Replicating Nanomachines

This gorgeous bacterial polysome was recently published in Cell. You can think of it as a 9-head programmable nanofabricator.


The ribosome reads the digital code of mRNA and manufactures most of what we care about in our bodies from a sequential concatenation of amino acids into proteins. The ribosome is a wonderful existence proof of the power and robustness of molecular machines. It is roughly 20nm on a side and consists of only 99 thousand atoms.


The numbered ribosomes are shown tightly bound to a single mRNA strand at the core, with each mRNA making its own protein. The two major subunits of each ribosome are blue and yellow. The nascent protein chains being cranked out in close proximity to each other are green and red.


The researchers conclude: “this arrangement maximizes the distance between nascent chains on adjacent ribosomes, thereby reducing the probability of intermolecular interactions that would give rise to aggregation and limit productive folding.”


To me it looks like hyperbolic crochet. (I’ll post a comparison image below)


…a mesmerizing image to behold during the Synthetic Genomics board meeting today. Another example of perceiving beauty in the accumulated complexity of simple iterative algorithms… like a 3D cellular automata from Wolfram or a hyperbolic coral reef.


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Uploaded on March 14, 2009