The molecular basis of proteins
Most people are aware of that proteins build up our muscles and are used for dietary supplements by people performing frequent exercise, but are there more to proteins than this?
In fact, proteins are the very cornerstones of every human being, animal and plant’s exercise on our planet. Each protein arises from a gene being embedded in our DNA. The full human DNA, or the human genome, consists of approximately 20000 protein coding genes giving rise to about 100000 proteins. These proteins build up our cellular structures, which in turn build up organs. Proteins are of absolute essence for biological communication in our bodies by serving as carrying vehicles transporting a variety of chemical products essential for our well-being.
On the molecular level, there is a basic three-step-series of events building a protein: DNA-to-RNA-to-Protein. DNA consists of four separate nucleic acids binding to each other in an enormous double-stranded helical structure embedded in a sugar backbone. A small fraction of all DNA can give rise to new proteins while the remainder serves other biological functions. For a DNA-region to become “coding” and start its protein factory, it relies on other proteins already being present in the cell. These proteins will bind to the DNA in multi-factor complexes and send signals to start the protein machinery. The first step is to go from DNA to RNA, (DeoxyriboNucleic Acid to Ribonucleic Acid). To do so, certain proteins unwind the double helical structure so that additional nucleic acids can enter. A huge protein complex called the RNA polymerase then reads the DNA, merging nucleic acids together in a single-stranded tail called RNA or more specifically, the messenger RNA. The second step refers to new series of reading events where the messenger RNA serves as a template for other RNA molecule readers. These readers bring in amino acids, tiny building stones being fused to each other until they from structures called polypeptides or proteins. There are a total of 20 amino acids needed to build proteins of which 10 amino acids can be produced regardless of food intake. In the third and last step, each polypeptide (or protein) is being processed in a very complicated fashion dictating whether it will serve as an internal building stone for the cell, or being part of messenger vehicles sending information to other cells. A classic example of messenger proteins floating around in our body are antibodies, the very essence of our immune system, being secreted by specific types of immune cells and marking foreign cells or sick cells for destruction. There is a very rigorous failsafe control in the third step. If proteins are being built in the wrong way, cellular intrinsic mechanisms mark such proteins for destruction in order for them to not cause any harm. While correctly processed proteins are essential for us to live, misprocessed ones can lead to a variety of diseases including cancer and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer and Parkinson.
The reason for producing harmful proteins usually originate from errors arising in the first step, the genes embedded in our DNA, where nucleic acid mutations being a consequence of non-balanced food intake, alcohol intake, smoking or excess of sunlight, are producing misbehaving proteins. It is impossible to completely avoid harmful proteins being produced but by living a healthy life you give the body maximum opportunity to clear off all such proteins on its own. To key is to not exhaust our bodies safety-systems.
It should be noted that regardless of what you eat, you will always have an intake of proteins, it does not matter if you are a vegetarian or even not consuming dairy products since proteins are everywhere. For most people a somewhat balanced intake of food is more than enough to supply your body’s protein need, and there is no actual need to consume meat.
In order to correctly produce new functional proteins, we need building stones from outside. These building stones come from fat, carbohydrates and proteins being present in our food intake. It should be noted that regardless of what you eat, you will always have an intake of proteins, it does not matter if you are a vegetarian or even not consuming dairy products since proteins are everywhere. For most people a somewhat balanced intake of food is more than enough to supply your body’s protein need, and there is no actual need to consume meat.
In summary, proteins are much more than just muscles and dietary supplements. Approximately 100000 proteins dictate the existence of trillions of cells in our body. We should all treat them with respect.