Molecules that have a regular “day job” in the normal function of the cell must also be ready to act differently in case of an emergency. The mitochondrion (the football-shaped structure in the middle) is the power plant of the cell. Cardiolipin (CL) is a special type of fat that normally functions as part of a team of molecules on the inner mitochondrial membrane to generate a type of energy called ATP. This process is important, but also dangerous (think of a car that uses gasoline—the gasoline can be very useful to power the car, but if it leaks out of the tank it could be a problem). If the mitochondrion is damaged, risking the leakage of harmful molecules, CL travels to the outer surface of the mitochondrion to send “help me” signals that are recognized by a protein called LC3. LC3 packages broken pieces of the damaged power plant into autophagosomes (yellow bag) so that its components can be recycled. This process is called "autophagy" - which means "self-eating." doi:10.1038/ncb2837.
Scientist, Mother, Physician, Educator. My first paper was on neural programs that control fish feeding, later wandering through macrophage antigen "nibbling", to my current interests in brain autophagy (cellular eating of damaged or unneeded parts).
Science is fun!
If you are curious about how things work, or have ideas on how to make things better, science may just be for you. The nature of research is that you do not know the outcome of your experiments until you do them. The most rewarding moments come from the unexpected results -- that moment of inspiration when you discover a new way to fit things together and new questions to ask.