Genetics & Molecular Biology
With hot, new technologies, biologists are taking higher-resolution snapshots of what's going on inside the cell, but the results are stirring up controversy. One of the most interesting recent discoveries is that transcription is everywhere: DNA is transcribed into RNA all over the genome, even DNA that has long been thought to have a non-functional role. What is all of this transcription for? Does the 'dark matter' of the genome have some cryptic, undiscovered function?
As you know, when different species directly compete for the same finite resource, only the fitter will survive. A new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) says they have demonstrated that in a laboratory environment, along with how, when given a variety of resources, the different species will evolve to become increasingly specialized, each filling different niches within their common ecosystem.
The circadian clock coordinates physiological and behavioral processes on a 24-hour rhythm, allowing animals to anticipate changes in their environment and prepare accordingly.
Scientists already know that some genes are controlled by the clock and are turned on only one time during each 24-hour cycle but now researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have found that some genes are switched on once every 12 or 8 hours.
Genome sequencing is getting better and faster. Two months ago we had the first draft of the neanderthal genome
and now scientists from the University of Maryland have published their assembly of the Bos taurus
- the domestic cow. Sure that's not as exciting to the wider population but it's important to the genetics community.
Sigh - I was going to recommend this piece
about recent human genome research in Scientific American, by a leading researcher in comparative genomics, Katherine Pollard, until I came to the last paragraph:
Experimental and computational studies now under way in thousands of labs around the world promise to elucidate what is going on in the 98.5 percent of our genome that does not code for proteins. It is looking less and less like junk every day.Anyone, especially a genome scientist, who implies that most of our genome is packed full of functional sequences should back that up with some specifics, starting with answers to these two questions:
It is only fair that, after taking PZ to task
for inaccurately calling the governor of Texas a traitor, that we acknowledge our profound agreement with the sentiments expressed by the PharynguLord in this post
. PZ stuck to what he knows in his critique inspired by this credulous article
, which misidentifies Cochran's co-author Harpending as a geneticist. Harpending is an anthropologist interested in genetics.
Drs. Fred Cross and Eric Siggia have produced a steady stream of outstanding systems-level studies of one of the most important biological oscillators: the cell division cycle. I'll have more later today on their fascinating new paper on phase-locking the cell cycle, but in the mean time, check out their recent methods paper
, which has some great movies of live-imaged yeast cells doing various cell cycle tricks, visualized with fluorescent proteins:
Health and death have genetic risk factors. International research has linked ten gene variations to sudden cardiac death (SCD). What is SCD? It is death resulting from an abrupt loss of heart function -- cardiac arrest. Was this perhaps what the first famous poly-marathoner suffered?
Recent - The American Heart Association (AHA) says about 850 Americans die each day without being hospitalized or admitted to an emergency room. Most are sudden deaths caused by cardiac arrest. Death occurs within minutes after symptoms appear. Yet this health problem has received much less publicity than heart attack.
Many computational biologists are interested in taking gene expression data, and using that data to computationally infer the underlying regulatory network that controls the observed pattern of gene expression.
Why? Because doing the experiments to determine the structure of these regulatory networks is hard; if we could use more easily obtained data to reliably tease out the network structure, we'd be able to quickly characterize networks in unexplored cell types or in poorly studied microbes.
There's a perception among some that it's a man's world and they get all the attention. If you've ever been in a bar or a library or a baseball game, you know this is not true - have a woman drop a napkin and see what happens whereas a man could be bleeding out his eyes and be unnoticed. But women want to keep men on their toes by pretending they are in charge.
Now the gig may be up, thanks to biology.
University of California, Berkeley biologist Doris Bachtrog and her colleagues say that the history of the X chromosome offers important clues to the origins and benefits of sexual reproduction. X even compensates for the degeneration of Y, which will get people talking.
Take that, much-studied male-determining Y chromosome.