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1st large-scale map of a plant's protein network addresses evolution, disease process
Date:7/29/2011

BOSTON The eon-spanning clock of evolution the millions of years that generally pass before organisms acquire new traits belies a constant ferment in the chambers and channels of cells, as changes in genes and proteins have subtle ripple effects throughout an organism. In a study in the July 29 issue of Science, scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Center for Cancer Systems Biology and an international team of colleagues capture the first evidence of the evolutionary process within networks of plant proteins.

In a companion article, the investigators use their new map of these networks to uncover how microbes like bacteria and fungi undermine plants' defenses against disease. The microbes accomplish this by disrupting a relatively small set of "virtuoso" proteins that play a variety of different roles within the cell.

Together, these findings promise not only to propel crop-improvement and anti-blight efforts, but also because human diseases involve disturbances in protein networks as well increase the understanding of a variety of human health disorders, including cancer, the authors state.

"Although these papers focus on the interactions of proteins in plants, they have implications for what occurs in animal and human cells as well," says Dana-Farber's Pascal Braun, PhD, who had a leading role in both studies. "The central role of protein interactions in all of life suggests that our findings hold important lessons for the study of health and disease in humans."

The model for the two studies was Arabidopsis thaliana, a small, gangly plant with prim white flowers that would likely be considered a weed if it appeared in someone's front yard, but which is a favorite subject of plant biology because it germinates rapidly and has a relatively simple genome of 27,000 genes. Despite decades of research involving the plant, however, scientists have yet to determine the roles of more than 60 perce
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Contact: Teresa Herbert
teresa_herbert@dfci.harvard.du
617-632-4090
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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