Daily Archives: April 9, 2009

Built to Recycle

One of the neat things about cells is the way they are built to recycle. For example, protein function is largely due to the shape of the protein. Yet cell’s do not need a large, stored set of 3D-casting templates to form the shaped macromolecules. The 3D information comes from the sequence of amino acids. Thus, to build a protein, all the cell has to do is a) string together amino acids b) in the right order. And both functions are carried out by the ribosome (where each function is carried out by one of the ribosomal subunits).

Yet there is another dimension to this process. Such 3D structures can be easily disassembled into their amino acid subunits and these same amino acids can be used to build another protein. The whole system is built to perfectly facilitate recycling, which makes in increasingly difficult to characterize the flux of protein synthesis and degradation as “wasteful.” On the contrary, this very flux is part of the amazing versatility and flexibility of the cell.

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