As I wrote in The Germ Files, science loves suffixes. The most recent fad has been the addition of the letters ‘ome’ to a root word to denote the totality of all involved molecules. Biological entities become biome, genetic material gives way to genome, and microbes beget the microbiome.
But in a paper last week, another -ome surfaced…
Going by the rules of the -ome world, one might think this refers to the totality of escape artists around the world. But this isn’t the case.
Instead, the word refers to a group of viral components known as ‘ejection proteins.’ You might be wondering how the two have any connection, let alone justify the creation of another -ome. Here’s what the authors have to say:
“The exit of these internal proteins from the capsid represents a remarkable case of molecular escape artistry that presumably depends on, among other factors, the locations of the ejection proteins at the time DNA release initiates. (Harry Houdini, the doyen of escape artists, had a vaudeville act in which he would extricate himself from seemingly impossible states of confinement—hence, for elusive proteins, the term “Houdinisome.”)”
If you want more information, you can read the paper here:
Localization of the Houdinisome (Ejection Proteins) inside the Bacteriophage P22 Virion by Bubblegram Imaging
I can see where the researchers are going as it does make sense in a microbiological sense. I just wonder if this invention might signal the apex of the -ome fad.
In other words, with the advent of the Houdinisome, have scientists finally…
This moment might be the impetus for the scientific community to examine a new suffix. Or, more likely, the action may lead to even stranger names with even less impact on the subject actually being studied. After all, even Henry Winkler – the actor in the video above – somehow managed to jump the shark twice.
What do you think is the future of the -ome?