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Intracellular Switching Mechanism


Taylor Allen: Still Looking at Worms--with New NSF Grant to Fund His Research on Muscle Function
(Main Story)

Like many cellular processes, muscular contraction operates, Allen explains, by means of a calcium-dependent switch. When a muscle cell receives a neural impulse to contract, calcium is released in the cell. Key to the contraction process is a three-component protein complex--troponin C, troponin I, and troponin T.

The three-part protein complex wraps in a strand around the thin filaments of muscle cells, which are made of interdigitated thin and thick filaments. (See photo.)

When calcium is released within the cell, troponin C binds with the calcium, causing the entire troponin strand to retract, allowing the thick and thin muscle filaments to come into contact. When this happens, the rowing-like motion of thick-filament proteins tugs on the thin filaments, contracting the muscle.

Allen and students pursuing research projects in his lab will examine the mechanism by which troponin I performs its functions in the switch.





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