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Archive - Jul 11, 2015

Legumes Distinguish Friendly from Pathogenic Bacteria & Fungi Using First Known Exopolysaccharide Receptor; Research Alters Understanding of Carbohydrates As Signaling Molecules

An international team of researchers has discovered how legumes are able to tell helpful and harmful invading bacteria (and fungi) apart. The research has implications for improving the understanding of how other plants, animals, and humans interact with bacteria in their environment and defend themselves against hostile infections. These findings can have profound implications for both agricultural research and medical science. The study, which changes the understanding of carbohydrates as signal molecules, was published online on June 27, 2015 in the leading international journal Nature. The article is titled “A Plant Receptor-Like Kinase Required for Both Bacterial and Fungal Symbiosis.” Legumes form a unique symbiotic relationship with bacteria known as rhizobia, which the the legumes allow to infect their roots. This leads to root nodules being formed in which the bacteria convert nitrogen from the air into ammonia that the plant can use for growth. Exactly how these plants are able to distinguish and welcome compatible rhizobia for this self-fertilizing activity - while halting infection by incompatible bacteria - has been a mystery. Now the researchers at the Centre for Carbohydrate Recognition and Signalling (CARB) from Denmark and New Zealand and their collaborators from the Centre for Complex Carbohydrate Research in Georgia, USA, have determined how legumes perceive and distinguish compatible bacteria based on the exopolysaccharides featured on the invading cells' surfaces. Using an interdisciplinary approach involving plant and microbial genetics, biochemistry, and carbohydrate chemistry, the researchers have identified the first known exopolysaccharide receptor gene, called Epr3.

University of Chicago Innovation Fund Awards $150,000 to Therapeutic Human Exosome Project for Multiple Sclerosis & Migraine; Two Other Projects Also Receive Significant Funding

On July 7, 2015, it was announced that three teams from the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory are one step closer on the journey to commercializing their innovative discoveries and technology. They have each been selected to receive funding from the University of Chicago Innovation Fund. The Innovation Fund awards grants and invests in promising technologies and start-ups created by University of Chicago faculty, students, and staff. Since its inception, the Fund has invested over $3.1 million in 35 projects with high potential for societal and commercial impact. For the Spring 2015 cycle, the Innovation Fund awarded funding to 3F4AP, a PET tracer created to reveal lesions associated with multiple sclerosis during a PET scan; to Therapeutic Human Exosomes, a biologic designed to repair de-myelinated neurons in multiple sclerosis; and to the Array of Things, an urban sensing network of interactive, modular sensor boxes built by Urban Center for Computation and Data (UrbanCCD. The Array of Things collects real-time data on the city’s environment, infrastructure, and activity, bringing the Internet of Things to the “built environment,” and essentially creating a “fitness tracker” for the city. Details of the three funded projects are provided here. 3F4AP: The 3F4AP team has developed a PET tracer that could help reveal important targeted hallmarks of multiple sclerosis. PET tracers are radioactive molecules that, when injected into a subject, can reveal disease-relevant features such as tumors or lesions in the brain during a PET scan. The team took a drug that is typically used to treat MS (4-aminopyridine) and converted it into a PET tracer, which they believe will help doctors visualize demyelinated lesions in the brain and provide a way to monitor response to new remyelinating therapies.

Huge Concern: Bumblebees Being Pushed from Heating South of Europe and North America Due to Climate Change, But Failing to Extend Their Northern Range; Vital Pollinators Being Lost

Researchers from the University of Calgary and the University of Ottawa have made an astonishing find when it comes to the habitat range of bumble bees, and the results are troubling. Findings published in the July 10 issue of Science, demonstrate that climate change is having a significant impact on bumblebee species in North America and Europe. The article is titled “Climate Change Impacts on Bumblebees Converge Across Continents.” Bumblebees are losing vital habitat in the southern regions of North America and Europe, which is cause for concern, but another pressing issue is that bumblebee species generally haven't expanded north," explains Dr. Paul Galpern, Assistant Professor of Landscape Ecology in the Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary, co-author of study. "Climate change may be making things too hot for them in the south, but is not pulling them north as expected," says Dr. Galpern. For many wildlife species, when climate warms, they expand into areas that used to be too cold for them, pushing into areas that are closer to the North Pole in response. Bumblebee species are experiencing a different fate and being held at their northern-most range, while losing ground rapidly in the south. "Picture a vice, now picture the bumble bee habitat in the middle of the vice," says Dr. Jeremy Kerr, Professor and University Research Chair in Macroecology and Conservation, University of Ottawa, and lead researcher of the study. "As the climate warms, bumblebee species are being crushed as the 'climate vice' compresses their geographical ranges. The result is widespread, rapid declines of pollinators across continents, effects that are not due to pesticide use or habitat loss.

Primary Cilia, Dysfunctional Autophagy, and Perhaps Even Exosomes May Be Key to Pathology in Huntington’s Disease

In a new review article, scientists suggest that there may be an important link between primary cilia and dysfunctional autophagy and the pathology of Hungtington’s disease (HD). The authors also hint at a possible role for exosomes that may be secreted by primary cilia. The review was published online July 10, 2015 in Cell Death & Differentiation. The article is titled “Primary Cilia and Autophagic Dysfunction in Hungtington’s Disease.” The scientists noted that “because protein misfolding and aggregation are central features of HD, it has long been suspected that cellular housekeeping processes such as autophagy might be important to disease pathology. Indeed, multiple lines of research have identified abnormal autophagy in HD, characterized generally by increased autophagic induction and inefficient clearance of substrates. To date, the origin of autophagic dysfunction in HD remains unclear and the search for actors involved continues. To that end, recent studies have suggested a bidirectional relationship between autophagy and primary cilia, which are oft-overlooked signaling organelles of most mammalian cells and novel regulators of autophagy. Interestingly, primary cilia structure is defective in HD, suggesting a potential link between autophagic dysfunction, primary cilia and HD pathogenesis. In addition, because polyQ-HTT also accumulates in primary cilia, the possibility exists that primary cilia might play additional roles in HD: perhaps by disrupting signaling pathways or acting as a reservoir for secretion and propagation of toxic, misfolded polyQ-HTT fragments.” According to the authors, primary cilia are single, non-motile organelles found on the surface of most mammalian cells.