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Flower power

By | October 31, 2000

The timing of flowering in plants is affected by a wide range of hormonal, environmental and genetic factors. The semidominant fwa mutants are delayed in the transition to flowering. In the October Molecular Cell, Soppe et al. use positional cloning to isolate the Arabidopsis FWA gene, which encodes a homeodomain-containing protein (Molecular Cell 2000, 6:791-802). The late-flowering phenotype of the fwa mutants is caused by gain-of-function epi-alleles. Soppe et al. could find no differences

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The identification of a gene associated with immunoglobulin A nephropathy (IgAN) has, for the first time, raised the possibility that the kidney disease may be an inherited disorder. It is hoped that the study, reported in November Nature Genetics, could open the way for new treatments to prevent kidney failure.Dr Richard P Lifton and colleagues from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute analysed 30 families in Italy and the US. They found a strong association between IgAN and a gene on chromosome

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Malaria's dangerous neighborhood

By | October 31, 2000

The var genes of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum encode the major variable parasite protein and are expressed in a mutually exclusive manner at the surface of an infected red blood cell. In the 26 October Nature, Freitas-Junior et al. report that Plasmodium uses nuclear architecture in a pathogen survival strategy (Nature 2000, 407:1018-1022). The sub-telomeric regions that contain the var genes are clustered together at the nuclear periphery, apparently allowing recombination at freq

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A lentiviral vector that carries a neurotrophic factor into the brain seems to reverse symptoms of Parkinson's disease in monkeys, raising hopes that it could also be effective in humans.

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Replication coupled to recombination

By | October 31, 2000

Blocking meiotic DNA replication in budding yeast prevents recombination initiation. This could indicate a direct coupling of the two processes, or the presence of a checkpoint system that detects incomplete replication and shuts down the formation of double-strand breaks (DSBs). In the 27 October Science, Borde et al. report that budding yeast cells defective for the replication checkpoint can progress through meiosis I in the absence of replication, but DSBs are still not formed (Science 2000,

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Error-filled embryos

By | October 27, 2000

Humans are incredibly inefficient when it comes to reproduction. Fertile couples have only a 25% chance of achieving a viable pregnancy per menstrual cycle. Now, in the November Molecular Human Reproduction, Wells and Delhanty suggest that the low success rate may be explained by the high incidence of chromosomal abnormalities in early embryos, many of which never reach the stage of implantation (Mol Hum Reprod 2000, 6:1055-1062). In previous research, fluorescent in-situ hybridization (FISH) me

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BSE Inquiry out in the open

By | October 26, 2000

The results of the UK government's BSE Inquiry were published on Thursday 26 October, implicating civil servants and scientists in the health scandal.

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Selective remodelling

By | October 25, 2000

DNA-binding transcription factors can target the SWI/SNF chromatin remodelling complex to specific nucleosome sites.

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Smoking selects mutants

By | October 25, 2000

In the October 24 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Rodin and Rodin propose that smoking leads to increased lung cancer not by causing more mutations, but by selecting for those mutations that do arise (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2000, 97:12244-12249). They take advantage of an increase in p53 mutational data in nonsmokers and find, for example, that the frequency of silent mutations in p53 is identical between smokers and non-smokers. In contrast, twice as many lung cancers from smoke

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Solving protein folding in your lunch break

By | October 25, 2000

While you take time out to eat your lunch, your computer could be busy helping crack one of the biggest challenges of modern biology.

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