Salk Institute for Biological Studies - BIOCHEMISTRY AND BIOPHYSICS - News


Modeling the origins of life: New evidence for an “RNA World”

LA JOLLA—Charles Darwin described evolution as "descent with modification." Genetic information in the form of DNA sequences is copied and passed down from one generation to the next. But this process must also be somewhat flexible, allowing slight variations of genes to arise over time and introduce new traits into the population.

Salk scientists discover new target for reversible, non-hormonal male birth control

LA JOLLA—Surveys show most men in the United States are interested in using male contraceptives, yet their options remain limited to unreliable condoms or invasive vasectomies. Recent attempts to develop drugs that block sperm production, maturation, or fertilization have had limited success, providing incomplete protection or severe side effects. New approaches to male contraception are needed, but because sperm development is so complex, researchers have struggled to identify parts of the process that can be safely and effectively tinkered with.

Salk Fellows Program welcomes physicist Adam Bowman

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has appointed Adam Bowman to the Salk Fellows Program, where he will join current Salk Fellow Talmo Pereira. Joining in March 2024, Bowman is an applied physicist who develops new technologies for optical microscopy.

Revealing HIV drug-resistance mechanisms through protein structures

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute researchers, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, have discovered the molecular mechanisms by which the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) becomes resistant to Dolutegravir, one of the most effective, clinically used antiviral drugs for treating HIV.

Supplementation with amino acid serine eases neuropathy in diabetic mice

LA JOLLA—Approximately half of people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes experience peripheral neuropathy—weakness, numbness, and pain, primarily in the hands and feet. The condition occurs when high levels of sugar circulating in the blood damage peripheral nerves. Now, working with mice, Salk Institute researchers have identified another factor contributing to diabetes-associated peripheral neuropathy: altered amino acid metabolism.

Microprotein increases appetite in mice

LA JOLLA—Obesity and metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, are extremely common in the United States. Tiny proteins called microproteins have long been overlooked in research, but new evidence demonstrates that they have an important role in metabolism. Salk scientists have discovered that both brown and white fat is filled with thousands of previously unknown microproteins, and show that one of these microproteins, called Gm8773, can increase appetite in mice.

Salk scientists discover anti-inflammatory molecules that decline in the aging brain

LA JOLLA—Aging involves complicated plot twists and a large cast of characters: inflammation, stress, metabolism changes, and many others. Now, a team of Salk Institute and UC San Diego scientists reveal another factor implicated in the aging process—a class of lipids called SGDGs (3-sulfogalactosyl diacylglycerols) that decline in the brain with age and may have anti-inflammatory effects.

Imaging solves mystery of how large HIV protein functions to form infectious virus

LA JOLLA—Understanding how HIV replicates within cells is key for developing new therapies that could help nearly 40 million people living with HIV globally. Now, a team of scientists from the Salk Institute and Rutgers University have for the first time determined the molecular structure of HIV Pol, a protein that plays a key role in the late stages of HIV replication, or the process through which the virus propagates itself and spreads through the body. Importantly, determining the molecule’s structure helps answer longstanding questions about how the protein breaks itself apart to advance the replication process. The discovery, published in Science Advances on July 6, 2022, reveals a new vulnerability in the virus that could be targeted with drugs.

Salk scientists solve longstanding biological mystery of DNA organization

LA JOLLA—Stretched out, the DNA from all the cells in our body would reach Pluto. So how does each tiny cell pack a two-meter length of DNA into its nucleus, which is just one-thousandth of a millimeter across?