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This Week in Nature: Dec 11, 2008

Scientists at the Molecular Sciences Institute have found that in S. cerevisiae, the MAP kinase Fus3 induces negative feedback that adjusts the dose response of the downstream signaling to match the dose response of receptor-ligand binding, enhancing the understanding of biological signaling pathways as precise systems. "All too often, biologists tried — naively — to apply concepts from computer science to understanding the function of biological systems," says Harvard's Pam Silver in a press release from MSI. "This is a case where the application of concepts from computers actually explains something important. There will be others."

A news feature explores the field of tensegrity — cells operate and are influenced not just by the genes and proteins within, but by physical forces and resulting shapes that they take. In the past five years the field has exploded, and this "new appreciation of cells' mechanical environment" can be used to improve cell culture conditions, change the way we understand developmental processes, and better therapies.

In a study led by Hélène Agogué of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, scientists surveyed deep-sea microbial communities and found that contrary to what was believed, not all Crenarchaeota, microorganisms that belong to the domain Archaea, are involved in the global nitrogen and carbon cycles. Performing qPCR on North Atlantic Ocean deep sea samples, they found the abundance of archaeal amoA genes decreases markedly from subsurface waters to 4,000 meters down.

Finally, a special insight section examines quantitative genetics. Two articles look at studies in plants and mice, another checks in on the challenges of GWAS, while another highlights the Malaria Genomic Epidemiology Network.


The Scan

Fertility Fraud Found

Consumer genetic testing has uncovered cases of fertility fraud that are leading to lawsuits, according to USA Today.

Ties Between Vigorous Exercise, ALS in Genetically At-Risk People

Regular strenuous exercise could contribute to motor neuron disease development among those already at genetic risk, Sky News reports.

Test Warning

The Guardian writes that the US regulators have warned against using a rapid COVID-19 test that is a key part of mass testing in the UK.

Science Papers Examine Feedback Mechanism Affecting Xist, Continuous Health Monitoring for Precision Medicine

In Science this week: analysis of cis confinement of the X-inactive specific transcript, and more.