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.
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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.
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Snapshot : Contulakin-G protein
In the summer of 1935, a young man was enjoying a stroll along the shores of Haymen Island off the coast of Australia when he tripped over an attractive – but live – cone shell which would have made an excellent paperweight back home. Such a destiny, however, was not to the shell’s taste and it retorted by stinging the man’s hand. Numbness, stiffness and soon paralysis of the victim’s limbs occurred before he became unconscious and dropped into a deep coma followed by death within the space of five hours. As for the cone shell, despite its rather strong protest, it didn’t gain its hoped-for freedom and was shipped back to the mainland.
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