by Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen

Stress is a warning signal. It is like setting off a fire alarm or dialling an emergency phone number. The point is to trigger a reaction which, in the best of cases, will set things right again. We have all sensed stress at various times in our lives and, if we are attentive, our bodies react by firing off different signals: muscle stiffness, fatigue, headaches, indigestion... Though we may instinctively think of stress as something which emerges from external sources - such as busy timetables, relationships, disease or starvation - stress can also arise from sources within us. In fact, living organisms recognised the benefits of stress as a warning signal long before the word existed. One example are mitochondria. Mitochondria are small organelles whose major role is to produce biological energy, otherwise known as ATP. Consequently, healthy mitochondria are paramount to life. If, for one reason or another, they become malfunctional, they may choose to trigger off what is known as an 'integrated stress response', or ISR. This indicates to the cell that they need help, and the cell will do its best to fix the situation. A key protein involved in activating mitochondrion-induced ISR is known as 'death ligand signal enhancer', or DELE1.

Protein Spotlight (ISSN 1424-4721) is a monthly review written by the Swiss-Prot team of the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics. Spotlight articles describe a specific protein or family of proteins on an informal tone. Follow us: Subscribe · Twitter · Facebook

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A little bit of praise!

“I recently stumbled upon your columns. Let me congratulate you on achieving the near impossible, for your articles have enabled me to successfully marry IT with the Life Sciences and better explain the concepts of bioinformatics to those who are not in the know of the field.

Your articles are very well written, lucid, and contain just enough information to excite the reader to want to learn more about the topic being discussed. They fall in a very rare category where they are accessible to everyone, from the undergraduate students to research students who want to have a basic idea of the topics being discussed. Some of your articles, like "Our hollow architecture" and "Throb" are outstanding pieces.

I would highly recommend your articles as a necessary reading in undergrad classes to get students inspired about the various avenues of research.”

— Rohan Chaubal, Senior Researcher in Genomics

Thank you to Judy Somerville whose work we reproduce on our site!