Heidelberg, 12 February 2016 True love Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes and EMBL Heidelberg have discovered that three transcription factors — proteins that turn genes on or off — interact with each other and the genome to influence how a heart forms in an embryo. Without these protein interactions, severe congenital heart defects can occur. By understanding how the transcription factors work together during heart development, researchers may discover new ways to treat heart disease. In the study, published today in Cell, Christoph Müller’s group at EMBL Heidelberg determined the 3D structure of transcription factors TBX5 and NKX2-5, bound to DNA.
Heidelberg, 11 February 2016 In sync When a mouse embryo is developing, the cells that will form its vertebrae periodically turn specific genes on and off, on and off, in a rhythmic manner. This is a remarkably coordinated process: rows of cells blink in succession, so that if you look at the whole embryo you see the blinking in waves. Each of these waves ends in the formation of a vertebra. But how does it start? “How do thousands of cells manage to turn genes on in such a coordinated fashion, in space and time?” Alexander Aulehla from EMBL Heidelberg wanted to know. In work published in Cell, Aulehla’s postdoc Charisios Tsiairis found that they self-organise.
Heidelberg, 10 February 2016 The carbon hijacking network The community of planktonic organisms involved in the removal of carbon from the upper layers of the ocean has been described by a team of oceanographers, biologists and computer scientists. This first overview of the network of species linked to the oceanic biological pump has revealed some new players as well as the main bacterial functions participating in the process. It was obtained by analysing samples collected by the Tara Oceans expedition. The scientists – among them the Bork group at EMBL Heidelberg – have also shown that the presence of a small number of bacterial and viral genes predicts variation in carbon export from the upper layers of the ocean.
Hinxton, 8 February 2016 Biogen joins pioneering target validation collaboration Biogen has joined the Centre for Therapeutic Target Validation (CTTV), the pioneering public-private collaboration to improve the success rate for discovering new medicines. Originally formed by GSK, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), the CTTV fosters deep, ongoing interactions between academic and industry members for the purpose of developing open, transformative approaches to selecting and validating novel targets in drug development.
Hamburg, 4 February 2016 How to make a protein happy Over the years, the scientists at the Sample Preparation and Characterisation Facility (SPC) at EMBL Hamburg have acquired untold expertise helping users to get the best results by optimising protein samples for structural biology experiments. Today, two new tools they developed to determine the ideal conditions for protein stability, purification and storage, are commercially available. Stephane Boivin, a staff scientist who initiated the project, tells us more about the RUBIC Buffer and Additive Screens, and the journey from idea to commercial product.
Heidelberg, 25 January 2016 Welcome: Kim Remans As new head of EMBL’s Protein Expression and Purification Core Facility, Kim Remans aims to go further than simply making proteins to order: she wants to offer personalised support and quality control, and invites colleagues to propose challenging projects. "I really like that EMBL emphasises fundamental research: people here really try to answer the big questions, and I find that really inspiring!" says Remans, sharing insights into her career path, must-have tools, team motto and more.
Hamburg, 18 January 2016 The cellular crystal factory Scientists from the Wilmanns group have teamed up with experts from across the DESY research campus to show that naturally formed crystals can diffract X-rays. In a study published recently in the International Union of Crystallography Journal (IUCrJ), the team of Hamburg scientists successfully used crystals grown inside yeast cells for crystallography experiments at an X-ray free-electron laser facility at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. "This could become a complementary method for structural biologists studying challenging proteins,” Wilmanns concludes.
Hamburg, 15 January 2016 One gene, two proteins, one complex In a study recently published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, EMBL Hamburg's Rob Meijers and collaborators from the Institute of Food Research, UK, show that the genes of viral enzymes that degrade the cell walls of Clostridium bacteria produce not the usual one, but two proteins, which form a complex. The results give insights into how these enzymes degrade the bacterial cell wall and could be used to combat a range of Clostridium infections.
Hinxton, 11 January 2016 Linking DNA modification and gene expression A new single-cell genomics method allows researchers to study links between DNA modifications (methylation) and the activity of a gene. Developed by the Stegle group at EMBL-EBI, and colleagues at the Babraham Institute, Sanger Institute and KU Leuven, the protocol is the first to enable parallel profiling of the transcriptome and epigenome of a single cell. Researchers used the method to reveal new epigenome-transcriptome associations relevant to the regulation of pluripotency in mouse embryonic stem cells. Revealing unprecedented detail of the epigenetic control of genes, the method is potentially transformative for epigenetics research.
Heidelberg, 14 December 2015 Turning point of a lifetime For the first time, scientists can observe the first two to three days of a mouse embryo’s life, as it develops from a fertilised egg up to the stage when it would implant in its mother’s uterus, thanks to a new light-sheet microscope developed at EMBL Heidelberg. Starting from the first cell, researchers can now track each cell’s daughters, grand-daughters, great-granddaughters, and so on, so that, at any given moment, they know each cell’s exact family tree. This has enabled them to identify a crucial turning point in the embryo’s life. The findings, and the technology that enabled them, are published in Nature Methods.