Monday, December 21, 2009

“Chameleon sequences’’, “surveying the human microbiota” and more, in my picks of the week from RB

Another week has gone by and some very interesting molbio blog posts have been aggregated to Every week [see my opening post on the matter], I'll select some blog posts I consider particularly interesting in the field of molecular biology [see here to get a sense of the criteria that will be used], briefly describe them and list them here for you to check out.

Note that I'm only taking into consideration the molbio-related blog posts aggregated under "Biology".

Congratulations to everyone who got their post selected.

1) Cancer is a complex genetic disorder and emerging genomic technologies have enabled us to scan entire cancer genomes for mutations that may be associated with this disease.

Keith Robison at Omics Omics! discusses two recent papers on this matter. The first, using massively parallel sequencing technology , reports the sequencing of “a small-cell lung cancer cell line, NCI-H209, to explore the mutational burden associated with tobacco smoking” and the second one, reports the genome sequencing of a malignant melanoma and a lymphoblastoid cell line from the same person, “providing the first comprehensive catalogue of somatic mutations from an individual cancer”.

These papers are in line with emerging results suggesting that cancer genomes are composed of a few commonly mutated genes and many infrequently mutated ones.

2) Can a single amino acid substitution, in the right context, completely change the fold of a protein? What may be the implications of this for the evolution of protein structure over biological time?
Michael Clarkson at Discount Thoughts comments on a recent PNAS paper that suggests that we are still far from having “a complete quantitative understanding of protein structures and their transitions”.

Be sure to check this blog post and the cited article (it’s Open Access!).

3) The human body hosts complex and tremendously diverse microbial communities. Geek! discusses a new Science article reporting an intensive survey of human-associated bacterial communities using a multiplexed barcoded pyrosequencing approach, with the aim of addressing three general questions regarding the biogeography of the human microbiota in healthy adults:

How is bacterial diversity partitioned across body habitats, people, and time?
How does diversity at a variety of skin locales compare to that found in other body habitats?
Do skin communities assemble differently at different sites?

Apparently, each of us has our own “microbial signature”.

That's it for this week. Stay tuned for more MolBio Research Highlights!

ResearchBlogging.orgSome of the articles discussed in this week's selected posts:

Pleasance, E., Stephens, P., O’Meara, S., McBride, D., Meynert, A., Jones, D., Lin, M., Beare, D., Lau, K., Greenman, C., Varela, I., Nik-Zainal, S., Davies, H., Ordoñez, G., Mudie, L., Latimer, C., Edkins, S., Stebbings, L., Chen, L., Jia, M., Leroy, C., Marshall, J., Menzies, A., Butler, A., Teague, J., Mangion, J., Sun, Y., McLaughlin, S., Peckham, H., Tsung, E., Costa, G., Lee, C., Minna, J., Gazdar, A., Birney, E., Rhodes, M., McKernan, K., Stratton, M., Futreal, P., & Campbell, P. (2009). A small-cell lung cancer genome with complex signatures of tobacco exposure Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature08629

Alexander, P., He, Y., Chen, Y., Orban, J., & Bryan, P. (2009). From the Cover: A minimal sequence code for switching protein structure and function Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106 (50), 21149-21154 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0906408106

Costello, E., Lauber, C., Hamady, M., Fierer, N., Gordon, J., & Knight, R. (2009). Bacterial Community Variation in Human Body Habitats Across Space and Time Science, 326 (5960), 1694-1697 DOI: 10.1126/science.1177486

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