Field of Science

MolBio Carnival #17!

Apolipoprotein AI
That's right, its time for the 17th installment of the molecular biology carnival where we celebrate and discuss the science and implications of molecular biology research through those blog posts that contributors have put forward. This months installment will take a microbiological twist, fitting for the blog it is hosted at. So lets see what we have. 

Proteins are amazing, especially microbial ones that cause disease.

First up - with a somewhat non-micro focused post - but nonetheless interesting, Mike Tyka over at 'Beautiful Proteins' shares with us the Mobius strip-like folding of the human apolipoprotein A-I, a protein that has a role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. See opposite.

But how do we study these molecules? Here's S.E.Gould over at Lab Rat with her post 'How to explore a protein' whereby she takes us on the constant journey of discovery that scientists begin when they want to understand how a protein works.
It’s a nice short little paper but it does bring up some interesting points and also works as a prime example of a very common way that scientists go about exploring how a particular protein works.
 James Byrne, of Disease Prone fame shares with us the fascinating world of bacterial toxins, molecules (peptides/proteins) that are synthesized by a number of disease-causing microbes in order to allow for their survival following infection. He includes the science behind Botox, deadly E.coli and pneumonia. 
Key to the development of disease in many bacterial infections is expression of a bacterial toxin. Toxins come in many shapes and forms but all have a pretty similar goal, to directly induce damage to the cells of the host.

But understanding microbial evolution through DNA and RNA is also important
Yersinia pestis - a deadly human pathogen. But how did it spread across the world and cause disease? Only it's DNA has the answer.
One important process in microbial biology and evolution is conjugation, the physical transfer of genetic material between two prokaryotic cells. It is this which is responsible for the rapid spread of antibiotic resistance genes throughout a given environment. 

The donor has the plasmid with the gene that confers antibiotic resistance, and the recipient doesn't. Once the donor "recognizes" that the nearby cell lacks the resistance gene, a channel gets opened from the donor cell to the recipient.
But what controls whether one cell will give its DNA to the other? How does it know that it lacks the antibiotic resistance gene? Turns out it - as EE Giorgi at 'Chimeras' shows, is down to transcription. They also discuss the role of so-called 'junk DNA' in genome biology through a series of blog posts.

 The important understanding of how pathogens evolve throughout the course of a single infection, outbreak or even over hundreds of years is underpinned by he study of DNA itself. Michelle Ziegler from 'Contagions' gives us two amazing examples of how looking at Yersinia pestis (bacteria behind plague/black death) genes themselves can tell us so much about the history of it's disease outbreaks. She asks: Did India and China escape the black death? and discusses the recent full genome sequencing efforts from bacteria found in a UK plague grave site.

The Black Death (1347-1352) draws all the attention because of its scope and scale, the amount of evidence, and the intensity of its legend. In some parts of the world, legend is nearly all we have (or have so far). Although the scientific evidence points toward an Asian origin for Yersinia pestis, there is precious little documentary evidence of it in Asia before modern times (17th century onwards).

How can we stop these microorganisms causing death and disease?

MHC 1 pathway. Wikipedia.
Next we have Becky Ward over at 'It takes 30' in her post 'Windows on the cellular soul' discussing the applications of high-throughput mass spectrometry in understanding the systems biology of the MHC1 'immunopeptidome' (the 'natural' means of controlling infection) and what it tells us about what is going on inside the cell. Remember that these 'major histocompatability complexes' direct the immune response against intracellular bacteria, viruses and parasites.

One of the things we wonder about a lot in biology is what is going on inside a cell.  We have many ways to get at partial answers — Western blots, GFP fusions, transcriptional profiling, various proteomic techniques — and the number and power of these approaches is increasing. Here’s a new window on the internal state of a cell that makes use of a fundamental process of biology: the presentation of peptides by the class I MHC complex
Sometimes our own immune system can't beat the invaders, so we now have with two posts from Nsikan Akpan at 'That's BS. !!!' showcasing our medical fight against these disease-causing bacteria (Chlamydia vaccine) AND viruses (small molecule inhibitor of Ebola virus entry).

The days might be numbered for one of Africa’s most dangerous contagions – the Ebola virus. Two studies from the journal Nature have revealed how this virus breaks into our cells. Turns out that Ebola hitches a ride on a “cellular highway” normally reserved for cholesterol.

But lets remember, microbes aren't always bad:

And, to round it off, we have Suzanna Elvidge (at remembering Lynn Margulis following her recent death. Lynn put forward the theory of endosymbiosis in the establishment and evolution of eukaryotes from a prokaryotic assemblage while she also denied the role of HIV in AIDS. You win some, you lose some. 

Lynn Margulis (1938-2011). From Wikimedia.
So that's it for MolBio #17 over at Ruleof6ix. If you're interested in being a part of the next edition: submit your blog article using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

**The next edition will be out at
hosted by E.E. Giorgi and it'll be on the first Monday in January.

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