Meet PAH!

As part of their check-up at birth, babies get a prick on the heel. Among many other things, the blood tests for the function of a protein called phenylalanine hydroxylase. (Scientists sometimes call it "PAH" for convenience.) PAH is the first in a sequence of enzymes that break down excess phenylalanine. It speeds up the …

Meet hCG!

Pregnancy can be detected by looking for the glycoprotein human chorionic gonadotropin, which functions as a hormone. After an egg has been successfully fertilized, the resulting cell multiplies into a mostly hollow ball of cells called a blastula. Trophoblast cells, the cells on the exterior of the blastula, make and secrete hCG when the blastula …

Meet Flippase!

Meet P4-type ATPase, better known as Flippase! Flippase lives and works in the plasma membrane. The plasma membrane is the border between the outside and the inside of the cell made from two layers of phospholipids. (We call the membrane a "phospholipid bilayer.") Phospholipids have heads that enjoy the water, but their tails hate water. …

Meet VDAC!

Meet Voltage-Dependent Anionic Channel! Scientists call it by its nickname, VDAC. VDAC lives in the mitochondria (that's right: the powerhouse of the cell), specifically in the outer membrane. It's the most abundant protein in the outer mitochondrial membrane and it is present in every single mitochondrion on earth. VDAC is found in the outer mitochondrial …

Meet PETase!

In honor of Plastic Free July, allow me to introduce PETase! PETase is an enzyme that eats plastic. Specifically, it dines on polyethylene terephthalate, the kind of plastic that most "disposable" water bottles are made of. from PDB 5XJH PETase was recently discovered (in 2016) in species of bacteria called Ideonella sakaiensis. It's believed that …