On releasing tension

by Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen

Like life, cells are subject to continuous change. Nothing in the vicinity of a cell remains still - unless death has interrupted its course. And the same goes for the inside of each cell. All sorts of molecules are being shuttled from one part to another, after having been created or on their way to being degraded. The cell membrane is also a very dynamic and supple structure, with molecules wandering through it constantly. One means of transport for shifting molecules around are known as endosomes. Endosomes are formed by the invagination of one part of the cell membrane - like a bubble budding towards the inside of the cell - which is then cleaved and able to float free in the cell's cytoplasm. Invagination then occurs on the surface of the endosomes themselves to form even smaller bubbles - or vesicles - that are in turn also set free. Like endosomes, these inner vesicles are a means of molecular transport too. It's a sort of Russian doll experience... The art of invagination per se may sound simple but it involves a lot of imagination on behalf of biology. Recently, scientists discovered a protein coined Snf7 that is providing hints as to how endosome invagination may occur, and the subsequent creation of vesicles.

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!