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Volume 6 Issue 10, October 2010

Structural and functional diversity are observed throughout biology. This polarizing microscope image of chiral liquid crystal nuclei emerging from an isotropic melt provides a stunning display of how spatial and structural heterogeneity can emerge from seemingly homogenous conditions. In the dark background, there is no order. As nuclei form, the details of the molecular arrangements change depending on phase and from one nucleus to another, with parallel alignments of the molecules creating a twist that can either be suppressed or developed into a periodic stripe pattern. Cover art by Erin Dewalt, based on an original image provided by Bohdan Senyuk and Oleg D. Lavrentovich (Liquid Crystal Institute, Kent State University).

Volume 6 Issue 10

Editorial

  • The search for mechanisms and meaning within structurally and functionally diverse systems requires different expectations and approaches.

    Editorial

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Commentary

  • Biological messiness relates to infidelity, heterogeneity, stochastic noise and variation—both genetic and phenotypic—at all levels, from single proteins to organisms. Messiness comes from the complexity and evolutionary history of biological systems and from the high cost of accuracy. For better or for worse, messiness is inherent to biology. It also provides the raw material for physiological and evolutionary adaptations to new challenges.

    • Dan S Tawfik
    Commentary
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Elements

  • A polymer scientist explores and exploits the heterogeneity of natural biopolymers.

    • Catherine Goodman
    Elements
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Research Highlights

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News & Views

  • Iron-sulfur (Fe-S) clusters are among nature's simplest and most versatile agents of electron transfer. Remarkably, their biological assembly involves an obligatory electron transfer event. It is now revealed that parallel but distinct electron transfer pathways are separately required for compartment-specific Fe-S protein maturation.

    • Patricia C Dos Santos
    • Dennis R Dean
    News & Views
  • Mutually exclusive post-translational modifications of flap endonuclease 1 (FEN1) regulate its binding to proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) and govern its various modes of DNA interaction during DNA replication and repair.

    • Judith L Campbell
    News & Views
  • Spider dragline silk is an incredibly tough elastomer, but it is also very elastic. Recent work has demonstrated how the mechanical properties of spider silk and other natural elastomers can be mimicked to produce artificial protein-based fibers with great potential for industrial applications.

    • Wolfgang A Linke
    News & Views
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Review Article

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Article

  • Secretion of strigolactone from plant roots mediates mutualistic fungal interactions but also facilitates parasitic plant invasion. A screen in Arabidopsis thaliana has identified compounds that perturb strigolactone levels and link this hormone to light signaling pathways in host plants.

    • Yuichiro Tsuchiya
    • Danielle Vidaurre
    • Peter McCourt
    Article
  • Iron-sulfur clusters are essential components of many proteins and are assembled in a hierarchical pathway. Tah18 is a diflavin reductase that transfers electrons to the [2Fe-2S] cluster of Dre2 in an early step of iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis in the cytoplasm of eukaryotes.

    • Daili J A Netz
    • Martin Stümpfig
    • Roland Lill
    Article
  • Structure-specific flap endonuclease 1 (FEN1) is known to interact with multiple nuclear proteins involved in DNA metabolism. Arginine methylation in FEN1 blocks phosphorylation of a nearby serine and enhances FEN1 binding to PCNA, which serves to channel FEN1 toward DNA replication and repair pathways.

    • Zhigang Guo
    • Li Zheng
    • Binghui Shen
    Article
  • Polymerase exclusion of ribonucleotides during DNA replication is imperfect. New data indicate that DNA polymerase ϵ incorporates into DNA ribonucleotides that are repaired by an RNase H2–dependent process and that defective repair results in replicative stress and genome instability.

    • Stephanie A Nick McElhinny
    • Dinesh Kumar
    • Thomas A Kunkel
    Article
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Corrigendum

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Erratum

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Focus

  • Chemical biologists are asking and answering molecular level questions that expand our awareness and understanding of structural and functional variation. In this issue, we feature profiles, opinions and guides that highlight the complexity of the natural world.

    Focus
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