In 1943, Luria and Delbrück used a phage-resistance assay to establish spontaneous mutation as a driving force of microbial diversity. Mutation rates are still studied using such assays, but these can only be used to examine the small minority of mutations conferring survival in a particular condition. Newer approaches, such as long-term evolution followed by whole-genome sequencing, may be skewed by mutational ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ spots. Both approaches are affected by numerous caveats. Here we devise a method, maximum-depth sequencing (MDS), to detect extremely rare variants in a population of cells through error-corrected, high-throughput sequencing. We directly measure locus-specific mutation rates in Escherichia coli and show that they vary across the genome by at least an order of magnitude. Our data suggest that certain types of nucleotide misincorporation occur 104-fold more frequently than the basal rate of mutations, but are repaired in vivo. Our data also suggest specific mechanisms of antibiotic-induced mutagenesis, including downregulation of mismatch repair via oxidative stress, transcription–replication conflicts, and, in the case of fluoroquinolones, direct damage to DNA.
A new and inexpensive technique for mass-producing the main ingredient in the most effective treatment for malaria, artemisinin, could help meet global demands for the drug... Artemisinin is produced in low yields by a herb called Artemisia annua (A. annua)... Researchers... discovered a new way to produce artemisinic acid, the molecule from which artemisinin is derived, in high yields. Their method involves transferring its metabolic pathway... into tobacco, a high-biomass crop.
“Malaria is a devastating tropical disease that kills almost half a million people every year... For the foreseeable future, artemisinin will be the most powerful weapon in the battle against malaria but, due to its extraction from low-yielding plants, it is currently too expensive to be widely accessible to patients in poorer countries. Producing artemisinic acid in a crop such as tobacco, which yields large amounts of leafy biomass, could provide a sustainable and inexpensive source of the drug, making it more readily available for those who need it most”...
Although further increases in these production levels will be needed if global demand for artemisinin is to be met, the study lays the foundation for much cheaper production of this life-saving therapy in a high-biomass crop, in contrast to a single medicinal plant. It also provides a new tool for engineering many other complex pathways, with the potential to increase production of other essential therapeutic ingredients.
Each year, staple crops around the world suffer massive losses in yield owing to the destruc- tive effects of pathogens. Improving the disease resistance of crops by boosting their immunity has been a key objective of agricultural bio- tech ever since the discovery of plant immune receptors in the 1990s. Nucleotide-binding leucine-rich repeat (NLR) proteins, a family of intracellular immune receptors that recog- nize pathogen molecules, are promising targets for enhancing pathogen resistance. In a recent paper in Science, Kim et al.1 describe a clever twist on this approach in which the host target protein for the pathogen effector is engineered rather than the NLR protein itself (Fig. 1).
"Identifying and quantifying planetary boundaries that must not be transgressed could help prevent human activities from causing unacceptable environmental change, argue Johan Rockström and colleagues."
In February 2016, a new fungal disease was spotted in wheat fields across eight districts in Bangladesh. The epidemic spread to an estimated 15,741 hectares, about 16% of cultivated wheat area in Bangladesh, with yield losses reaching up to 100%. Within weeks of the onset of the epidemic, we performed transcriptome sequencing of symptomatic leaf samples collected directly from Bangladeshi fields. Population genomics analyses revealed that the outbreak was caused by a wheat-infecting South American lineage of the blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae. We show that genomic surveillance can be rapidly applied to monitor plant disease outbreaks and provide valuable information regarding the identity and origin of the infectious agent.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a public database for clinical data on cancer on Monday that aims to help researchers and doctors better tailor new treatments to individuals. Since taking on the cancer issue last year, Biden has repeatedly argued that confining data within institutions has hampered cancer research, with scientists and medical companies reluctant to share proprietary information. [...] cancer research institutions have significant data-sharing arrangements in place, although Biden and other critics say it's too limited and not happening early enough in the process.
Siemens and Airbus teamed up today to develop electric and hybrid electric/combustion engines for commercial and private aircraft. The companies said they would amass a joint development team of about 200 employees that would jointly develop prototypes for various propulsion systems with power classes ranging from a few 100 kilowatts up to 10 and more megawatts, for short, local trips with aircraft below 100 seats, helicopters or unmanned aircraft up to classic short and medium-range flights.
Plants have a sophisticated innate immune system with which they defend themselves against a myriad of pathogens. During the past two decades, work in a range of species has advanced our knowledge of the molecular and biochemical details of plant immunity. Many of these studies have focused on the action of nucleotide-binding domain/leucine-rich repeat (NB-LRR or NLR) immune receptors. NLR genes constitute the most diverse gene family in plants, reflecting their role in perceiving a very diverse set of molecules that are released by pathogens. There has also been progress in unraveling the forces that drive diversification of NLR and non-NLR immune receptors in wild species. A major recent insight from mechanistic and evolutionary studies is that there is both cooperation and conflict in the plant immune system. Here, we propose that these two antagonistic forces are inherently entangled, and that they are potentially fundamental to our understanding of growth-defense trade-offs.
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