On a tightrope

by Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen

Too much of anything is never good. Excess alcohol, and our faculties are impaired. Excess heat, and drought spreads. Excess cold, and vineyards die. Too much, too, of what is paradoxically essential to life frequently turns out to be toxic. Consider oxygen, iron, zinc or vitamins to name but four. Though we may be acquainted with the symptoms of what 'too much' entails, these are merely the superficial echo of cells under stress. Over the aeons, and throughout the living kingdom, organisms have had to deal with periodical over-abundances of many things. While selecting systems to use them in small doses, they promoted others to keep them in check. As an illustration, iron is vital for ferrying oxygen in organisms, and it is crucial in DNA synthesis, DNA repair and other fundamental cellular processes. Yet, too much iron will kill a cell - a process known as ferroptosis. Though this may be an ideal way of ridding a tissue of unhealthy cells, alternative processes have also evolved to stabilise things and prevent ferroptosis. One of these processes involves a protein known as ferroptosis suppressor protein 1, or FSP1.

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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!

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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.”

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