RESOURCES: Probing the Cell's Powerhouse

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Science  02 May 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5620, pp. 713
DOI: 10.1126/science.300.5620.713b

Defects in mitochondria, the cell's power plants, contribute to disorders ranging from heart degeneration to deafness to some cases of Alzheimer's disease. The Human Mitochondrial Protein Database holds a trove of information on the molecular biology of these vital organelles.

Hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the site merges info on mitochondrial protein structure and function from scattered databases, including SwissProt, GenBank, and the Neuromuscular Disease Center site. Looking for information on protein structure? The site lets you quickly search for 3D images of mitochondrial proteins, such as cytochrome c, from eight different species. You can parse the organelle's own DNA sequence to find out which segments code for proteins and which are edited out. Another tool lets you compare samples from more than 50 human populations from around the globe and highlight differences that can provide clues about human evolution and migration. The site also links to accounts of diseases connected to mitochondrial malfunctions.

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