PerspectiveCell Biology

An “Inordinate Fondness for Transporters” Explained?

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Science Signaling  07 Feb 2012:
Vol. 5, Issue 210, pp. pe5
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2002837

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An often-asked question is, Why are there so many different transporters in a cell to take up a particular substrate? At least part of the answer comes from work on the possible competitive advantage of dual-transporter systems. In such systems, low-affinity transporters function when a nutrient is plentiful in the environment, and the abundance of high-affinity transporters is increased when that nutrient becomes scarce. A dual-transporter system enabled a long “preparation phase” to occur during which cells induce gene expression as they become increasingly starved. Surprisingly, the preparation phase is important not for growth under low-nutrient conditions but rather for fluctuating nutrient amounts as commonly occurs in nature. Thus, this creative study provides a previously unconsidered explanation for the abundance of dual-transporter systems in biology.

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