Heidelberg, 30 November 2015 Welcome: Malte Paulsen Thanks to a mentor’s advice, Malte Paulsen has a job that’s perfectly suited to his character. As head of the Flow Cytometry Core Facility, he opens his door and promises to do everything in his power to give users a rewarding day. Find out more about how he moved from research to service provision, and what research his Core Facility has to offer.
Heidelberg, 25 November 2015 Pol III: Completing the family album “The family gallery is now complete!” says Christoph Müller with a grin, having finally succeeded in resolving the 3D atomic structure of the largest and most elusive RNA polymerase, Pol III. After years of using X-ray crystallography as his structural biology method of choice, cryo-electron microscopy delivered the final breakthrough, thereby filling a glaring hole in the polymerase family album. In a paper published today in Nature, Christoph Müller’s and Carsten Sachse’s groups present the first high-resolution structure of Pol III, achieved with cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) techniques.
Hinxton, 25 November 2015 Using humans as a model organism This is the first article in our Human minds series on the social and scientific implications of studying human biology. Unpicking the complexity of biology is hard, in part because so many things are happening all at once. We’ve been working on it for centuries, building layer upon layer of knowledge collectively, usually relying ‘model’ organisms selected for their ease of husbandry and other features of their biology. Using Homo sapiens as a model species is not a new idea – it has been around since the dawn of genetics and molecular biology. Using humans as a model species to understand fundamental life processes has many advantages, and some important drawbacks.
General, 25 November 2015 Awards & Honours John Briggs - Ernst Ruska Prize (German Society for Electron Microscopy) Eric Karsenti - CNRS Gold Medal Matthias Wilmanns - Professor of Biomedical Structural Biology (UKE) Edward Lemke - Young Chemical Biologist Award (International Chemical Biology Society)
Hamburg, 23 November 2015 High-throughput event Of the 30 000 people who took part in the sixth biennial Night of Science Event in Hamburg, more than 18 000 made their way to the DESY campus between midday and midnight on 7 November. In the new PETRA III extension hall, the EMBL team of around 30 volunteers showcased the Unit’s structural biology research through games, tours and hands-on activities. The ever-popular crystal fishing game attracted hordes of budding crystallographers, players had a ball with the protein transporter game, and the queues of visitors wanting to explore protein structures and the beamlines did not wane over the 12 hours.
Heidelberg, 19 November 2015 Lighting up development Giorgia Guglielmi, a PhD student in the De Renzis group, describes how optogenetics helped her to illuminate the path that tissues follow to get into shape: "When I joined Stefano’s lab, my dream was to have a remote control to perturb the activity of single cells, and watch the effects immediately. That way, I thought, it would be much easier to understand when and where specific cell behaviours were needed during complex developmental processes."
Hinxton, 9 November 2015 Unpacking embryonic pluripotency Researchers at EMBL-EBI and the University of Cambridge have identified factors that spark the formation of pluripotent cells in rodents and primates. Their findings, published in Developmental Cell, shed light on human embryonic development and help research into cell reprogramming and in vitro fertilisation. “Our goal was to generate a comprehensive map of gene expression in the early stages of embryogenesis in the mouse, which has traditionally been the best model for mammalian development, and to see how that knowledge could be translated to primates,” explains Paul Bertone, former EMBL-EBI group leader now at the Wellcome Trust–MRC Stem Cell Institute.
Heidelberg, 2 November 2015 One hard pull In yeast cells, the network of actin fibres that pulls the membrane inwards to form a vesicle has to pull harder than scientists thought, François Nédélec’s group in Heidelberg have shown. In a paper in PLoS Computational Biology, postdoctoral fellow Serge Dmitrieff used mechanical equilibrium theory to predict the force needed to overcome a yeast cell’s internal pressure and bend its membrane inwards. Remarkably, his calculations show that the actin fibres have to exert a force that’s 2500 times the cell’s own weight. The approach also enabled the EMBL scientists to determine, on the computer, which elements of the cellular machinery are indispensable for the task.
Hamburg, 26 October 2015 A whole new ball game In preparation for this year’s Night of Science Event in Hamburg on 7 November, members of the Löw group have designed and constructed a game to explain and demonstrate how proteins can transport molecules across a cell membrane. Yonca Ural-Blimke explains how they went about it.
Hinxton, 15 October 2015 Mini DNA sequencer tests true The performance of the MinION miniature DNA sequencing device has been evaluated by an open, international consortium coordinated by EMBL-EBI, and the resulting recommendations and protocols published on the F1000Research platform. The device, developed by Oxford Nanopore, opens up new possibilities for using sequencing technology in the field: in tracking disease outbreaks, testing packaged food or the trafficking of protected species. It works by detecting individual DNA bases that pass through a nanopore – unlike existing sequencing technologies, there are few inherent sensing limits on the length of the DNA sequence that it could read at one go.