You might say that caspases are obsessed with death. The primary agents of programmed cell death, or apoptosis, caspases kill cells by destroying proteins that sustain cellular processes. Apoptosis, a highly controlled sequence of events that eliminates dangerous or unnecessary cells, contributes to a wide variety of developmental and physiological processes--in a developing embryo, apoptosis creates the space between fingers and adjusts nerve cell populations to match the number of cells they target; in an adult, apoptosis counters cell proliferation to maintain tissue size and density. Now it appears that caspases may also play a role in creating life. As Bruce Hay, Jun Huh, and colleagues of the California Institute of Technology, report in this issue, multiple caspases and caspase regulators are required for the proper formation of free-swimming sperm in the fruitfly Drosophila.
Caspases, which typically exist in a quiescent state in nearly all cells, are regulated through a complex network of activators and inhibitors. Once activated, a "caspase cascade" ultimately cleaves and irreversibly alters the function of essential cellular proteins, leading to apoptosis. Not surprisingly, cells keep caspase activation under tight wraps. That’s why it’s intriguing that multiple caspases normally associated with the induction of cell death participate in this non-apoptotic process.
During spermatogenesis, germline precursor cells--the cells that generate sex cells--give rise to 64 haploid spermatids. Spermatids are connected by intracellular "bridges" that, along with most other cytoplasmic components, must be expelled in a process called "individualization" to create terminally differentiated free-swimming sperm. A similar process--elimination of cytoplasm and membrane packaging of individual spermatids--also occurs in mammals, and its disruption is associated with male infertility.
Dr. Bruce Hay | PLoS
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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22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy