Protein Maps


Protein maps chart the causes of disease

September 13, 2017

Magazine feature (online and in print):

“Proteins and other biological molecules rarely work alone; they brush up against one another in fleeting interactions or band together to form complex cellular machines. Only through such partnerships can proteins perform their many functions. Breakdowns in those interactions can affect human health.

‘If you break a gene coding a protein that goes into a complex, then that complex is dysfunctional in some way and that gives rise to a condition or disease,’ says Edward Marcotte, a systems biologist at the University of Texas at Austin.

Biochemists have long studied the ways in which one or a few proteins interact with others. But now they are developing tools to chart more comprehensive sets of protein–protein interactions at levels from organellar to organismal. These interactomes typically look like dense starbursts, with protein dots or nodes joined by the interactions between them. Self-contained clusters of interconnected proteins that emerge from these webs may represent key complexes and communal functions or, as in the case of Ritscher–Schinzel syndrome, provide clues to the roots of disease.”

skin cells
Credit: Zeiss microscopy via Flicker (CC BY 2.0)