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This Week in Science: Jul 24, 2009

In this week's issue of Science, Elizabeth Finkel writes about 'phenomics' in this news story. Borrowing imaging techniques from medicine, phenomics is to plant biologists what high-throughput sequencing is to geneticists: it allows for detailed observations of the inner working of plants on a large scale. "Institutes worldwide are racing to build facilities with instrument arrays that can scan thousands of plants a day," she writes. The story features the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility, which is the first of its kind in the world and just opened last week.

There's a special section on network analysis – the state of looking at complex systems and how this will evolve in the next decade. Everything from studying physics to using it to identify nodes in terrorists networks is applicable. An article on transcriptional regulation describes how network analysis can be used to predict cellular responses to perturbations.

In work out of Steven McKnight's lab at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, scientists found that, by monitoring the expression of common metabolites in mouse ES cells, they found increased expression of an mRNA that codes for threonine dehydrogenase. Further work showed that ES cells are dependent on one amino acid, threonine, proving that "ES cells exist in a high-flux backbone metabolic state comparable to that of rapidly growing bacterial cells," they say in the abstract.

UCSF's Benoît Kornmann was first author on a paper that found a protein bridge between the ER and mitochondria. Screening for mutants "that could be complemented by a synthetic protein designed to artificially tether the two organelles," they found a complex that can bind the two consisting of Mmm1, Mdm10, Mdm12, and Mdm34 proteins. Using a genome-wide genetic interaction map, they showed that these proteins are functionally linked to phospholipid biosynthesis and calcium-signaling genes.