Darwin famously thought of evolution as a force for creation and improvement. Evolution, in his eyes, was synonymous with natural selection and survival of the fittest – a process that optimizes life to thrive in its environment and produce greater numbers of offspring. A century later, however, the great population geneticist Motoo Kimura challenged this view with his ‘neutral theory’…
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Membrane-bound O-acyltransferases (MBOATs) are a superfamily of integral transmembrane enzymes that are found in all kingdoms of life1. In bacteria, MBOATs modify protective cell-surface polymers. In vertebrates, some MBOAT enzymes—such as acyl-coenzyme A:cholesterol acyltransferase and diacylglycerol acyltransferase 1—are responsible for lipid biosynthesis or phospholipid remodelling2,3. Other MBOATs, including porcupine, hedgehog acyltransferase and ghrelin acyltransferase, catalyse essential lipid modifications of secreted proteins…
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CD4+ T helper (Th) cells play a central role in orchestrating protective immunity but also in autoimmunity. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a human autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (CNS) characterized by the infiltration of inflammatory lymphocytes and myeloid cells into the brain and spinal cord, leading to demyelination, axonal damage, and progressive loss of motor functions. The release of…
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Bacteria causing chronic infections are generally observed living in cell aggregates suspended in polymer-rich host secretions, and bacterial phenotypes induced by aggregated growth may be key factors in chronic infection pathogenesis. Bacterial aggregation is commonly thought of as a consequence of biofilm formation; however the mechanisms producing aggregation in vivo remain unclear. Here we show that polymers that are abundant…
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Diabetes is a major public health concern that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and is a leading cause of blindness, amputation and kidney failure.  The mission of the Morton laboratory is to understand the role of the brain in the control of blood sugars and determine how defects in this system contribute to insulin resistance and diabetes.  Specifically, our laboratory, in collaboration with Dr. Michael Schwartz at the University of Washington (UW), examines how the brain senses and responds to...
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The lack of new antibiotics is among the most critical challenges facing medicine. The problem is particularly acute for Gram-negative bacteria. An unconventional antibiotic strategy is to target bacterial nutrition and metabolism. The metal gallium can disrupt bacterial iron metabolism because it substitutes for iron when taken up by bacteria. We investigated the antibiotic activity of gallium ex vivo, in…
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IL-6: A Cytokine at the Crossroads of Autoimmunity

IL-6 is implicated in the development and progression of autoimmune diseases in part by influencing CD4 T cell lineage and regulation. Elevated IL-6 levels drive inflammation in a wide range of autoimmune diseases, some of which are also characterized by enhanced T cell responses to IL-6. Notably, the impact of IL-6 on inflammation is contextual in nature and dependent on…
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Despite the importance of duplicate genes for evolutionary adaptation, accurate gene annotation is often incomplete, incorrect, or lacking in regions of segmental duplication. We developed an approach combining long-read sequencing and hybridization capture to yield full-length transcript information and confidently distinguish between nearly identical genes/paralogs. We used biotinylated probes to enrich for full-length cDNA from duplicated regions, which were then…
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The mission of the Allen Institute for Cell Science is to create dynamic and multi-scale visual models of cell organization, dynamics and activities that capture experimental observation, theory and prediction to understand and predict cellular behavior in its normal, regenerative, and pathological contexts. We have started with imaging the major components of the cell. To do this we primarily use two technologies, CRISPR, a type of “molecular scissors” to create different types of cells (we call these cell lines...
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The research in the Greenberg laboratory focuses on the emerging field of sociomicrobiology – the group-behaviors of microbes. We are interested in the biochemistry and molecular biology of environmental sensing/response with a particular emphasis on a form of chemical communication between bacteria termed “quorum sensing”. In quorum sensing, bacteria synthesize chemical signals as cues to coordinate activities of individuals in groups. This signaling plays a critical role in the development of many bacterial infections.
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