Either you, or me

by Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen

The planet is replete with organisms of all shapes and sizes fighting for their survival. Humans included. The best part of an organism's life is spent looking for the right nutrients and conditions to thrive, and over time Nature has designed a variety of subtle mechanisms to sense them. In this way, plants bind photons from sunlight to transform it into energy, while their roots absorb nitrogen to synthesize amino acids. Animals on the other hand harness oxygen to consume their fuel, and bacteria pick up iron for vital metabolic processes. Two organisms may find themselves having to share nutrients. Or, on the contrary, having to fight for them. During the process of infection, for example, neither the host nor the pathogen are out to share, and common nutrients can actually lay the foundations for ruthless conflict. Take copper for instance. Cryptococcus neoformans is a fungal pathogen which infects cells by using the copper it finds in them for its own metabolism, while the host retaliates by raising the concentration of metal to create a toxic environment for the pathogen. In C.neoformans, a protein known as Cuf1 is at the heart of this quarrel over copper.

SwissProt
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

More from Protein Spotlight

Tales From A Small World

Tales From A Small World cover

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

Journey Into A Tiny World cover

« 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 : poliovirus receptor

All organisms need other organisms to survive. Flowers need bees. Frogs need flies. Humans need fruit. And viruses need us. As an example, poliovirus invades human cells where it can use what it needs to replicate and multiply. In doing so, the virus not only damages the host cell but also interferes with its activity. However, before a virus stands a chance of invading a cell, let alone propagating inside it, something has to let it in. For poliovirus, that something is a protein receptor, known as the poliovirus receptor. These receptors are found on the surface of cells and are specifically recognised by poliovirus, which docks to them and then finds a way to wriggle inside the cell.

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 Vladas Velyvis whose work we reproduce on our site!