A World of Proteins

Life runs on a universal workforce: the proteins which build and maintain cells. Despite vast diversity, regardless of life form, the jobs proteins do are much the same.

A proteome is the idea of a cell’s collective workforce. A survey of 100 species – ranging from microbes to plants and animals – found that proteomes labor toward the same aims, albeit in diverse ways.

Energy is the essential ingredient for living. Unsurprisingly, “a universally high fraction of the proteome is involved in supplying energy resources, although these pathways range from photosynthesis to carbohydrate metabolism” observed German cytologist Matthias Mann.

While food is the vital product, the proteome service industry is also cardinal. “A remarkably high fraction of the total proteome mass in all kingdoms is dedicated to protein homeostasis and folding, highlighting the biological challenge of maintaining protein structure in all branches of life,” adds Mann.

DNA and protein “musculatures” lie in the way they fold and unfold. The atomic arrangement of these complex macromolecules is critical to their proper function. Over 3% of the protein workforce are stylists which groom other proteins to keep them in good working condition. “Altogether, functions dedicated to the life cycle of the proteome (translation, elongation, folding and proteolysis) make up a remarkable 10% of proteome mass in living organisms,” marveled Mann.

Coordination, and hence communication, is requisite for cells to live and contribute to the organism to which they belong (in the instance of eukaryotes). Over 1/3rd of the proteome is in the news business.

The parallel between proteins in cells and people in civilizations is apparent. The great distinction is durability. Cells are robust. Contrastingly, human societies are fragile in their coherence. The difference owes to the degree of cooperation.


Johannes B. Müller et al, “The proteome landscape of the kingdoms of life,” Nature (17 June 2020).

Earth’s species have more in common than previously believed,” ScienceDaily (17 June 2020).

Ishi Nobu, “Proteins,” in The Science of Existence (2019).

Ishi Nobu, “Protein folding,” in The Science of Existence (2019).