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Not all of a cell’s protein-making machines do the same job

Some ribosomes specialize and may even play a role in embryonic development, early work suggests

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7:00am, December 12, 2017
ribosome

STANDING OUT  Scientists used to think that ribosomes, molecular machines that build proteins, are identical and interchangeable. But the micromachines are more diverse than previously thought, new research suggests.

PHILADELPHIA — Protein-manufacturing factories within cells are picky about which widgets they construct, new research suggests. These ribosomes may not build all kinds of proteins, instead opting to craft only specialty products.

Some of that specialization may influence the course of embryo development, developmental biologist and geneticist Maria Barna of Stanford University School of Medicine and colleagues discovered. Barna reported the findings December 5 at the joint meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology and European Molecular Biology Organization.

Ribosomes, which are themselves made up of many proteins and RNAs, read genetic instructions copied from DNA into messenger RNAs. The ribosomes then translate those instructions into other proteins that build cells and carry out cellular functions. A typical mammalian cell may carry 10 million ribosomes. “The textbook view of

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