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This week in PLOS Biology

In PLOS Biology this week, you can read about the evolution of thermostable proteins, the Addgene initiative, microenvironment influence on tumour metastasis and communication between neurons and glia.


Adapting to Life at High Temperature

Image credit: Flickr user Filip Goč
Image credit: Flickr user Filip Goč

A new research article from Kathryn Hart, Susan Marqusee and colleagues aims to understand the evolutionary history of the thermostability of homologous bacterial enzymes – one which lives at moderate, and one which lives at extreme high temperatures. They ask how these structurally similar proteins can have such different thermostabilities. While thermostability appears to have been strongly shaped by selection, the biophysical mechanisms used to tune protein stability appear to have varied throughout evolutionary history. Read more in the accompanying synopsis.


Addgene: Sharing Plasmids, Opening Science

In a new Community Page this week, Joanne Kamens describes the Addgene initiative, which seeks to improve access to useful research materials and information. The non-profit organisation solicits published plasmids and receives and archives samples (40,000 and counting) for tracking through their lab inventory management software. They play a key role in helping scientists overcome logistical barriers to sharing, improving experimental reproducibility, and optimizing use of limited resources.


Tumour Microenvironments and Metastasis


A large proportion of cancer deaths result from the cancer spreading to other parts of the body – metastasis. This research article by Bojana Gligorijevic, Aviv Bergman & John Condeelis looks at the link between microenvironment and tumour cell phenotypes. They found that single cells from mouse mammary carcinoma can move using a fast- or slow-locomotion mode depending on different levels of cues present in the tumour microenvironment. The ability to define and predict conditions under which tumour cells disseminate offers potential therapeutic benefits in regulating tumour progression.


A Protein-Shedding Dialogue between Neurons and Glia

Although glial cells substantially outnumber neurons in the mammalian brain, much remains to be discovered regarding their functions. One type of glial cell – oligodendrocytes – differentiate from their precursors to produce the myelin sheaths that insulate neuronal axons. These precursor cells also uniquely receive direct synaptic input from neurons. A new research paper by Dominic Sakry, Thomas Mittmann and colleagues shows a bidirectional communication between neurons and oligodendrocyte precursors: neuronal activity regulates the cleavage of a glial membrane protein and the release of an extracellular domain that in turn modulates synaptic transmission between neurons. Read more in the accompanying synopsis.


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