Heidelberg, Hinxton, 21 May 2015 Oceans endeavour charts 40 million genes An international expedition that has combed the world’s oceans for new information about the mysterious plankton ecosystems at the base of the marine food chain is reporting its first findings this week in a special issue of Science. Scientists from EMBL are at the heart of the ambitious scientific adventure, Tara Oceans, during which 35 000 samples were gathered in sea voyage lasting more than three years and covering some 140 000 km.
Hinxton, 18 May 2015 Are protein domains indivisible? Researchers at EMBL-EBI have shown that protein domains, previously thought to be indivisible, complete units that make up proteins, can exist and function despite having lost large parts of their structure. Published in Genome Biology, the research into ‘domain atrophy’ offers new insights into the evolution, molecular mechanism, stability and function of protein domains.
Heidelberg, 12 May 2015 Destined for the brain Despite their importance, the way microglia develop and end up in the brain has remained unclear. Now, new research led by Francesca Peri, Group Leader in the Developmental Biology Unit at EMBL Heidelberg, has provided new insights into this process, as described in Cell Reports. Working with Zebrafish, the team revealed that not all embryonic macrophages are the same, and only some are destined to become microglia. "Our work shows that Slc7a7 is essential for getting microglial precursors in to the brain,” says Francesca Peri.
Heidelberg, 7 May 2015 Taking out the trash Research led by EMBL scientists, has revealed the first detailed 3D models of p62 polymers – the 'molecular bin men', which play an important role in autophagy by delivering cellular trash to autophagosomes. “Autophagosomes have to engulf big structures like mitochondria, so they need a scaffold like p62 filaments to grow sufficiently large,” says Carsten Sachse. Although the idea of p62 acting as a scaffold had been proposed before, no one knew what it looked like – “Now we do,” says Sachse.
Grenoble, 5 May 2015 Stephen Cusack elected to the Royal Society Stephen Cusack, head of EMBL Grenoble, has been elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society – the national academy of science in the UK. Founded in the 1660s, the Royal Society is a fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. “My first thought is to all the talented collaborators I have worked with," says Stephen, "And to EMBL – the inspiring organisation where I have spent my career, whose support and encouragement has enabled me to fulfill dreams and do ambitious science."
Heidelberg, 4 May 2015 When microbes feed each other Until recently, the composition of microbial communities was believed to be largely shaped through competition. Now, scientists at EMBL Heidelberg have discovered that, while substantial competition for resources exists within larger communities, smaller groups regularly form within them whose members behave more socially. The team developed a new computer model that shows that cooperation can outweigh competition as driver of co-occurrence in microbial communities. "It is a hypothesis-generating machine that can enumerate all possibilities of interaction," says co-author Kiran Patil, "It traces the different things that different bacteria do with the same metabolite, and which metabolites are most likely to be exchanged.”
Heidelberg, Hamburg, 20 April 2015 How cells have got molecules surrounded Ground-breaking microscopy techniques have enabled scientists at EMBL Heidelberg to shed new light on how cells perform endocytosis – a function that is key to many cellular processes, such as ingesting nutrients and cell-signalling. The process of endocytosis generates bubble-like membrane vesicles that surround the molecules to be ingested and move them from the cell surface into the cell. In this study, published in Developmental Cell, a cross-disciplinary team from five research groups at EMBL and the European XFEL demonstrates the significance of a particular type of proteins, called clathrin adaptor proteins, to the process.
General, 15 April 2015 Curiosity created the 'Bubome Take one celebrity cat, add three curious and candid geneticists, and what do you get? LilBubome: a crowdfunding initiative co-organised by EMBL alumna Uschi Symmons, whose latest blog post introduces the project. "With the LilBubome we hope to attract a broader audience," she writes, "People who might not care about science and genetics, but who do care about Lil Bub and what makes her so special."
Heidelberg, Hinxton, 13 April 2015 Towards an expression atlas for an entire brain Researchers who study how genes are expressed across a given tissue can now examine thousands of genes at once at cellular resolution, thanks to new methods developed at EMBL and published in Nature Biotechnology. The new techniques can be applied to a broad range of organisms, and expand the resources available for evolution-and-development research.
Hamburg, 6 April 2015 Bypassing errors Accurately assessing and estimating errors is a crucial but often undervalued step in any scientific experiment. This is especially critical for structural biologists concerned with analysing how well 3D structural models of proteins agree with the experimental data. Using incorrect error estimates may skew analyses and lead to invalid conclusions. Scientists at EMBL Hamburg have now developed an approach to assess how well sets of data fit together, which bypasses the problem of error estimation altogether for small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) data experimentalists but also researchers across the physical sciences.