Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Do Molecular Machines Deliver Toxins of Power?

Machines Had To Evolve First
In the search for the origin of the toxins of power, the Toxins of Power Blog has an attitude of "leave no meme unturned", "leave no molecule unturned", "leave no microbe unturned", and of course "leave no stone unturned."

In that regard, we looked at posts that deal with the study of memetics.

That inquiry included a look at historical attempts to establish the discipline of memetics, as well as some suggestions for the future of that discipline, in the context of using those theories in some manner that would aid us in our search for the origins of toxins of power.

After some theoretical fun with memetics, we picked up the microscope and took a look at the utterly astounding world of microbes.

But we had to move along, taking the search deeper, and while searching deeper we ran across a statement by a scientist whose paper flatly said that any complete inquiry into evolution would necessarily include chemistry:
Dr Clarke said: “There are a lot of fundamental questions about the origins of life and many people think they are questions about biology. But for life to have evolved, you have to have a moment when non-living things become livingeverything up to that point is chemistry.”
(Putting A Face On Machine Mutation - 2, emphasis added). The word "chemistry" conjures up beakers, flasks, and people moving around a laboratory in white coats, but it is also, in large part, the study of molecules and atoms (see chemical elements).

A statement by a scientist concerning that episode of our inquiry caught our attention and set another course for us:
“Our cells, and the cells of all organisms, are composed of molecular machines. These machines are built of component parts, each of which contributes a partial function or structural element to the machine. How such sophisticated, multi-component machines could evolve has been somewhat mysterious, and highly controversial.” Professor Lithgow said.
(Are Toxins of Power Machines or Organisms?, emphasis added). Another paper indicated that a closer look, in that direction, was needed:
Many cellular processes are carried out by molecular ‘machines’ — assemblies of multiple differentiated proteins that physically interact to execute biological functions ... Our experiments show that increased complexity in an essential molecular machine evolved because of simple, high-probability evolutionary processes, without the apparent evolution of novel functions. They point to a plausible mechanism for the evolution of complexity in other multi-paralogue protein complexes.
(Evolution ... a molecular machine, Nature, emphasis added). An interesting article in Wikipedia made a simple statement that helped:
The most complex molecular machines are found within cells.
(Molecular Machine). We then had a very distinct place to focus the search toward a distinct mechanism that generated toxins, and we found one:
Writing in the journal PLoS Pathogens, the team from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences show how they studied the molecular machine known as the 'type II bacterial secretion system', which is responsible for delivering potent toxins from bacteria such as enterotoxigenic E. coli and Vibrio cholerae into an infected individual.

Professor Richard Pickersgill, who led the research, said: "Bacterial secretion systems deliver disease causing toxins into host tissue. If we can understand how these machines work, then we can work out how it they might be stopped."
(Decoding the Molecular Machine, emphasis added). Bingo, that is a perfect fit for a place to stay and study a while (see also Structure and function of mammalian cilia, where the term "molecular motor" is used).

Future posts will fuse the Microbial Hermeneutics series with the Hypothesis: Microbes Generate Toxins of Power series, so as to fine tune the concept of a molecular machine with a toxin of power generating mechanism.