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New Articles in PLOS Biology

PUBLISHED: July 01, 2022 to July 31, 2022

Editorial

Mendel's legacy in modern genetics

A new collection of articles celebrating the bicentennial of Gregor Mendel's birth discuss his life, work and legacy in modern-day genetic research.

Perspectives

Johann Gregor Mendel: Born to be a scientist?

Johann Gregor Mendel, born 200 years ago, was supposed to be a farmer, intended to be a teacher and became a priest, before becoming the researcher associated with genetics we know today. This Perspective looks at his life through his own words.

Gregor Mendel's legacy in quantitative genetics

Mendel's discovery of the laws of segregation and independent assortment and inference of the existence of non-Mendelian interactions between loci are at the heart of modern explorations of the genetic architecture of quantitative traits.

The deceptive simplicity of mendelian genetics

Gregor Mendel meticulously uncovered the genetic basis of heredity in work that transformed the science of biology. But does the alluring simplicity of Mendel's laws sometimes obscure the true complexity of genetics?

What can we learn from selfish loci that break Mendel's law?

Exceptions to Mendel's law of segregation were important for demonstrating that chromosomes carry genetic material. Scrutiny of other exceptional inheritance patterns has the potential to unravel unsolved mysteries of genetics.

Primers

Neurons contribute to pathology in a mouse model of Krabbe disease in a cell-autonomous manner

This Primer explores the implications of a PLOS Biology study showing that in vivo, neurons (not only myelinating glia) are primary effectors of disease progression in Krabbe disease; the neuron-specific animal model described allows an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the neuronal-autonomous component of this disorder.

Reptile research shows new avenues and old challenges for extinction risk modelling

This Primer explores the implications of a new PLOS Biology study that presents an innovative method for estimating extinction risk in reptile species worldwide; this method represents a promising avenue to support Red List assessment, alongside some well-known challenges.

How sex chromosomes get trapped into nonrecombination

We know that suppression of recombination leads to degeneration of Y chromosomes, but it has remained difficult to understand how features with such strong negative effects actually arise. This Primer explores a new model published in PLOS Biology that reveals how this could happen.

Enzymes flying under the radar: Cryptic METTL3 can persist in knockout cells

The presence of the RNA modification m6A in the mRNA of METTL3 knockout cells has long been a contentious point. This Primer explores the implications of a PLOS Biology study revealing that alternatively spliced, catalytically active METTL3 isoforms persist in cells previously thought to lack the enzyme.

Expanding the epitranscriptome: Dihydrouridine in mRNA

Nucleotide modifications can markedly influence mRNA processing and metabolism. This Primer explores two new studies, one in PLOS Biology, showing that ~130 yeast mRNAs contain dihydrouridine, a derivative of uridine. Functional studies show that dihydrouridine, in some cases, can affect mRNA splicing.

Sweet sensors support stressed cell survival

Gustatory receptors on sensory neurons have a well established role in chemosensation. This Primer explores the implications of a PLOS Biology study revealing that a gustatory receptor gene cluster has an unexpected role in regulating cell survival during proteotoxic stress.

The path of voices in our brain

Categorising voices is crucial for auditory-based social interactions. This Primer explores a PLOS Biiology study that capitalises on human intracranial recordings to describe the spatiotemporal pattern of neural activity leading to voice-selective responses in associative auditory cortex.

Essays

Selfish centromeres and the wastefulness of human reproduction

Why do so many human embryos have the wrong number of chromosomes? So-called 'selfish centromeres' and the fact that new embryos can be produced may provide an answer.

Turning promise into practice: Crop biotechnology for increasing genetic diversity and climate resilience

Will gene editing contribute to improved crop diversity and climate resilience? In this Essay, the authors look at lessons from past biotechnology efforts to inform action for the future.

Consensus View

Recommendations for empowering early career researchers to improve research culture and practice

Around the world, early-career researchers are working to improve research culture and practice by addressing systemic challenges. This consensus statement provides expert guidance for individuals involved in these projects, and stakeholders who wish to empower the next generation of scientific leadership.

Unsolved Mystery

If amyloid drives Alzheimer disease, why have anti-amyloid therapies not yet slowed cognitive decline?

Evidence suggests that an imbalance between production and clearance of amyloid-beta is an early, invariant feature of Alzheimer disease that drives its neuronal and glial pathology and precedes cognitive symptoms. So why are we still unable to slow cognitive decline with anti-amyloid therapies?

Research Articles

Neuron-specific ablation of the Krabbe disease gene galactosylceramidase in mice results in neurodegeneration

Krabbe disease is a demyelinating neurodegenerative disorder caused by a deficiency of the enzyme lysosomal galactosylceramidase (GALC), which results in the accumulation of galactosylceramide and psychosine. This study uses a novel neuron-specific knockout model in the first in vivo attempt to investigate the role of neuronal GALC in neuronal function and the etiology of Krabbe disease.

Differential activation of a frontoparietal network explains population-level differences in statistical learning from speech

In the context of speech, statistical learning is thought to be an important mechanism for language acquisition. This study shows that language statistical learning is boosted by the recruitment of a fronto-parietal brain network related to auditory-motor synchronization and its interplay with a mandatory auditory-motor learning system.

Neural dynamics differentially encode phrases and sentences during spoken language comprehension

Speech is meaningful because our brains add the structure of language to the physical input of speech. This study shows that the brain uses ongoing temporal dynamics to encode syntactic structure, and that this is measurable even when the speech input is nearly physically identical yet different structures are perceived.

A Krüppel-like factor is required for development and regeneration of germline and yolk cells from somatic stem cells in planarians

This study shows that a Krüppel-like factor is expressed in germline and yolk cell progenitors of planaria, and is required both for gametogenesis and vitellogenesis. Shared regulatory mechanisms between germline and yolk cell lineages support a common evolutionary origin for flatworm germ cells and yolk cells.

The ciliopathy protein CCDC66 controls mitotic progression and cytokinesis by promoting microtubule nucleation and organization

The ciliopathy-linked protein CCDC66 is only known for its ciliary functions. This study reveals that CCDC66 also has extensive non-ciliary functions, localizing to the spindle poles, spindle midzone, central spindle and midbody throughout cell division, where it regulates mitosis and cytokinesis by promoting microtubule nucleation and organization.

Sheltering of deleterious mutations explains the stepwise extension of recombination suppression on sex chromosomes and other supergenes

Many organisms have sex chromosomes with large non-recombining regions that have expanded stepwise, but the reasons for this remain poorly understood. This study shows that a theoretical model based on the sheltering of recessive deleterious mutations by permanently heterozygous alleles can explain the formation and extension of non-recombining regions in sex chromosomes and supergenes.

LiCl-induced sickness modulates rat gustatory cortical responses

Sickness is an internal state that impacts consumption, and so could be expected to influence the neural processing of tastes. This study shows that onset of illness changes basic properties of gustatory cortical network processing and taste responses, such that activity comes more purely to reflect the "goodness" or "badness" of tastes.

Expanded ACE2 dependencies of diverse SARS-like coronavirus receptor binding domains

Knowing which viruses are primed for zoonotic transmission can focus surveillance efforts and mitigation strategies for future pandemics. This study shows that SARS-like coronaviruses identified in bats from Europe and Africa can use a range of horseshoe bat ACE2s for entry. In addition, viruses found in Russia and Kenya also have the ability to at least weakly use human ACE2.

Genome-wide functional analysis reveals key roles for kinesins in the mammalian and mosquito stages of the malaria parasite life cycle

A comprehensive study reveals that kinesins in the malaria parasite Plasmodium have diverse cellular roles and locations, including functions in spindle assembly during proliferation, axoneme formation in flagellum biogenesis, and determining the apical morphology of the cell.

Discovery Reports

Critically ill COVID-19 patients with neutralizing autoantibodies against type I interferons have increased risk of herpesvirus disease

Autoantibodies that neutralize the antiviral action of type I interferons are associated with predisposition to severe COVID-19. This study shows that this deficiency in the interferon system is associated with a heightened risk of herpesvirus disease in critically ill patients infected with SARS-CoV-2.

The Gr64 cluster of gustatory receptors promotes survival and proteostasis of epithelial cells in Drosophila

GR64 genes are a cluster of neuronally expressed gustatory receptors normally involved in taste sensation in Drosophila melanogaster. This study reveals a surprising role for these receptors in regulating proteostasis and cell survival in epithelial cells exposed to proteotoxic stress.

Short Reports

Alternative splicing of METTL3 explains apparently METTL3-independent m6A modifications in mRNA

The modification m6A remains in mRNA after METTL3 depletion, suggesting that other m6A methyltransferases exist. This study investigates METTL3 knockouts, finding that they often escape knockout by expressing functional METTL3 hypomorphs, and demonstrating that METTL3 is indeed responsible for most m6A in mRNA.

Neural responses in human superior temporal cortex support coding of voice representations

Voice perception occurs via specialized networks in higher order auditory cortex, but how voice features are encoded remains a central unanswered question. Using human intracerebral recordings of auditory cortex, this study provides evidence for categorical encoding of voice.

Methods and Resources

Histologically resolved multiomics enables precise molecular profiling of human intratumor heterogeneity

The composition and spatial distribution of cells in the tumor microenvironment play a critical role in both disease progression and diagnosis. This study presents a new platform that combines label-free histology with genomic analysis, allowing spatially resolved characterization of genomic and transcriptomic heterogeneity in human oral squamous cell carcinoma.

Sticky Pi is a high-frequency smart trap that enables the study of insect circadian activity under natural conditions

This study presents Sticky Pi, an open-source smart insect trap that automatically identifies and times wild insect capture; it can be deployed in a decentralised manner and at a large scale to monitor and model insect populations in the field, for example, to study the circadian activity patterns within an insect community.

Estimating the transfer rates of bacterial plasmids with an adapted Luria'Delbrück fluctuation analysis

Plasmid transfer can often spread resistance between important clinical pathogens. This study shows that widely used methods can lead to biased estimates of plasmid transfer rate by several orders of magnitude, and presents a new approach, inspired by the classic Luria-Delbrück approach, for accurately assessing this fundamental rate parameter.

Correction

Correction: The Aedes aegypti siRNA pathway mediates broad-spectrum defense against human pathogenic viruses and modulates antibacterial and antifungal defenses

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