July 16, 2013 | David F. Coppedge

You've Got Quality Control

What could identify intelligent design more than the discovery of “quality control”?  Your cells employ QC every day.

In “How Quality Control Works in Our Cells,” Science Daily described “A cellular control mechanism [that] prevents the production of defective proteins in our cells.”  Many genetic diseases are associated with the breakdown of quality control mechanisms, a vital and necessary function for all life, as it is in artificial systems:

A person has hundreds of thousands of different proteins that are constantly being produced and degraded. Like in any factory where raw materials are processed, there are various control mechanisms in the cell that check the quality of the products, namely the proteins.

The system discussed in the article is just one of these mechanisms.  It’s called nonsense-mediated mRNA decay, or NMD.  “For the NMD quality control mechanism to be triggered, a large number of factors have to coincide with the defective mRNA,” researchers at the University of Bern found.

The way it works is by tagging a newly-transcribed messenger RNA (mRNA) with an “assume bad” protein tag, called UPF1 (up-frameshift 1).  This tag is placed on all mRNAs as a default indicator it needs to prove itself worthy before proceeding.  On viable mRNAs, it is removed by the ribosome (the translating factory), but on defective ones, it remains.  It is recognized by the mRNA degrading machinery, which cuts it up for recycling.  “The protein UPF1 bound to the mRNA acts as an armed trap that only has to be triggered when needed to degrade the defective mRNA.”

There’s more.  “NMD also ensures that many mutations in our genes do not cause any disease symptoms — as long as the second copy of the gene affected is still intact and thus a correct version of the body plan is available,” the article explained.

In multicellular organisms, NMD can miss its time limit to act on defective mRNAs.  This could lead to accumulation of bad mRNAs in the cell.  Fortunately, there’s another safety step:

However, the doctoral student was able to demonstrate that NMD also recognises older, defective mRNAs as well as newly produced ones, which improves the efficiency of the quality control. “This result also indicates that the basic mechanism of NMD in single-cell and multicellular organisms is preserved and already developed early on in the course of evolution,” says Rufener.

Speaking of evolution, the research team spoke of evolution as the creator of this efficient quality control system: “To prevent faulty proteins from being produced due to these corrupted mRNAs our cells developed the NMD control mechanism in the course of evolution, which recognises defective mRNAs and degrades them efficiently.”

More QC Systems

Transporter, Open Sesame:  Another part of the cell, the mitochondrion, uses electricity to conduct proteins across the inner membrane.  A voltage-gated channel called TIM23 apparently has voltage sensors, reported Science Daily, and uses its voltage gradient to move its inner parts around, letting the protein cargo pass through.  The nature of the voltage sensors is still unknown.

A turnstile for protons:  protons (H+) and calcium ions (Ca2+) are very small things, but gates in the cell’s outer membrane, made just for them, are able to let them in while keeping other small ions out.  A paper in Science Magazine describes how electrical contacts in the channel guide the molecules through the passageway single file, while blocking other small ions.  An article on PhysOrg described the importance of ion channels to the cell:

A team of researchers at Columbia Engineering has used miniaturized electronics to measure the activity of individual ion-channel proteins with temporal resolution as fine as one microsecond, producing the fastest recordings of single ion channels ever performed. Ion channels are biomolecules that allow charged atoms to flow in and out of cells, and they are an important work-horse in cell signaling, sensing, and energetics. They are also being explored for nanopore sequencing applications. As the “transistors” of living systems, they are the target of many drugs, and the ability to perform such fast measurements of these proteins will lead to new understanding of their functions.

Starvation survival:  A process called autophagy allows a cell to “eat” its own innards in order to survive starvation conditions.  Medical Xpress says there are no less than 18 proteins dedicated to this process.

Constant cleanup:  Even garbage collection is part of the cell’s quality control.  Without automatic janitorial services, cells could accumulate waste and even poisons.  Live Science described at least three mechanisms for keeping the cell clean: the proteasome enzyme, which degrades proteins tagged for trash, the lysosome organelle, a kind of “cellular stomach” containing enzymes that can digest unwanted material (including viruses), and exocytosis, a system that boots junk outside through the cell membrane.  Many diseases are linked to failure of these systems.

Darwin knew nothing about these things.  If such information had been accessible to the scientists at Oxford and Cambridge in the 1850s, it’s likely Darwin’s theory would have been laughed out of town.  Darwin himself would probably have been so ashamed to suggest it, he probably would have shredded his manuscripts on his own to avoid a legacy of embarrassment.  Intelligent design would have been the leading movement of Victorian Britain, as well as on the Continent, and around the world, for the last 155 years, with no sign of it slowing down.

That’s why it’s so disgusting to see reporters saying stupid things like, “our cells developed the NMD control mechanism in the course of evolution.”  Good grief; cells don’t develop anything.  They use the software that an intelligent designer developed and put into them.  And if “basic mechanism of NMD in single-cell and multicellular organisms is preserved and already developed early on in the course of evolution,” that’s not the course of evolution!  That’s the abrupt appearance of design, without which the cell wouldn’t even be there.  We must cure these people of their dumbfloundering confability, so that they don’t churn out material with a ridiculously high perhapsimaybecouldness index.  (See Darwin Dictionary for definitions of unfamiliar terms.)  Let the light of design shine in.


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  • rockyway says:

    I find the claim cells ”developed” the mechanism of QC so anthropomorphic as to be laughable. (Perhaps they’ll grant the cell a Nobel Prize.)

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