Unexpected Viral ‘Fossils’ Found in Vertebrate Genomes

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Colorized negative stained transmission electron micrograph (TEM) depicts a number of Marburg virus virions.

Over millions of years, retroviruses, which insert their genetic material into the host genome as part of their replication, have left behind bits of their genetic material in vertebrate genomes. In a recent study, published July 29 in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens, a team of researchers have now found that human and other vertebrate genomes also contain many ancient sequences from Ebola/Marburgviruses and Bornaviruses — two deadly virus families.

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Fungi Can Change Quickly, Pass Along Infectious Ability

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Studies done with this fungus have challenged existing beliefs about how quickly fungi can change their genetic makeup and become infectious.

Fungi have significant potential for “horizontal” gene transfer, a new study has shown, similar to the mechanisms that allow bacteria to evolve so quickly, become resistant to antibiotics and cause other serious problems.

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New Hand Bacteria Study Holds Promise for Forensics Identification

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A new technique developed at CU‑Boulder to identify individuals by the unique communities of hand bacteria they leave behind on objects they have handled may prove to be a valuable forensic tool in the future

Forensic scientists may soon have a valuable new item in their toolkits — a way to identify individuals using unique, telltale types of hand bacteria left behind on objects like keyboards and computer mice, says a new University of Colorado at Boulder study.

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How Ocean Bacterium Turns Carbon Into Fuel

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Fluorescent labeling of proteins inside the carboxysome show that cyanobacteria create carboxysomes in numbers proportional to length and space them evenly along their longest axis.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. We hear this mantra time and again. When it comes to carbon‹the “Most Wanted” element in terms of climate change‹nature has got reuse and recycle covered. However, it’s up to us to reduce. Scientists at Harvard Medical School are trying to meet this challenge by learning more about the carbon cycle, that is, the process by which carbon moves from the atmosphere into plants, oceans, soils, the earth’s crust, and back into the atmosphere again.

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‘Good’ Bacteria Keep Immune System Primed to Fight Future Infections

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Bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae, red) under attack by a neutrophil (blue).

Scientists have long pondered the seeming contradiction that taking broad-spectrum antibiotics over a long period of time can lead to severe secondary bacterial infections. Now researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine may have figured out why.

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In Sync: Squid, Glowing Companions March in Genetic Harmony

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Hawaiian bobtail squid

The genetic interplay between the Hawaiian bobtail squid (pictured) and the symbiotic bacteria that colonize its predator-fooling light organ have been charted to reveal a daily rhythm that sets the stage for a balanced, lifelong relationship.

Most humans are blissfully unaware that we owe our healthful existence to trillions of microbes that make their home in the nooks and crannies of the human body, primarily the gut.

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Researchers Synchronize Blinking ‘Genetic Clocks’ — Genetically Engineered Bacteria That Keep Track of Time

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A supernova burst in a colony of coupled genetic clocks show them flashing in synchrony.

Researchers at UC San Diego who last year genetically engineered bacteria to keep track of time by turning on and off fluorescent proteins within their cells have taken another step toward the construction of a programmable genetic sensor. The scientists recently synchronized these bacterial “genetic clocks” to blink in unison and engineered the bacterial genes to alter their blinking rates when environmental conditions change.

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Bacteria ‘Invest’ Wisely to Survive Uncertain Times, Scientists Report

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Drs. Gürol Süel (left), Tolga Cagatay.

Like savvy Wall Street money managers, bacteria hedge their bets to increase their chances of survival in uncertain times, strategically investing their biological resources to weather unpredictable environments.

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Biological Basis of ‘Bacterial Immune System’ Discovered

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Bacteria and archaea (first discovered in extreme environments such as deep-sea volcanic vents, such as the one shown above) manage to survive thanks in part to a built-in defense system that helps protect them from many viruses and other invaders.

Bacteria don’t have easy lives. In addition to mammalian immune systems that besiege the bugs, they have natural enemies called bacteriophages, viruses that kill half the bacteria on Earth every two days.

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Termites Create Sustainable Monoculture Fungus Farming

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Macrotermes workers tending fungus garden nodules.

Food production of modern human societies is mostly based on large-scale monoculture crops, but it now appears that advanced insect societies have the same practice. Our societies took just ten thousand years of (mainly cultural) evolution to adopt this habit and we are far from convinced that it is sustainable. Farming ants and termites had tens of millions of years to evolve their fungus farming systems and here monocultures are apparently evolutionary stable.

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