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.

Receptors Key to Strong Memories

When we create a memory, a pattern of connections forms between neurons in the brain. New work from UC Davis shows how these connections can be strengthened or weakened at a molecular level. The study is published Feb. 27 in the journal Cell Reports.

AMPA-type glutamate receptors are responsible for fast synaptic transmission in the brain. (Wikipedia image)

Neurons branch into many small fibers, called dendrites, that connect to other neurons across tiny gaps called synapses. Messages travel across synapses as chemical signals: A molecule, or neurotransmitter, is released on one side of the synapse and connects with a receptor on the other side, a bit like tossing a ball and a fielder catching it in a mitt.

Looking for New Pollutants in the Ashes of Sonoma

In this month’s episode of Three Minute Egghead, UC Davis graduate student Gabrielle Black talks about collecting samples of ash from neighborhoods burned by last year’s northern California wildfires. The intense heat on a wide range of household items from insulation to electronics may have created new chemical pollutants. Thanks to modern analytic technology, Black plans to search for both known pollutants and new compounds, and compare them to the ashes of burned wild land.

Listen to the podcast here.

More information

Testing Sonoma Ash and Air for Fire-Formed Pollutants

WHAT-NOW Survey (UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center)

Multi-state E. coli Outbreak Linked to Romaine Lettuce

 By Heidi Meier and Ann Filmer

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a media statement in late December profiling a multi-state outbreak of food poisoning caused by the bacteria E. coli O157:H7 with 17 reported illnesses. Romaine and leafy greens are among the suspected sources of contamination, but no definitive source or location has been confirmed at this time, according to the CDC.

A lettuce field in California (photo by Trevor Suslow, UC Davis)

Prozac Use in Children: Studying Side Effects of Fluoxetine in a Monkey Model

Fluoxetine (Prozac) is widely prescribed for depression, anxiety and other behavioral and psychiatric disorders and is approved for use in children. But little is known about the side effects of fluoxetine, part of a class of drugs called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) in pre-teen children.

Young monkeys

Rhesus macacque monkeys have a relatively long period of development before they reach sexual maturity. That makes them a useful model to study the possible side effects of Fluoxetine (Prozac) in children. (Photo by K. West, CNPRC)

Mice Help Find Gene for Bad Breath

An international team of researchers has identified a cause for chronic bad breath (halitosis), with the help of gene knockout mice from the UC Davis Mouse Biology Program. The results are published Dec. 18 in the journal Nature Genetics.

Prof. Kent Lloyd, director of the UC Davis Mouse Biology Program, in the lab. Gene-edited and “knockout” mice have become a vital tool in biomedical research. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis photo)

While most cases of bad breath are linked bacteria growing in the mouth, up to 3 percent of the population have chronic halitosis of no obvious cause.

Targeted Action Group Marks 20 Years in Fight Against HIV/AIDS

By Larkin Callaghan

A recent meeting at UC Davis marked 20 years of effort towards a vaccine for HIV/AIDS. When the Targeted Action Group on Vaccines was founded twenty years ago, the HIV epidemic was in a very different place – politically, socially, scientifically, and emotionally. Known as TAG, this program has brought together researchers, students, advocates, and industry, who are invested in and working towards an HIV vaccine.

Diet and the Brain: Exploring the Food-Brain Axis

by Greg Watry

Nearly 47 million people worldwide live with dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. That number is expected to rise to 76 million by 2030. While there is no cure for dementia, scientists are investigating various drugs to help mitigate cognition loss associated with the condition.

UC Davis researchers propose that foods provide signals that influence the brain and other body systems.

When it comes to understanding and preventing age-related cognitive dysfunction, Professor Raymond Rodriguez, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology in the College of Biological Sciences at UC Davis, looks to food for answers.

Protein Synthesis Machinery from Bacterial Consortia in One Shot

By Holly Ober

A new technique developed at UC Davis may have broken the barrier to rapid assembly of pure protein synthesis machinery outside of living cells.

Colored bacteria

E. coli bacteria tagged with different colors produced different mixtures of proteins. Together, the bacterial consortium makes all the proteins needed for mRNA translation/protein synthesis (Fernando Villarreal, UC Davis)

In order to reconstitute cellular reactions outside of biological systems, scientists need to produce the proteins involved. Rapid yet high purity reconstitution of the cellular reactions is critical for the high-throughput study of cellular pathways and cell-free diagnostic tests for various diseases. Reconstituting cellular reactions outside cells, however, requires the separate expression and purification of each protein required to execute the reactions. This process is expensive and time consuming, making the production of more than several proteins at once extremely challenging.

Exploring Role of Fish Oil Derivatives in Kidney Injury

By Kathy Keatley Garvey

Newly published research by an international team of scientists, headed by the Jun-Yan Liu lab of Tongji University, Shanghai, China, and Bruce Hammock’s lab at UC Davis gives insight into how fish oils may be protective or harmful in animal models of acute kidney injury. This knowledge may provide promising therapeutic strategies for those suffering from acute kidney injury, formerly called acute renal failure.

Jun-Yan Liu is exploring how metabolites from oils influence kidney disease.