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Greater understanding of the structure and function of the ribosome – the cell machinery at the heart of protein synthesis

05 October 2021

Assembly Line

This intricate assembly of coloured shapes, reminiscent of origami, is actually the early stages of ribosome formation. Known as the construction workers of cells, ribosomes build chains of amino acids that form larger proteins, essential for life. But before these molecular machines get to work, they need to be put together themselves. Ribosome assembly takes place in the depths of the cell’s nucleus, in a structure called the nucleolus. Fragments of ribosomal proteins and RNA combine together in precise steps to form the small and large subunits that make up each ribosome. Using a novel combination of procedures and data, researchers were able to unpack the process by which 70 proteins known as assembly factors slot together to form a human’s small ribosomal subunit. Ultimately, this will advance our understanding of diseases brought about by differences in assembly factors and other ribosomal proteins.

Written by Katy Pallister

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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