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Heidelberg/Hinxton, 30 September 2015 Finding links and missing genes Missing a gene may be less problematic than you’d think. This is one of the conclusions that emerge from the most extensive catalogue of structural variations – changes in large sections of a person’s DNA sequence – to date. Created by the Korbel group in Heidelberg, the Stegle group at EMBL-EBI, the University of Washington, and collaborators, this reference catalogue shows how these large-scale genetic alterations vary in populations across the globe, and will help guide future studies of genetics, evolution and disease. The work, carried out with the 1000 Genomes Project, is published today in Nature, alongside a paper on the project’s final outcomes.
Heidelberg, 17 September 2015 Ages apart The Beck group at EMBL Heidelberg and collaborators at the Salk Institute and the University of California at Berkeley have now measured and compared just how ageing affects rats’ liver and brain cells. In a study published online today in Cell Systems, they were able to tease out general ageing processes from those that are specific to each of these organs.
Heidelberg, 20 August 2015 Life in 3D Scientists at EMBL Heidelberg and Stanford University have shed new light on certain genetic variants can ‘switch’ on or off the regulatory elements which control the expression of genes and ultimately the manifestation of an individual’s characteristics and disease predispositions. The work is published today in Cell.
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.
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