1. Sodium channel in 3D

For the first time, researchers have captured the 3D crystal structure of a sodium channel. In addition to revealing similar features to the well-characterized calcium channel, the sodium channel contains several hydrophobic channels that could regulate how local anesthetics and other hydrophobic molecules work.

J. Payandeh, et. al, “The crystal structure of a voltage-gated sodium channel,” Nature, 10.1038/nature10238, 2011. Free F1000 evaluation.

2. G-coupled proteins unveiled Researchers used a series of techniques to reveal the structure of a G-protein coupled receptor, called the beta-2 adrenergic receptor-Gs protein complex, which belongs to a class of receptors that drives cellular responses to hormones and plays a role in sight, smell, and taste. The receptor's crystal structure reveals a specific surface of the protein complex that may modulate receptor signaling.

S. Rasmussen, et. al, “The crystal structure of the beta-2 adrenergic...

3. How Fragile X stalls translation

A defective protein in Fragile X syndrome, which causes autism-like traits and mental retardation, stops protein translation, seemingly by stalling ribosomes on regions of messenger RNA that code for proteins linked to autism spectrum disorder.

J. Darnell, et. al, “FMRP stalls ribosomal translocation on mRNAs linked to synaptic function and autism,” Cell, 10.1016/j.cell.2011.06.013. Free F1000 evaluation.

4. Illuminating a light receptor

While scientists have known the crystal structure of the light receptor rhodopsin when bound to its ligand, retinal, for the first time researchers have uncovered the structure of the unbound version of the receptor. The structure reveals notable differences between the bare receptor and its bound counterpart, including two gaps which may allow retinal to enter and exit.

J. Park, et. al, “Crystal structure of the ligand-free G-protein-coupled receptor opsin,” Nature, 10.1038/nature07063, 2008. Free F1000 Evaluation.

5. Of light and heat

Drosophila usually detect small changes in temperature, but when researchers removed the rhodopsin light receptor gene from fly larvae, the flies lost their ability to detect such fluctuations. The finding hints that rhodopsins are evolutionarily conserved across the animal kingdom to initiate temperature-sensing signaling cascades.

W. Shen, et. al, “Function of Rhodopsin in Temperature Discrimination in Drosophila,” Science, 10.1126/science.1198904, 2011. Free F1000 Evaluation.

6. Clock genes and cancer

Mutant mice that lack Circadian rhythm genes have disrupted cell cycles and are more cancer prone. When researchers mimicked “jet-lag” by shifting the light schedule, tumors grew even faster.  The results suggest that disrupting the normal light and dark schedule can fuel tumor growth by altering how cells regulate growth.

S. Lee, et al. “Disrupting circadian homeostasis of sympathetic signaling promotes tumor development in mice,” PLoS One, 10.1371/journal.pone.0010995, 2010. Free F1000 Evaluation.

7.  Gene predictors of ALS outcomes

A genome-wide association study found several genes linked to slower disease progression in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal neurodegenerative disease. Patients carrying the specific alleles at the linked genes lived an average of 14 months longer than those with different alleles, and had lower expression of a protein that helps move organelles towards junctions where nerve cells activate muscles.

J.Landers, et. al, “Reduced expression of the Kinesin-Associated Protein 3 (KIFAP3) gene increases survival in sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,” PNAS, 10.1073/pnas.0812937106, 2009. Free F1000 Evaluation.

The F1000 Top 7 is a snapshot of the highest ranked articles from a 30-day period on Faculty of 1000 Neuroscience, as calculated on August 22, 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 http://f1000.com.

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