Researchers have discovered that a micro protein called PIGBOS found in the powerhouse of the cells mitochondria contributes to mitigating stress happening within the cells.
While an average protein molecule present in the human body has around 300 chemical units called amino acids, the micro proteins had fewer than 100 of the building blocks.
The study indicated that the micro protein could be a target for cell stress based human diseases like cancer and neurodegeneration.
To track and find the functions of proteins, researchers attach a jelly fish derived probe called the green fluorescent protein (GFP) to them, which glows and indicates the protein’s presence in cells.
The researchers of the current study ran into a roadblock when they tried to mark PIGBOS with GFP as the micro protein was too small relative to the size of the fluorescent tag.
They solved the problem using a less common approach called split GFP where they fused just a small part of GFP, called a beta strand, to PIGBOS.
With the new set up, the researchers could see PIGBOS, and study how it interacted with other proteins.
They mapped the micro protein’s location and found that it sat on the outer membrane of the mitochondria and made contact with proteins on other organelles.
This may lead to the cell trying to clear out the irregular proteins, failing which it may initiate a self-destruct sequence and die.
The new understanding of PIGBOS could open the door for future therapies targeting cell stress.