Top 7 in molecular biology

A snapshot of the most highly ranked articles in molecular biology, from Faculty of 1000.

Jun 14, 2011
Megan Scudellari


1. Ribosomal regulation

Ribosomes may not be indiscriminate translation factories, but may actively select the mRNAs with which they interact. Loss of ribosomal protein Rpl38 in mice alters the expression of a specific subset of patterning mRNAs -- resulting in tissue-patterning defects -- but leaves global translation unchanged. The finding represents a potential new type of post-transcriptional gene regulation.

N. Kondrashov et al., “Ribosome-mediated specificity in hox mRNA translation and vertebrate tissue patterning,” Cell, 145:383-97, 2011. Evaluated by Lucio Comai, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California; David Reid and Christopher Nicchitta, Duke University Medical Center; Dmitri Ermolenko and George Makhatadze, Rensselaer Polytechnic Inst; Mihee Kim and Patrice Morin, National Inst on Aging; Jonathan R Warner, Albert Einstein Coll of Med; Weimin Zhong, Yale Univ. Free F1000 evaluation

2. Two sides of BRCA2

Breast cancer suppressor BRCA2 is important for genome maintenance and repair of DNA damage, but it may not function exclusively in the way scientists previously believed. BRCA2 helps repair double strand breaks during homologous recombination, but at replication forks formed during DNA replication, it also prevents lesions from occurring in the first place.

K. Schlacher et al., “Double-strand break repair-independent role for BRCA2 in blocking stalled replication fork degradation by MRE11,” Cell, 145:529-42, 2011. Evaluated by William Holloman, Weill Med Coll of Cornell Univ; Lee Zou, Harvard Med Sch. Free F1000 evaluation

3. Bird's eye view of gene expression

In a global analysis of mRNA and protein abundances in mouse fibroblasts, scientists find that protein abundance is predominantly controlled at the level of translation. The researchers measured the average transcription rate at about two mRNA molecules per hour, and found that average protein stability was five times greater than that for mRNA (46 hours versus 9 hours).

B. Schwanhäusser et al., “Global quantification of mammalian gene expression control,” Nature, 473:337-42, 2011. Evaluated by Shari Wiseman and Angus Nairn, Yale Sch Med; Wenqian Hu and Jeff Coller, Case Western Reserve Univ Med Cen. Free F1000 evaluation

4. Probing p53

Scientists have identified which of the many functions of p53 is important for the protein's ability to suppress tumors. The protein, known to be involved in cell-cycle control, apoptosis and other processes following DNA damage and stress, activates a small set of novel target genes that are essential for  tumor suppression.

C.A. Brady et al., “Distinct p53 transcriptional programs dictate acute DNA-damage responses and tumor suppression,” Cell, 145:571-83, 2011. Evaluated by Junjie Chen, Univ Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Cen. Free F1000 evaluation

5. Nucleotides wanted

The lack of sufficient nucleotides for normal DNA replication may lead to early stages of cancer development. In human skin cells, aberrant activation of oncogenes significantly decreased cellular nucleotide levels, leading to replication stress and DNA damage. The addition of extra nucleotides into the culture media reduced both replication defects and cancerous outgrowths.

A.C. Bester et al., “Nucleotide deficiency promotes genomic instability in early stages of cancer development,” Cell, 145:435-46, 2011. Evaluated by Philippe Pasero, Inst Human Genetics, France. Free F1000 evaluation

6. Building a (nuclear) body

Nuclear bodies, small structures in animal and plant nuclei made up of proteins and RNA, may be formed through ordered assembly of their parts, rather than as a random conglomeration. One type of nuclear body involved in the expression of histone genes, known as histone locus bodies, for example, are made through the stepwise recruitment and localization of various molecular components.

A.E. White et al., “Drosophila histone locus bodies form by hierarchical recruitment of components,” J Cell Biol, 193:677-94, 2011. Evaluated by Michael Vitalini and Lori Wallrath, Univ Iowa. Free F1000 evaluation

7. Malaria's epigenome

An analysis of the epigenome of Plasmodium falciparum, the protozoan parasite that causes malaria, reveals that histone H2A variant H2A.Z is central to P. falciparum epigenetic regulation, providing a promising target for therapeutic intervention.

R. Bártfai et al., “H2A.Z demarcates intergenic regions of the plasmodium falciparum epigenome that are dynamically marked by H3K9ac and H3K4me3,” PLoS Pathog, 6:e1001223, 2011. Evaluated by Steven Henikoff, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Res Cen. Free F1000 evaluation

The F1000 Top 7 is a snapshot of the highest ranked articles from a 30-day period on Faculty of 1000 Molecular Biology, as calculated on June 9, 2011. Faculty Members evaluate and rate the most important papers in their field. To see the latest rankings, search the database, and read daily evaluations, visit


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