Draft post cleanup #5: Best Science Paper Endings Award: Linking the Kama Sutra & Amoebas

OK – I am cleaning out my draft blog post list.  I start many posts and don’t finish them and then they sit in the draft section of blogger.  Well, I am going to try to clean some of that up by writing some mini posts.  Here is #5:

I was reading an article on MSNBC: Amoebas: Sexier than anyone knew – Technology & science – Science – LiveScience – msnbc.com

The article discusses a paper: “The chastity of amoebae: re-evaluating evidence for sex in amoeboid organisms” from the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.  The paper is freely available and it is definitely scientifically interesting.  But the last sentence is phenomenal and deserves some sort of prize

“When discussing the sex of amoeboid protists, the existing evidence does not evoke chastity but rather Kama Sutra”

So I am starting a new award here – the “Best Science Paper Endings Award”

Interested in sex? How about in bacteria? Then these #PLoSGenetics papers are for you

Well I was torn about this. Should I title the post ” ICE, ICE, Bacterial BABIES” or say something about sex? I settled on sex, but not sure if that was wise.

Anyway – quick post to say that there are two papers from PLoS Genetics last month that caught my eye. They are

The latter is a “review” paper linked to the first one which is a research paper. The papers together provide both a good background and a window into modern studies of “ICEs” or integrative conjugative elements in bacteria.

I like the summary from the first paper:

Some mobile genetic elements spread genetic information horizontally between prokaryotes by conjugation, a mechanism by which DNA is transferred directly from one cell to the other. Among the processes allowing genetic transfer between cells, conjugation is the one allowing the simultaneous transfer of larger amounts of DNA and between the least related cells. As such, conjugative systems are key players in horizontal transfer, including the transfer of antibiotic resistance to and between many human pathogens. Conjugative systems are encoded both in plasmids and in chromosomes. The latter are called Integrative Conjugative Elements (ICE); and their number, identity, and mechanism of conjugation were poorly known. We have developed an approach to identify and characterize these elements and found more ICEs than conjugative plasmids in genomes. While both ICEs and plasmids use similar conjugative systems, there are remarkable preferences for some systems in some elements. Our evolutionary analysis shows that plasmid conjugative systems have often given rise to ICEs and vice versa. Therefore, ICEs and conjugative plasmids should be regarded as one and the same, the differences in their means of existence in cells probably the result of different requirements for stabilization and/or transmissibility of the genetic information they contain.

That should be enough to get people started. And that is alas all I have time to write about here.

Is that a sex organ on the cover of Nature?

OK — dipping into the gutter here a bit.  But everyone must check out the cover of Nature this week.  The issue is on the genetics of sex, and I’ll be damned if that phycomyces colony on the cover (the one in the back) does not look like some sort of male sexual organ.  

I do not know where to go with this.  It has to be on purpose right?  Is this what they refer to in the cover caption as a “pseudo-sexual” structure?
And I know I am probably not supposed to say this as an obsessed supporter of Open Access publishing but I dream of the day Nature becomes a fully OA journal.   I still think PLoS Biology is a better journal, but Nature definitely has some good stuff there.