Proteins move. Most people are likely familiar with proteins in the context of their own nutrition – you get protein from meat, unless you’re a vegetarian, in which case you might get protein from soy or milk. But proteins are not just a part of your diet. The extremely broad category of molecules contained under the word “proteins” varies wildly in terms of size, shape, and composition, and their activity in your cells determines your health and survival.
Proteins – large molecules that are the workhorses of living cells – facilitate many important functions through their interactions with other proteins, DNA, and small molecules, such as drugs. It has been fifty years since the first protein structure was determined, and the insight gained from studying these structures should not be understated. A major theme of biochemistry is the “structure-function paradigm” which says that a protein’s structure will dictate its function. Textbooks are graced with colorful images of protein structures, making it easy to think of protein molecules as trapped in a single configuration. But in a living cell, proteins are quite mobile and dynamic molecular machines.
A well-known animated video from a collaboration between XVIVO, a studio which specializes in scientific animations, and Harvard University (watch it here) illustrates the dynamic nature of proteins in a cell. (more…)