Genetics & Molecular Biology

Researchers have discovered a new way of improving the longevity of plant seeds using genetic engineering. 

The key is over-expression of the ATHB25 gene. This gene encodes a protein that regulates gene expression, producing a new mutant that gives the seed new properties. Researchers have proven that this mutant has more gibberellin -the hormone that promotes plant growth-, which means the seed coat is reinforced as well.

This mechanism is new, as tolerance to stresses such as aging has always been associated with another hormone, abscisic acid, which regulates defenses based on proteins and small protective molecules, instead of producing the growth of structures like gibberellin does.

An international team of scientists has synthesized the first functional chromosome in yeast, an important step in the emerging field of synthetic biology, designing microorganisms to produce novel medicines, raw materials for food, and biofuels. 

Over the last five years, scientists have built bacterial chromosomes and viral DNA, but this is the first report of an entire eukaryotic chromosome, the threadlike structure that carries genes in the nucleus of all plant and animal cells, built from scratch. Researchers say their team's global effort also marks one of the most significant advances in yeast genetics since 1996, when scientists initially mapped out yeast's entire DNA code, or genetic blueprint.

Significant progress toward creating "homo minutus" - a benchtop human - has gotten a little closer, thanks to successful development and analysis of a liver human organ construct that responds to exposure to a toxic chemical much like a real liver.

At the Society of Toxicology meeting in Phoenix, Vanderbilt University Professor John Wikswo said the achievement is the first result from a five-year, $19 million multi­-institutional effort led by he and Rashi Iyer, Senior Scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Peak Organic Brewing Co. has announced that it has become the first brewer to receive Non-GMO Project verification for its beer.

They believe this makes their product more 'pure' than beers which contain grains that have instead been randomly mutated and hybdrized over thousands of years.

The genome of the loblolly pine is truly massive, aound seven times bigger than the human genome, making it the largest genome sequenced to date and the most complete conifer genome sequence ever published.

The achievement, described in GENETICS and Genome Biology, marks the first big test of a new analysis method that can speed up genome assembly by compressing the raw sequence data 100-fold.

Loblolly pine is the most commercially important tree species in the United States and the source of most American paper products. The tree is also being developed as a feedstock for biofuel. The genome sequence will help scientists breed improved varieties and understand the evolution and diversity of plants.

Babies are born with the ability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk, but most humans lose this ability after infancy because of declining levels of the lactose-digesting enzyme lactase. Most mammals also do not drink milk after weaning.

So did maintaining a high level of lactase confer an evolutionary advantage - reaping the nutritive benefits of milk - or is lactase persistence (lactose tolerance) simply due to dairy culture shaping?

When President Bush signed an executive order becoming the first to fund human embryonic stem cell research, he had made a compromise that navigated Federal law - his predecessor President Clinton's Dickey-Wicker Amendment - the ethical concerns about a technology that had just come into existence, and the needs of science. American Presidents compromised once upon a time.

Mutations within the gene FTO have been implicated as a genetic determinant of obesity risk in humans, but the mechanism for any link remains unknown.

A new paper says that the obesity-associated elements within FTO interact with IRX3, a distant gene on the genome that appears to be the functional obesity gene. The FTO gene itself appears to have only a peripheral effect on obesity. 

Soybeans are a tremendously successful crop and a new study that traced the genetic changes in varieties over the last 80 years of soybean breeding found that increases in yield gains and an increased rate of gains over the years are largely due to the continual release of greater-yielding cultivars.  

Some are concerned that converging on optimal crops for each region might be a bad thing but plentiful food tells a different story.

The eggs produced by adolescent girls are not the same as the ones produced by adult women, according to a recent study in Human Molecular Genetics, which lists evidence that there are two completely distinct types of eggs in the mammalian ovary – "the first wave" and "the adult wave".

 Professor Kui Liu from the University of Gothenburg and colleagues used two genetically modified mouse models to show that the first wave of eggs, which starts immediately after birth, contributes to the onset of puberty and provides fertilizable eggs into the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

In contrast, the adult wave remains in a state of dormancy until activated during the adult life and then provides eggs throughout the entire reproductive lifespan.