SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Seminars in cell & developmental biology

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The Sox transcription factor family consists of 20 members in the human genome. Many of them are key determinants of cellular identities and possess the capacity to reprogram cell fates by pioneering the epigenetic remodeling of the genome. This activity is intimately tied to their ability to specifically bind and bend DNA alone or with other proteins. Here we discuss our current knowledge on how Sox transcription factors such as Sox2, Sox17, Sox18 and Sox9 ‘read’ the genome to find and regulate their target genes and highlight the roles of partner factors including Pax6, Nanog, Oct4 and Brn2. We integrate insights from structural and biochemical studies as well as high-throughput assays to probe DNA specificity in vitro as well as in cells and tissues.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Genetics, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, Human genome, Transcription factors

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Macrophages are present in all tissues, either as resident cells or monocyte-derived cells that infiltrate into tissues. The tissue site largely determines the phenotype of tissue-resident cells, which help to maintain tissue homeostasis and act as sentinels of injury. Both tissue resident and recruited macrophages make a substantial contribution to wound healing following injury. In this review, we evaluate how macrophages in two fundamentally distinct tissues, i.e. the lung and the skin, differentially contribute to the process of wound healing. We highlight the commonalities of macrophage functions during repair and contrast them with distinct, tissue-specific functions that macrophages fulfill during the different stages of wound healing.

Concepts: Wound healing, Extracellular matrix, Macrophage, Apoptosis, Skin, Wound, Tissue, Spleen

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Exercise is the greatest physiological stress that our bodies experience. For example, during maximal endurance exercise in elite athlete’s cardiac output can increase up to 8-fold and the working muscles receive 21-times more blood each minute than at rest. Given the physiological stress associated with exercise and the adaptations that occur to handle this stress, it is not surprising that exercise training is known to prevent or effectively treat a multitude of degenerative conditions including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and many others. Many of the health benefits of exercise are mediated by the mammalian/mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR), either in complex 1 or 2, not only within the working muscle, but also in distant tissues such as fat, liver, and brain. This review will discuss how exercise activates mTOR in diverse tissues and the ways that mTOR is important in the adaptive response that makes us bigger, stronger, and healthier as a result of exercise.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Medicine, Health insurance, Heart, Muscle, Degenerative disease, Parkinson's disease, Dementia

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A plant’s form is often an important determinant of its fitness and economic value. Historically, the process of changing a plant’s form has been slow, requiring iterative rounds of growth and selection. Here, we review strategies for producing plants with altered forms. We discuss techniques for identifying genes involved in plant form development and the tools that will be needed to design and engineer plants with altered forms. Synthetic genetic circuits are highlighted for their potential to generate novel plant forms. We emphasize understanding development as a prerequisite to engineering and discuss the potential role of computer models in translating knowledge about single genes or pathways into a more comprehensive understanding of development.

Concepts: Gene, Organism, Species, Epistemology, Engineering, Genetic algorithm, Theory of Forms, Archetype

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Scientific societies can play a key role in bridging the research and practice of scientists' engagement of public audiences. Societies are beginning to support translation of science communication research, connections between scientists and audiences, and the creation of opportunities for scientists to engage publics without extensive customization. This article suggests roles, strategies, and mechanisms for scientific societies to promote and enhance their member’s engagement of public audiences.

Concepts: Scientific method, Sociology, Science, Research, Society, Scientist, Pseudoscience, Media studies

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Spectraplakins are evolutionarily well conserved cytoskeletal linker molecules that are true members of three protein families: plakins, spectrins and Gas2-like proteins. Spectraplakin genes encode at least 7 characteristic functional domains which are combined in a modular fashion into multiple isoforms, and which are responsible for an enormous breadth of cellular functions. These functions are related to the regulation of actin, microtubules, intermediate filaments, intracellular organelles, cell adhesions and signalling processes during the development and maintenance of a wide variety of tissues. To gain a deeper understanding of this enormous functional diversity, invertebrate genetic model organisms, such as the fruit fly Drosophila, can be used to develop concepts and mechanistic paradigms that can inform the investigation in higher animals or humans. Here we provide a comprehensive overview of our current knowledge of the Drosophila spectraplakin Short stop (Shot). We describe its functional domains and isoforms and compare them with those of the mammalian spectraplakins dystonin and MACF1. We then summarise its roles during the development and maintenance of the nervous system, epithelia, oocytes and muscles, taking care to compare and contrast mechanistic insights across these functions in the fly, but especially also with related functions of dystonin and MACF1 in mostly mammalian contexts. We hope that this review will improve the wider appreciation of how work on Drosophila Shot can be used as an efficient strategy to promote the fundamental concepts and mechanisms that underpin spectraplakin functions, with important implications for biomedical research into human disease.

Concepts: Nervous system, DNA, Protein, Gene, Cell, Insect, Cytoskeleton, Drosophila

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Today, biomedical science is equipped with an impressive array of technologies and genetic resources that bolster our basic understanding of fundamental biology and enhance the practice of modern medicine by providing clinicians with a diverse toolkit to diagnose, prognosticate, and treat a plethora of conditions. Many significant advances in our understanding of disease mechanisms and therapeutic interventions have arisen from fruitful dialogues between clinicians and biomedical research scientists. However, the increasingly specialized scientific and medical disciplines, globalization of science and technology, and complex datasets often hinder the development of effective interdisciplinary collaborations between clinical medicine and biomedical research. The goal of this review is to provide examples of diverse strategies to enhance communication and collaboration across diverse disciplines. First, we discuss examples of efforts to foster interdisciplinary collaborations at institutional and multi-institutional levels. Second, we explore resources and tools for clinicians and research scientists to facilitate effective bi-directional dialogues. Third, we use our experiences in neurobiology and human genetics to highlight how communication between clinical medicine and biomedical research lead to effective implementation of cross-species model organism approaches to uncover the biological underpinnings of health and disease.

Concepts: Medicine, Genetics, Epidemiology, Disease, Infectious disease, Biology, Endocrinology, Science

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Traditionally, strong scientific communities have been at least partly built around physical proximity - either by members of the same department or institute, or through regular meetings and conferences. The online environment and the rise of social media platforms now make it easier to build virtual communities of geographically dispersed people with a common interest. In this article, we explore how such networks can be nurtured, focussing on the Node - a community blog for and by developmental biologists. We also discuss the value of social media outlets like Twitter in building and maintaining scientific communities online.

Concepts: Developmental biology, Natural environment, Sociology, Social sciences, Community, Virtual community, Mass media, Social media

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Loss-of-function mutations in the folliculin gene (FLCN) on chromosome 17p cause Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome (BHD), which is associated with cystic lung disease. The risk of lung collapse (pneumothorax) in BHD patients is 50-fold higher than in the general population. The cystic lung disease in BHD is distinctive because the cysts tend to be basilar, subpleural and lentiform, differentiating BHD from most other cystic lung diseases. Recently, major advances in elucidating the primary functions of the folliculin protein have been made, including roles in mTOR and AMPK signaling via the interaction of FLCN with FNIP1/2, and cell-cell adhesion via the physical interaction of FLCN with plakophilin 4 (PKP4), an armadillo-repeat containing protein that interacts with E-cadherin and is a component of the adherens junctions. In addition, in just the last three years, the pulmonary impact of FLCN deficiency has been examined for the first time. In mouse models, evidence has emerged that AMPK signaling and cell-cell adhesion are involved in alveolar enlargement. In addition, the pathologic features of human BHD cysts have been recently comprehensively characterized. The “stretch hypothesis” proposes that cysts in BHD arise because of fundamental defects in cell-cell adhesion, leading to repeated respiration-induced physical stretch-induced stress and, over time, expansion of alveolar spaces particularly in regions of the lung with larger changes in alveolar volume and at weaker “anchor points” to the pleura. This hypothesis ties together many of the new data from cellular and mouse models of BHD and from the human pathologic studies. Critical questions remain. These include whether the consequences of stretch-induced cyst formation arise through a destructive/inflammatory program or a proliferative program (or both), whether cyst initiation involves a “second hit” genetic event inactivating the remaining wild-type copy of FLCN (as is known to occur in BHD-associated renal cell carcinomas), and whether cyst initiation involves exclusively the epithelial compartment versus an interaction between the epithelium and mesenchyme. Ultimately, understanding the mechanisms of cystic lung disease in BHD may help to elucidate the pathogenesis of primary spontaneous pneumothorax, with more than 20,000 cases reported annually in the United States alone [1].

Concepts: Gene, Cancer, Respiratory disease, Pulmonology, Epithelium, Pneumothorax, Sebaceous cyst, Cyst

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While it is well-known that stress during development and adulthood can confer long-term neurobiological and behavioral consequences, investigators have only recently begun to assess epigenetic modifications associated with these consequences. In this review, we highlight clinical research and work with animal models that provide evidence of the impact of stressful experiences either during the perinatal period or adulthood on DNA methylation and behavior. Additionally, we explore the more controversial concept of transgenerational inheritance, including that associated with preconception stress experienced by the mother or father. Finally, we discuss challenges associated with the idea of transgenerational epigenetics and for the field of epigenetics in general.

Concepts: Psychology, Gene expression, Histone, Epigenetics, Embryo, DNA methylation, Methylation, Mother