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Archaea Have Their Own Proofreading Mechanism

A team of Yale biochemists investigated a proofreading mechanism in one-celled organisms from the domain Archaea and found it different, but just as effective, as its counterpart in domains Bacteria and Eukarya (the latter including all plants and humans).  Their work was published online in PNAS July 6.1     The particular instance involved the […]

Cell Technology Celebrated

Humans are just beginning to imitate the manufacturing techniques cells use all the time, right under our noses.  A book just came out about the subject, entitled Bionanotechnology: Lessons from Nature by David S. Goodsell.  It’s hard to tell if Christof M. Niemeyer was more impressed with the book or with the living machines themselves, […]

Biochemists Mutate Protein, Make a Catalyst

“Enzymes are among the most proficient catalysts known,” wrote three Duke University scientists, “and they catalyze a wide variety of reactions in aqueous solutions under ambient conditions with exquisite selectivity and stereospecificity.”  The team set out to rationally design their own enzyme.  Their work is reported in the June 25 issue of Science.1  Building on […]

Fungi Supply Plant Communities With Underground Nutrient Pipeline

Dig up a cubic yard of soil, and you may have disturbed 12,000 miles of an extensive network of passageways that supply plant roots with carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus.

How Molecular Trucks Build Your Sensors

In the film Unlocking the Mystery of Life, biochemist Michael Behe, describing the intricacies of cells as we know them today, claimed that there are “little molecular trucks that carry supplies from one end of the cell to the other.”  If that seems an overstatement, you should look at the illustration in Cell June 11 […]

DNA Folds With Molecular Velcro

Many have heard how the inventor of Velcro got the idea from plant seeds that stick to clothing, but now Carlos Bustamente and team of Howard Hughes Medical Institute have found a velcro-like principle operating at a scale millions of times smaller.  Small proteins called condensins are involved in the elaborate folding that DNA undergoes […]

Cell Requires Two Keys to Let Cargo Pass

For high-security environments, guards sometimes require two independent authentication methods.  Before humans came up with this trick, the cells in their bodies were already using it.  Itoh and Camilli explain in the May 13 issue of Nature:1 Our cells contain a series of distinct compartments that do different jobs and have different properties.  The membranes […]

Botulinum Toxin Deactivated by One Slight Change

A researcher at Brookhaven National Laboratory mutated a botulinum enzyme by just one amino acid, and abolished its toxicity.  The mutation, a change from a glutamate to a glutamine at one position, increased the distance from a zinc atom to a water molecule by 0.6 angstrom, less than one tenth of a billionth of a […]

Virus: Like DNA in a Hard Plastic Shell

A European team of biophysicists studied the mechanical properties of a virus and found the shell, made of protein, to act like hard plastic.  Writing in PNAS,1 they described the coat of a bacteriophage they studied: The protective proteinaceous shells (capsids) of viruses are striking examples of biological materials engineering.  These highly regular, self-assembled, nanometer-sized […]

Minimal Cell Modeled in Computer

“The basic design rules relating the regulation of cellular function to genomic structure is of broad interest,” begin three Cornell microbiologists writing in PNAS,1 and so they have turned their attention to the smallest theoretical living cell: A �minimal cell� is a hypothetical cell possessing the minimum functions required for sustained growth and reproduction in […]

Eugenics Documentary Opens at Holocaust Museum

Michael Ollove at the Baltimore Sun reports on a new exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Museum entitled Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race.  The exhibit shows a 1937 Nazi propaganda film that invokes the law of natural selection as support for weeding out the unfit.  Ollove writes, The narrator declares that “we humans have sinned […]

Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week: Cell Networks

A team of Chinese scientists analyzed protein interactions in yeast cells, and titled their paper in PNAS1 “The yeast cell-cycle network is robustly designed.”  They “demonstrated that the cell-cycle network is extremely stable and robust for its function,” and “able to survive perturbations.”  The beginning of the paper expresses the wonder the stimulated their research: […]

Cellular Cowboys: How the Cell Rounds Up Chromosomes Before Dividing

Cell division is like cowboys lassoing cattle and pulling ones that match into two identical corrals.

DNA Is a Code Operated by Another Code

The discovery in the 1950s that DNA stored a coded language was amazing, but recently a new level of complexity has come to the awareness of biochemists.  Apparently, another code determines which DNA genes will be opened for expression and which should be suppressed.     The Feb. 14 issue of Science News1 describes the […]

Your Internal Motors Can Run Nanotech

In each cell in your body, and in that of every living thing, there exists a tiny motor named ATP synthase that Science News1 calls “the ultimate molecular machine.”  It converts electrical to chemical energy, writes Alexandra Goho, “with amazing efficiency.”  Now, Japanese have harnessed some of these motors (only 12 millionths of a millimeter […]
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