The hidden things

by Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen

Nature has its secret ways. During the course of the 19th century, the Augustinian friar Gregor Mendel worked out the basics of genetic inheritance as he crossbred pea plants. About a century later, it has become obvious that the inheritance of a given trait is in fact not so straightforward. What is more, there seems to be growing evidence that a given trait can actually be handed down generations - even skipping generations - without it being frankly dictated by a gene; a notion which, in the realm of biological dogmas, is like a crack at the base of a sturdy building. The concept is not really new but scientists may have strengthened it following studies on folate metabolism - one of whose major protagonists is methionine synthase reductase, or Mtrr - by suggesting a mechanism of inheritance that is driven by entities which are not an actual part of a gene, otherwise known as epigenetic inheritance.

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!