It did it its way

by Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen

Temperatures can get cold. And living organisms have to find ways of keeping themselves warm. Humans use clothes. Polar bears grow fur. Whales are lined with blubber. And many animals avoid the cold by migrating to warmer parts of the planet. But for cold-blooded animals - such as fish - things are sometimes more complicated. Especially when they live in waters which are ice-cold, on a seasonal basis or not. The formation of ice in an organism is dangerous because it can damage cells irreversibly. To solve this problem, Nature thought up an antifreeze system which hinders ice formation: antifreeze proteins. There are all sorts of antifreeze proteins but one is particularly special - Maxi - and keeps fish alive in waters as cold as - 1.9 °C. As its name suggests, it is much larger than the other antifreeze proteins known to date, but it also behaves very differently. What is more, its 3D structure has shed a very different light on the way the core of a protein is formed.

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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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Snapshot : Titin

Senora Pilasana
Voulez-vous le taximeter?
Le tionta su la seata
Tu la tu la tu la wa
This is gibberish sung by Charlie Chaplin in ‘Modern Times’ as he struggles to satisfy an impatient audience whilst frantically seeking for his cuff – on which he had written the true lyrics – which had flown off his wrist following an unfortunate flick as he made a hasty entry to perform. He ad-libs novel lyrics to the tune of ‘Je cherche après Titine’ (‘Looking for Titine’) a then popular French song written by M.Bertal and L.Maubon in 1917, the music of which was composed by L.Daniderff. As a result, Chaplin not only added to the song’s popularity but also made it worldwide. Little did he know though that what helped him to dash around the dining-room as he searched for the lost cuff is also named…titin….

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 Pat Serrano whose work we reproduce on our site!