In our day-to-day lives we execute spatially targeted movements with ease and seemingly without much thought. These movements may include reaching for your morning cup of coffee, checking your mirrors on your drive into work, or catching a cricket ball.
Scientists in Philipp Holliger’s group in the LMB’s PNAC Division have created a new type of genetic replication system to demonstrate how the first life on Earth – in the form of RNA – could have replicated itself.
Our understanding of life’s early history is limited but a popular theory for the earliest stages of life on Earth is that it was founded on strands of RNA, a chemical cousin of DNA.
Work from Madan Babu’s group in the LMB’s Structural Studies Division, spearheaded by Charles Ravarani and in collaboration with Alexandre Erkine’s group at Butler University, has for the first time harnessed next generation sequencing and machine learning to develop a high throughput screen to uncover disordered regions of proteins that are functional within cells.
Proteins, the molecular machines of the cell, are formed from chains of amino acids.
During a viral infection, our immune system produces potent antiviral molecules which are hugely important for restoring us to health. However, if made at the wrong time these molecules can be damaging, leading to autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Our antiviral response must therefore be tightly controlled so that we are protected against infection but do not suffer from autoimmune disease.
Ageing is characterised by a decline in function at both the cellular and organismal level and is the major risk factor for several neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. One of the key cellular processes that is affected during ageing is the transport system that nerve cells use to deliver components to different locations.
The discovery that different numbers of dyneins can be recruited by different cargo adaptors was unexpected. It suggests that different cargos could use different adaptors depending on their requirements for transport, for example, large cargos such as the mitochondria, need more force to pull them. One surprising aspect is that linking two motors together increases their overall speed – if you just tie two runners together, they won’t run any faster.
Previous work from KJ Patel’s group in the LMB’s PNAC Division revealed that aldehydes – such as acetaldehyde, a by-product of alcohol metabolism – can damage our DNA. Further research by the group showed that our cells are protected against these toxic aldehydes using a two-tier protection system: enzymes that remove these aldehydes (tier-1) and DNA repair that fixes the damage they cause (tier-2).
The human genome encodes approximately 5000 membrane-embedded proteins that carry out many essential processes such as cell-to-cell communication, cell adhesion and intracellular trafficking. Almost all of these proteins are assembled at the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) by molecular machines that guide them into the membrane. Because these thousands of membrane proteins are highly diverse in size, shape and charge, different machines are needed for different types of membrane proteins.
All the cells in our body contain thousands of proteins, molecular machines which carry out almost all biological processes that are essential for life. Many diseases, such as cancer and neurodegeneration, are caused when these protein machines go wrong. Thus it has been a long-term goal in science to characterise the functions of proteins within our cells.
The spliceosome is a molecular machine that plays an important role in gene expression. It cuts non-coding sequences (introns) out of messenger RNA (mRNA) precursors, and stitches together the useful coding sequences (exons). The spliceosome performs this in two steps. First, the start of an intron is recognised, cut, and joined to a specific point in the middle of that intron, forming a lasso-like looped structure.