Fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) are used as model organisms for studying a variety of physiological functions. The fly tongue includes 68 so-called “gustatory receptors” (GRs) that play important roles in sensing sugars as well as bitter compounds. Nonetheless, determining which combination of GRs contributes to detecting a particular noxious compound remains difficult because they are composed of many subunits. Now, MCDB’s Craig Montell and colleagues have identified three fruit fly GRs required for a response to the noxious amino acid L-canavanine. The principal nonprotein amino acid of certain leguminous plants such as clover and alfalfa, L-canavanine is used as an insecticide and is toxic to fruit flies. The researchers’ findings appear in the journal Nature Communications.
Physiological processes in the body are in large part determined by the composition of secreted proteins found in the circulatory systems, including the blood. Each of the hundreds of proteins in the blood has a specific life span that determines its unique range of abundance. In fact, measurements of their quantities and activities contribute to many clinical diagnoses. However, the way in which normal protein concentrations in the blood are determined and maintained has been a mystery for decades. Biomedical scientists led by MCDB professor Jamey Marth have now discovered a mechanism by which secreted proteins age and turn over at the end of their life spans. Their findings, which shed light on a crucial aspect of health and disease, appear today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
An interdisciplinary team lead by MCDB professor Mike Mahan discovered an unexpected resistance mechanism in pathogenic bacteria that may warrant changes in the way antibiotics are developed, tested and prescribed. Their findings appear in the journal EBioMedicine.
An animal’s ability to perceive light incorporates many complex processes. Now, researchers in Craig Montell’s lab in the MCDB department have used fruit flies and mice to make novel discoveries about sensory physiology at both cellular and molecular levels that are important for light processing. Their most recent findings, which improve the scientific understanding of the signaling cascade necessary for phototransduction — the process by which light is converted into electrical signals in the photoreceptor cells in the retina of the eye — appear today in the journal Cell Reports.
MCDB professor Craig Montell is the recipient of a 2015 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Pioneer Award worth $500,000 per annum over five years. The Pioneer Award supports individual scientists of exceptional creativity, who propose pioneering and transforming approaches to major challenges in biomedical science.
Flashing calamari? The California market squid (Doryteuthis opalescens) has amazing light-manipulating abilities. While this species shares the gift of camouflage with most other cuttlefish, octopus and squid in the cephalopod family, it can also communicate and signal underwater through intricate changes in the patterns of color flashing from its skin.
Stem cells have a multitude of uses, not the least of which is to create tissue models that reflect human physiology. Such stem cell-derived models have enormous potential in research and application. One possible use, developed by a team of scientists led by MCDB professor James Thomson, involves reducing the number of drug failures in clinical trials and offering a cost-effective approach for assessing chemical safety.
Dr. Simpson was a Group Leader at HHMI/Janelia, and moved to UCSB in August of 2015. Her research focuses on mapping neural circuit in the fly brain that coordinate motor behaviors, such as grooming.
Medical research has yet to discover an Alzheimer’s treatment that effectively slows the disease’s progression, but neuroscientists at UC Santa Barbara may have uncovered a mechanism by which onset can be delayed by as much as 10 years. That mechanism is a gene variant — an allele — found in a part of the genome that controls inflammation. The variant appears to prevent levels of the protein eotaxin from increasing with age, which it usually does hand in hand with inflammation. The findings appear in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
It’s bacteria against bacteria, and one of them is going down. Researchers led by MDCB professor Chris Hayes have demonstrated how certain microbes exploit proteins in nearby bacteria to deliver toxins and kill them. The mechanisms behind this bacterial warfare, the researchers suggest, could be harnessed to target pathogenic bacteria. Their findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.