by Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen

Better safe than sorry. Leaving - whatever or whoever it may be - is always better when executed with some forethought and organisation. Cells sometimes behave similarly. Many are the occasions when our bodies decide to get rid of cells for the sake of health and equilibrium. The notion is easy to grasp when you consider cells that have either aged or been infected; our system is better off without them. Organisms have several ways of removing cells or, in other words, of programming cell death. Sometimes, though, an ongoing programme moves too fast and, rather like writing a will, the cell needs more time to arrange a few important things before its passing. So, a temporary reanimation mechanism kicks in. Enzymes known as caspases are frequently involved in programmed cell death. One particular caspase however, caspase-7, is actually engaged in repairing self-inflicted holes in a cell's membrane so that the cell has time to prepare a cleaner exit, that is to say without being detrimental to the environment.

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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