PerspectiveCell Biology

The Lives of Proteins

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Science  11 Feb 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6018, pp. 683-684
DOI: 10.1126/science.1202010

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Summary

Biologists have traditionally studied gene regulation through a transcriptional lens. This is due in part to the influence of Jacob and Monod's early work on transcription and, more recently, to the availability of high-throughput messenger RNA (mRNA) quantification by microarrays and sequencing. Libraries of fluorescently tagged proteins (1) and advances in mass spectrometry (2) have since allowed quantification of protein abundances, and revealed that as much as 30% of the variation is governed by posttranscriptional processes (3). Still, most systematic studies have focused on steady-state amounts of mRNAs and proteins. A new technique called “bleach chase,” described by Eden et al. (4) on page 764 of this issue, accurately quantifies protein half-lives in living cells, an innovation that shifts the focus to the dynamic role of protein removal in regulating cell physiology.