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Do amino-acids spontaneously bond within a cell?

  1. Nov 17, 2016 #1
    I was wondering whether it is possible for amino acids that end up in a cell (ready to be made into proteins) to spontaneously start to bond in the cytoplasm (or wherever the routing channel is I guess) and create randomly floating short strands of polymers?

    Furthermore, can it ever happen that once in a DNA structure for example, that amino acids from one strand could attract another strand and then break off and bond? My guess is that this is a straight no, but I have heard about the "dropped genes" or something to that end.
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  3. Nov 17, 2016 #2

    jim mcnamara

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    #2 must have a typo or something. Amino acids are not necessarily attracted to DNA strands or vice versa. Can you clarify a bit?

    #1. On a common basis, no. peptide bonds require energy.

    And yes, amino acids may undergo unintentional (from a human's point of view anyway) reactions when "floating" around. Commonly in mammals, proteins and single amino acid molecules can undergo glycosylation. The amino acids react with glucose.

    Example: Higher levels of blood glucose in diabetics increases this reaction, the more common one is for glucose to damage proteins in cells. Like retinal cells (retinopathy) or nerve cells (neuropathy). Uncontrolled diabetes is a very common cause of blindness.
    From NIH: https://medlineplus.gov/magazine/issues/summer08/articles/summer08pg14-15.html

    The process is called glycosylation:

    It is, AFAIK, extremely less common for amino acid > amino acid reactions to occur as you describe.. Because it requires energy. See:

    Amino acids under reasonable storage have shelf stability. If lots of spontaneous reactions occurred then you would see dipeptides and poly-peptides forming.
    Aspartic acid added to tortillas with moisture in them: http://www.traditionaloven.com/food...lour-shelf-stable/aspartic-acid-d-aa-asp.html
    And, no, I have no clue why you would want aspartic acid added to tortillas. Supplement companies run amok? Anybody?

    There are lots of other kinds of reactions on free amino acids, like formation of amides:
    This paper talks about a reaction with free aspartic acid -> http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1399-3011.1987.tb03390.x/abstract
  4. Nov 17, 2016 #3
    That is super helpful @jim mcnamara , thanks!

    Yes, the DNA and amino acid reference was a total mistake, although, I was going to go in the same direction with this question with nucleotides too...

    So, the amino acids can react, but not in the direction of creating proteins, but different molecules that are not necessarily useful and even damaging.

    Basically, without ATP swimming around to help create the peptide bond, these amino acids wouldn't create long polypeptide bonds. This would mean that pre mitochondria "invention", early life would have had to bank on random ATP molecules swimming around to create the loop of life? Or would it have been some other "contributor" back in those days?

    Thanks again!
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2016
  5. Nov 17, 2016 #4


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    When thinking about the origin of life, it's important to remember that proteins likely evolved relatively late in the game. It is thought that pre-biotic life consisted of an RNA world where RNA served both as a genetic material as well as the catalyst for carrying out chemical reactions. Thus, when considering the origin of life, one needs to think of way that long, functional RNA molecules could form spontaneously without the help of other enzymes.

    A recent paper from Jack Szostak's group at Harvard tacked this challenge. Here's a summary of the paper:
    Prywes et al. 2016 Nonenzymatic copying of RNA templates containing all four letters is catalyzed by activated oligonucleotides. eLife 5: e17756.

    The paper is freely accessible here: https://elifesciences.org/content/5/e17756
  6. Nov 17, 2016 #5
    Many thanks @Ygggdrasil! Seems like science is getting ever closer to this one.
  7. Nov 17, 2016 #6
    Speaking of the early ancestors, I understand that the "last universal common ancestor" (LUCA) had a molecular set-up that every living being today has. I am curios if the same could be said about the interactome LUCA produced?

    Are there actually certain interactomes that are still today shared amongst every single living being? My guess is that it is a clear yes, but then again, maybe there has been some mutations that changed things.

    And speaking of interactomes, I am guessing that interactome doesn't have to exclusively include the molecules produced by the organism itself, or does it? What I mean by this, if 10 proteins interact in a chain, and one of them was some ligand from the outside, would this be considered an interactome that "belongs" to this organism?

    Many thanks again!
  8. Nov 18, 2016 #7


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    What do you mean by interactome? If by interactome, you mean a set of proteins form conserved macromolecular complexes, then they certainly do exist. For example, the ribosome comes to mind as a well conserved complex of many protein and RNA molecules whose interaction is conserved across all known forms of life. I'm not sure whether there has been any comprehensive look at this question, though similar studies have defined, for example, the panorama of macromolecular complexes present in the ancestor to all animals (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v525/n7569/full/nature14877.html).
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  9. Nov 18, 2016 #8
    Wiki defined interactome as the "whole set of molecular interactions in a particular cell" and The proteome is the entire set of proteins expressed by a genome of any given organism, so I thought the reference is toward interactions rather than the molecules themselves. That's why I thought if the molecules started interacting with other molecules that would change the "interactome"? And also that is why I was asking whether an "interactome" includes interactions with molecules from the "outside"..

    Also, when we say "protein complex", does that mean bunch of different proteins that can create a chain reaction or is it more in the line of "#4 folding" where they all group into one big molecule do that does a specific function?

    Thanks so much again for clarifying all this.

    (I just got the app too! Sweet!)
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2016
  10. Nov 21, 2016 #9

    Fervent Freyja

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    I'm curious @icakeov, are you majoring in biology? If not, you should! Or are you still in high school? :smile:
  11. Nov 21, 2016 #10
    Oh, I wish. In the last two years I got incredibly interested in this subject, but I don't have the time and resources to pursue it academically, for now, this will remain an endeavor that doesn't involve a diploma. Ironically, when I was in high-school, I really disliked biology and chemistry. Go figure. Thanks Fervernt Freyja.
  12. Nov 21, 2016 #11


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    Ok, I just wanted to be sure about your question. You are using the term correctly. The interactome is the whole set of molecular interactions within a particular cell, and some of those individual molecular interactions are likely conserved across all known forms of life.

    Interactomes typically refer to the set of protein-protein interactions, but yes, interactions with exogenous components that are not produced by the cell probably should also be included. Metabolism would be interesting to examine. There are probably some metabolic pathways that have been conserved to take molecules from the environment and convert them into the building blocks of life.

    A protein complex refers to the later case, where various proteins come together to form one larger assembly that performs a specific function. A set of proteins that act in series, for example, to convey a signal from a transmembrane receptor to the nucleus is more often referred to as signal transduction pathways or cascades.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2016
  13. Nov 21, 2016 #12


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    These relationships would be interesting in host-symbiont (or parasite) relationships.
    One might expect these to involve interspecies cell-cell recognition and metabolic interactions between species.
  14. Nov 21, 2016 #13
    Great! Thanks so much @Ygggdrasil, that is really helpful!
    And yes, the interactions of symbiotic bacteria is a great example @BillTre

    I do have two more things/concepts that are still a bit unclear:

    Besides individual molecular interactions being conserved across all known forms of life, would it be correct to say that there are certain signal transduction pathways that are also conserved across all life?

    (From the other parallel thread:)
    I think the above referenced few paragraphs is where I got confused.
    When you referred to the "conserved complex", looks like you were talking about many protein and RNA molecule interactions inside the ribosome, not the interaction of the ribosome with many protein and RNA molecules, so the ribosome would be referred to as the "protein complex"? On the other hand, replisome (also referred to as a "protein complex"), seems to refer to all the different, "independent" proteins that are in charge of replicating DNA?
  15. Nov 22, 2016 #14


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    That I am less sure about. For example, in animals, phosphorylation of serine, threonine or tyrosine residues is a very common mechanism in signal transduction pathways. Bacteria also have some signaling pathways involving phosphorylation but the phosphorylation occurs on histidine residues instead.

    There are many different kinds of protein complexes in cells. On the one hand, there are very stable protein complexes that are typically tightly assembled and perform one integrated function, like the ribosome. There are other complexes, however, that form only transiently. Sometimes the components are scattered throughout the cell, and only at certain points when the complex is needed to the components assemble together to form the complex (the replisome is a good example as is the spliceosome). Protein complexes can even change composition as they perform their function (RNA polymerase II is a good example. At the beginning of transcription it helps recruit enzymes involved in mRNA capping, later it recruits with splicing factors, and as it approaches the end of the gene, it recruits the proteins involved in cleaving and polyadenylating the mRNA transcript).
  16. Nov 23, 2016 #15
    Understood! Wow, what incredible complexity of the machinery of life. Thanks again for all this!
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