About 70 percent of all human proteins include at least one sequence consisting of a single amino acid repeated many times, with a few other amino acids sprinkled in. These “low-complexity regions” (LCRs) are also found in most other organisms. The proteins that contain these sequences have many different functions, but MIT biologists have now come up with a way to identify and study them as a unified group. Their technique allows them to analyze similarities and differences between LCRs from different species, and helps them to determine the functions of these sequences and the proteins in which they are found. Using their technique, the researchers have analyzed all of the proteins found in eight different species, from bacteria to humans. They found that while LCRs can vary between proteins and species, they often share a similar role — helping the protein in which they’re found to join a larger-scale assembly such as the nucleolus, an organelle found in nearly all human cells.
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