall in a very rare category where they are accessible to everyone, from the undergraduate students to research students who want to have a basic idea of the topics being discussed. Some of your articles, like "Our hollow architecture" and "Throb" are outstanding pieces.

I would highly recommend your articles as a necessary reading in undergrad classes to get students inspired about the various avenues of research.”

— Rohan Chaubal, Senior Researcher in Genomics, July 2011

Thank you to Robert Slingsby whose work we reproduce on our site!