How do people subjected to the endless dark days of winter in the far northern latitudes maintain normal daily rhythms? Though many might feel like hibernating, a highly regulated internal system keeps such impractical yearnings in check. From fruit flies to humans, nearly every living organism depends on an internal clock to regulate basic biological cycles such as sleep patterns, metabolism, and body temperature. And that clock runs on similar molecular mechanisms.
Specific clusters of neurons in the brain are known to control the biological clock. Scientists believed these brain "clock cells" function as independent units. But new research described in this issue show that the neurons do not act in isolation; rather they collaborate with other neurons in a cell-communication network to sustain the repeating circadian rhythm cycles.
Clock cells within the brain maintain an organisms circadian rhythms, even in the absence of cyclical environmental signals like light, in a state scientists call "free running." Though it has long been clear that the circadian rhythms of an organism persist under such free-running conditions (for example, constant darkness), it was thought that the gene-expression patterns within the cells governing these biorhythms did not require any external, or extracellular, signals to continue ticking. In experiments described here, Michael Rosbash and his colleagues show that the key brain clock cells in fruit flies, called ventral lateral neurons, do indeed support the flys circadian rhythms during periods of constant darkness, and that the molecular expression patterns associated with these rhythms continue to cycle as well within other clock cells. These sustained expression patterns, however, require intercellular communication between different groups of brain clock cells.
Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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