Between you and me

by Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen

Communication has a purpose and is usually selfish. Humans have raised it to the level of entertainment in the form of books, exhibitions, politics and plays, and to while away time over smoked salmon and a glass of wine. More often than not, however, organisms communicate for survival reasons - flowers let off scent to attract pollinisers, birds whistle to seduce partners, wolves howl to gather for a hunt, ants sting to ward off predators. Reproduction and food are at the heart of communication, and have moulded it into many shapes in Nature. Messages are exchanged using noises, colours, smells and thorns, for instance, but there are other ways of passing on information that are less obvious. Pheromones are an example. Recently, scientists discovered that a certain type of virus is able to tell its progeny when to infect a host or not, depending on the concentration of a protein that has been dubbed arbitrium peptide.

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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

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