Yearbook 2017

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ABC transporters have many useful functions in insects, such as determining the coloration of the caterpillar body and the adult eye, and likely the detoxification of plant defense metabolites. But ABC transporters are also vulnerable to attack by toxins made by the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. The use of these toxins in transgenic crop plants sets up a new evolutionary conflict between benefits and costs of ABC transporters, that can help in the control of insect pests of agriculture. more
Materials which are subject to cyclic load, are often prone to fatigue and failure. An international team of scientists at the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung developed a new steel inspired by the laminated structure of bone and thus preventing crack propagation on the microscale which would lead to fatigue. more
The conversion of nitrogen to bioavailable ammonia is a process that is crucial for life on earth. In Nature, the nitrogenase family of enzymes is able to catalyze this conversion under ambient temperatures and pressures. Modifications of the nitrogenase enzyme also allow it to catalyze the reduction of carbon monoxide. more
Spontaneous activity patterns are strongly implicated in memory consolidation processes. Neuronal activity patterns and sensory responses depend strongly on behavioral state. Active behavioral states are associated with enhanced gain, the presence of fast cortical dynamics, and a reduction in spontaneous activity. Inactive behavioral states like sleep are associated with enhanced spontaneous activity, reduced response gain, and slow cortical dynamics that are temporally highly structured. These effects depend strongly on the activity of specific GABAergic interneurons. more
How can new genes evolve? It was long thought that this happens only through duplication and recombination of existing genes. An experimental evolution approach now shows that a large fraction of randomly composed protein sequences can positively or negatively influence the growth of cells. These results indicate how new genes can also arise out of non-coding sequences of the genome. Concurrently, this opens a practically unlimited source of new bioactive molecules for pharmacological and biotechnological applications. more
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