THE CELL-ECTION: ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
It’s election time! Whether discussed in casual conversations or featured in heated arguments, the campaign trail is one that many have followed. The highly anticipated day when voters take to the polls will ultimately lead to huge changes on a number of fronts. The major parties have advertised their platforms on many occasions and statistics suggest leaders remain in a close race. With polls revealing no indication of a sure winner, the leaders are undoubtedly seeking to appeal to undecided voters. We now begin live coverage of tonight’s final debate in this year’s Cell-ection.
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The leaders are: Chromata from the reigning Nucleus Party, Endo, leader of the Endoplasmic Reticulum Party, Crista, leader of the Mitochondria Party, and Cisterna, leader of the Golgi Party.
This evening’s debate will cover several main topics that are prominent concerns for the Cell Nation in the Republic of the Human Body: manufacture of goods, transportation, and defense. Each segment will begin with a question and all leaders will have the opportunity to respond and present their views on the subject at hand. So let’s begin with our first hot topic, manufacturing.
The Cell’s population realizes the importance of continuous manufacture of goods for both jobs and successful daily activities. Our current management system involves partitioning different functions to specialized compartments to produce sufficient yields of necessary items. How would your party contribute to the rising demand for products?
One of the largest current demands is for massive protein production. Proteins play critical roles in our nation, as the building blocks of structures, enzymes for chemical reactions, and messengers in the form of hormones. For a specific protein to be constructed, a gene needs to be transcribed to form an mRNA messenger molecule. Then, that mRNA travels to the cytoplasm where translation occurs in ribosomes to form a protein. This is where we come in. A subdomain of our party is called the Nucleolus, a group dedicated specifically to transcribing special ribosomal RNA molecules or rRNA. We then assemble two ribosomal subunits made from this rRNA, thus providing functional ribosomes for protein translation. If elected, we promise to increase our output of ribosomes so that more proteins can be produced!!
Let me emphasize that we too are invested in protein synthesis. With the Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum Sector, we maintain a close association with ribosomes. Our presence in the pancreas and digestive tract is crucial for synthesizing digestive enzymes. Our investment to the Cell Nation stretches beyond what the other parties offer. We supply a quality control system for rigorously analyzing all newly synthesized proteins to ensure only those that have folded in correct conformations will be sent to their final destinations. If improper folding occurs, the proteins are degraded, thus minimizing catastrophic cellular damage.
Well we know that hard work goes into protein synthesis, but we have plans to continue manufacturing an even more invaluable product. Here in the Mitochondria Party, we make the most of imported food sources by ultimately generating chemical energy in the form of ATP. We employ a process called oxidative metabolism to break down glucose from food, which eventually yields energy that the Cell Nation can use. Cells in the brain called neurons can communicate with each other and muscle fibers can support heavy loads all by utilizing ATP, among many other applications.
Here at the Golgi Party, we vow to be critical members of the manufactured goods supply chain. Every day, we act as an assembly factory where we make modifications to raw materials before they are either used in the Cell Nation or exported. Many of the synthesized products in the cell would be nonfunctional without the addition of the phosphate, sulfate, or carbohydrate groups that we provide. In addition, our team is involved in assembling long chains of sugars and attaching these to proteins to form what are collectively called proteoglycans. In polarized epithelial cells, where the top and bottom surfaces perform different functions, we segregate proteoglycans for transport to either end of the cell, depending on the role they will serve. Thus, the Golgi Party will continue to operate as a complex assembly and partitioning factory for manufactured goods.
And that wraps up the first round of questions on manufacturing. The next topic deals with transportation. This subject may refer to the movement of materials within the Cell Nation or trafficking of goods across membranes that leave or enter the cell. Some types of transport in the Cell Nation include diffusion of substances from high to low concentrations, facilitated diffusion by means of membrane proteins that allow molecules to pass through, and active transport in which energy is spent to move substances against a concentration gradient. All in all, transport is crucial for moving ions, nutrients, and harmful substances. If elected, what strategies would you employ to improve transportation?
In our opinion, we are the largest and most efficient transport system in the cell. During our reign over the Cell Nation, we installed structures called nuclear pore complexes in the nuclear envelope surrounding our headquarters for constant bidirectional traffic between the nucleus and cytoplasm. We maintain a continuous communication network with the rest of the cell by importing substances such as DNA polymerase for replication and transcription factors for gene regulation, while exporting functional mRNA molecules. Since importing nuclear proteins consumes energy, we will enlist the help of a protein called Ran, which will hydrolyze GTP to provide the energy we require. Harbouring this alternative energy source will certainly create more jobs in the Cell Nation.
The Nucleus Party is again exerting a superiority complex and thinks they can do everything on their own. In conjunction with Cisterna and the Golgi Party, we would like to propose a collaborative motion to the Cell Nation called the Endomembrane System. This elaborate transportation system is composed of a series of interconnected membranes to facilitate the movement of proteins and lipids. Proteins destined for insertion into membranes have a signal sequence that enables delivery to the endoplasmic reticulum. These membrane proteins become embedded in the endoplasmic reticulum membrane once translation is complete and are then delivered to the plasma membrane. In contrast, proteins to be secreted by the cell wind up in the internal space, or lumen, of the endoplasmic reticulum. These proteins are then packaged in vesicles and transported to the Golgi, where further modification occurs before the vesicles fuse with the plasma membrane and their contents are released from the cell. We have tirelessly worked to incorporate proteins and lipids into this system to efficiently deliver products to their destinations.
All of you seem to be concerned with the big picture and are in way over your heads. The type of transport system we have in place is much more crucial because we ultimately supply the energy, or ATP, required for all your fancy operations. Our innovative electron transport chain in the inner mitochondrial membrane transfers electrons through a series of donor and acceptor molecules by oxidation and reduction reactions. This establishes a proton gradient and by pumping hydrogen ions across the inner membrane into the mitochondrial matrix, a phosphate group is added to an ADP molecule to synthesize ATP. Our goal is to increase our output of ATP so all citizens of the cell can perform their day-to-day tasks.
That concludes our questioning period on transportation. Our final segment will focus on our Nation’s defense strategies. Over the past years, the government has called attention to the rising concern against foreign pathogen invasion and environmental perturbations. Since then, another urgent matter of national interest is the revolt in some cells by the anarchist group Cancer. What can leaders of the Cell Nation do to mitigate the external and internal threats we face?
Since we house genetic information, maintaining its integrity is essential for our nation to prosper. As of late, we have been under constant assault from excessive ultraviolet radiation. This can distort the structure of DNA and therefore, transcription of genes becomes hindered. To cope with this, our Party will employ a response called Nucleotide Excision Repair. This repair mechanism involves an enzyme that cleaves and removes the damaged strand of DNA. DNA polymerase then helps to synthesize a new DNA strand, which is then attached to the rest of the DNA molecule by DNA ligase. We vow to make improvements to our rigorous DNA repair machinery so that these threatening mutations can be eliminated.
If the Endoplasmic Reticulum Party is elected, you can depend on us to spearhead the fight against cancerous tumors. Under long periods of cellular stress, such as high amounts of reactive oxygen species, the endoplasmic reticulum can actually favour mechanisms that lead to cell death, or apoptosis. We are currently negotiating a deal with the small molecule SK053, which will increase levels of certain transcription factors associated with the endoplasmic reticulum stress response. Our goal is to have SK053 effectively induce endoplasmic reticulum mediated apoptosis in tumour cells, and preliminary studies support this initiative.
While dealing with internal issues is important, the Mitochondria Party is focused on handling the threat from viruses. During the immune response, we have developed a way to destroy infected cells. We release specific proteins from the mitochondria into the cytosol, which then form a large complex called the apoptosome. From there, a series of other proteins are activated in a cascade reaction, many of which enter the nucleus, cleave DNA into fragments, and result in cell death. This pathway is even triggered by several influenza virus strains and so as we enter the dark times of flu season, the Mitochondria Party will be prepared for combat.
Our contribution to defense involves equipping our armed forces, or immune cells, with high quality ammunition. We help to sort degradative enzymes, such as perforin and granzymes, into transport vesicles. The enzymes are then transported through a series of compartments until they are finally housed in special cytotoxic granules. Upon pathogen invasion, the granules release their components into the infected cell, eventually killing the cell and harmful foreign component at the same time.
Folks, that’s all the time we have for today and this concludes the final debate of the campaign. Thank you to the leaders for participating as the voting day approaches and—
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BREAKING NEWS: This live broadcast is interrupted in lieu of an interesting development in this Cell-ection. We have just received word that a new party is entering the race to lead the Cell Nation. They call themselves the Separatist Party, led by Mitotica…and they are lobbying for cell division.