For proteins, this would be the equivalent of the red-carpet treatment: each protein belonging to the complex machinery of ribosomes -- components of the cell that produce proteins -- has its own chaperone to guide it to the right place at the right time and protect it from harm. In a new Caltech study, researchers are learning more about how ribosome chaperones work, showing that one particular chaperone binds to its protein client in a very specific, tight manner, almost like a glove fitting a hand. The researchers used X-ray crystallography to solve the atomic structure of the ribosomal protein bound to its chaperone. "Making ribosomes is a bit like baking a cake. The individual ingredients come in protective packaging that specifically fits their size and shape until they are unwrapped and blended into a batter," says Dr. André Hoelz, Professor of Chemistry at Caltech, a Heritage Medical Research Institute (HMRI) Investigator, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Faculty Scholar." What we have done is figure out how the protective packaging fits one ribosomal protein, and how it comes unwrapped." Dr. Hoelz is the principal investigator behind the study published online on February 2, 2017, in the Nature Communications. The finding has potential applications in the development of new cancer drugs designed specifically to disable ribosome assembly. In all cells, genetic information is stored as DNA and transcribed into mRNAs that code for proteins. Ribosomes translate the mRNAs into amino acids, linking them together into polypeptide chains that fold into proteins. More than a million ribosomes are produced per day in an animal cell.
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