PerspectiveCell Biology

Surviving Starvation

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Science  27 Jul 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5530, pp. 614-615
DOI: 10.1126/science.1063371

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What do cells do when times of plenty end and leaner days roll around? As Gottesman and Maurizi explain in their Perspective, it turns out that the Escherichia coli bacterium is anything but idle when its environment shifts from nutrient rich to nutrient poor. They discuss new findings showing that a string of phosphate residues in E. coli kicks the Lon protease into action. This enzyme then chops up ribosomal proteins to release free amino acids that are used to manufacture biosynthetic enzymes, which help the bacterium to adjust to its nutrient-poor environment ( Kuroda et al.).