Grammatical rules can be applied to describe the functions of proteins, say researchers in the January 2006 issue of Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology. The lack of unambiguous protein annotation systems causes difficulties when attempting to describe the properties of any given protein, but this problem may be solved through the application of protein linguistics, suggests Mario Gimona.
Several attempts have been made over the past three decades to combine linguistic theory with biology. A significant contribution of all this work is the idea that the grammatical rules that are applied to languages can also be applied to proteins. Proteins are made up of 'modular' domains that fold and function autonomously, and such modular protein domains can form the basic syntactic units of protein language, according to Gimona. These modules are not strictly analogous to words, but can be thought of as phrases or clauses.
The semantic 'mapping' of proteins through their detailed biochemical description, coupled with linguistic analyses of their modular protein domains, may help resolve the problem of ambiguity of functional annotation, Gimona proposes. And similar grammatical rules may be applied to describe protein-protein interactions.
Mario Gimona (Consorzio Mario Negri Sud, Santa Maria Imbaro, Italy)
For media inquiries relating to editorial content/policy for the Journal Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology:
Arianne Heinrichs (Chief Editor, Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology press release.
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