What is protein memory?

twinkle March 13, 2010
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What is protein memory?

  1. ænon1mus
    March 14, 2010 at 3:01 am

    Are you sure you got the term correct, twinkle? This is the first time I've heard of protein memory. Perhaps you meant 'memory protein'?

  2. Tina
    March 13, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Twinkle,

    since we are a tech site, I figure you're referring to data storage with the help of proteins, i.e. biological hardware.

    In biology, proteins, among many other tasks, are naturally used to transmit information. Proteins are enzymes, hormones, signal receptors, and signal transduction molecules. So the idea to use proteins to store information isn't far-fetched at all.

    Proteins are very small. Their size can be measured in Ångström, which is 1/10 000 000th of a millimeter. A water molecule for example is approx. 3 Ångström in size. Proteins are 10 - 1000 times larger, but that is still incredibly small.

    Let me give you another example. A single human cell hosts hundreds of different proteins and there may be thousands of copies of each of those proteins within a single cell. The average human body contains 50 trillion cells. The average human cell has a size of 10 µm, which is 0.010 millimeter.

    So what does a protein look like anyways? Proteins are synthesized as long chains from different building blocks called amino acids. The specific amino acid sequence gives the protein unique characteristics, such as electrical loading and shape. The amino acid chain more ore less automatically folds into a three dimensional structure. And this structure isn't rigid.

    To fulfill their manifold tasks, proteins can adopt different conformations, that means some parts of their structure are flexible and can respond to external stimuli, for example light. This characteristic is what scientists are trying to use to store information.

    You can find more information regarding the technical side in this assay:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/12725679/Protein-Based-Memory-Storage

    And in this article in Nature:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v389/n6650/abs/389520a0.html

    • Aibek
      March 13, 2010 at 10:27 am

      excellent answer! :-)