Macromolecular machines of the biological world: An insight into their function
Rajan Sankaranarayanan, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB)

Molecules within the cell do not always work in isolation and it is known that several biological processes employ complexes made of multiple small components. The organization and functioning of these complexes mimic a machine and hence they are called ‘Macromolecular machines’. These machines perform almost all critical biological processes in a cell: copying the genetic information, decoding the genetic information in DNA to RNA and from RNA to proteins etc. The presentation would focus on some well-characterized machines such as DNA and RNA polymerases, ribosomes and ATP synthases. The wealth of biochemical information along with emerging structural data has given us a glimpse both of the complexity and the orchestration of the components for a common goal. For example the ribosome, the protein production factory of the cell, is made up of nearly 50 different proteins and 3 pieces of RNA containing approximately 4500 nucleotides. Significant advances in understanding the function of the ribosome have been made during the last few years with the determination of its 3-dimensional structure. Further advances in terms of high-resolution structures and capturing snapshots of some macromolecular machines in action hold a lot of promise for understanding how these machines work and also in developing new drugs.

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