Blogs about biology

Sugarcane plant in Mozambique

An article published in the journal “Nature” reports the results of a high-quality sequencing of sugarcane DNA. The name generally refers to the Saccharum officinarum species but actually, the cultivars are hybrids with the Saccharum spontaneum species, sometimes called wild sugarcane. The polyploid sugarcane genome has become one of the most complex known, which is why it’s been so difficult to completely sequence. Now a team of researchers combined different genetic techniques to obtain the genome of the variety referred to as R570, a typically modern cultivar.

Fruit of Arabica coffee

An article published in the journal “Nature Communications” reports the results of a new DNA sequencing of Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) which allowed the identification of various aberrations and genetic diversity. A team of researchers from the University of Udine and the Institute of Applied Genomics (istituto di Genomica applicata, Iga) also in Udine, Italy, used the most advanced genetic techniques to obtain details superior to those of the analyzes conducted in previous years. There’s a commercial purpose because this genetic study was conducted in collaboration with two big Italian producers – Illycaffè and Lavazza – but it’s important to know in depth the DNA of Arabica coffee and also to face the dangers deriving from diseases and climate change.

Southlakia epibionticum, a type of Patescibacteria, growing on the surface of much larger, orange microbes. (Image courtesy Yaxi Wang, Wai Pang Chan and Scott Braswell/University of Washington)

An article published in the journal “Cell” reports the results of the use of genetic manipulation to study the behavior of some bacteria belonging to a large group called Patescibacteria. A team of researchers managed to manipulate the DNA of bacteria belonging to the phylum Saccharibacteria, which is part of that large group, which is considered microbial dark matter for the difficulties biologists had in studying them. These are bacteria discovered not many years ago that are now considered interesting for their metabolic characteristics, which for example, may include enzymes useful in biotechnological applications.

The structure of the various groups of archaea resulting from this study with eukaryotes as part of this taxonomic domain

An article published in the journal “Nature” reports the results of a genetic study on the archaea Asgard that expands the genetic diversity of this group of microorganisms and concludes that the taxonomic order Hodarchaeales is the one most closely related to eukaryotes, the organisms that make up all forms of multicellular life on Earth. A team of researchers conducted a genetic analysis of Asgard archaea from samples collected at 11 locations around the world in a genomic research using state-of-the-art analysis techniques. The conclusion is that eukaryotes constitute a group within the Asgard archaea, from which they may have directly evolved.

An Asgard archaeon of the proposed species Lokiarchaeum ossiferum

An article published in the journal “Nature” reports a study on archaea that belong to the proposed superphylum called Asgard and in particular on their characteristics that make them a possible evolutionary missing link with eukaryotes. A team of researchers formed by the collaboration of the working groups of Christa Schleper of the Austrian University of Vienna and Martin Pilhofer of ETH Zurich was successful in cultivating a species belonging to this group of microorganisms to study them in the laboratory. This allowed conducting thorough examinations of their cellular structures such as the extensive cytoskeleton.