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La Jolla, CA – Scientists have identified three different signals that indicate damage to chloroplasts – the photosynthetic factories of plant cells that give plants their green color – but little is known about how the signal gets passed on to the nucleus. Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies made a big step towards explaining how chloroplasts let a cell's nucleus know when things start to go wrong at the periphery so nuclear gene expression can be adjusted accordingly.

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Associative memory: Learning at all levels

La Jolla, CA – "Green" means "go," but what does "red" mean? Just about everybody says "stop" since we all have learned to imbue certain colors with meaning (or we would be road kill by now). Long thought to be limited to higher levels of information processing, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies successfully traced this type of associative learning to early stages of the visual processing pathway.

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Plant size morphs dramatically as scientists tinker with outer layer

La Jolla, CA – Jack's magical beans may have produced beanstalks that grew and grew into the sky, but something about normal, run-of-the-mill plants limits their reach upward. For more than a century, scientists have tried to find out which part of the plant both drives and curbs growth: is it a shoot's outer waxy layer? Its inner layer studded with chloroplasts? Or the vascular system that moves nutrients and water? The answer could have great implications for modern agriculture, which desires a modern magical bean or two.

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Darwin's famous finches and Venter's marine microbes

La Jolla, CA – Although the Galápagos finches were to play a pivotal role in the inception of Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection, he had no inkling of their significance when he collected them during his voyage on the HMS Beagle.

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Insulin: in need of some restraint?

La Jolla, CA – Knocking out the gene for a peptide associated with insulin secretion protects mice against the harmful effects of a high-fat diet, report researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Their findings, detailed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that urocortin 3, a new peptide recently discovered in the insulin secreting cells of the pancreas, plays a role in the increased production of insulin in response to high caloric intake in animals.

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When it comes to "talent," size of brain components does matter – but bigger isn't necessarily better

La Jolla, CA – The ability to hit a baseball or play a piano well is part practice and part innate talent. One side of the equation required for skilled performances has its roots in the architecture of the brain genetically determined before birth, say scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Practice takes no explaining, just persistence.

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Neurons that detect motion rapidly switch between modes of data collection

La Jolla, CA – Form does follow function, as far as visual cortex neurons tasked with perceiving action are concerned. Far from being the static nerve cells researchers believed them to be, capable of performing only a single function, scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies found these neurons rapidly shift back and forth between two ways of collecting information about moving objects.

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Deconstructing brain wiring, one neuron at a time

La Jolla, CA – Researchers have long said they won't be able to understand the brain until they can put together a "wiring diagram" – a map of how billions of neurons are interconnected. Now, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have jumped what many believe to be a major hurdle to preparing that chart: identifying all of the connections to a single neuron.

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DNA ends: common tool, different job

La Jolla, CA – Every time a cell repairs or replicates its DNA, the resulting single strand is wrapped up by a dedicated protein complex. In eukaryotes or organisms whose cells have a nucleus, this job is handled by a tripartite complex called replication protein A (RPA). Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have now unearthed a novel RPA-like complex that specifically homes in on the short single-stranded DNA "tail" end of yeast chromosomes.

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FISH-ing for links between cancer and aging

La Jolla, CA – Wielding a palette of chromosome paints, scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have taken a step closer to understanding the relationship between aging and cancer by visualizing chromosomes of cells from patients with a heritable premature aging disease known as Werner Syndrome.

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