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Archive - Apr 17, 2009

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Possible Cell Adhesion Role for Normal Prion Protein

Scientist have reported the creation of a strong loss-of-function phenotype for the normal prion protein (PrP) in zebrafish embryos. This phenotype is characterized by the loss of embryonic cell adhesion and arrested gastrulation. The results of additional experiments indicate that the normal prion protein (1) mediates Ca+2-independent homophilic cell adhesion and signaling; and (2) modulates Ca+2-dependent cell adhesion by regulating the delivery of E-cadherin to the plasma membrane. The authors stated that their data uncover evolutionarily conserved roles of PrP in cell communication, which ultimately impinge on the stability of adherens cell junctions during embryonic development. The results were published in PLoS Biology, and an accompanying paper comments on the results.

Inbreeding Role in Extinction of the Spanish Habsburg Dynasty

Statistical genetic evidence supports the history-based theory that inbreeding may have played a role in the extinction of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty (1516-1700). This is the conclusion of research reported in an April 15 article in PLoS. The Spanish Habsburg dynasty was characterized by the frequent marrige of close relatives, in such a way that uncle-niece, first cousin, and other consanguineous unions were common. The dynasty ended with the childless death of the physically and mentally disabled Charles II at the age of 39. [PLoS article]

Molecular Switch Inhibition May Aid Treatment of Deadly Brain Cancers

Inhibition of the expression of a gene called NHERF-1 may be useful in the treatment of deadly brain cancers in the class glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), according to findings published by researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Barrow Neurological Institute in the April issue of Neoplasia. "Our findings suggest a novel mechanism defining NHERF-1 as a 'molecular switch' that regulates the GBM tumor cell's ability to migrate or divide,'' said Dr. Kerri Kislin, the lead author of the study. The findings will be presented during the AACR annual meeting April 18-22. [Press release]