A loosening of habits

by Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen

We are not alone. From the day we are born, we carry with us hordes of microorganisms which, if all is going well, live off us while giving something in return. This micro-universe which is an integral part of our physiology has been called the microbiome. In the recent years, scientists have demonstrated the importance a microbiome has on our overall health; how it can influence our well-being as it can be at the heart of a disease. Take our mouths for instance. A mouth is home to billions of microorganisms with whom we share our life on a daily basis. However, when the balance between them and us is perturbed, it can cause discomforts such as periodontal disease, also known as gum disease or periodontitis. Periodontal disease is probably the doing of a variety of microorganisms, but there is one bacterium that seems to have a major role in its development: Porphyromonas gingivalis. P.gingivalis has filaments - or fimbriae - that protrude from its outer membrane and help the bacterium adhere, among other things, to host cells. The molecular structure of fimbriae is gradually emerging, as are the roles of the proteins that are part of it.

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

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