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This Week in Science: Oct 1, 2010

In Science this week, an international team of researchers present their work on the comparative phylogenomics of the mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus, which is known to cause West Nile Virus. Their study shows an expanded canonical C. quinquefasciatus immune gene repertoire compared with those of other mosquito species, the researchers say, and transcriptomic analysis of the mosquito's genes responsive to West Nile Virus "facilitated an unprecedented meta-analysis of 25 vector-pathogen interactions involving arboviruses, filarial worms, bacteria, and malaria parasites, revealing common and distinct responses to these pathogen types in three mosquito genera."

Also in Science this week, researchers in Massachusetts and Singapore report their multivariate-modular approach to metabolic-pathway engineering of Escherichia coli. Their method succeeded in increasing titers of taxadiene, the first committed intermediate to Taxol, the potent anticancer drug. The researchers partitioned the taxadiene metabolic pathway into two modules, and used a systematic multivariate search to identify "conditions that optimally balance the two pathway modules so as to maximize the taxadiene production with minimal accumulation of indole." This approach, the team adds, "helped to unlock the potential of the MEP pathway for the engineered production of terpenoid natural products."

Researchers in California collaborated with researchers in China and report their work on cellodextrin transport in yeast for the production of biofuels in Science this week. The researchers suggest that the model cellulolytic fungus Neurospora crassa relies on a high-affinity cellodextrin transport system for rapid growth on cellulose, and that reconstitution of the N. crassa cellodextrin transport system in Saccharomyces cerevisiae promotes efficient growth of this yeast on cellodextrins. "In simultaneous saccharification and fermentation experiments, the engineered yeast strains more rapidly convert cellulose to ethanol when compared with yeast lacking this system," the researchers write.

And finally, in Science this week, researchers in California have found that the Piezo1 and Piezo2 genes are essential components of distinct mechanically activated cation channels. The team characterized a rapidly-adapting MA current in a mouse neuroblastoma cell line, and then used expression profiling and RNA interference knockdown of candidate genes to identify Piezo1 as a required element of MA current in the cells. "Overexpression of mouse Piezo1 or Piezo2 induced two kinetically distinct MA currents," the researchers write. Piezos are expressed in several tissues, and knockdown of Piezo2 in dorsal root ganglia neurons specifically reduced rapidly adapting MA currents."

The Scan

Tens of Millions Saved

The Associated Press writes that vaccines against COVID-19 saved an estimated 20 million lives in their first year.

Supersized Bacterium

NPR reports that researchers have found and characterized a bacterium that is visible to the naked eye.

Also Subvariants

Moderna says its bivalent SARS-CoV-2 vaccine leads to a strong immune response against Omicron subvariants, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Science Papers Present Gene-Edited Mouse Models of Liver Cancer, Hürthle Cell Carcinoma Analysis

In Science this week: a collection of mouse models of primary liver cancer, and more.