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Gerald Wilkinson introduces the blood-drinking vampire bats.
In 1912, William Mackie, a medical practitioner surveying the regional geology west of Aberdeen, Scotland, happened on some unusual rocks (Figure 1) near the village of Rhynie. Dark gray to nearly black and shot through with cylindrical structures a few millimeters in diameter, these rocks differed markedly from the shales and volcanic rocks of local hills. Mackie had discovered the Rhynie chert - paleobotany's most iconic deposit - with its exceptionally preserved fossils that provide a uniquely clear view...
A phylogenetically diverse set of animals are able to orient by the Earth's magnetic field, but how they do so is an open problem. A new study identifies ion channels in the avian inner ear that could detect magnetic fields via induced electric fields.
How does physiological state affect the reproductive behavior of an organism? Two new studies in Caenorhabditis elegans implicate an ancient serotonergic neuronal circuit in the link between these two outputs - reproductive behavior and physiology.
Diverse dosage compensation mechanisms have evolved across species to equalize gene expression between sexes and between the sex chromosomes and autosomes. New results show that two opposite modes of dosage compensation can occur within one species, the monarch butterfly.
The brain circuits that create our sense of fear rely on ancient 'hard-wired' components of the limbic system, but also use sensory processing to determine what we become afraid of. A new study shows that, when viewing of simple oriented line stimuli is coupled with aversive experiences, neurons in primary visual cortex rapidly alter their responses in a manner that indicates the line stimuli become a source of fear.
A new study provides insight into microtubule turnover during plant cell division. Using clever molecular-genetic and imaging strategies, the authors demonstrate that the recently discovered CORD4 and 5 proteins associate with phragmoplast microtubules and control recruitment and activity of the microtubule-severing protein katanin.
How does music give pleasure? A recent study of harmony in popular music suggests that the pleasure of listening to music is linked to two characteristic interactions between uncertainty and surprise.
The origin of animals has always fascinated biologists. Studies on choanoflagellates, the closest living relatives of animals, have contributed major insights. The discovery of a multicellular choanoflagellate with light-regulated collective behaviour now provides a new perspective.
Social learning poses a particular problem for brood parasites, which are raised by adults of another species. Brood-parasitic cowbirds use a password, a simple signal that aids the young in identifying appropriate models for learning of their species' behaviors.
Understanding how insects synchronize their annual life cycle to local conditions remains poorly understood. A new study integrates a QTL investigation with population genomic analyses in a Lepidopteran to show that, yet again, allelic variation in circadian clock genes has a role in seasonal timing of diapause.
Selfish centromeres exploit asymmetric female meiosis to drive non-Mendelian segregation in their favor. Using inherent differences in drive propensity between mouse chromosomes, a new study reveals how proteins that modify chromatin states and microtubule stability enable this selfish behavior.
Investigations of the mechanisms generating epileptic seizures have primarily focused on neurons. However, more systemic research of brain circuits has highlighted an important role of non-neuronal cells such as glia in the genesis and spreading of generalized seizures in the brain.
The evolution of insect metamorphosis is one of the most important sagas in animal history, transforming small, obscure soil arthropods into a dominant terrestrial group that has profoundly shaped the evolution of terrestrial life. The evolution of flight initiated the trajectory towards metamorphosis, favoring enhanced differences between juvenile and adult stages. The initial step modified postembryonic development, resulting in the nymph-adult differences characteristic of hemimetabolous species. The sec...
Mammals maintain a nearly constant core body temperature (T) by balancing heat production and heat dissipation. This comes at a high metabolic cost that is sustainable if adequate calorie intake is maintained. When nutrients are scarce or experimentally reduced such as during calorie restriction (CR), endotherms can reduce energy expenditure by lowering T [1-6]. This adaptive response conserves energy, limiting the loss of body weight due to low calorie intake [7-10]. Here we show that this response is regu...
Efficient motility requires polarized cells, with pseudopods at the front and a retracting rear. Polarization is maintained by restricting the pseudopod catalyst, active Rac, to the front. Here, we show that the actin nucleation-promoting factor Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein (WASP) contributes to maintenance of front-rear polarity by controlling localization and cellular levels of active Rac. Dictyostelium cells lacking WASP inappropriately activate Rac at the rear, which affects their polarity and speed...
A mutant mitochondrial genome arising amid the pool of mitochondrial genomes within a cell must compete with existing genomes to survive to the next generation. Even weak selective forces can bias transmission of one genome over another to affect the inheritance of mitochondrial diseases and guide the evolution of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Studies in several systems suggested that purifying selection in the female germline reduces transmission of detrimental mitochondrial mutations [1-7]. In contrast, some...
Certain vertebrates such as salamanders and zebrafish are able to regenerate complex tissues (e.g., limbs and fins) with remarkable fidelity. However, how positional information of the missing structure is recalled by appendage stump cells has puzzled researchers for centuries. Here, we report that sizing information for adult zebrafish tailfins is encoded within proliferating blastema cells during a critical period of regeneration. Using a chemical mutagenesis screen, we identified a temperature-sensitive ...
Neuronal response to sensory stimuli depends on the context. The response in primary visual cortex (V1), for instance, is reduced when a stimulus is surrounded by a similar stimulus [1-3]. The source of this surround suppression is partially known. In mouse, local horizontal integration by somatostatin-expressing interneurons contributes to surround suppression . In primates, however, surround suppression arises too quickly to come from local horizontal integration alone, and myelinated axons from higher...
To navigate complex environments, animals must generate highly robust, yet flexible, locomotor behaviors. For example, walking speed must be tailored to the needs of a particular environment. Not only must animals choose the correct speed and gait, they must also adapt to changing conditions and quickly respond to sudden and surprising new stimuli. Neuromodulators, particularly the small biogenic amine neurotransmitters, have the ability to rapidly alter the functional outputs of motor circuits. Here, we sh...
The Ediacaran Weng'an Biota (Doushantuo Formation, 609 Ma old) is a rich microfossil assemblage that preserves biological structure to a subcellular level of fidelity and encompasses a range of developmental stages . However, the animal embryo interpretation of the main components of the biota has been the subject of controversy [2, 3]. Here, we describe the development of Caveasphaera, which varies in morphology from lensoid to a hollow spheroidal cage  to a solid spheroid  but has largely evaded ...
Humans have been domesticating plants, animals and microbes for centuries. But are we alone in doing so? Brooker and Feeney explain how domestication by animals of other species goes back even farther.
Tepuis are Precambrian sandstone tabletop mountains in South America that can reach up to ∼3,000 m in elevation. Their highest summits are both physiographically and ecologically isolated from the surrounding upland savannah and lush tropical rainforest, and they face particularly hostile, challenging environmental conditions [1,2] (Figure 1A). Taxa thriving on high tepui summits must adapt to resource-limited and highly competitive ecosystems. The toad genus Oreophrynella is exclusively found on tepui sl...