by Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen

Sometimes, it takes very little to change the course of things. Though frequently it may require the presence of another. Take two people who become lovers and whose destinies change after having met by chance at a friend's house. Or two artists who recognise in each other a similar understanding of things and whose meeting causes something very different to emerge - Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock, or Elaine and Willem de Kooning for instance. Or two scientists, for that matter. James Watson and Francis Crick will have no doubt fed on each other's enthusiasm to elucidate the structure of DNA. The same occurs in the world of proteins. It is no secret that proteins frequently work in twos - or indeed threes or more - by binding to one another to perform an overall function. Each individual protein, however, usually has a very distinctive part to play. On more rare occasions, bonding can influence a protein to act differently. This is what happens when two proteins, known as HPF1 and PARP1 (or 2), meet. PARP1/2 is known to act in one way, but when HPF1 binds to it, like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that lock to become a different shape, their active sites add up to create a novel one and, in so doing, PARP1/2 behaves differently.

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

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