The life of a cell is a dynamic one, requiring split-second decisions driven by interactions with multiple small molecules in the environment, says B. Franklin Pugh '83, professor of molecular biology and genetics in a Cornell research article. From sugars to toxins to the molecular products of sun exposure, small molecules assail cells in what are known as signaling events.
“There are thousands, if not millions, of different kinds of small molecules,”Pugh says in the piece. “Any of them could come into a cell. When they do, the cell responds by putting out products that allow it to metabolize sugars, or protect itself against insults or toxins. But to do that, it needs to reprogram its genome.”