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New roles for growth factors: Enticing nerve cells to muscles

La Jolla, CA – During embryonic development, nerve cells hesitantly extend tentacle-like protrusions called axons that sniff their way through a labyrinth of attractive and repulsive chemical cues that guide them to their target.

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Salk neurobiologist receives Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award

La Jolla, CA – Dr. Martyn Goulding, an associate professor in the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, has been awarded the prestigious Senator Jacob Javits Award in the Neurosciences for his groundbreaking research on the neural circuitry that coordinates walking movements.

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Salk and Stanford teams join forces to reveal two paths of neurodegeneration

La Jolla, CA – Wiring the developing brain is like creating a topiary garden. Shrubs don't automatically assume the shape of ornamental elephants, and neither do immature nerve cells immediately recognize the "right" target cell. Abundant foliage, either vegetal or neuronal, must first sprout and then be sculpted into an ordered structure.

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Connections between neurons act as information filters in the brain

La Jolla, CA – For the first time, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have demonstrated that cell-cell contacts in the brain play an active role in processing information: called synapses, these interfaces act as precise filters that sense and amplify meaningful information, Salk researchers report in the current issue of PLoS Biology, available online.

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Salk scientists get to the root of plant cell fate

La Jolla, CA – When Robert Burns compared his love to a red, red rose, he definitely wasn't referring to a topless mutant. That's because rather than being topped by a lovely, fragrant bloom, a rose mutant in the gene known as TOPLESS would be crowned by a homely second root.

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Bone marrow cells hand natural killer cells their license to attack dangerous invaders

La Jolla, CA – A collaboration between scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Pasteur Institute in Paris has uncovered the molecular signals that trigger maturation of natural killer cells, an important group of immune system cells, into fully armed killing machines. Their findings will be published in a forthcoming issue of Nature Immunology.

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Striking the right balance between excitation and inhibition

La Jolla, CA – Neurons in the brain and spinal cord come in two flavors, excitatory neurons that transmit and amplify signals, and inhibitory neurons that inhibit and refine those signals. Although investigators have long appreciated that these two classes of neurons exist in the central nervous system, little is known about how cells decide to become inhibitory or excitatory during embryonic development. Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have now uncovered a pathway that plays a central role in regulating this choice.

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Salk research suggests the existence of specialized neurons that distinguish swagger from sway

La Jolla, CA – It doesn't take John Wayne's deliberate, pigeon-toed swagger or Marilyn Monroe's famously wiggly sway to judge a person's gender based on the way they move. People are astonishingly accurate when asked to judge the gender of walking human figures, even when they are represented by 15 small dots of light attached to major joints of the body.

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Salk scientists untangle steroid hormone signaling in plants

La Jolla, CA – When given extra shots of the plant steroid brassinolide, plants "pump up" like major league baseball players do on steroids. Tracing brassinolide's signal deep into the cell's nucleus, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have unraveled how the growth-boosting hormone accomplishes its job at the molecular level.

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Neurons find their place in the developing nervous system with the help of a sticky molecule

La Jolla, CA – The brain, that exquisite network of billions of communicating cells, starts to take form with the genesis of nerve cells. Most newborn nerve cells, also called neurons, must travel from their birthplace to the position they will occupy in the adult brain. Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified a molecule expressed on the surface of certain migrating neurons that helps them find their correct position along on the way.

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