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Concept: Secret Life


The sexes differ in how and when they allocate energy towards reproduction, but how this influences phenotypic plasticity in daily activity patterns is unclear. Here, we use collar-mounted light loggers and triaxial accelerometers to examine factors that affect time spent above ground and overall dynamic body acceleration (ODBA), an index of activity-specific energy expenditure, across the active season of free-living, semi-fossorial arctic ground squirrels (Urocitellus parryii). We found high day-to-day variability in time spent above ground and ODBA with most of the variance explained by environmental conditions known to affect thermal exchange. In both years, females spent more time below ground compared with males during parturition and early lactation; however, this difference was fourfold larger in the second year, possibly, because females were in better body condition. Daily ODBA positively correlated with time spent above ground in both sexes, but females were more active per unit time above ground. Consequently, daily ODBA did not differ between the sexes when females were early in lactation, even though females were above ground three to six fewer hours each day. Further, on top of having the additional burden of milk production, ODBA data indicate females also had fragmented rest patterns and were more active during late lactation. Our results indicate that sex differences in reproductive requirements can have a substantial influence on activity patterns, but the size of this effect may be dependent on capital resources accrued during gestation.

Concepts: Male, Reproduction, Female, Sexual dimorphism, Gender, Sex, Hermaphrodite, Secret Life


Mechanistic exploration has pinpointed nanosized extracellular vesicles, known as exosomes, as key mediators of the benefits of cell therapy. Exosomes appear to recapitulate the benefits of cells and more. As durable azoic entities, exosomes have numerous practical and conceptual advantages over cells. Will cells end up just being used to manufacture exosomes, or will they find lasting value as primary therapeutic agents? Here, a venerable natural process-the generation of honey-serves as an instructive parable. Flowers make nectar, which bees collect and process into honey. Cells make conditioned medium, which laboratory workers collect and process into exosomes. Unlike flowers, honey is durable, compact, and nutritious, but these facts do not negate the value of flowers themselves. The parallels suggest new ways of thinking about next-generation therapeutics.

Concepts: Medicine, Therapy, Classification of Pharmaco-Therapeutic Referrals, Flower, Nectar, Honey, Secret Life, The Secret Life Of...


Over the past decade, our understanding of the mechanisms by which pseudokinases, which comprise ∼10% of the human and mouse kinomes, mediate signal transduction has advanced rapidly with increasing structural, biochemical, cellular and genetic studies. Pseudokinases are the catalytically defective counterparts of conventional, active protein kinases and have been attributed functions as protein interaction domains acting variously as allosteric modulators of conventional protein kinases and other enzymes, as regulators of protein trafficking or localisation, as hubs to nucleate assembly of signalling complexes, and as transmembrane effectors of such functions. Here, by categorising mammalian pseudokinases based on their known functions, we illustrate the mechanistic diversity among these proteins, which can be viewed as a window into understanding the non-catalytic functions that can be exerted by conventional protein kinases.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Molecular biology, Signal transduction, Enzyme, Kinase, Secret Life, The Secret Life Of...


Emulsion droplets stabilised by colloidal particles (Pickering emulsions) can be highly stable, so it is unsurprising that they are beginning to be exploited industrially. The individual colloidal particles have interfacial attachment energies that are vastly larger than the thermal energy, hence they are usually thought of as being irreversibly adsorbed. Here we show, for the first time, particles being exchanged between droplets in a Pickering emulsion. This occurs when the emulsion contains droplets that share particles, often called bridging. By starting with two emulsions showing bridging, each stabilised by a different colour of particle, the dynamics can be studied as they are gently mixed together on a roller bank. We find that particle exchange occurs by two routes: firstly, during a period of unbridging and rebridging whose duration can be tuned by varying the wettability of the particles, and secondly, during very rare events when particles are ejected from one droplet and re-adsorbed onto another.

Concepts: Energy, Colloid, Liquid, Surface tension, Emulsion, Rainbow, Secret Life, The Secret Life Of...


Megakaryocytes are rare cells found in the bone marrow, responsible for the everyday production and release of millions of platelets into the bloodstream. Since the discovery and cloning, in 1994, of their principal humoral factor, thrombopoietin, and its receptor c-Mpl, many efforts have been directed to define the mechanisms underlying an efficient platelet production. However, more recently different studies have pointed out new roles for megakaryocytes as regulators of bone marrow homeostasis and physiology. In this review we discuss the interaction and the reciprocal regulation of megakaryocytes with the different cellular and extracellular components of the bone marrow environment. Finally, we provide evidence that these processes may concur to the reconstitution of the bone marrow environment after injury and their deregulation may lead to the development of a series of inherited or acquired pathologies.

Concepts: Immune system, Blood, Bone marrow, Platelet, Regulation, Thrombopoietin, Megakaryocyte, Secret Life


cAMP-stimulated anion conductance is defective in cystic fibrosis. The regulatory domain of CFTR, the anion channel protein encoded by the CF gene, possesses an unusually high density of consensus sequences for phosphorylation by PKA (14 in a stretch of <200 amino acids). Thus it is not surprising that CFTR is viewed primarily as a cAMP-stimulated anion channel, and most studies have focused on this mode of activation. However there is growing evidence that CFTR also responds to Ca2+ mobilizing secretagogues and contributes substantially to cholinergic and purinergic responses in native tissues. G protein coupled receptors that signal through Gαq can stimulate CFTR channels by activating Ca2+-dependent adenylyl cyclase and tyrosine kinases, and also by inhibiting PP2A. Here we review evidence for these novel mechanisms of CFTR activation and discuss how they may help explain previous observations.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Acid, Signal transduction, Ion channel, Cystic fibrosis, Cell signaling, Secret Life