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Study of proteins offers insights into organization of biological networks

BOSTONResearch into the many-sided interactions of proteins in yeast cells is revealing that such networks may have something in common with other kinds of systems, from the World Wide Web to the country's electric-power grid.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute investigators report that "hub" proteins highly connected proteins that bind to many other proteins in the cell can be divided into two general groups: "party" hubs, which interact with most of their partner proteins all at once, and "date" hubs, which bind to their partners at different times or locations. The study will be published online by Nature as an Advanced Online Publication on June 9 and later in the print edition.

"Our discovery answers a key question about how yeast cells organize their genetic and protein activity," says Dana-Farber's Marc Vidal, Ph.D, who led the study with colleague Jing-Dong Han, Ph.D. "This might turn out to be critical knowledge for the development of drugs for cancer and other diseases."

The new study is based on a map of the interactions among proteins the so-called "interactome" in yeast cells. Resembling a ball exploding into thousands of colored particles, the map gives a composite view of interactions that can take place among the proteins, but it doesn't indicate how frequently protein partners interact, nor which partners are in action at the same time. "We need a way of analyzing proteins' activity as a dynamic process," Vidal says.

Vidal and his colleagues focused on hub proteins, the social butterflies of the molecular world, which have large numbers of partner proteins. Researchers theorize that abnormal versions of hub proteins are especially influential in the development of cancer and other genetic diseases. Physicist Albert-Laszlo Barabasi of the University of Notre Dame, for example, has used computer modeling to discover that removing hubs from a network is more likely to result in
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Contact: Janet Haley
janet_haley@dfci.harvard.edu
617-623-5665
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
9-Jun-2004


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