Skip to main content

This Week in PNAS: Nov 28, 2012

Unintentional physical interactions between proteins crowded together in the same cell can influence proteome evolution and function, according to a study in the early, online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. An international team led by investigators in the UK looked at relationships between the three-dimensional structure of proteins and their abundance. Based on data for hundreds of Escherichia coli, budding yeast, and human proteins, the researchers saw that proteins more prone to non-specific interactions also tend to be less plentiful. On the other hand, more bountiful proteins usually had fewer of the relatively well-conserved "sticky" surfaces. Such effects were more pronounced for E. coli and yeast proteins than for human proteins, study authors say, hinting that "promiscuous protein-protein interactions may be freer to accumulate in the human lineage."

Researchers from Germany, New Zealand, and Ireland explore historical lateral gene transfer events between microbes — and their influence on the evolution of halophilic archaebacteria, or "haloarchaea," microbes adapted to life in very salt-rich environments. Using data from 10 haloarchaeal genomes and more than 1,100 archaebacteria or eubacteria reference genomes, that team determined that the evolution of haloarchaea from methanogens likely relied on the acquisition of more than 1,000 genes from eubacteria. A shared haloarchaeal ancestor seems to have nabbed the genes in a single event, researchers say, leading to a haloarchaeal lineage capable of respiring oxygen rather than subsisting on hydrogen in oxygen-depleted conditions, as is the case for methanogens. "The origin of Haloarchaea was … an evolutionary leap," researchers write, "that transformed a methanogenic host into an oxygen-respiring heterotroph — the founder haloarchaeon."

Finally, National Institutes of Health comparative ethnology researcher Stephen Suomi and his colleagues report on variable transcriptional regulation in developing immune cells that are related to early life exposures in rhesus macaque monkeys. The researchers measured gene expression patterns genome-wide in basal leukocyte white blood cells from four four-month-old macaques that had been raised by an inanimate surrogate or peer rather than their mothers — an adverse social condition previously linked to certain health risks in adulthood. Compared to with age-matched macaques raised by their own mothers, the socially stressed monkeys had distinct expression profiles at almost 250 genes. For instance, the team reports, the stressed macaques had higher-than-usual levels of several inflammation and immunity related genes, along with decreased expression of genes contributing to antimicrobial immunity and pathogen response.

The Scan

Call to Look Again

More than a dozen researchers penned a letter in Science saying a previous investigation into the origin of SARS-CoV-2 did not give theories equal consideration.

Not Always Trusted

In a new poll, slightly more than half of US adults have a great deal or quite a lot of trust in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Hill reports.

Identified Decades Later

A genetic genealogy approach has identified "Christy Crystal Creek," the New York Times reports.

Science Papers Report on Splicing Enhancer, Point of Care Test for Sexual Transmitted Disease

In Science this week: a novel RNA structural element that acts as a splicing enhancer, and more.