The African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, begins development as a compact ball of cells that undergoes a dramatic transformation through cell migrations and positional rearrangements that result in the separation of the embryo into three distinct germ layers, which go on to give rise to all of the tissues and structures in the adult animals body. During this transformation, known as gastrulation, the embryo changes from a roughly spherical shape to an elongated, streamlined form through a process called convergent extension (CE), in which polarized cells migrate to and merge at the embryos midline, driving it to lengthen along its anterior-posterior axis.
A number of genes involved in the regulation of convergent extension have been identified in amphibians and other vertebrates, such as zebrafish, but the picture of the underlying molecular mechanisms remains incomplete. Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB; Kobe, Japan) have now added a new piece to the puzzle. In a report published in the advanced online edition of Nature Cell Biology, Noriaki Sasai and colleagues in the Laboratory for Organogenesis and Neurogenesis (Group Director, Yoshiaki Sasai) show that the product of the gene NRH1 is essential to the regulation of CE movements in the frog.
While performing a screen of genes expressed in the posterior neuroectoderm, Sasai et al. identified a gene encoding a protein that showed similarities to p75NTR, a neurotrophin receptor. (Neurotrophins are molecules that function in the survival, growth and migration of neurons.) However, on testing its affinity for neurotrophin ligands, the group found that, unlike p75NTR, NRH1 did not bind with neurotrophins, which led them to seek other biological roles for the protein.
Doug Sipp | EurekAlert!
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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.
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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.
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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!
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