Molecular & Cell Biology

Category: Molecular & Cell Biology

Scientists have uncovered a new way the immune system may fight cancers and viral infections. The finding could aid efforts to use immune cells to treat illness.

This shows active droplets.
Droplets of filamentous material enclosed in a lipid membrane: these are the models of a "simplified" cell used by the SISSA physicists Luca Giomi and Antonio DeSimone, who simulated the spontaneous emergence of cell motility and division - that is, features of living material - in inanimate "objects". The research is one of the cover stories of the April 10th online issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.

Here are Cian O'Donnell and Terry Sejnowski.
Scientists at the Salk Institute have created a new model of memory that explains how neurons retain select memories a few hours after an event.

Mitochondria in hepatitis C-infected cells (bottom row) are self-destructing. The self-annihilation process explains the persistance and virulence of the virus in human liver cells.
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified a mechanism that explains why people with the hepatitis C virus get liver disease and why the virus is able to persist in the body for so long.

Researchers have found a major piece of genetic evidence that confirms the role of a group of virus-fighting genes in cancer development.

This is a confocal laser scanning microcope image of an early embryo with surrounding placental endosperm cells.
A new generation of high yield plants could be created following a fundamental change in our understanding of how plants develop.

Synthetic genetic circuitry created by researchers at Rice University is helping them see, for the first time, how to regulate cell mechanisms that degrade the misfolded proteins implicated in Parkinson's, Huntington's and other diseases.

This image shows the structure of the sodium pump, which researchers reveal to be more versatile than previously thought.
A study in The Journal of General Physiology provides new evidence that the ubiquitous sodium pump is more complex—and more versatile—than we thought.

This image shows the evolutionary relationships among the species analyzed for conserved non-coding sequences. 'Myr' stands for million years ago. Ellipses are approximate times of whole-genome duplications.
DNA is the molecule that encodes the genetic instructions enabling a cell to produce the thousands of proteins it typically needs. The linear sequence of the A, T, C, and G bases in what is called coding DNA determines the particular protein that a short segment of DNA, known as a gene, will encode. But in many organisms, there is much more DNA in a cell than is needed to code for all the necessary proteins. This non-coding DNA was often referred to as "junk" DNA because it seemed unnecessary. But in retrospect, we did not yet understand the function of these seemingly unnecessary DNA sequences.

Case Western Reserve University researchers have discovered a novel population of neutrophils, which are the body's infection control workhorses. These cells have an enhanced microbial killing ability and are thereby better able to control infection.

Research from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation reveals a new complexity to nerve cells in the brain that could affect future therapies aimed at altering mood and memory in humans.

This is an image of a stained Drosophila cell.
Scientists from Indiana University are part of a consortium that has described the transcriptome of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster in unprecedented detail, identifying thousands of new genes, transcripts and proteins. In the new work, published Sunday in the journal Nature, scientists studied the transcriptome -- the complete collection of RNAs produced by a genome -- at different stages of development, in diverse tissues, in cells growing in culture, and in flies stressed by environmental contaminants. To do so, they used contemporary sequencing technology to sequence all of the expressed RNAs in greater detail than ever before possible.

Multiple regions in the human genome are reported to be linked to musical aptitude, according to a study published this week in Molecular Psychiatry. The function of the candidate genes implicated in the study ranges from inner-ear development to auditory neurocognitive processes, suggesting that musical aptitude is affected by a combination of genes involved in the auditory pathway. The research was funded by the Academy of Finland.

Our DNA and its architecture are duplicated every time our cells divide. Histone proteins are key building blocks of this architecture and contain crucial information that regulates our genes. Danish researchers show how an enzyme controls reliable and high-speed delivery of histones to DNA copying hubs in our cells. This shuttling mechanism is crucial to maintain normal function of our genes and prevent disease. The results are published in the journal Nature Communications.

In the heart muscle cell above, the arrows show an early sign of replication.
In a study that began in a pair of infant siblings with a rare heart defect, Johns Hopkins researchers say they have identified a key molecular switch that regulates heart cell division and normally turns the process off around the time of birth. Their research, they report, could advance efforts to turn the process back on and regenerate heart tissue damaged by heart attacks or disease.

Researchers at Columbia University have made a significant step toward visualizing small biomolecules inside living biological systems with minimum disturbance, a longstanding goal in the scientific community. In a study published March 2nd in Nature Methods, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Wei Min's research team has developed a general method to image a broad spectrum of small biomolecules, such as small molecular drugs and nucleic acids, amino acids, lipids for determining where they are localized and how they function inside cells.

A new way of measuring how much light a plant can tolerate could be useful in growing crops resilient to a changing climate, according to scientists from Queen Mary University of London.

A new report appearing in the March 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal helps shed light on what drives the evolution of pathogens, as well as how our bodies adapt to ward them off. Specifically, the report shows that our bodies naturally employ a mechanism, called "CD33rSiglecs," that not only dampens unwanted immune responses against one's own cells, but also evolves rapidly to recognize foreign invaders. What's more, the report explains how pathogens exploit this immunological "vulnerability" of "self-recognition" to evade our bodies' defenses. This leads to a seemingly endless "arms race" between constantly evolving pathogens and immune systems. Understanding this phenomenon may become crucial for developing novel drugs against various pathogens that try to take advantage of this system.

Researchers from Princeton University and Washington University in St. Louis report that the unusual arrangement of cells in a chicken's eye constitutes the first known biological occurrence of a potentially new state of matter known as "disordered hyperuniformity," which has been shown to have unique physical properties. These states have a "hidden order" that allows them to behave like crystal and liquid states of matter. They exhibit order over large distances and disorder over small distances. This diagram depicts the spatial distribution of the five types of light-sensitive cells known as cones in the chicken retina.
Along with eggs, soup and rubber toys, the list of the chicken's most lasting legacies may eventually include advanced materials such as self-organizing colloids, or optics that can transmit light with the efficiency of a crystal and the flexibility of a liquid.

Caltech researchers separate blood stem cells from other bone marrow cells and load them onto a newly developed microfluidic chip. Fluorescent signals indicate the presence of secreted proteins with one...
In the battle against infection, immune cells are the body's offense and defense—some cells go on the attack while others block invading pathogens. It has long been known that a population of blood stem cells that resides in the bone marrow generates all of these immune cells. But most scientists have believed that blood stem cells participate in battles against infection in a delayed way, replenishing immune cells on the front line only after they become depleted.

This is a photo of Brookhaven National Laboratory biochemist Chang-Jun Liu with Mingyue Gou, Huijun Yang, Yuanheng Cai and Xuebin Zhang.
Plant growth is orchestrated by a spectrum of signals from hormones within a plant. A major group of plant hormones called cytokinins originate in the roots of plants, and their journey to growth areas on the stem and in leaves stimulates plant development. Though these phytohormones have been identified in the past, the molecular mechanism responsible for their transportation within plants was previously poorly understood.

The switch in the brain that sends us off to sleep has been identified by researchers at Oxford University's Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour in a study in fruit flies.

This shows restarted endocytosis in a mitotic cell.
Researchers from Warwick Medical School have discovered the key role of a protein in shutting down endocytosis during mitosis, answering a question that has evaded scientists for half a century.

The elusive progenitor cells that give rise to innate lymphoid cells—a recently discovered group of infection-fighting white blood cells—have been identified in fetal liver and adult bone marrow of mice, researchers from the University of Chicago report early online in the journal Nature.

NYU Langone Medical Center researchers have found a biological weakness in the workings of the most commonly mutated gene involved in human cancers, known as mutant K-Ras, which they say can be exploited by drug chemotherapies to thwart tumor growth.

This image shows iPS cells (green) generated using histone variants TH2A and TH2B and two Yamanaka factors (Oct3/4 and Klf4).
One major challenge in stem cell research has been to reprogram differentiated cells to a totipotent state. Researchers from RIKEN in Japan have identified a duo of histone proteins that dramatically enhance the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) and may be the key to generating induced totipotent stem cells.

Short DNA sequences known as "PAM " (shown in yellow) enable the bacterial enzyme Cas9 to identify and degrade foreign DNA, as well as induce site-specific genetic changes in animals.
A central question has been answered regarding a protein that plays an essential role in the bacterial immune system and is fast becoming a valuable tool for genetic engineering. A team of researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have determined how the bacterial enzyme known as Cas9, guided by RNA, is able to identify and degrade foreign DNA during viral infections, as well as induce site-specific genetic changes in animal and plant cells. Through a combination of single-molecule imaging and bulk biochemical experiments, the research team has shown that the genome-editing ability of Cas9 is made possible by the presence of short DNA sequences known as "PAM," for protospacer adjacent motif.

Using mouse models, Penn State cellular biologist Aimin Liu and his colleagues discovered a protein that is required for the growth of critical, hair-like structures called cilia on cell surfaces....
A team of researchers from Penn State University and the University of California has discovered a protein that is required for the growth of tiny, but critical, hair-like structures called cilia on cell surfaces. The discovery has important implications for human health because lack of cilia can lead to serious diseases such as polycystic kidney disease, blindness and neurological disorders.

This is a 3D structure of Cryptochrome -- a blue light photoreceptor; a natural variation in a single amino acid shown in green, has impact on behavior and development of...
The circadian clock is a molecular network that generates daily rhythms, and is present in both plants and animals.

When a tumor is treated with an anti-cancer drug, some cells die and, unfortunately, some cells tend to live. A University of Colorado Cancer Center study published in the journal Nature Cell Biology details a possible difference between the susceptible and resistant cells: the rate at which cells are able to cleanse themselves via the process known as autophagy.

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