Highlights Health and Environment

Scents of mycorrhizal fungi have a stimulating effect on root growth
Scents of mycorrhizal fungi have a stimulating effect on root growth

Environmental Consequences of Ballast Water Disinfection

The electrochemical disinfection of ballast water discharge from ships creates numerous potentially harmful disinfection by-products. One of the first comprehensive analyses using high-resolution mass spectrometry showed that the treatment led to the formation of more than 450 new compounds whose toxicological properties have not yet been fully clarified. Ballast water from ships is physically filtered or chemically treated before it is discharged in coastal waters to prevent the transfer of microorganisms across the ocean ecosystems.

Michael Gonsior et al.: Bromination of Marine Dissolved Organic Matter Following Full Scale Electrochemical Ballast Water Disinfection. Environmental Science & Technology 49 (2015) |  doi: 10.1021/acs.est.5b01474

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Adverse Effect of Ship Emissions on Lungs

In the course of industrialization, emissions of exhaust fumes from combustion processes that adversely affect our lungs have increased. Especially inhabitants of coastal regions suffer from the particle emissions from ship engines. A large-scale study has investigated exactly how these particle emissions affect lung cells and how the various fuels differ from each other. As practical measure, the researchers recommend reducing particulate emission by means of exhaust filters.

Sebastian Oeder et al.: Particulate Matter from Both Heavy Fuel Oil and Diesel Fuel Shipping Emissions Show Strong Biological Effects on Human Lung Cells at Realistic and Comparable In Vitro Exposure Conditions. PLOS One 10 (2015) | doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0126536

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Effect of Low-Dose Radiation on Cells

Even very low doses of ionizing radiation can have far stronger adverse effects on cells than previously thought. Researchers have detected processes that substantiate this in the metabolism of irradiated cells. In particular, the overexpression of one RNA gene in the group of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) regulates the response of cells to low-dose levels of ionizing radiation.

Valerie Bríd O’Leary et al.:  PARTICLE, a Triplex-Forming Long ncRNA, Regulates Locus-Specific Methylation in Response to Low-Dose Irradiation. Cell reports 11 (2015) | doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2015.03.043 More information

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Behavior and Stability of Nanoparticles in the Body

Medical science is placing high hopes on nanoparticles, because they could be used as a vehicle for targeted drug delivery to tumors. Now for the first time, a research team has succeeded in assaying the stability of these particles and their distribution within the body. The results show that even nanoparticle conjugates that appear highly stable can change their properties when deployed in the human body.

Wolfgang Kreyling et al.: In vivo Integrity of Polymer-coated Gold Nanoparticles. Nature Nanotechnology 10 (2015) | doi: 10.1038/nnano.2015.111

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Fungal Scents and Root Growth

A team of scientists has discovered a link between fungal odors and the root growth of plants: The scents of mycorrhizal fungi have a stimulating effect on root growth in plants. Increased root surface improves the nutrient and water uptake of the plants and thus their fitness.

Franck A. Ditengou et al.: Volatile Signalling by Sesquiterpenes from Ectomycorrhizal Fungi Reprogrammes Root Architecture. Nature Communications 6 (2015) | doi: 10.1038/ncomms7279

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Climate Change Affects Metabolism of Soil Microbes

Scientists have studied how soil microorganisms respond to climate change. The result: Extreme weather events such as long periods of drought or heavy rainfall have a strong impact on the metabolic activity of microbes. This may lead to a change in the nitrogen balance in soils and, in extreme cases, may even increase the concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions like nitrous oxide in the atmosphere.

Silvia Gschwendtner et al.: Climate Change Induces Shifts in Abundance and Activity Pattern of Bacteria and Archaea Catalyzing Major Transformation Steps in Nitrogen Turnover in a Soil from a Mid-European Beech Forest. PLOS ONE 9 (2014) | doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114278

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Bone Tumors Caused by Gene-Environment Interaction

A regulatory variant of retinoblastoma 1 gene (Rb1), when accompanied by specific mutagenic environmental factors such as exposure to radiation, increased the risk in the animal model for a malignant bone tumor (osteosarcoma) by up to 30 percent. This gene variant is inherited through the germline and causes a reduced expression of the tumor-protective RB1 protein in the bone-forming cells. In the human genome there are two structurally similar gene variants that may be useful to predict an individual risk of malignant sequelae of radiotherapy or chemotherapy. germline and in bone-forming cells. In the human genome there are two structurally similar gene variants that may be useful to predict an individual risk of malignant sequelae of radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

Michael Rosemann et al.: A Rb1 Promoter Variant with Reduced Activity Contributes to Osteosarcoma Susceptibility in Irradiated Mice. Molecular Cancer 13 (2014) | doi: 10.1186/1476-4598-13-182

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New Insights into the Biology of the Wheat Genome

Four papers published under the auspices of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium give new insights into the organization of the complex wheat genome and into the regulation of its genes and proteins. The studies are based on the preliminary genome sequence which was submitted in 2014. These data were used to decipher the phylogeny of wheat and the regulatory mechanisms within a polyploid genome.

International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium/ Klaus Mayer et al.: A chromosome-based draft sequence of the hexaploid bread wheat genome. Science 18 (2014) | doi: 10.1126/science.1251788 || Thomas Marcussen et al.: Ancient hybridizations among the ancestral genomes of bread wheat. Science 18 (2014) | doi: 10.1126/science.1250092 || Matthias Pfeifer et al.: Genome interplay in the grain transcriptome of hexaploid bread wheat. Science 18 (2014) | doi: 10.1126/science.1250091 || Frédéric Choulet et al.: Structural and Functional Partitioning of Bread Wheat Chromosome 3B. Science 18 (2014) | doi: 10.1126/science.1249721

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Increase in Human Pathogenic Bacteria Caused by Antibiotics Used in Animal Husbandry

Antibiotics, which are used in animal husbandry and enter the soil via the application of liquid manure, affect the composition of bacteria in the soil. The focus of this study was on sulfadiazine (SDZ), a widely used animal antibiotic. After the contaminated manure has been spread only three times, a significant decrease in beneficial soil bacteria can be observed; at the same time there is an increase in bacteria that are potentially harmful to humans. The authors of the study recommend that the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry should be reconsidered.

Guo-ChungDing et al: Dynamics of Soil Bacterial Communities in Response to Repeated Application of Manure Containing Sulfadiazine. PLOS ONE 9(3): e92958 | doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092958

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Alzheimer’s disease: New Insights Tau Protein Deposits

Folding proteins help other proteins fold in their three-dimensional structure or return damaged proteins in their proper shape. The protein Hsp90 is involved in the folding processes of the tau protein. Deposits of tau proteins in brain cells are typical for Alzheimer’s disease and are held responsible for decaying nerve cells. How Hsp90 and tau protein interact and how Hsp90 influences the aggregation of tau proteins with one another has now been resolved, thus providing possible targets for treatment.

G. Elif Karagoz et al.: Hsp90-Tau Complex Reveals Molecular Basis for Specificity in Chaperone Action. Cell 156 (2014) | doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.01.037

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How Does Soil Store CO2

Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions continue to rise – in 2012 alone 35.7 billion tons of this greenhouse gas entered the atmosphere. Some of this CO2 is absorbed by the oceans, plants and soil. As such, they provide a significant reservoir of carbon, stemming the release of CO2. Scientists have now discovered how organic carbon is stored in soil. Basically, the carbon only binds to certain soil structures, preferably to rough and angular surfaces. The capacity of the soil to absorb CO2 must therefore be reevaluated and calculated into the current climate models

Cordula Vogel et al.: Submicron Structures Provide Preferential Spots for Carbon and Nitrogen Sequestration in Soils. Nature Communication 5 (2014) | doi: 10.1038/ncomms3947

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