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January 6, 2011, 6:30 pm

Amazing protein "spacecraft" inside our cells

Proteins machines looking like spacecraft help make messenger RNA inside the nucleus, which can be read by ribosomes to make more proteins in the cytoplasm of our cells... see the video!

What was discovered?

The central dogma of molecular biology can be simplified as the idea that DNA provides the information to be copied into RNA (by transcription), which can leave the nucleus through pores to enter the cytoplasm, where the information is read by ribosomes (during translation) so that the correct sequence of amino acids is assembled into the right protein molecule.

Simple?  Actually, not so simple!

The details of how these processes occur, and the sophisticated protein machines that help out, are far from simple...

understanding how proteins are made is fascinating, and has resulted in many a scientific breakthrough, and even Nobel prizes!


By asking questions and designing experiments to explore those questions! 

The video represents the work of literally thousands of scientists working for years, but by putting all their results together the story is becoming clearer.

You can ask questions of several Nobel laureates who have contributed to our understanding of how proteins are made in our Interviews section.

Why is it important?

Proteins are needed to make the membranes which surround cells and organelles, controlling what can enter or leave a cell.  They are also needed to make the enzymes that act as chemical catalysts to make things happen in cells... without enzymes, life cannot occur.

There are many more functions of proteins... can you think of any?

So, without proteins cells simply don't work, and without cells, there's no life!  Knowing how proteins work, is therefore very important so that we can understand how a cell usually works, and of course that helps us understand what can go wrong if the proteins are not made, or they do not work properly, as often happens in diseases.


See also

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How is the genetic information in our DNA turned into proteins? It's an amazing process involving molecular machines!From the PBS production called "DNA: The Secret of Life". A Windfall...
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RNA is a very capable molecule! Meet one of the scientists who discovered its fascinating powers: Nobel Prize winner Tom Cech.Interviewed by Per Thorén, Chalmers University of...
Ada Yonath
People thought she was crazy to try to do the impossible and make crystals of ribosomes. But she succeeded and paved the way for determining the structure of the molecular machine inside...