Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

This Week in Science: Nov 28, 2009

Science explores how the stimulus bill has affected research in the US. For NIH, this article says, the stimulus has been a windfall of funds, but many people are holding their breaths for what will occur when the two years are up. "We will have built [more] capacity; we will have hired people," says Steven Fluharty, vice provost for research at the University of Pennsylvania. "How will those jobs be maintained?" At NSF, this article adds, grant application success rates went up with the influx of stimulus funds. Again, however, that increase may not be maintained if the proposed doubling, over 10 years, of NSF's budget doesn't come through. "It's happened so many times in the past that the scientific community has come up short," Michael Lubell from the American Physical Society says.

Japanese researchers report on the structure of the pre-miRNA nuclear export complex. They show the 2.9 angstrom-resolution structure of Exp-5:RanGTP:pre-miRNA complex which they find is an ellipsoid measuring 65 Å by 80 Å by 110 Å. They add that the Exp-5:RanGTP looks a bit like a baseball mitt that the pre-miRNA then fits into. A tunnel at the bottom of the mitt connects the two spaces. A related perspective article adds that this process differs from how tRNAs are shuttled out of the nucleus.

Arul Chinnaiyan's group writes that about half of human prostate cancers include a gene fusion of TMPRSS2 and ERG. TMPRSS2 is an androgen-regulated gene and ERG encodes an erythroblast transformation–specific transcription factor. Using fluorescence in situ hybridization, Chinnaiyan's lab shows that "androgen signaling induces proximity of the TMPRSS2 and ERG genomic loci" and that gamma irridation "facilitates the formation of the TMPRSS2-ERG gene fusion." This, they write, "may help explain why TMPRSS2-ERG fusions are restricted to the prostate, which is dependent on androgen signaling."

A series of articles look at the impact of reduced genome size on proteome organization, transcriptome complexity, and metabolism. The researchers, led by Luis Serrano, Peer Bork, and Anne-Claude Gavin, studied the genome of Mycoplasma pneumoniae. In one paper, they report how they used a tandem affinity purification–mass spectrometry approach to find 62 homomultimeric and 116 heteromultimeric soluble protein complexes. This, they write, "provides a blueprint of the minimal cellular machinery required for life."

Then in another paper, they describe how they used tiling arrays and transcriptome sequencing to uncover 117 previously undescribed genes in Mycoplasma pneumoniae and to identify 341 operons, which, under different conditions may give alternative transcripts and which implies "a highly dynamic transcriptome."

Finally, they also studied the metabolism of the bacterium, looking at growth curves and various measures of metabolites. "The coordinated changes in gene expression along the growth curve, the specific responses to many various metabolic perturbations, and the adaptability of the cells to various carbon sources indicate that M. pneumoniae retains some robustness and adaptability despite its extreme genome reduction," the authors report.

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.