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Alternative Gene Splicing May Be Common

Scientists at MIT publishing in PNAS1 detected instances of alternative splicing in over 1,000 genes of stem cells.  They also computed possible isoforms of mRNA transcriptions and found 80% of them in the cells.  Not only that, the isoforms (alternatively spliced versions of exons from the same gene) appeared to be functional: “We find that […]

Cell Has Automatic Jam-Clearing Proofreading Machinery

Findings at Rockefeller University have scientists excited.  DNA copying machines work on a “sliding clamp” that can hold two repair machines at the same time.  One is a low-fidelity repair tool, the other a high-fidelity repair tool.  Usually, the high-fidelity one is active, but when it needs a bigger hammer that is perhaps more effective […]

Bacterial Parcel Service Discovered

Bacteria send letters and parcels to one another.  Some of them are love letters, some of them are letter bombs.  This amazing packaged system of communication, separate from the mere sending of diffusible chemicals, was described in Nature1 with the title, “Microbiology: Bacterial speech bubbles.”  Stephen C. Winans described what is known about bacterial communication: […]

Reader Project: Calculate the Speed of Plant Package Delivery

Get out your pencil and hand calculator.  A team of Swedish and French scientists measured the velocity of a message traveling on the intraplant internet (see 08/12/2005, 11/09/2004, 10/04/2004 and 07/13/2001 entries).  Publishing in Science,1 they believe they have witnessed a signaling molecule, in the form of a messenger-RNA (mRNA; see yesterday’s entry) moving through […]

RNA Research Uncovers a Previously Ignored Universe of Genetic Information

A slow revolution is occurring in the study of genetic information.  Until recently, the only interesting items in DNA sequences were the genes – the genetic codes for proteins.  Since these usually represented only a small fraction of an organism’s genome, it was assumed the rest of the material was “junk DNA” – sequences that […]

Men Aren’t Going Extinct – Yet

Not long ago, evolutionary biologists were predicting the demise of manhood (see 11/01/2001, 03/31/2004).  The idea was that the Y chromosome, with no redundant copy (unlike the female’s two X chromosomes, and all others) appeared to be shriveling up and mutating itself out of existence.  Now that the chimpanzee genome has been published (see 09/01/2005 […]

Chimpanzee Genome Published: Is There a Monkey in Your Genes?

Nature’s cover story September 1 is about the publication of the chimpanzee genome.  Evolutionists are digging through the data for evidence of human common ancestry.  Have they found it?  The results, as usual, are mixed: MSNBC News states the situation concisely: “Genome comparison reveals many similarities – and crucial differences.”  Here is the gist of […]

Molecular Motors Galore: How Did They Evolve?

Myosin is one of the cell’s little monorail motors that trucks cargo around the cell, pushes false feet into the surrounding environment, forces packages out the cell membrane, makes muscles move and wiggles hairlike cilia.  Scientists reporting in Nature1 found twice as many varieties of myosin (37) than were previously known (17) and decided to […]

Saddle Up Your Algae: Scientists Harness Flagellar Motors

1805: Beast of burden of choice: oxen. 2005: Beast of burden of choice: algae. Science Now reported an unusual item: scientists have learned how to hitch their loads to a single-celled green alga named Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (see Yale description).  Researchers are actually calling their little teams “micro-oxen.” Scientists are increasingly interested in harnessing biological motors […]

What Do You Get When You Cross a Lion with a Tiger?

A liger, that’s what.  No kidding: you get a big cat with a mane and faint stripes that likes to play in the water.  National Geographic News has a special article, with photos, about ligers. This is offered without much comment, just for those who want to learn about something unusual in the animal kingdom, […]

Body Scan: How Precision Engineering Aids Human Acumen

Often the most interesting science stories are the ones about us– how our bodies and minds function.  Actions we perform each day without much thought are made possible by precision engineering, sometimes at the molecular level.  Here is a selection of news briefs about human superpowers. Electrical engineering: We have untold myriads of electrical voltage […]

Cell’s High-Fidelity Proofreading and Editing Explained

—It’s unusual to have a story win both Amazing and Dumb awards simultaneously, but the reason will become clear.–ed.) Luisa Cochella and Rachel Green (Johns Hopkins) have published a primer on “Fidelity in Protein Synthesis” in Current Biology.1  This is a good article for cell biology enthusiasts to read, to learn more about the methods […]

What Is Really Known About the Genetic Basis of Evolution?

Now that the genomes of a variety of plants and animals have been published, is there a clear picture of evolution emerging?  Sean Carroll (Howard Hughes Medical Institute) wrote a review in PLoS Biology,1 in which he explored the current thinking about the evolution of anatomy at the genetic level.  The thing to watch for […]

“Junk” Cells Maintain the Brain

The most abundant immune cells in your brain are not the neurons, but microglia – spindly cells that were thought to be static and immobile, the smallest of the glia cells that were once considered mere scaffolding to support the more important gray matter (see 11/20/2001 and 01/29/2001 entries).  When two scientists recently applied the […]

More Evidence the Molecular Clock is Broken

“We live in interesting times,” grinned David Penny in Nature,1 reporting on how estimates of evolutionary past based on comparative genomics (the molecular clock) is producing confusing results.  Apparently, evolutionary geneticists are going to have to make use of the theory of relativity – i.e., that how fast the clock ticks depends on the viewpoint […]
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