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Heidelberg, 16 July 2015 Iron regulators join war on pathogens Proteins responsible for controlling levels of iron in the body also play an important role in combatting infection, according to a study published in Cell Host & Microbe. Humans – along with all living organisms, including pathogens – need iron to survive: invading organisms try to highjack it from their hosts in order to thrive and multiply. Matthias Hentze and international collaborators have now discovered that proteins responsible for helping the body maintain the correct levels of iron at a cellular level are also involved in helping to prevent this theft. These proteins form a system called IRP/IRE (iron regulatory protein/iron responsive element).
Heidelberg, 16 July 2015 Oskar’s structure revealed The structure of two parts of the Oskar protein, known to be essential for the development of reproductive cells, has been solved by researchers in the Ephrussi group in collaboration with the Müller lab. This advance – published in Cell Reports – has also enabled the team to gather the first insights into how this poorly understood protein functions. The research was carried out with fruit flies, but has implications for other animals, as many organisms, including humans, also have part of the Oskar protein.
Heidelberg, 10 July 2015 Cell machinery wears complex coat John Briggs and Svetlana Dodonova, in collaboration with Felix Wieland at the University of Heidelberg, have produced detailed images of the intricate protein-coats that surround trafficking vesicles – the “transport pods” that move material around within biological cells. The study, published today in Science, provides a new understanding of the complex machines that make up the cells’ logistics network.
Grenoble, 9 July 2015 DNA protection, inch by inch DNA within reproductive cells is protected through a clever system of find and destroy: new research published in Cell Reports ifts the veil on how this is done. A European team of scientists – including Radha Raman Pandey and David Homolka from the Pillai lab at EMBL Grenoble – has discovered how the cells produce tiny pieces of RNA, called piRNA, that identify and silence ‘jumping genes’ or transposons: genes that are able to change their position within the genome and therefore alter or disrupt the genetic code.
Heidelberg, 18 June 2015 EMBL Scientists solve decades-old cell biology puzzle Ori Avinoam, working across the Briggs and Kaksonen groups, has helped solve a question that has puzzled cell biologists for decades – how does the protein machine that allows cells to swallow up molecules during endocytosis function? Opinion was split between two different models, but a new paper published in Science demonstrates that the surface area of the clathrin coat does not change during endocytosis, only its curvature changes as it draws the cell membrane inwards.
Heidelberg, 15 June 2015 Dancing with the cells The same kind of contraction that fires our muscles also controls a key stage of mammalian embryo development, according to a new study published in Nature Cell Biology. The research, conducted at EMBL Heidelberg, measured and mapped how cells in very early stage embryos bond tightly together. The scientists also discovered a cellular behaviour that hadn’t been observed before: cells in the embryo ‘dance’, each one making the same rhythmic movement.
Heidelberg, 4 June 2015 Decaying RNA molecules tell a story Once messenger RNA (mRNA) has done its job – conveying the information to produce the proteins necessary for a cell to function – it is no longer required and is degraded. Scientists have long thought that the decay started after translation was complete and that decaying RNA molecules provided little biological information. Now a team from EMBL Heidelberg and Stanford University led by Lars Steinmetz has turned this on its head. The researchers have shown that one end of the mRNA begins to decay while the other is still serving as a template for protein production. Thus, studying the decaying mRNA also provides a snapshot of how proteins are produced.
Heidelberg, 21 May 2015 Planktonic world: the new frontier On May 22, in a special issue of Science, an international, interdisciplinary, team of scientists maps the biodiversity of a wide range of planktonic organisms, exploring their interactions - mainly parasitic, and how they impact and are affected by their environment, primarily the temperature. Based on a portion of the 35000 samples collected from all the world’s oceans during the 2009-2013 expedition on board the schooner TARA, this data provides the scientific community with unprecedented resources, including a catalogue of several million new genes, that will transform how we study the oceans and assess climate change.
Heidelberg, 21 May 2015 A nucleus can sense the space inside the cell Like the stone in a fruit, nucleus size scales with cell size – in healthy cells at least – so that the nucleus can’t take up the whole space inside the cell. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms behind that controlled growth have never been fully understood. Scientists at EMBL Heidelberg demonstrate today in Developmental Cell that the space surrounding a growing nucleus – not the overall volume of the cell – is also a crucial factor in regulating how fast the nucleus grows. They also show that the motor protein dynein and so called ‘microtubules’ which are part of the cytoskeleton are involved in this process.
Grenoble, 21 May 2015 It runs in the family Researchers in EMBL Grenoble unveil the first detailed 3D-structure of the replication machinery – polymerase – of the La Crosse orthobunyavirus (LACV), a virus which can cause human encephalitis. LACV is in the same broad group of viruses as influenza and the findings show that the LACV polymerase has striking similarities to influenza virus polymerase whose atomic structure was previously determined by the same team. The findings open up the possibility of quicker routes to developing treatments for the diseases these viruses cause.
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