We present here a lightly annotated list that includes most of our posts from the past half year.
Of Terms in Biology
We inaugurated this department in recent months. Terms in the spotlight so far:
- Eremacausis (here’s a new one for you)
- Metabolomics (its ins and outs)
- Obligate Parasite (which should have stirred a spirited controversy but barely did)
- Orthologs (to help you distinguish them from those other relations — paralogs)
- Panmictic (do you know this one?)
Question: Is this useful? Should we continue this?
The Microbe That Could Be Seen Epulopiscium, that leviathan among bacteria, yields some of the secrets of its gigantism. With hundreds of thousands of copies of some of its genes, no wonder it can make so much of itself!
What You Didn’t Know About Janthinobacterium Jenna Tabor-Godwin, Rhona Stuart, Rosa I. León Zayas, and Chitra Rajakuberan, students at San Diego State University and UC San Diego, tell us of a colorful bacterium that makes antibiotics that help its salamander host withstand fungal infection.
The Bacterium That Doesn't Know How To Tie Its Own Shoelaces Carsonella is an endosymbiont of insects. With a genome of 160 kb, it barely qualifies as a bacterium — but it’s not yet an organelle. Strange-looking, too.
A Hot Happy Couple The genome of Ignococcus hospitalis, the host to Nanoearchaeum equitans, has been sequenced, allowing a deep contemplation of the goings-on in this high temperature archaeal consortium.
Happy Together… Life of the Bacterial Consortium Chlorochromatium aggregatum Mark Martin regales us with thoughts and facts about this misnamed lake-dwelling consortium composed of a chemoheterotrophic motile bacterium surrounded by a cadre of green-sulfur bacterial epibionts.
The Two Faces of Photorhabdus This famed symbiont of nematodes is both a mutualist and a pathogen. It depends on which host you ask, the nematode or the insect. And it glows in the dark.
The View From Here
Constructing a Synthetic Mycoplasma Shmuel Razin recollected early thoughts on making a synthetic mycoplasma. Some things come around…
Horizontal Gene Transfer in Eukaryotic Evolution Patrick Keeling and Jeffrey Palmer discuss intriguing examples, exploring how they may have shaped the evolution of eukaryotes.
Emma Darwin With all the bicentennial hoopla, did Mrs. Darwin get a fair shake? A broader view is presented by Mercé Piqueras.
The Scandalous Bdelloid Rotifers Rare among metazoans, they lack sex. But they have engaged in frequent horizontal gene transfer, which may have something to do with their extreme resistance to drying and irradiation.
Viruses and the Tree of Life We reprinted Vincent Racaniello’s synopsis of a paper by Moreira and López-García that offered ten reasons why viruses should not be included in the Tree of Life.
The World is Pleiotropic Our sales pitch for the notion that most biological macromolecules are multifunctional, using ribosomal proteins as examples.
Coxiella Escapes from Cell! Coxiella burnetii, has been coaxed into growing in cell-free media. Scratch that one from the list of "obligate intracellular parasites."
A Pathogen's Swiss Army Knife Maren von Köckritz-Blickwede discusses staph’s Protein A, a multifunctional protein that does a number of things to thwart the immune system.
Killer Prophage for Hire Hydrogen peroxide made by pneumococci kills staphylococci by inducing their prophages.
30,000 Parasitoids Can't Be Wrong These wasps deposit their eggs within other insect’s larvae. Why are the eggs not killed? This raises the issue of when a virus-like particle is not a virus.
Say, Brother, Can You Spare a DNA? Does DNA obtained by transformation help gonococci mend their ROS-damaged genome? And how do they take up useable genes but exclude potentially damaging foreign DNA?
Collateral Damage Corals can be killed when folliculinid ciliates find them to be a convenient substrate on which to settle. No harm intended.
In the dark world of hydrothermal vents, bathymodiolin mussels are host to essential bacterial symbionts, but also to a γ-proteobacterium free-loader. This critter invades the nuclei of gill cells where it reproduces, at the expense of the cell.
No Phosphorus? No Problem! (There’s More Than One Way to Skin a Phytoplankton) Cyanobacteria and small marine eukaryotes make do with little phosphorus in their environment by making sulpholipids instead.
A Fly in the Frozen Custard 500,000 years is a long time to survive in glacial ice. But instead of being dormant, bacteria have been repairing their DNA all along. But were they actually frozen all that time?
The Secret Under the Ice We reprinted a fine piece from the Spanish blog of Manuel Sanchez, Curiosidades de la Microbiología, on the Antarctic "blood falls," a curious outpouring of bright red ferric iron-rich material, a by-product of the work of sulfate-reducing bacteria.
Odds & Ends
Music to the Tune of a Protein Do you want to translate a protein sequence into music? Ask Stephen Zielinski.
Acoustic Mimicry A rare non-microbial post. It’s about butterfly larvae that mimic the sounds made by queen ants.