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A new study compares two sister species of fission yeast that use very different fatty acids to make membrane lipids and reveals an adaptation in transmembrane helix lengths that maintains membrane protein functions.
As seen from its buried soil, the Earth's oldest forest was diverse and grew on a periodically dry substrate, a new study shows. The sophisticated roots in this forest are reminiscent of modern seed plants, but come from Archaeopteris and, thus, predate the impact of seed-plant rooting on global forestation.
Mechanosensory bundles on auditory sensory cells are composed of stereocilia that grow in rows of decreasing height. This pattern depends on the specification of the eventual tallest row, then the assignment of distinct molecular identities to the shorter rows. Mechanotransduction refines and maintains row identity, thus instructing the form of the bundle.
Teleost fishes have a biphasic life cycle, with pelagic larvae dispersing in the open ocean and juveniles or adults living in reef or coastal environments. A recent study reveals that fish larvae concentrate in a specific oceanic compartment, the surface slicks, which are polluted by microplastics that can be ingested by most larvae.
Although developmental mechanisms driving an increase in brain size during vertebrate evolution are actively studied, we know less about evolutionary strategies allowing accelerated brain growth. In zebrafish and other vertebrates studied to date, apical radial glia (RG) constitute the primary neurogenic progenitor population throughout life ; thus, RG activity is a determining factor of growth speed. Here, we ask whether enhanced RG activity is the mechanism selected to drive explosive growth, in adapta...
Compared to our understanding of the response properties of receptors in the auditory and visual systems, we have only a limited understanding of the mechanoreceptor responses that underlie tactile sensation. Here, we exploit the stereotyped morphology of the rat vibrissal (whisker) array to investigate coding and transduction properties of identified primary tactile afferents. We performed in vivo intra-axonal recording and labeling experiments to quantify response characteristics of four different types ...
Tree architecture has evolved to support a top-heavy above-ground biomass, but this integral feature poses a weight-induced challenge to trunk stability. Maintaining an upright stem is expected to require vertical proprioception through feedback between sensing stem weight and responding with radial growth. Despite its apparent importance, the principle by which plant stems respond to vertical loading forces remains largely unknown. Here, by manipulating the stem weight of downy birch (Betula pubescens) tre...
During apoptosis, or programmed cell death, a dead cell could be expelled from the tissue by coordinated processes between the dying cell and its neighbors. Apoptotic cell extrusion is driven by actomyosin cable formation and its contraction and lamellipodial crawling of the neighboring cells [1-4]. Throughout cell extrusion, the mechanical coupling of epithelia needs to be maintained in order to preserve tissue homeostasis . Although much is known about the regulation of adherens junctions (AJs) in apop...
When oncogenic transformation or apoptosis occurs within epithelia, the harmful or dead cells are apically extruded from tissues to maintain epithelial homeostasis. However, the underlying molecular mechanism still remains elusive. In this study, we first show, using mammalian cultured epithelial cells and zebrafish embryos, that prior to apical extrusion of RasV12-transformed cells, calcium wave occurs from the transformed cell and propagates across the surrounding cells. The calcium wave then triggers and...
Genome packaging by nucleosomes is a hallmark of eukaryotes. Histones and the pathways that deposit, remove, and read histone modifications are deeply conserved. Yet, we lack information regarding chromatin landscapes in extant representatives of ancestors of the main groups of eukaryotes, and our knowledge of the evolution of chromatin-related processes is limited. We used the bryophyte Marchantia polymorpha, which diverged from vascular plants circa 400 mya, to obtain a whole chromosome genome assembly an...
Iridescence is a striking and taxonomically widespread form of animal coloration , but that its intense and varying hues could function as concealment  rather than signaling seems completely counterintuitive. Here, we show that the color changeability of biological iridescence, produced by multilayer cuticle reflectors in jewel beetle (Sternocera aequisignata) wing cases, provides effective protection against predation by birds. Importantly, we also show that the most likely mechanism to explain this ...
During the early stages of cytokinesis, FtsZ protofilaments form a ring-like structure, the Z-ring, in most bacterial species. This cytoskeletal scaffold recruits downstream proteins essential for septal cell wall synthesis. Despite progress in understanding the dynamic nature of the Z-ring and its role in coordinating septal cell wall synthesis, the early stages of protofilament formation and subsequent assembly into the Z-ring are still not understood. Here we investigate a sequence of assembly steps that...
Genome evolution in bacterial endosymbionts is notoriously extreme: the combined effects of strong genetic drift and unique selective pressures result in highly reduced genomes with distinctive adaptations to hosts [1-4]. These processes are mostly known from animal endosymbionts, where nutritional endosymbioses represent the best-studied systems. However, eukaryotic microbes, or protists, also harbor diverse bacterial endosymbionts, but their genome reduction and functional relationships with their host...
Vitamin B is the only known essential human micronutrient made exclusively by prokaryotes. Kennedy and Taga introduce us to the world of cobamides-those cobalt-containing compounds, like B, that appear to be the proprietary domain of our microbial partners.
Gilman and Edwards introduce crassulacean acid metabolism and highlight how recent advances in molecular biology are deepening our knowledge of CAM evolution.
Sex-biased dispersal is usually driven by a combination of inbreeding avoidance and intrasexual competition. Walker and Pusey show that dispersal decisions in chimpanzees are most influenced by inbreeding avoidance and kin cooperation, instead of competition.
Little is known about the establishment of symbioses. A new study finds that two independent protist-algae symbioses utilize convergent patterns of nutrient exchange, suggesting that certain complementary host and symbiont traits can increase the likelihood of establishing beneficial symbiotic interactions.
Two new studies show that neuronal adaptation to changes in visual contrast is widespread in the early Drosophila visual system, improving velocity estimation in downstream motion detectors.
Explaining the origins of adaptive features is a perennial challenge in evolutionary biology. A study on thermophilic cyanobacteria reveals how environmentally induced phenotypic change (plasticity) can pave the way for evolutionary innovation and subsequent adaptation to extreme conditions.
During the day, the brittle star Ophiocoma wendtii demonstrates spatial vision due to a distributed network of extraocular photoreceptors whose fields of view are restricted by chromatophores. At night, these chromatophores contract and O. wendtii loses spatial vision.
Supergenes are multiple linked genes that regulate complex, polymorphic traits, but little is known about their evolution. A new study of an ancient supergene in several ant species suggests that rare recombination events shape supergene evolution in surprising ways.
Sometimes the exceptions prove the rule, and lianas show some of the most exceptional stem anatomical variation in plants. New research describes the evolution and development of liana stem anatomical variants, and reveals new rules of woody growth.
A new study shows that the synaptically interconnected axon terminals of colour-sensitive fly photoreceptors that sample the same point in visual space receive additional inhibition from surrounding units; the resulting additional chromatic comparisons result in an optimal decorrelation of photoreceptor inputs. There are striking parallels between newly identified horizontal interactions and those mediated by mammalian horizontal cells.
Traditional evolutionary scenarios posit that land plants emerged from land plant-like relatives, the charophytes. New phylogenies suggest a closer affinity to simpler pond scum relatives, and evidence the gradual assembly of the land plant genome, revealing a phenotypic simplification from the complex ancestors envisaged by traditional scenarios.