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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Beyond nature vs. nurture: Williams syndrome across cultures

La Jolla, CA – Nobody questions that the color of our eyes is encoded in our genes. When it comes to behavior the concept of "DNA as fate" quickly breaks down – it's been long accepted that both genes and the environment shape human behavior. But just how much sway the environment holds over our genetic destiny has been difficult to untangle.


National Academy of Sciences honors Joe Ecker with Carty Award

La Jolla, CA – The National Academy of Sciences has selected Joseph R. Ecker, professor in the Plant Biology Laboratory and director of the Salk Institute Genomic Analysis Laboratory, to receive the 2007 John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science "for contributions in the areas of ethylene signal transduction and Arabidopsis genomics that have paved the way for a revolution in modern agriculture."


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