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This Week in Science: Apr 13, 2018

In Science Advances this week, an international research team presents a way to identify fungus-derived natural products with biomedical potential. Called HEx — short for heterologous expression — the synthetic biology platform enables the rapid, scalable expression of fungal biosynthetic genes and their encoded metabolites in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The investigators applied HEx to 41 fungal biosynthetic gene clusters from diverse fungal species from around the world and uncovered a number of natural compounds with "unexpected biosynthetic origins, particularly from poorly studied species." The platform is expected to be useful for natural product discovery in any fungal species, even ones that are uncultivable, opening the door "to the discovery of the next generation of natural products," the authors write.

And in Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists report the discovery of a mechanism that protects mitochondria — which contain their own genome but require a number of proteins encoded by the nucleus — from protein import defects. When the researchers induced excessive expression of nuclear-encoded mitochondrial proteins in yeast cells, they discovered that the cells activated a surveillance mechanism — dubbed mitoCPR — that facilitates the clearance of excess proteins to protect the mitochondrial compartment. "Whether a mitochondrial import stress response exists in higher eukaryotes has yet to be determined," the authors note.

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.