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Susan Lindquist interview: What is protein folding?

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Protein folding is the act of going from the code of the protein into being a truly functional machine. DNA is linear – the double helix which you’ve heard so much about – a long linear string of code. It’s a nucleic acid, and the sequence of nucleic acids on that determine the sequence of amino acids in proteins. The ribosome is the machine that makes proteins from that code, and as it is reading the code, a string of amino acids get put in, one after another. Each of these amino acids – there are twenty of them – has a different property. Some of them are highly charged and they like to interact with water, and they’ll usually wind up on the outside of a protein. Some of them are very greasy – they don’t like to be in water – and they wind up on the inside. Some of them make bonds between other proteins. Some of them are short and small, and very flexible, and others are big and bulky. There’s all these different properties coming out on this linear tape... ...that basically is the string of amino acids that make a protein. That tape is often a hundred, two hundred, five hundred, a thousand amino acids long, each of these different amino acids having these different properties. What happens then is that the whole thing starts to fold. It’s sort of like taking a piece of paper and starting to fold it into origami shapes that will make... ...a little bird or a boat or a little girl in a kimono or an umbrella or something. The way in which that protein folds – because of these different amino acids having different shapes and chemical properties, liking to interact with water or not interacting with water etc, liking to interact with each other or not interacting with each other – causes the protein to start to fold into a very specific shape. And it’s only when the protein folds into a specific shape that it can for example grab onto a sugar, break it apart and create energy. It has to have just that right shape, and that’s protein folding.

Video Details

Duration: 2 minutes and 7 seconds
Country: Sweden
Language: English
Producer: MoleCluesTV
Director: Per Thorén
Views: 43
Posted by: locumele on May 11, 2014

Professor Susan Lindquist interviewed for MoleClues. Entire interview available on

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