Turnover of mammal sex chromosomes in the Sry-deficient Amami spiny rat is due to male-specific upregulation of Sox9
We here report our discovery of a male-specific duplication of an enhancer of Sox9 in the Amami spiny rat Tokudaia osimensis, in which males and females have only a single X chromosome (XO/XO) and the Y chromosome and Sry are completely lost. We performed a comprehensive survey to detect sex-specific genomic regions in the spiny rat. Sex-related genomic differences were limited to a male-specific duplication of a 17-kb unit located 430 kb upstream of Sox9 on an autosome.
Electrodes build themselves inside the bodies of live fish
An injectable gel tested in living zebrafish can use the animals’ internal chemistry to transform into a conductive polymer.
When the gel is mixed with the recipient’s own metabolites — chemicals generated by the body’s processes — a chain reaction turns it into a solid but flexible material.
In Praise of Parasites?
We think of them with revulsion, but a new book wants us to appreciate their redeeming qualities.
Even when the victims aren’t people, there is something about parasites that arouses appalled fascination. The authors of “Parasite” mention the monster in the film “Alien” as a kind of archetype of the gross-outs in which the field abounds. There’s Cymothoa exigua, a louse that destroys fishes’ tongues and then lives in their mouths, performing a tongue’s functions while gorging itself. The fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, which propagates itself by taking over ants’ bodies, has sufficient notoriety that it appears in the video game The Last of Us, where it zombifies people rather than ants.
By and large, Gardner, Diamond, and Racz resist filling their book with nightmarish creatures. As researchers at the University of Nebraska and its affiliated state museum, which has a large parasitological collection, they want to give us a new understanding of parasites, to counter our unalloyed horror and instill a more scientifically nuanced view. They do this by widening our focus, encouraging us to think in terms of ecosystems and evolutionary history. They write about how parasites may keep populations of species in balance, the ways in which they are imperilled by climate change, and what we owe them in terms of our understanding of genetics, organism development, and ancient human migrations.
Why Did the Bee Eat the Chicken? Symbiont Gain, Loss, and Retention in the Vulture Bee Microbiome
Bees are wasps that switched to a vegetarian lifestyle, and the vast majority of bees feed on pollen and nectar. Some stingless bee species, however, also collect carrion, and a few have fully reverted to a necrophagous lifestyle, relying on carrion for protein and forgoing flower visitation altogether. These “vulture” bees belong to the corbiculate apid clade, which is known for its ancient association with a small group of core microbiome phylotypes. Here, we investigate the vulture bee microbiome, along with closely related facultatively necrophagous and obligately pollinivorous species, to understand how these diets interact with microbiome structure.
A Grape Made of... Meat?? - Tissue Recellularization
Cells Form Into ‘Xenobots’ on Their Own
Embryonic cells can self-assemble into new living forms that don’t resemble the bodies they usually generate, challenging old ideas of what defines an organism.
No One Is Prepared for Hagfish Slime
It expands by 10,000 times in a fraction of a second, it’s 100,000 times softer than Jell-O, and it fends off sharks and Priuses alike.
'Smallest reptile on earth' discovered in Madagascar
Two of the tiny lizards were discovered by a German-Madagascan expedition team in Madagascar. The male Brookesia nana, or nano-chameleon, has a body of just 13.5mm.
Exploring the Supply Chain of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines
The following text is a collection of notes I wrote down while exploring the process for manufacturing and distributing the two new vaccines that have appeared all over the news and in more and more people’s arms over the recent weeks. I started reading about mRNA but quickly found myself on tangents about glass vials and temperature tracking devices.
Researchers make their own enzyme pathway to get CO₂ out of the air
Before this century is over, we’re almost certainly going to need to pull massive amounts of carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere. While we already know how to do carbon capture and storage, it takes a fair amount of energy and equipment, and someone has to pay for all that. It would be far more economical to pull CO2 out of the air if we could convert it to a useful product, like jet fuel. But processes like that also take a lot of energy, plus raw materials like hydrogen that take energy to create.
Plants and a huge range of microbes successfully pull carbon dioxide out of the air and use it to produce all sorts of complicated (and valuable!) chemicals. But the pathways they use to incorporate CO2 aren’t very efficient, so they can’t fix enough of the greenhouse gas or incorporate it into enough product to be especially useful. That has led a lot of people to look into re-engineering an enzyme that’s central to photosynthesis. But a team of European researchers has taken a radically different approach: engineering an entirely new biochemical pathway that incorporates the carbon of CO2 into molecules critical for the cell’s basic metabolism.
Reverse Engineering the source code of the BioNTech/Pfizer SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine
In this post, we’ll be taking a character-by-character look at the source code of the BioNTech/Pfizer SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine.
Now, these words may be somewhat jarring - the vaccine is a liquid that gets injected in your arm. How can we talk about source code? This is a good question, so let’s start off with a small part of the very source code of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, also known as BNT162b2, also known as Tozinameran also known as Comirnaty.
When It Comes to Octopuses, Taste Is for Suckers
Brainiacs, not birdbrains: Crows possess higher intelligence long thought a primarily human attribute
Research unveiled on Thursday in Science finds that crows know what they know and can ponder the content of their own minds, a manifestation of higher intelligence and analytical thought long believed the sole province of humans and a few other higher mammals
How Apples Go Bad
Perhaps owing to these gonzo genetics, apples are remarkably susceptible to disease and rot. Their tender skin and light flesh are a haven for small creatures. Their trees embrace myriad molds, viruses, and fungi: apple scab, black pox, southern blight, union necrosis. For farmers and hobby gardeners, the business of apple-growing is not so much aiding the fruits in their growth as scrambling to ward off their demise. Blight spreads quickly, and it’s not always apparent on the fruit’s surface. Even without the influence of invader or infection, an apple abets its own spoilage: its skin, minutely porous, exhales ethylene, a gaseous compound that induces ripening, and the fruit has no interest in stopping at the point where it serves our needs.
Penguin poop creates a buttload of laughing gas
Gobs of guano from king penguins in the sub-Antarctic give rise to comical clouds of nitrous oxide—aka laughing gas—according to a recent study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.
Black yeast symbionts compromise the efficiency of antibiotic defenses in fungus-growing ants
Multiplayer symbioses are common in nature, but our understanding of the ecological dynamics occurring in complex symbioses is limited. The tripartite mutualism between fungus-growing ants, their fungal cultivars, and antibiotic-producing bacteria exemplifies symbiotic complexity. Here we reveal how black yeasts, newly described symbionts of the ant-microbe system, compromise the efficiency of bacteria-derived antibiotic defense in fungus-growing ants. We found that symbiotic black yeasts acquire nutrients from the ants’ bacterial mutualist, and suppress bacterial growth. Experimental manipulation of ant colonies and their symbionts shows that ants infected with black yeasts are significantly less effective at defending their fungus garden from Escovopsis, a prevalent and specialized pathogen. The reduction of mutualistic bacterial biomass on ants, likely caused by black yeast symbionts, apparently reduces the quantity of antibiotics available to inhibit the garden pathogen. Success of the ant-fungal mutualism is directly dependent on fungus garden health. Thus our finding that black yeasts compromise the ants’ ability to deal with the garden parasite indicates that it is an integral component of the symbiosis. This is further evidence that a full understanding of symbiotic associations requires examining the direct and indirect interactions of symbionts in their ecological community context.
Coronavirus Mutations Map the Global Outbreak
For the first time during a global outbreak, scientists have been able to use genomic data in real time to track how a virus is traveling around the world, revealing sources of outbreaks and shedding light on cases with unknown origins.
By identifying mutations in the genetic sequence of samples of the coronavirus, which are markers for various strains, researchers have offered clues to whether some cases came from a local source or elsewhere in the world.
Researchers find an animal without mitochondria
Mitochondria, previously found in all animals, is now in all animals but one.
The Deep Sea
Takes a lot of scrolling to get to the bottom.
The Invention of Recombinant DNA Technology
In the early 1970s, a momentous series of events in the history of science unfolded at points around the San Francisco Bay. Lines of inquiry pursued at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California, San Francisco converged on a set of discoveries that vastly expanded the productive capabilities of molecular genetics, disrupted the customary rhythms and routines of the scientific community, sparked bitter disputes about risks and responsibilities in scientific experimentation, and generated a tsunami of technological change that spread rapidly across multiple domains of productive activity and all around the globe.
The first recombinant molecule containing DNA from different organisms was assembled late in 1971, in Paul Berg’s laboratory at Stanford. Berg hoped to transduce bacterial and mammalian cells with a recombinant virus in order to study gene expression systems, but subsequently chose not to carry out the planned experiments. He was persuaded by scientific colleagues to consider potential biohazard risks before moving ahead.
The technology for propagating and expressing recombinant genes was invented by Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer in 1973. It enabled the transformation of bacterial cells into living factories for the directed manufacture of select proteins. The technology was immediately recognized as a tool without parallel in genetics research, and was soon applied to practical ends in a wide variety of fields including medicine, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, chemicals, and energy. It has since transformed the world in which we live.
The history is complicated.