Layered Liquids – reaction chambers for gene regulation
A marvel of complexity, the nucleus is the command center of the cell – harboring information, codes and controlled access. But different from man-made command centers, the nuclear interior looks chaotic to the eye of a scientist. Chromosomes, the carriers of genetic information, float amidst a sea of water, proteins, nucleic acids and other molecules, all engaged in a myriad of simultaneous reactions. These reactions have one major goal: to turn genes on and off at the right time and place. This process is called gene regulation and makes a brain cell look and act different from a muscle cell or a liver cell.
Frameshifts could be evolutionary shortcuts to create novel proteins
Frameshifts occur when the reading frame in which genetic information is translated is perturbed. Textbook knowledge considers frameshifts to be dangerous as they typically result in altered protein sequences, which are frequently also truncated. Recent research from the lab of Bojan Zagrovic shows that even though frameshifts change the protein sequence, several of its important physicochemical properties stay the same. The results point to a possible new role for frameshifts: They may be a conserved strategy for evolution to create novel protein sequences with already optimized physicochemical properties.
Selma Osmanagic-Myers is Researcher of the Month at the Medical University of Vienna
The Medical University of Vienna has nominated Selma Osmanagic-Myers as Researcher of the Month March 2020 for her paper „Endothelial progerin expression causes cardiovascular pathology through an impaired mechanoresponse”. In this work, published in 2018 in the renowned journal “JCI”, she showed that endothelial cells of progeria patients fail to cope with the mechanic stress caused by bloodflow. This activates signaling mechanisms that lead to cardiovascular diseases. Selma studied biochemistry in Vienna and later joined the lab of Roland Foisner at the Max Perutz Labs as a Postdoc. She just recently moved to the Center of Pathobiochemistry and Genetics at the Medical University where she will continue her work on the impact of aging on endothelial cells, especially in the premature aging disease Hutchison Gilford Progeria.
Mechanism of inactivation of the tumor suppressor PP2A: an illusion shattered by reality
Protein Phosphatase 2 (PP2A) is an enzyme that plays important roles in regulating cell proliferation and by that has been shown to be a tumor suppressor. Inactivation of PP2A has been observed in many diseases including cancer. Egon Ogris and his team have now found out that the prevailing model of PP2A inactivation by phosphorylation needs to be revised. Notably, decades of research on the tumor suppressive function of PP2A were based on antibodies that - as it turns out now - do not recognize phosphorylation but are rather blocked by a completely different post-translational modification.
VBC PhD student Anete Romanauska wins Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award
The Weintraub Student Award is one of the most prestigious and competitive international student awards recognizing “outstanding achievement during graduate studies in biological sciences”. Anete Romanauska, PhD student in Alwin Köhler’s lab, has been selected as one of twelve students from around the globe in 2020. The award is sponsored by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
DOC Fellowships for PhD students Christina Manakanatas and Laura Santini
The Austrian Academy of Sciences has awarded DOC Fellowships for highly qualified doctoral candidates to students Christina Manakanatas from the lab of Roland Foisner and Laura Santini from Martin Leeb’s group. The fellowship will fund their projects in the fields of stem cell research and the mechanism of the premature ageing disease Hutchinson Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS).
Fungal pathogens tap human iron stores to survive immunity
Infections by human fungal pathogens cause about 1.5 million deaths each year – interfering with iron utilization in the fungus promises new therapeutic approaches. Candida species, the most prevalent opportunistic human fungal pathogens, affect severely immunocompromised individuals, and can cause severe invasive infections. The steep increase in infections by multidrug-resistant Candida glabrata pathogens has been posing serious therapeutic challenges. The prime risk factor for Candida infections is a severe immunosuppression, as often seen in the ageing population, microbial super-infections, organ transplantation patients, HIV cohorts as well as neonates.
How bacteria sense and adjust cell envelope precursors
Bacteria are masters of survival that manage to thrive under often hostile environments. One trick to their survival is their safeguarding envelope. Gram-negative bacteria are protected by a three-layer cell envelope composed of a cell wall sandwiched between two membranes. This structure protects the bacteria from harmful compounds including many antibiotics, which cannot cross this barrier. Boris Görke’s lab has now found out that in Escherichia coli an RNA binding protein senses and regulates synthesis of an important precursor of the bacterial cell envelope.
Calibrating the tools of life scientists: Antibodies
Researchers employ a variety of methods and tools in their day to day work. They rely on that these tools work as they are supposed to. Two new papers from the lab of Egon Ogris now show that several antibodies recognizing the enzyme PP2A, and an antibody widely used in a technique called Myc tagging lack the precision for their intended tasks. Their findings published in “Science Signaling” show that this and other Myc tag antibodies yield inconsistent results depending on the molecular surrounding of the tag, and that antibodies recognizing PP2A often prove to be unsuitable for measuring the activity of this enzyme.
How to pack your genetic suitcase – WWTF grant on chromosome folding awarded
Max Perutz Labs group leader Shotaro Otsuka was awarded a “Life Science” grant by the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF). This project is a collaboration, led by Daniel Gerlich from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA), which seeks to unravel the mechanistic basis for how chromatin is condensed into chromosomes during mitosis. The grant is endowed with 700.000 Euros.
Moonstruck worms: how lunar cycles affect metabolic decisions
All organisms need to adjust their energy consumption in response to internal and external signals, thereby allocating energy to growth, reproduction or rest. Florian Raible’s team at the Max Perutz Labs has shed light on how the marine bristle worm Platynereis dumerilii makes key metabolic decisions in response to developmental and environmental cues. Their study is published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS)”.
Austrian Science Fund awards funding for stem cell and RNA research projects
Max Perutz Labs group leaders Kristin Tessmar-Raible, Florian Raible and Arndt von Haeseler are part of a special research programme (SFB) grant, awarded by the Austrian Science Fund. The research network will work on stem cell modulation in neural development and regeneration. Congratulations also to Javier Martinez who is part of the “RNA-DECO” special research programme. These grants are the second and third SFBs awarded to scientists from the Max Perutz Labs and the Vienna BioCenter this December.