Molecular & Cell Biology

Category: Molecular & Cell Biology


Axons in red and neuronal cell bodies in green show cell bodies following the red axons
When nerve cells form in an embryo they do not start off in the right place but have to be guided to their final position by navigating a kind of molecular and cellular "map" in order to function properly. In a recent research study published in Nature Communications neurobiologist Sara Wilson, Umeå University, found that during embryonic development different parts of the nerve cell are important for guiding other nerve cells into their physical positions.

Using nature for inspiration, a team of Northwestern University scientists is the first to develop an entirely artificial molecular pump, in which molecules pump other molecules. This tiny machine is no small feat. The pump one day might be used to power other molecular machines, such as artificial muscles.

A molecular switch that seems to be essential for embryonic heart cells to grow into more mature, adult-like heart cells has been discovered.


GTEx findings reveal new insights into how DNA differences influence gene activity, disease susceptibility.
Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project have created a new and much-anticipated data resource to help establish how differences in an individual's genomic make-up can affect gene activity and contribute to disease. The new resource will enable scientists to examine the underlying genomics of many different human tissues and cells at the same time, and promises to open new avenues to the study and understanding of human biology.

For years, scientists have been puzzled by the presence of short stretches of genetic material floating inside a variety of cells, ranging from bacteria to mammals, including humans. These fragments are pieces of the genetic instructions cells use to make proteins, but are too short a length to serve their usual purpose. Reporting in this week's Cell, researchers at Rockefeller have discovered a major clue to the role these fragments play in the body -- and in the process, may have opened up a new frontier in the fight against breast cancer.

New research from the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital can help explain the prevalence of widespread syndromes such as carpal tunnel syndrome and sciatica. According to the results, neural movements can be measured by using non-invasive techniques, which are also applicable in diagnostics and rehabilitation planning.

Using proteomics techniques to study injured optic nerves, researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have identified previously unrecognized proteins and pathways involved in nerve regeneration. Adding back one of these proteins--the oncogene c-myc--they achieved unprecedented optic nerve regeneration in mice when combined with two other known strategies. The findings were published online April 30 by the journal Neuron.


Top: Exemplary neuron reconstructions for each of the 10 major cell types of the vibrissal part of rat sensory cortex (dendrites, the part of a neuron that receives information from...
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics (Germany), VU University Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience (USA) succeed in reconstructing the neuronal networks that interconnect the elementary units of sensory cortex - cortical columns.


Remnants of viruses, called retrotransposons, jumped around more frequently within the genomes of cells lacking the histone variant H3.3.
A family of proteins known as histones provides support and structure to DNA, but for years, scientists have been puzzling over occasional outliers among these histones, which appear to exist for specific, but often mysterious reasons. Now, researchers have uncovered a new purpose for one such histone variant: preventing genetic mutations by keeping certain so-called "jumping genes" in place.

A biochemist from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is a co-author on a paper in Nature that describes a new, more efficient method of making ribonucleic acids (RNAs).


Collision of the DNA replication machinery with lesions in the DNA triggers the recruitment of a large number of DNA repair factors (yellow) that help to repair the lesions.
During each cell division, more than 3.3 billion base pairs of genomic DNA have to be duplicated and segregated accurately to daughter cells. But what happens when the DNA template is damaged in such a way that the replication machinery gets stuck? To answer this question, scientists in the team of Matthias Mann at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich, with colleagues in Copenhagen and at Harvard, have analyzed how the protein composition of the DNA replication machinery changes upon encountering damaged DNA.


Rice University researchers Peter Wolynes, left, and Bin Zhang are working to formulate an energy-landscape theory for chromosomes. The theory could help scientists understand the genomic roots of gene regulation,...
Human chromosomes are much bigger and more complex than proteins, but like proteins, they appear to fold and unfold in an orderly process as they carry out their functions in cells.


This is a microscope image of polytene chromosomes from Drosophila melanogaster, in which, using staining techniques, scientists have visualized the protein dDsk2, a molecule never previously associated with chromatin
Until today, the proteins known as ubiquitin receptors have been associated mainly with protein degradation, a basic cell cleaning process. A new function now described for the protein dDsk2 by the team headed by Ferran Azorín, group leader at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and CSIC research professor, links ubiquitin receptors for the first time with the regulation of gene expression. This discovery, published today in Nature Communications, opens up a double scenario, one focused on basic epigenomic research and the other biomedical, because of the link between dDsk2 and neurodegenerative diseases.

Researchers have developed a large-scale sequencing technique called Genome and Transcriptome Sequencing (G&T-seq) that reveals, simultaneously, the unique genome sequence of a single cell and the activity of genes within that single cell.


This is an artist's illustration of an X-chromosome.
Researchers at Caltech have discovered how an abundant class of RNA genes, called long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs, pronounced link RNAs) can regulate key genes. By studying an important lncRNA, called Xist, the scientists identified how this RNA gathers a group of proteins and ultimately prevents women from having an extra functional X-chromosome--a condition in female embryos that leads to death in early development. These findings mark the first time that researchers have uncovered the detailed mechanism of action for lncRNA genes.


These are images of mouse neurons from the hippocampal region of the brain. Levels of the surface receptor GluR1, orange, are shown in unmodified neurons, left, and in those with...
Johns Hopkins scientists have discovered that neurons are risk takers: They use minor "DNA surgeries" to toggle their activity levels all day, every day. Since these activity levels are important in learning, memory and brain disorders, the researchers think their finding will shed light on a range of important questions. A summary of the study will be published online in the journal Nature Neuroscience on April 27.

New research from the Monell Center reveals that tumor necrosis factor (TNF), an immune system regulatory protein that promotes inflammation, also helps regulate sensitivity to bitter taste. The finding may provide a mechanism to explain the taste system abnormalities and decreased food intake that can be associated with infections, autoimmune disorders, and chronic inflammatory diseases.

Genes usually always be expressed as in Western writing: from left to right on the white canvas of our DNA. So when we speak of the activity of our genome, in fact we are referring to the expression of genes in this sense of the double-stranded DNA.


Nerve cells have different shapes: while the cell body (red) is found in a central position in rats, it is located at the end of a cell prolongation in flies.
Nerve cells come in very different shapes. Researchers at the Bernstein Center Berlin now reveal why, in insects, the cell body is usually located at the end of a separate extension. Using mathematical models, they show that this increases the strength of electrical signal transmission at no additional energetic cost.

In results presented today at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2015, a collaborative study by the University of Colorado Cancer Center and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports that the TERT gene promoter was altered in 69 percent of 54 cases of bladder cancer due to variants that occur after birth (called "somatic") and in 56 percent of bladder cancers due to inherited variants (called "germline"). The study shows these TERT alterations frequently co-occur with alterations in recently identified bladder cancer genes such as the stromal antigen 2 (STAG2), and the lysine-specific demethylase 6A (KDM6A).

Researchers from the University of Birmingham have identified an important new way in which our immune systems are regulated, and hope that understanding it will help tackle the debilitating effects of type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and other serious diseases.

An international team of researchers at German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) and Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) have revealed in a collaborative study - published today in NEURON, that neurons in the eye change on the molecular level when they are exposed to prolonged light. The researchers could identify that a feedback signalling mechanism is responsible for these changes. The innate neuronal property might be utilized to protect neurons from degeneration or cell death in the future.

Scientists have discovered a protein that plays a central role in promoting immunity to viruses and cancer, opening the door to new therapies.

New work by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich researchers demonstrates that macrophages can effectively substitute for so-called dendritic cells as primers of T-cell-dependent immune responses. Indeed, they stimulate a broader-based response.

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Colorado, Boulder, have developed a statistical model that allows them to tell where a dust sample came from within the continental United States based on the DNA of fungi found in the sample.


Correct tight junctions between cells labeled in yellow due to the presence of the protein PARD3.
Researchers at Genes and Cancer group at Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), led by Montse Sanchez-Cespedes, have identified the PARD3 gene as a tumor suppressor that is inactivated in lung cancer squamous type. The results of the study have been published in Cancer Research.

KU Leuven researchers have zeroed in on what makes cancer cells in melanoma so aggressive. They also succeeded in taming the effect in cell cultures. Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, is notoriously quick to metastasize and responds poorly to existing cancer treatments. In their study, published in Nature Communications, the researchers report a significant step forward in the characterization and potential treatment of melanoma.

A clearer understanding of the origin recognition complex (ORC) - a protein complex that directs DNA replication - through its crystal structure offers new insight into fundamental mechanisms of DNA replication initiation. This will also provide insight into how ORC may be compromised in a subset of patients with Meier-Gorlin syndrome, a form of dwarfism in humans.

For the first time, a research team, led by a UC San Francisco biologist, has isolated energy-burning "beige" fat from adult humans, which is known to be able to convert unhealthy white fat into healthy brown fat. The scientists also found new genetic markers of this beige fat.

Researchers have been fascinated for a long time by learning and memory formation, and many questions are still open. Bochum-based neuroscientists Prof Dr Denise Manahan-Vaughan and Dr Hardy Hagena have discovered a key building block for this complex process. A particular neurotransmitter receptor, namely the metabotropic glutamate receptor 5, is a switch for activating opposing forms of plasticity in the hippocampus, a brain region vital for memory forming. They reported in the current edition of "The Journal of Neuroscience".

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