|MadSci Network: Cell Biology|
Dear Natalie, Thanks for asking the challenging question. There is still a lot we do not know about cell information pathway. But we do know a bit to make this a nice story. Usually, on the cell surface, i.e., the cell membrane, there are a lot of proteins playing the role as receptors of specific molecules. Information, often comes in the form of a small molecule traveling to the cell that it would like to inform. The receptor on the membrane thus binds to the small information molecule and then try to make out the information. There are a lot of possible routes. Two of the most plausible and impressive ones are the following ones. First, the molecule might actually be brought in by the receptor, in this case, also a transporter. The information molecule then comes into the cell to bind to the target protein which will really respond to the information by changing its conformation, say from an active state to an inactive state, or vice versa. Second, the famous second-signal system model. It believes that some information molecule is not brought into the cell. Instead, it stimulates the enzyme on the membrane, which will then turn another small molecule in the cell (say, ATP) to a different one (cAMP in this case). This product then acts as the signal to stimulate other functional proteins in the cell. If you have further questions, don't hesitate to contact us. Cheng Huang
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