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Biologists glean insight into repetitive protein sequences

Posted
September 13, 2022

A computational analysis reveals that many repetitive sequences are shared across proteins and are similar in species from bacteria to humans.

MIT researchers used a technique called dot-plot matrix, which is a way to visually represent amino acid sequences, to compare protein sequences known as “low-complexity regions” across many different species. 

Credits:Image: Courtesy of the researchers, and edited by MIT News.

About 70 percent of all human proteins include at least one sequence consisting of a single amino acid repeated many times, with a few other amino acids sprinkled in. These “low-complexity regions” are also found in most other organisms.

The proteins that contain these sequences have many different functions, but MIT biologists have now...

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Assay determines the percentage of Omicron, other variants in Covid wastewater

Posted
August 25, 2022

Developed by the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, the assay can provide new details about the type of SARS-CoV-2 circulating in a community.

Playing a crucial role in the pandemic and dengue outbreaks are SMART and SCELSE researchers who leverage instruments for wastewater surveillance. Their latest advances in detection and quantification of viral pathogens in wastewater play an invaluable role in preparing the world for future viral pandemics. 

Credits: Photo courtesy of the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering

 

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When cells' tiny differences have far-reaching implications

Posted
July 21, 2022

Photo: M.Scott Brauer

Alex Shalek’s technologies for single-cell RNA profiling can help dissect the cellular bases of complex diseases around the globe.

Within a given tissue or organ, cells may appear very similar or even identical. But at the molecular level, these cells can have small differences that lead to wide variations in their functions.

Alex K. Shalek, an MIT associate professor of chemistry, relishes the challenge of uncovering those small distinctions. In his lab, researchers develop and deploy technologies such as single-cell RNA-sequencing, which lets them analyze differences in gene expression patterns and allows them to figure out how each cell contributes to a tissue’s function.

“Single-cell RNA-sequencing is an incredibly powerful way to examine what cells are doing at a given moment. By looking...

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How a shape-shifting receptor influences cell growth

Posted
July 6, 2022

Image: Courtesy of the researchers

Insight into the way the EGF receptor sends signals into cells could help researchers design new cancer drugs that target this protein.

Receptors found on cell surfaces bind to hormones, proteins, and other molecules, helping cells respond to their environment. MIT chemists have now discovered how one of these receptors changes its shape when it binds to its target, and how those changes trigger cells to grow and proliferate.

This receptor, known as epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), is overexpressed in many types of cancer and is the target of several cancer drugs. These drugs often work well at first, but tumors can become resistant to them. Understanding the mechanism of these receptors better may...