Darwin’s theory of evolution highlighted the importance of adaption and diversity in the natural world. Inside a biological cell, can proteins also perform new functions in new contexts? The answer seems to be yes for the brain’s primary protein-degradation machine, especially when it is placed at synapses, revealing a hitherto unknown mechanism that allows synapses to change in response to different circumstances. The role of the regulatory (19S) proteasome particle has always been exclusively linked to its functioning in the proteasome complex, where it collaborates with the catalytic (20S) particle to recognize and remove unwanted or damaged proteins--a mechanism that is crucial for normal brain development and function. Using a super-resolution imaging technique, called DNA PAINT, the research team noticed an abundance of free 19S particles in synapses, floating around without their 20S partners.
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