Anda di halaman 1dari 2

Vol 464|29 April 2010

An open and shut case

Angew. Chem. doi:10.1002/anie.200906753 (2010)
The name Ouroboros, given by the ancient Greeks
to a mythological serpent that bites its own tail, has
now been bestowed on a molecular capsule that
can similarly capture and release the end of its own
arm to close and open an internal cavity (pictured).
Fabien Durola and Julius Rebek at the Scripps
Research Institute in La Jolla, California,
synthesized the ouroborand molecule, which
consists of a bucket-shaped cavity and a rotating
arm. The arm attaches to a bipyridyl unit on one
end and bears a guest molecule on the other.
The arm reaches over and places the guest in the
cavity, closing it off.
When metal ions such as zinc are added to the mixture, the arm twists around so
that the bipyridyl unit can bind to these ions. This arm-twisting pulls the contents
out of the box, making the cavity accessible to external molecules. The system could
be used as a tiny reaction flask, the authors say.

DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY normal destruction of Salmonella by the than those eating only ant gasters (hind parts).
Hidden differences immune system. Antibodies that bind to the
bacteria’s outer-membrane proteins, the team
When presented with large whole ants, the
spiders fed longer on the protein-rich foreparts
Genome Res. doi:10.1101/gr.100594.109 (2010) finds, restore the ability to kill the invaders. than on the lipid-rich gasters. This shows
The earliest stages of embryo development Researchers have previously proposed a how feeding behaviour might allow specialist
seem to be almost identical among mammals. Salmonella vaccine targeting LPS, but the predators to balance their nutrient intake.
However, Sheng Zhong at the University of findings suggest that this approach may
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his team actually boost infection. The outer-membrane EVOLUTION
have found that 40.2% of the genes shared
by humans, mice and cows are expressed
proteins may be a better vaccine target.
Sex and immunity
differently at this point. WILDLIFE BIOLOGY Evolution doi:10.1111/j.1558-5646.2010.00989.x
Their analysis of gene-expression patterns
in embryos at various stages early in Fussy eaters (2010)
Sexual promiscuity has been thought to be
development showed that differences result Anim. Behav. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2010.03.002 an important contributor to the evolution
from altered gene regulation. In some cases, (2010) of the immune system, owing to the link
mutations affected the binding of regulatory Generalist predators can feed on a variety between sexual activity and disease exposure.
proteins. In others, transposons or ‘jumping of organisms to ensure a balanced diet, but Gabriela Wlasiuk and Michael Nachman at
genes’ had hopped in front of the genes, specialists that prey on only one animal do the University of Arizona in Tucson have now
changing their regulation. not have this luxury. Stano Pekár of Masaryk found evidence for this at the genetic level.
This variation among species suggests that University in the Czech Republic and his They estimated the molecular evolution
multiple gene networks can guide embryo team looked at how ant-eating Zodarion rate of proteins coded by 15 immune-defence
development, and could be harnessed to rubidum spiders (pictured) cope with this genes in several primate species, and found a
generate embryonic stem cells. dietary limitation. weak but statistically significant correlation
They found that spiders fed only ant with female promiscuity.
IMMUNOLOGY foreparts grew faster and survived longer than The researchers suggest that higher levels
Misplaced target those consuming whole ants. Both fared better of promiscuity may increase exposure to
sexually transmitted diseases, thus increasing
S. Pekar

Science 328, 508–512 (2010) the potential for natural selection to act on
Patients with HIV are prone to life-threatening the immune system and drive the evolution
Salmonella infections, thought to be a result of of immunity genes.
HIV hijacking cellular immunity. But the real
culprit may lie in the antibody-based immune CANCER BIOLOGY
system, according to a study conducted at
the University of Malawi in Blantyre and the Cellular battering ram
University of Birmingham, UK. J. Cell Biol. doi:10.1083/jcb.200909113 (2010)
The team, led by Calman MacLennan in In order to spread, or metastasize, tumour
Birmingham, found that HIV-infected serum cells must break through the basement
contains high levels of an antibody that binds membrane that separates the tumour from
lipopolysaccharide (LPS) molecules in the the underlying tissue. Using in vitro assays
bacteria’s outer membrane, inhibiting the to mimic this invasion, Marie Schoumacher
© 2010 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved
Vol 464|29 April
NATURE|Vol 464|29

Jean-Christophe Marine
VIB–Catholic University Leuven,
and Danijela Vignjevic of the Curie Institute BIOENGINEERING A cancer geneticist looks at
in Paris and their co-workers surmised that
the process occurs in stages. First, finger-like Cell culture on a chip the link between small RNA
molecules and cancer.
protrusions called invadopodia form at the Lab Chip doi:10.1039/c002147d (2010)
tumour-cell surface and punch a hole through Single cells can be sorted and analysed using My laboratory studies how cancer
the basement membrane. These then elongate an assortment of microfluidic devices, which cells evade the action of tumour-
before leading the cells into the tissue beneath. use tiny channels and pumps to move liquid suppressor (TS) genes. For most
The team used molecular markers and around on chips. Now researchers in Canada TS genes, both copies must be lost
selective gene silencing to identify three classes have devised a ‘lab-on-a-chip’ that can grow to facilitate tumour progression.
of protein filaments that drive this process. mammalian cells and repeatedly seed new For some, haploinsufficiency —
Actin filaments, which are known to help generations in fresh media (pictured). loss of only one copy — may also
other cells migrate, are vital for the first stage. Two advantages of microfluidic chips are contribute to carcinogenesis.
As the invadopodia elongate, other protein that they use only a fraction of the reagents However, selection generally
filaments — microtubules and vimentin required at the macroscale and can automate favours the inactivation of the
intermediate filaments — help the actin and accelerate tedious manual tasks. Aaron remaining functional gene copy to
network to further lengthen the protrusions. Wheeler and his colleagues at the University accelerate cancer pathogenesis.
of Toronto created a digital version that uses Now, an additional class of
BIOGEOCHEMISTRY electrodes to manipulate fluids. Their device haploinsufficient TS genes has
been identified. Tyler Jacks at
Bogs of change was able to replace old media with new and
at the same time keep cultured cells hydrated. the Massachusetts Institute of
Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles The chip could also harvest a subset of the Technology in Cambridge and his
doi:10.1029/2008GB003354 (2010) cells and place them on a fresh surface, all team found that loss of one copy of
Wetlands such as bogs and rice paddies are while maintaining cell-growth rates similar the gene Dicer1 enhanced tumour
the largest single source of methane — a to those of conventional culturing. formation in a mouse model of
potent greenhouse gas — emitted into the lung cancer, but selection strongly
atmosphere. Researchers have found that disfavoured loss of both copies
fluctuations in regional and global methane (M. S. Kumar et al. Genes Dev.
budgets are attributable mainly to weather- 23, 2700–2704; 2009). Publicly
and climate-driven changes in the area available data reveal that in one-
covered by wetlands worldwide. third of human tumours only one
Bruno Ringeval at the Laboratory of Climate copy of DICER1 is deleted.
and Environmental Sciences in Gif-sur-Yvette, This finding has several profound
France, and his colleagues combined monthly implications for cancer mechanisms
satellite observations of flooded land area and therapies. Dicer1 codes for an
with models of global vegetation and methane enzyme involved in the generation
emissions from wetlands. They found that, in of microRNAs, short fragments of
some years between 1993 and 2000, year-to- RNA that silence specific genes.
r. SoC. CHem.

year variations in wetland extent account for EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY The study provides mechanistic
insight into the long-standing
up to 90% of variability in tropical methane
emissions. The findings could help to improve Good times and bad observation that microRNAs are
models of shifting methane emissions. Am. Nat. doi:10.1086/652470 (2010) often downregulated in human
If natural selection favours the fittest, a tumours. Perhaps more importantly,
PLANETARY SCIENCE population’s genetic variance should decline the data strongly indicate that
Dicer1 — and, by extension, a
Martian cold traps over time. Yet many species adapt to changing
environments, so variation must persist. subset of microRNAs — are in fact
Icarus doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2010.03.039 (2010) Caitlin Dmitriew at the University of required for tumours to survive
On Earth, caves can shelter ice, allowing it to Toronto in Canada and her colleagues and/or grow. Further studies aimed
persist all year round, even when temperatures investigated this paradox by putting some at deciphering the dependency of
outside rise above freezing. This may well larvae of the ladybird beetle (Harmonia tumours on Dicer1 or microRNAs
happen on Mars too, according to Kaj axyridis) on a restricted diet while giving should therefore lead to exciting
Williams of NASA Ames Research Center in others plenty of food. They found that the therapeutic possibilities.
Moffett Field, California, and his colleagues. amount of variance in body size attributable to Meanwhile, this class of TS
Extinct volcanoes on Mars are likely to genetics decreased within a generation in genes, for which partial loss is
have developed hollow lava tubes that could well-fed male beetles, but increased in rationed advantageous to tumours but
today function as ice caves. The researchers ones. With enough food, the beetles converge complete loss is disadvantageous,
modelled the growth and loss rates of frost towards an optimal adult size, masking the must not be overlooked in the
for a subterranean room connected by a small underlying genetic variation in body size. In ever-growing number of high-
chimney to the planet’s surface. They suggest hungrier beetles, body size varies more. resolution analyses of mutations
that ice can remain stable for 100,000 years or The accumulation of such ‘hidden’ genetic found in cancer.
more. The volcanic ‘cave’ terrains on Mars, the variance when times are good could explain
authors add, could thus be important regions how organisms retain the variation they may Discuss this paper at http://blogs.
to target in the search for extraterrestrial life. need when the good times turn bad.
© 2010 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved