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(March 14th, 2017) More and more researchers are taking advantage of publishing their manuscripts to a preprint server, like bioRxiv. Because we think this is the future of academic publishing, we will, from now on, regularly report on the freshest ideas and findings from European labs.

Here are five interesting papers recently published on the preprint server BioRxiv:

In their latest preprint, Elliot Murphy from University College London and Antonio Benitez-Burraco from the University of Huelva want to comprehend language processing. It's known that our ability to speak and understand language can be traced back to neural oscillations in our brains. These oscillations are based on specific patterns of brain wiring, which, in turn, are determined by the expression of certain genes. Murphy and Benitez-Burraco, now, want to find “genome-to-language links that grant causal and explanatory power to brain rhythms”. In a first attempt, they identified 46 potential gene candidates for these “language oscillogenomes”. Amongst them, genes encoding NRG1, which is involved with the regulation of neural proliferation in the subventricular zone, and EGR1, a transcription factor with a role in neuronal plasticity and memory consolidation.

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, together with international colleagues, studied the “Genetic History of Northern Europe”. For the “most comprehensive ancient DNA study in Northern Europe to date”, Johannes Krause et al. analysed the genomes of 24 ancient individuals, who lived around the Baltic Sea between approximately 7,500 to 200 calBCE, a period that marked the transition from a hunter-gatherer to an agricultural lifestyle. The scientists were able to show that, after the last Ice Age, people arrived in Scandinavia, coming from two different routes, from a northern and a southern route. Farming was introduced by Central European farmers around 4,000 calBCE, i.e. 1,000 years earlier than previously thought. Interestingly, and supporting archaeological evidence, the scientists found that mesolithic and early neolithic hunter-gatherers in modern Lithuania are genetically similar to Western hunter-gatherers. “In contrast, contemporaneous hunter-gatherers from the more northern Latvia and Estonia were closer to Eastern hunter-gatherers.”

What happens when you put a mutant E. coli, which cannot produce essential amino acids, and an amino acid-overproducing E. coli together? They couple their metabolism. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg and the University of Auckland did just that to find out “whether two bacteria that engage in such a one-way cross-feeding interaction, already display some primitive form of regulation to coordinate their combined metabolism”. Looking more closely, Christian Kost et al. discovered that the recipient cell secures its amino acid needs through intercellular nanotubes and that the donor cell, consequently, raises its amino acid production. Ultimately, the authors created “a functional fusion of two previously independent individuals”.

Although the Zika virus has somewhat disappeared from the daily news, it's still a global health threat. To better understand the single-stranded RNA virus, scientists at the University of Cambridge did the first analysis of flavivirus gene expression by ribosome profiling. Their “high-resolution map of ribosomal occupancy of the Zika virus genome during infection of mammalian and insect cells” revealed that the virus uses unconventional ways to downregulate levels of catalytically-active viral polymerase. In addition, Andrew Firth et al. found structural differences in Brazilian and African virus isolates. The Brazilian isolate has two upstream open reading frames (uORF) in the 5' leader; both are occupied by ribosomes during infection. In the African isolates, the two uORFs are fused.

And there's also new stuff from the EMBL and EMBL-EBI. Ewan Birney and colleagues worked out an algorithm, able to “reconstruct the sequence configuration of all human chromosomes in the nucleus from a super-resolution image of a set of fluorescent in situ probes hybridized to the genome in a cell”. For now, ChromoTrace is only theoretical work but the researchers are sure that “combining super resolution imaging and contact mapping should provide fundamentally new insights into chromatin organization and packing within the nucleus”.


Photo: K. Herfort

Last Changes: 03.28.2017

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