Millions of proteins unknown to science discovered in humans

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (VOP TODAY NEWS) — Our body is teeming with trillions of bacteria. They account for much more cells of the human body than the cells of the actual person.

Fortunately, these tiny inhabitants are rarely evil. On the contrary, they tirelessly support our digestion, improve our mood, protect against diseases , and also increase our efficiency . However, an understanding of the molecular mechanism of this partnership has eluded scientists for a long time.

Ami Bhatt, MD, associate professor of medicine and genetics at Stanford University, comments: “It was very important for us to determine the interaction interface between human cells and a microbiome . How do they communicate? How do bacterial strains protect themselves from other strains? We assumed that it was all about small proteins unknown to science.”

This is quite logical, because small proteins could be much easier to penetrate the cell membrane, transmitting messages or threats to neighboring host cells or bacterial cells.

The only thing left was to identify and study these micro-communicators. But, as you know, size matters, and identifying putative mini-proteins was not so easy.

The bacterial genome is like a book with long chains of letters, only a few of which encode the information needed for protein production. Traditionally, researchers identify genes that encode proteins by looking for letter combinations that indicate start and stop signals. This method works great for large, familiar proteins. But the smaller the protein, the more false positives occur.

In an attempt to solve the problem, scientists tried to analyze everything that they could find. Genes presumably encoding small proteins of different bacteria were brought into one database. Those that were more common in several species and specimens were more likely to be truly positive.

When this analysis was applied to large data sets, not hundreds of genes were discovered, as expected, but hundreds of thousands. Proteins supposedly encoded by genes could be sorted into more than 4,000 related groups or families involved in key biological processes, such as intercellular communication or confrontation.

“Honestly, when we started this, we didn’t even know what to expect, scientific intuition didn’t tell us anything.” Says Dr. Bhatt. “The fact that thousands of new protein families were found definitely surprised everyone.”

The researchers further confirmed that the isolated genes do encode true proteins, showing that they are transcribed into RNA, which binds to the ribosome for translation – these are key stages of protein production in all organisms. Now scientists are collaborating with related specialists to learn more about the functions of proteins and to identify the most important for bacteria fighting for a place in our multi-bacterial gut.

Since the proteins found are extremely small – less than 50 amino acids in length – they probably form in unique forms, which are previously unidentified biological building blocks.

If the forms and functions of these proteins can be recreated in the laboratory, there will be a breakthrough in the scientific understanding of how microbiomes affect human health. If we talk about the applied value, then the synthesized proteins can become new antibiotics or other drugs for humans.

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