We take our shape for granted. As we do the contours of our eyes and the curves of our heart. But for everything to be sculpted the way Nature has found it best for us to be, cells need to know when to multiply and when to stop multiplying, in addition to knowing how to remain close to one another while dealing with external forces such as the gravitational pull. It all comes down to a very delicate balance between biology and physics. Even a single cell needs to be able to counter surrounding tensions without which it would simply collapse and hence lose its three-dimensional status. Within every cell many different proteins are busy making sure that the cell's tension is sufficient for it not to collapse, whilst others promote cell proliferation and cell binding as an organ is gradually formed. Yes-associated protein - YAP - is one such protein that not only has a role in cell proliferation and tissue regeneration but also in organ shape and alignment.
More from Protein Spotlight
Tales From A Small World
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
« 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 : Calmodulin
Charles Darwin’s very popular theory of evolution emerged from his observation of chaffinches on the Galapagos Islands. He had recorded 14 different species, from as many different islands, when it became clear to him that, despite differences, the species were nevertheless related. The obvious disparity lay in the shape of their beaks and this was directly related to a specific diet. Chaffinches which lived on flowers and cactus fruit had long narrow beaks, while those which lived off strong-shelled grains had large, powerful beaks. What was it that could drive such differences ? It took the best part of two centuries before anyone could give an answer. And we know today, that the shape of a chaffinch’s beak is dependent on the expression of a protein: calmodulin.
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