Optimization for self-production may explain key features of ribosomes, the protein production factories of the cell, reported researchers from Harvard Medical School in Nature online on July 19, 2017. The article is titled “Ribosomes Are Optimized for Autocatalytic Production.” In a new study, a team led by Dr. Johan Paulsson, Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, mathematically demonstrated that ribosomes are precisely structured to produce additional ribosomes as quickly as possible, in order to support efficient cell growth and division. The study's theoretical predictions accurately reflect observed large-scale features of ribosomes -- revealing why are they made of an unusually large number of small, uniformly sized proteins and a few strands of RNA that vary greatly in size -- and provide perspective on the evolution of an exceptional molecular machine. "The ribosome is one of the most important molecular complexes in all of life, and it's been studied across scientific disciplines for decades," Dr. Paulsson said. "I was always puzzled by the fact that it seemed like we could explain its finer details, but ribosomes have these bizarre features that have not often been addressed, or, if so, in an unsatisfying way."
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