Sunday, December 4, 2011

Researchers Made the Largest Protein Interaction Map Ever

[caption id="attachment_3215" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="This is the map that shows how thousands of proteins in a fruit fly cell communicate. It is the largest and most detailed protein interaction map of any multicellular organism to date. It shows how one-third, or 5,000, of the proteins interact. (Image source: Harvard Medical School)"][/caption]

Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas, Harvard Medical School professor of cell biology, and a group of researchers have built a map showing how proteins in the fruit fly (D. melanogaster) cell interact with one another using mass spectrometry, which has only recently come into use in biological research. Although this map is not yet complete, they know about the functions of a third of these proteins and can infer the functions of another third; as for the last one-third, they do not know enough about its functions yet.

The significance of studying the protein functions of fruit flies is that humans and fruit flies are descendants of a common ancestor and therefore still mostly rely on the same cellular mechanisms to survive, meaning that this protein interaction map serves as a sort of blueprint for fruit flies, humans, and other higher-order organisms with the same common ancestor. Also, understanding how these proteins operate normally allows researchers to understand how they operate when an organism is diseased and how a cell responds to change in metabolic conditions caused by, for example, the introduction of drugs or genetic alterations. In the future, the answers to these questions may lead to drug treatments for various diseases in humans and a more in-depth understanding of how diseases function in general. The fruit fly has been used as a model organism in the field of genetics since the early 20th century, and will continued to be used in this manner, in my opinion.

The abstract of the original research article can be found here.

1 comment:

  1. It's crazy how complicated these systems are. There are so many interactions in that map of just 1/3 of the proteins, it shows how extraordinarily complex even a simple organism like a fruit fly can be.