Genetics & Molecular Biology

This paper relates some neat work done at the University of Texas to understand signal processing by beta-adrenergic receptors:


In layman's terms:
Scientists from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden say they have discovered how aged yeast cells manage to form new and undamaged daughter cells. In a study published in Cell, two collaborating research groups at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology have been able to show how newly formed yeast cells transport damaged and aged proteins back to the mother cell, guaranteeing that the new cell is born young and healthy.
 No vaccine currently exists for West Nile Virus, but a new therapeutic made from tobacco plants has been shown to arrest the infection, according to research conducted by Arizona State University scientists. The study, published this week in PNAS,  is the first to demonstrate a plant-derived treatment to successfully combat West Nile virus after exposure and infection.

"The goal of this research was twofold," said Arizona State University scientist Qiang Chen. "First, we wanted to show proof-of- concept, demonstrating that plant-made antibodies can work as effective post-exposure therapeutics. Secondly, we've sought to develop a therapeutic which can be made inexpensively so that the health care systems in developing countries can afford it."

Since when has systems biology been a synonym for genomics?

This is from a Perspective piece in the Oct. 2 issue of Science:

The relative value of discovery aimed at hypothesis generation versus hypothesis testing has been debated. High-profile journals publish systems biology studies, including the human genome sequence, but most papers focus on hypothesis-driven investigations.

A new study in Biological Chemistry suggests that Vitamin D, readily available in supplements or cod liver oil, may counter the effects of Crohn's disease.

Researchers from McGill University and the Université de Montréal found that Vitamin D acts directly on the beta defensin 2 gene, which encodes an antimicrobial peptide, and the NOD2 gene that alerts cells to the presence of invading microbes. Both Beta-defensin and NOD2 have been linked to Crohn's disease. If NOD2 is deficient or defective, it cannot combat invaders in the intestinal tract.
Photosynthesizing sea slugs take 'you are what you eat' to an extreme: by eating photosynthesizing algae, these "solar-powered" sea slugs are able to live off photosynthesis for months. How does this work? Is this just a straightforward case of symbiosis between algae and sea slugs?

It turns out that this is not a case of symbiosis: this is a case of the amazing and ubiquitous power of viruses to dramatically reshape the genetic landscape.

Cheap, powerful sequencing has enabled scientists to sample the viral world like never before. Our understanding of marine viruses, in particular, has exploded as researchers have sequenced whatever they can find in samples of seawater.

I've lamented multiple times the negative influence on scientific culture of some trends in the use of computational tools to analyze large datasets, particularly in biology.

Over at Nobel Intent, John Timmer brings up another issue related to computational models of complex phenomena: reproducibility:
Nature has put up some free pieces on syntehtic and systems biology on their Synthetic Systems Biology Web Focus. Unfortunately they haven't made it all free, but you can go read this one: Five hard truths for Synthetic Biology.

The conclusion? Complex biological systems are hard to deal with:
Biologists know that Chaperonins ensure proteins are folded properly to carry out their assigned roles in cells, and according to a new letter published in Nature, they may also know how these molecular chaperones function.

In the new study of archaea (single-celled organisms without nuclei to enclose their genetic information), researchers from Baylor College of Medicine and Stanford University in California discovered how the Group II chaperonins close and open folding chambers to initate the folding event and to release the functional protein to the cell.