PerspectiveGenetics

Mysterious Ribosomopathies

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Science  23 Aug 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6148, pp. 849-850
DOI: 10.1126/science.1244156

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Summary

Ribosomes are absolutely essential for life, generating all cellular proteins required for growth. The prevailing thought for many years was that mutations in ribosomal proteins or ribosome assembly factors would be lethal to developing embryos. Complete loss of any single ribosomal protein often leads to embryonic lethality in mice (1). Yet, mutations in ribosomal proteins or ribosome assembly factors result in a puzzling phenomenon—a specific mutation can affect a specific cell type and cause a tissue-specific human disease. What accounts for this tissue proclivity has been a mystery. Why do defects in a macromolecule as ubiquitous and essential as the ribosome cause diseases—ribosomopathies—only in select tissues?