Two's company

by Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen

Pairing up is sometimes paramount to life. On the molecular scale, dimerization in our bodies is at the heart of many fundamental biological processes, such as the transduction of signals from the outside of a cell to the inside for instance. Split two molecules apart and, just like taking the propeller away from a ship, things are sure to change drastically. Signal transduction, on which life depends, is hugely due to protein-protein interaction. A ligand recognises its receptor, binds to it, thereby triggering off biological processes downstream. In the case of Kit ligand, and its receptor Kit, their binding is subject to the dimerization of both the ligand and its receptor, following which signals are transduced further downstream triggering off other biological processes. Kit ligand and Kit are a case of substantial conformational change on the molecular level - dimerization but also angles which bring about flexibility - that are necessary for Kit to get on with its job.

SwissProt
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

More from Protein Spotlight

Tales From A Small World

Tales From A Small World cover

Tales From A Small World is a collection of the first hundred articles which originally appeared on this site. Published in September 2009, the book is enriched by poems from the Dublin poet, Pat Ingoldsby. Learn more and order your copy online.

Journey Into A Tiny World

Journey Into A Tiny World cover

« Globin and Poietin set out to save Lily's life. But time is running short and they can't find the marrow... Here is the tale of their courage, fun and laughter on a journey that takes them deep into the tiniest of worlds.» For children. Learn more and order your copy online.

Snapshot : SLC24A5

The colour of human skin is still frequently at the heart of violent political, social and physical controversy. Yet there is no biological basis to this. A given human population cannot be defined according to its pigmentation since any skin hue blends gradually into another. But there are undoubtedly dark skins, and there are light skins. The difference depends on the amount of a pigment - melanin - found in skin cells. And scientists have found a gene which has a direct influence on melanin content, and hence skin colour: SLC24A5.

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 T.H. Huxley (?) whose work we reproduce on our site!