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PLOS Biology is Experimental Biology

The Experimental Biology conference is underway in San Diego! PLOS is well represented at the conference, with editors and staff manning booth # 1502. If you are at the conference, be sure to stop by for some PLOS swag!


This year, EB 16 is focused on 7 cross-society themes: Cancer Biology, Inflammation/Immunity, Microbiome, Neurobiology, Regenerative Medicine, Transporters/Channels/Barriers, and Metabolism and Metabolic Disease. Here is a sample of recently published papers from PLOS Biology in for each of these themes.


In cancer biology, we have two recent studies to highlight. In this study, the authors investigate how the antidiabetic drug metformin inhibits cancer. Using metabolomics they find that metformin blocks tumor cell proliferation independently of the classic metabolic checkpoints by suppressing mitochondrial-dependent biosynthesis. In the second paper, the authors discover that up-regulation of the transcription factor ELF5 in tumors helps to create a micro-environment that recruits the innate immune system and increases vascular permeability, leading to increased metastasis in luminal breast cancer. Together with its role in anti-estrogen resistance, this suggests that ELF5 is a major driver of a lethal phenotype.


In the field of inflammation and immunity we have this fascinating paper by Ileana Soto, Gareth Howell, and coauthors, which finds that age-related deterioration of the neurovascular unit and increased neuroinflammation in aging mice is prevented by long-term exercise, but not in the absence of apolipoprotein E. In this paper from researchers at the NIH, the authors show that lipopolysaccharide (LPS) from bacteria causes the increased production of endogenous glucocorticoids, protecting mice from sepsis and contributing to LPS tolerance by suppressing production of interleukin-12 (IL-12) by dendritic cells and causing the death of the primary producers of IL-12.


The microbiome is important to more than just the human digestive tract! In this study, the authors demonstrate that microbial interactions between kingdoms are responsible for significant microbiome variation on the surface of plants. Highly connected microbes are most important, amplifying abiotic and host factors to cause large perturbations in the structure of microbial communities.


We’ve published several great neurobiology papers recently, including this paper identifying a dedicated olfactory circuit that helps the fruit fly to implement avoidance behavior in response to semiochemicals produced by its main parasitoid enemy – wasps of the genus Leptopilina. In this study, the authors find that touch-sensing neurons in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans secrete neuropeptides to suppress olfaction via a specific synapse in the olfactory circuit. Loss of touch releases this suppression, enhancing the sense of smell. Ever wonder what happens during sleep? In this paper, the authors show that during non-REM sleep in rats, consolidation and offline improvements of a recently learned motor skill are linked to synchronous reactivation of task-related neural ensembles.


In the field of regenerative medicine, this study investigates the cellular mechanisms of branching morphogenesis in the developing kidney. Mosaic analysis shows that branching involves epithelial cell movements controlled by the Ret receptor tyrosine kinase and the transcription factor Etv4.


PLOS Biology has a bevy of recent papers on transporters, channels and barriers. This study reveals how structural changes triggered by the exchange of bound ADP for ATP activate KtrAB, a potassium ion transporter involved in osmotic adaption in bacteria. A study in Caenorhabditis elegans shows that switching the sign of a synapse within a neural circuit can reverse the behavioral output, providing an evolutionary and synthetic mechanism for changing behavior. A dissection of the nuclear pore complex—an ancient eukaryotic molecular machine—exposes a fundamental divergence in structure and function between yeast and humans versus trypanosomes and provides insights into the evolution of the nucleus.


Metabolism and Metabolic Disease papers include this study on an interferon-induced miRNA that suppresses the sterol biosynthesis pathway via multiple targets, thereby helping establish broad cellular resistance to unrelated clinically significant viruses. This study finds that the oxygen-dependent asparagine hydroxylase FIH regulates the transcription factor HIF during the cellular response to hypoxia. This study suggests that FIH may also contribute to the hypoxia response by affecting cellular metabolism via altered deubiquitinase targeting.

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