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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

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.