Two birds, one stone

by Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen

All organisms depend on sets of vital connections, on parts that link to one another to form an intricate and organised whole. Without these connections, all things physiological and metabolic would simply fall apart. Consider animals - for the sake of simplicity. First of all, they require a membrane of sorts, such as skin, to hold everything together and in one place. Skeletons, if they have one, form a scaffold to which is attached muscle. In turn, muscles help to hold various organs in place as does their surrounding connective tissue. Connective tissue can be seen as a sort of biological glue-cum-support that fills in the 'empty' spaces and is composed of cells and 'extracellular matrix' - which, broadly speaking, is a collection of highly organized protein fibres. One of these fibres is fibrillin. Fibrillin is not new to researchers. However, what has recently come as a surprise is the destiny of the C-terminal end of one fibrillin sequence after maturation. Contrary to what had been thought until now, this end is not simply discarded but is actually the sequence of another protein: a protein hormone, since named asprosin.

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

More from Protein Spotlight

Tales From A Small World

Tales From A Small World cover

Tales From A Small World is a collection of the first hundred articles which originally appeared on this site. Published in September 2009, the book is enriched by poems from the Dublin poet, Pat Ingoldsby. Learn more and order your copy online.

Journey Into A Tiny World

Journey Into A Tiny World cover

« Globin and Poietin set out to save Lily's life. But time is running short and they can't find the marrow... Here is the tale of their courage, fun and laughter on a journey that takes them deep into the tiniest of worlds.» For children. Learn more and order your copy online.

Snapshot : Chlorotoxin

Finding the intruder is the oncologist's puzzle when searching for new anti-tumour drugs. To be effective, tumour treatments must be able to distinguish cancerous cells from healthy cells, so as to kill them off without damaging healthy tissue. And what – in this kind of hunt – is better than a scorpion called “Death Stalker”? Though the scorpion won its nick name for other kinds of prey in the Israeli desert, today the Egyptian scorpion - Leiurus quinquestriatus - is winning fame for its powerful venom components in the targeting of cancerous cells.

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 Art Hansen whose work we reproduce on our site!