- Pretty much ignored until recently, miniproteins are coming to the fore
Tiny proteins help power muscles and provide the toxic punch to many venoms
Miniproteins are defined as proteins with relatively few amino acids. Until recently short DNA sequences that could code for a tiny protein were pretty much ignored. By definition. For example, yeast DNA has the potential to code for 260000 miniproteins. Researchers assumed that most of them had no function. Or anyway, trying to work with them was mostly a dead end and would take up lots of resources.
This position has changed recently. There is now a mounting effort to enumerate miniproteins and start testing to see exactly what is going on. Some researchers feel that DNA research ignoring miniproteins in the past skipped over biologically very important molecules. Sort of like a rehash of genetic understanding is now underway.
Since 2010, these tiny proteins have started to show up in research literature, often as integral players in controlling the function of other larger proteins. There are several examples given. Controlling mouse muscle fiber contractions is really interesting.
The medical potential for these little molecules is not being overlooked. Venom from several species so far examined, contains miniproteins with strong biological effects. Example: a miniprotein from Deathstalker Scorpion* venom, can be used to clearly delimit the boundaries of a tumor during surgery. This allows surgeons to be sure they are removing all of the tumor.
The white paper can be read by folks without a lot of Biology background.