Data Dump: 11,000 Donate Stool Samples to Gut Microbiome Project

By Greg Watry

The American Gut Project has just produced the largest study yet of microbial diversity in human poop. With “contributions” from more than 11,000 citizen scientists, the team led by researchers at UC San Diego has compiled a public reference database on the human gut microbiome, published May 15 in the journal mSystems. The study is a step forward in understanding how factors such as diet, antibiotics and mental health relate to the microbes living in the human gut.

Biology Researchers Make Cell Metabolism “Best of 2017”           

Two different teams of researchers from the College of Biological Sciences are represented in the “Best of 2017” issue of the prominent journal Cell Metabolism. Their papers, on insulin-producing beta cells and on the effects of a low-carb diet on longevity in mice, are among just five research articles chosen to appear in the special issue along with two clinical reports and four review articles.

Pancreatic islet

Pancreatic islets make insulin in response to blood glucose. Mark Huising/UC Davis

Podcast: The Earth BioGenome Project

This month I talk to Professor Harris Lewin, one of the organizers of the Earth BioGenome Project. The ambitious project to sequence the genomes of all eukaryotic life on Earth within ten years is described in a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Listen: Three Minute Egghead: The Earth BioGenome Project

More information

Earth BioGenome Project Aims to Sequence DNA from All Complex Life on Earth (news release)

Earth BioGenome Project to Sequence All Life: Partnership Announced at World Economic Forum in Davos (news release)

Podcast: Plant Biochemist is Top Teacher

In this episode of the Three Minute Egghead podcast, meet Judy Callis, professor of molecular and cellular biology, who has just received the UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement.

Professor Judy Callis studies the ubiquitin system in plants. She is recipient of the 2018 UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement.

Callis teaches biochemistry and her lab studies the ubiquitin system in plants. Once thought to be a way to tag proteins inside cells for “garbage disposal,” ubiquitin turns out to have a ubiquitous role in regulating metabolism.

Listen: https://soundcloud.com/andy-fell/plant-biochemist-is-uc-davis-top-teacher

Chemical Messengers, Calcium and Neutrophils

Neutrophils are the most abundant type of white blood cell. They play a vital role in defending us from infections, by engulfing and destroying bacteria and viruses or cancerous cells. A new study by UC Davis engineering student Emmet Francis, working with Professor Volkmar Heinrich in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, adds to our knowledge of how neutrophils are drawn towards infection sites and how they can attack their targets.

First, Francis and Heinrich looked at how isolated neutrophils respond to chemical messengers called anaphylatoxins. These molecules guide immune cells to their targets but can cause severe illness in excessive amounts.

Podcast: Restored Putah Creek Blooms With Bird Life

Until about twenty years ago, Putah Creek near the UC Davis campus was a dry, trash-filled ditch. Then a lawsuit led to the Putah Creek Accord, which mandated year-round water flows to help protect fish and habitat. In this episode of the Three Minute Egghead podcast, Kat Kerlin hears how restoring water has brought the creek back to life.

https://soundcloud.com/andy-fell/restored-creek-blooms-with-bird-life

More information

Feature story: Little Creek, Big Impact

For more episodes, follow Three Minute Egghead on Soundcloud or subscribe on iTunes.

Kat Kerlin writes about the environment for UC Davis Strategic Communications. Follow her at @UCDavis_Kerlin

Understanding How Rice Root Microbiome Can Promote Agricultural Growth

By Greg Watry

Your body plays host to a microbial ecosystem that’s ever-evolving, and its composition has implications for your overall health. The same holds true for plants and their microbiomes and the relationship is of pivotal importance to agriculture.

In a paper appearing in PLOS Biology, Joseph Edwards, ’17 Ph.D. in Plant Biology, Professor Venkatesan Sundaresan, Departments of Plant Biology and Plant Sciences and their colleagues tracked root microbiome shifts throughout the life-cycle of rice plants (Oryza sativa). The research could help inform the design of agricultural probiotics by introducing age-appropriate microbes that promote traits like nutrient efficiency, strong roots and increased growth rates in the plants.  

Taking Cues From Speech Recognition, New Machine Learning Algorithm Finds Patterns in RNA Structures

By Greg Watry

Software inspired by speech recognition technology could help scientists understand the secret language inside cells. A machine learning algorithm called patteRNA, designed by UC Davis researchers, rapidly mines ribonucleic acid, commonly called RNA, for specific structures, providing a new method to establish links between structure, function and disease.

The study, co-authored by integrative genetics and genomics Ph.D. student Mirko Ledda and Assistant Professor Sharon Aviran, UC Davis Genome Center, appears in Genome Biology.

Deciphering the biological role of RNA structures

RNA is essential to all biological processes, from gene expression and regulation to protein synthesis. While DNA stores an organism’s genetic information, RNA puts that genetic information to use.

How Population Genetics Can Help Breed a Hardier Honey Bee

by Greg Watry

The western honey bee (Apis mellifera), the world’s most important pollinator for agriculture, is facing a crisis. Parasitic mites, colony collapse and climate change threaten hives. California, as the seasonal home of nearly half of the continental United States’ managed honey bee colonies, is a prime location for monitoring bee populations. And honey bee health, key to the nation’s largest fresh produce economy, is vital to the Golden State.

A foraging honeybee. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey.

Scientist’s Talk on TEDGlobal Stage Featured on TED.com

By Kat Kerlin

Mike Gil is used to spreading the word about his love of science through his nonprofit sciall.org and its YouTube channel, but he’s about to get a bigger audience. His TED Talk, recorded last summer, was posted today on TED’s main channel. Only a fraction of talks given at TED conferences are posted to the main website, which has millions of subscribers.

“Who here is fascinated by life under the sea?” he asked the audience in his opening line. All hands go up.