Collage of images including sperm, bacteria, coral, and an illustration of a researcher
Our Favorite Cell and Molecular Biology Stories of 2021
Beyond The Scientist’s coverage of COVID-19’s molecular underpinnings were many other stories highlighting the advances made in scientists’ understanding of the biology of cells.
ABOVE: © IKUMI KAYAMA, STUDIO KAYAMA; B. SHRESTHA ET AL., SCI TRANSL MED, 2021; CHRISTIAN KOST, OSNABRÜCK UNIVERSITY; © ISTOCK.COM, OLEMEDIA
Our Favorite Cell and Molecular Biology Stories of 2021
Our Favorite Cell and Molecular Biology Stories of 2021

Beyond The Scientist’s coverage of COVID-19’s molecular underpinnings were many other stories highlighting the advances made in scientists’ understanding of the biology of cells.

Beyond The Scientist’s coverage of COVID-19’s molecular underpinnings were many other stories highlighting the advances made in scientists’ understanding of the biology of cells.

ABOVE: © IKUMI KAYAMA, STUDIO KAYAMA; B. SHRESTHA ET AL., SCI TRANSL MED, 2021; CHRISTIAN KOST, OSNABRÜCK UNIVERSITY; © ISTOCK.COM, OLEMEDIA
bacteria
Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Salmonella bacteria in intestinal tissue
Gut Infections Help Shield Intestinal Neurons from Future Damage
Annie Melchor | Nov 19, 2021
In mice, a kind of immune memory appears to protect the cells against future harm, a finding that could provide insight into treatments for irritable bowel syndrome and other inflammatory digestive conditions.
Artist’s rendering of the protein synthesis process, in which a tRNA molecules carry amino acids to a ribosome that’s decoding a strand of mRNA.
Screen of 250,000 Species Reveals Tweaks to Genetic Code
Dan Robitzski | Nov 9, 2021
A massive screen of bacterial and archaeal genomes revealed five previously unknown instances where an organism uses an alternate code to translate genetic blueprints into proteins.
oil in water
Stress-Induced Molecular Globs Boost Bacterial Fitness
Ruth Williams | Oct 21, 2021
Liquid conglomerations of molecules that form in bacterial cells in response to stress promote the cells’ survival, a study finds.
illustration of colorful microbes inside a person's stomach and intestines
How Commensal Gut Bacteria Keep Pathogens in Check
Alejandra Manjarrez | Oct 14, 2021
Recent studies describe how resident microbiota appear to outcompete unwelcome visitors, either with superior weaponry or by guzzling up local resources.  
A brown tick is shown from above as it climbs a green blade of grass
Bacterial Symbionts Tell Ticks When to Eat
Abby Olena | Oct 1, 2021
The endosymbiont Coxiella affects tick serotonin production and subsequent blood-feeding behavior, a study finds.
elongated blue bacterial cells on a reddish-brown background
Gut Microbiome May Help or Hinder Defenses Against SARS-CoV-2
Bianca Nogrady | Aug 31, 2021
The health of the microbial community is associated with COVID-19 severity, but it’s not yet clear if the relationship is causal.
Colonies of Burkholderia pseudomallei growing on a chocolate agar plate
Q&A: What You Need to Know About Melioidosis
Christie Wilcox | Aug 16, 2021
CDC investigators continue to search for the source of the bacteria that caused four infections—two of them lethal—in four different states. The Scientist spoke with melioidosis expert Bart Currie about the disease.
A purple bulge of microbes on the bottom of a lake
Longer Days Led to Oxygen Buildup on Early Earth: Study
Amanda Heidt | Aug 3, 2021
Researchers propose that some of the planet’s earliest photosynthesizers benefited from a slowing of the Earth’s rotation that allowed them to produce a surplus of oxygen and paved the way for more complex life.  
Infographic: Maternal Microbiota Has Lasting Effects on Offspring
Carolyn A. Thomson, Kathy D. McCoy | Aug 1, 2021
Work in rodents shows that the bacteria living in a mother’s gut can produce immunomodulatory metabolites and influence the production of maternal antibodies—both of which can affect her offspring’s development.
The Role of Mom’s Microbes During Pregnancy
Carolyn A. Thomson, Kathy D. McCoy | Aug 1, 2021
Bacteria in the gut influence the production of antibodies and themselves secrete metabolites. In a pregnant woman, these compounds may influence immune development of her fetus.
A close-up of a fruit fly head with antenna clearly visible in front of its red eyes
Bacterial Infections Disrupt Flies’ Sense of Smell
Abby Olena | Jul 21, 2021
The temporary loss of olfaction stops the flies from eating any more of whatever it is that made them sick.
A computer-generated graphic showing a cross-section of red-colored bacteria, with the locations of the protein APOL3 labeled in green.
Human Protein Dissolves Bacterial Membranes
Abby Olena | Jul 15, 2021
The protein, apolipoprotein L3, destroys invading microbes by acting as a detergent in the cytosol.
Illustration of humans and mice and their gut microbiota
Infographic: Microbiome-Driven Adaptations in Animals
Catherine Offord | Jul 1, 2021
Researchers are using experiments and observational studies to look for host genetic variation that could be partly determined by the gut microbiota.