The clouds of spaghetti that keep DNA data safe
Cells can avoid “data breaches” when letting signaling proteins into their nuclei thanks to a quirky biophysical mechanism involving a blur of spaghetti-like proteins, researchers from the Rockefeller University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have shown. Their study appears in the March 23 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
In every human cell, all of the body’s blueprints and instructions are stored in the form of DNA inside the nucleus. Molecules that need to travel in and out of the nucleus – to turn genes on or off or retrieve information – do so through passageways called nuclear pore complexes (NPCs). Traffic through these NPCs must be tightly controlled in order to prevent DNA hijacking by viruses or faulty functioning as in cancer.
"How on Earth do you have the kind of specificity that we see in protein-protein interactions like antibodies, and yet have the kind of speed that we see with water off a Teflon pan?"
"I can’t think of any analogy in normal life that does what this does," Rout said. "You’ve got this blur of (amino acids) coming on and off (the transport factor) with extraordinary speed."