Monday, March 27, 2006

Use your noggin, Sonic

What is it with developmental biologists?

Most biologists like to name the proteins that they identify in metabolic pathways by their function. For this reason, we have the sensibly named Epidermal Growth Factor, or the Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate dehydrogenase, or Phosphofructokinase. Sure, they look complicated, but if you know what the words mean, you can generally figure out what the protein does

Then you have the developmental biologists. These smart arses decided their goal in life wasn't the pursuit of higher knowledge, but rather the thwarting of confused university undergraduates.

There are actually proteins called Hedgehog, Noggin, Goosecoid, Nodal, Dickkopf (german for 'fathead' = stubborn) Sonic Hedgehog, Frazzled, Siamois, Cerberus, Bicoid, Hunchback, Smaug, Swallow, Engrailed and Fushi Taruzu.

Sure. The names are cute. But when you're hunched over a text book trying to remember what protein does what, they are totallly utterly useless.

Take this email 'clarification' from my lecturer to the class:

In lectures, I mentioned that the Siamois protein was expressed in the Niewkoop centre and from there it activates goosecoid in the organiser, which activates organiser-specific genes (Gilbert). Of course, it would be difficult for Siamois (a transcription factor) to directly activate goosecoid if it were not expressed in same cells. In fact, Moon and Kimelman, (1998) describe Siamois expression not only in vegetal cells on the dorsal side, but also in equatorial cells of the dorsal side - presumably the cells that are fated become the organiser.

You are as confused as I am. And I've been doing this for four years.