Irving Epstein Interviewed by NPR about Alan Turing

Alan_Turing_photob_0Irving Epstein, Professor of Chemistry, was recently interviewed by NPR about Alan Turing and a paper (Testing Turing’s theory of morphogenesis in chemical cells) that he co-authored with Nathan Tompkins, Ning Li, Camille Girabawe, Michael Heymann, Seth Fraden and G. Bard Ermentrout earlier this year. The paper discussed an experiment that they performed that confirmed and improved upon Alan Turing’s theory about morphogenesis.

Alan Turing is credited with inventing the modern computer and breaking the German Enigma code during World War II. That work is spotlighted in the upcoming movie titled “The Imitation Game”. After World War II, Turing turned his focus to biology. He investigated how a single embryonic cell develops into a complex organism with hundreds of different kinds of cells. He wrote The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis in 1952.

Listen to the interview …

Mitosis: One Polo controls it all

On November 6, 2014, Cell Cycle published a paper from the Yoshida lab entitled “The budding yeast Polo-like kinase Cdc5 is released from the nucleus in anaphase for timely mitotic exit.” This study was authored by Vladimir V. Botchkarev Jr., Valentina Rossio, and Satoshi Yoshida.

The cell cycle is one of the most fundamental biological processes whose ultimate goal is cell division with equal content of DNA in both daughter cells. The process of cell division is regulated by many intracellular events which must occur in a sequential order. These events include mitotic entry, faithful chromosome segregation, mitotic exit, and cytokinesis. Over the past 25 years, the Polo-like kinase (Polo) has been established to play important regulatory roles in each of these processes. Although many mitotic substrates of Polo have been discovered, the mechanism by which Polo can coordinate all of these mitotic events has remained largely elusive.

To understand the mechanism by which Polo can target its many substrates in a sequential order during mitosis, we decided to study the budding yeast Polo kinase Cdc5, which has high conservation with the human Polo-like kinase 1.

We found that Cdc5-GFP dynamically changes its localization during the cell cycle: Cdc5 is found in the cytoplasm in S- through early G2-phase, it accumulates in the nucleus at metaphase, and is released again to the cytoplasm in anaphase. Blocking nuclear import of Cdc5 in metaphase leads to a prolonged metaphase duration, suggesting that nuclear Cdc5 is required for chromosome segregation. In contrast, blocking nuclear release of Cdc5 in anaphase results in a prolonged anaphase duration, a defect in activation of the cytoplasmic Mitotic Exit Network, and a defect in cytokinesis. This indicates that Cdc5 is released from the nucleus to the cytoplasm in anaphase for timely mitotic exit and cytokinesis. We further found that activation of the Cdc14 phosphatase, a known nuclear substrate of Cdc5, is required for Cdc5 nuclear release in anaphase.

Collectively, our work reveals that the budding yeast Polo-like kinase Cdc5 controls the timing of mitotic events by dynamically changing its sub-cellular localization. Furthermore, our data suggests the existence of a positive feedback look between Cdc5 and Cdc14 to regulate timely mitotic exit. Read more

Institutional Betrayal: The case of Campus Sexual Assault

freyd1Please join us and The Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program for a special lecture:

Institutional Betrayal: The case of Campus Sexual Assault

Presented by Prof. Jennifer Freyd
University of Oregon
Department of Psychology

Friday, September 12, 2:00 PM
Sachar International Center, Wasserman Cinematheque

Co-sponsored by The Department of Psychology, The Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, The Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences
Hosted by Prof. Ray Knight

Gina Turrigiano Named One of the “30 Most Influential Neuroscientists Alive Today”

Gina Tturrigiano405urrigiano has been named one of the “30 Most Influential Neuroscientists Alive Today” by the Online Psychology Degree Guide.

The guidelines for selecting the neuroscientists include: leadership, applicability (neuroscientists that have created technologies that have improved people’s lives); awards & recognition by the international science community and other notable accomplishments such as personal or educational achievements.

Gina Turrigiano is the author of numerous papers, has been awarded a MacArthur Foundation fellowship and the HFSP Nakasone Award, and in 2013 was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

The “Fly on the Wall” Blog

fruit_fly_drawingBethany Christmann, a Neuroscience Ph.D. student in Leslie Griffith’s lab at Brandeis University has created a blog titled Fly on the Wall. The blog’s purpose is to introduce fly science to a broader audience of non-fly scientists. Check it out if you want to learn more about fly life, current research and how fruit fly research has already made huge contributions to understanding human biology and will continue to do so in the future.

Learn more about research in the Griffith Lab.


Can Self-Referencing Contribute to Memory Errors?

A recent paper in the Journal of Gerontology by Brandeis Ph.D. program alumnus Dr. Nicole Rosa and Professor Angela Gutchess attempts to answer this question. During an interview with ElderBranch, Dr. Nicole Rosa discusses the relationship between self-referencing and false memory. For more information, please read the article on ElderBranch.

Another way that flies sense temperature

If you remember your (bio-)physical chemistry, you’ll remember that most proteins are temperature sensitive. But which ones acts as the sensors that drive behavior in higher organisms? The Garrity Lab at Brandeis has been working on thermosensation in Drosophila, and previous work has implicated the channel protein TRPA1 as a key mediator of temperature preference and thermotaxis,  In a new paper in Nature, members of the Garrity lab working in collaboration with the Griffith and Theobald have have identified another protein, GR28B(D), a member of the family of gustatory receptor proteins, as another behaviorally important temperature sensor, involved in rapid avoidance of high temperatures. Authors on the paper include postdocs Lina Ni (lead author) and Peter Bronk, grad students April Lowell (Mol. Cell Biology) and Vincent Panzano (PhD ’13, Neuroscience), undergraduate Juliette Flam ’12, and technician Elaine Chang ’08.

  • Ni L, Bronk P, Chang EC, Lowell AM, Flam JO, Panzano VC, Theobald DL, Griffith LC, Garrity PA. A gustatory receptor paralogue controls rapid warmth avoidance in Drosophila. Nature. 2013.
  • story at BrandeisNOW


Rectifying electrical synapses in pattern-generating circuits

by Gabrielle Gutierrez

Rectifying electrical synapses are more interesting than they might seem at first. Our recent study finds that they have the potential to allow a circuit to control how robust the circuit output is to modulation of synaptic strength.

Gap junctions allow neurons to communicate quickly by serving as a direct conduit of electrical signals. Non-rectifying gap junctions probably come to mind first for most neuroscientists when they think about electrical synapses, since they are the idealized textbook variety. The electrical current that passes through the non-rectifying type of gap junction is simply a function of the voltage difference between the coupled neurons. However, this is only the case when the two hemi-channels that form a gap junction pore have the same voltage-dependencies.

Schematic shows that neurons can express diverse gap junction subunits (top left). Rectifying gap junction conductance is a function voltage difference between two neurons (top right). Bottom panel illustrates how coupled neuron output depends on the polarity of the rectifying electrical synapse and the intrinsic properties of the coupled neurons.

Schematic shows that neurons can express diverse gap junction subunits (top left). Rectifying gap junction conductance is a function voltage difference between two neurons (top right). Bottom panel illustrates how coupled neuron output depends on the polarity of the rectifying electrical synapse and the intrinsic properties of the coupled neurons.

We know from past electrophysiology studies that a single neuron can express a diverse set of gap junction hemi-channels, enabling it to form similarly diverse gap junction channels with another neuron. This could result in rectifying electrical synapses in which current flows asymmetrically between neurons so that current flow can either be permitted or restricted depending on whether the current is positive or negative. What we didn’t know were the consequences of electrical synapse rectification for a pattern-generating circuit of competing oscillators. Our recently published study in J. Neuroscience addressed this question and led us to conclude that rectifying electrical synapses can change how a neuronal circuit responds to modulation of its synapses – including its chemical synapses. Although we used a computational model for our study, our results indicate that rectifying electrical synapses in biological networks can be an important component in neuronal circuits that produce rhythmic patterns, such as those found in motor systems.

Gabrielle Gutierrez obtained her PhD in Neuroscience from Brandeis earlier this year, and is currently doing a postdoc with Sophie Deneuve at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris

Gutierrez GJ, Marder E. Rectifying electrical synapses can affect the influence of synaptic modulation on output pattern robustness. J Neurosci. 2013;33(32):13238-48.

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