The protein SPEN plays a crucial role in the inactivation of the X-chromosome, whereby female mammalian embryos silence gene expression on one of their two X chromosomes. This new result from researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg and the Institut Curie in Paris reveals how SPEN targets and silences active genes on the X chromosome, providing important new insights into the molecular basis of X-inactivation.
Meanwhile, researchers led by Takumi Toru at the RIKEN Center for Brain Science and Tsurugizawa Tomokazu at NeuroSpin/CEA, have developed a new technique to conduct functional MRI (fMRI) scans on conscious mice. The team says it has already used its approach to detect brain network dysfunction and monitor neural responses to social cues in autism-model mice. One of the important results to come out of this work is that administrating D-cycloserine (DCS) was shown to have some success in correcting social behaviours.
It is hoped that this method of conducting fMRI on conscious mice could make it easier to bridge the gap between invasive research in disease-model animals and clinical research in humans, say the researchers.
And proof that fruit seeds can survive millennia: Following on from a 2008 study in which they first germinated a 1900 year-old date palm seed from a historical site near the Dead Sea, an international research team including scientists from the IRD in Montpelier has now planted a selection of well-preserved seeds in a research site in Kibbutz Ketura, drawing from a collection of hundreds of ancient date seeds plucked from archaeological sites between 1963 and 1991. These seeds are 2000 years old and were recovered in southern Israel between the Judean Hills and the Dead Sea.
Genetic information obtained from the findings confirm written accounts by classical writers and may provide insights into the highly sophisticated cultivation practices that contributed to the fruit’s legendary size, sweet taste and medicinal properties – properties that meant it was exported throughout the Roman Empire. Date palms are thought to be one of the earliest domesticated tree crops, with records suggesting their cultivation began about 7000 years ago. The Kingdom of Judea, which originated in the 11th century BC, was especially known for the quality of its dates, but the last remains of the region’s date plantations were wiped out by the 19th century.