Workshop: the DNA Reactions and DNA/Chromosome Dynamics

I am going to go to the DNA Reactions and DNA/Chromosome Dynamics Workshop tomorrow (Woods Hole, MA). Whole Labor Day weekend was spent for poster preparation. I am more or less satisfied by the result. However, on Tuesday I have had two variants: (i) in color; (ii) in red-black-grey colors. Whole group voted for colorful variant, but my heart (brain, liver and kidney) with the second one.

I think red-black-grey variant was aesthetically superior.

Anyway, colorful poster is printed and folded. Ready to go!

(i) colorful variant

(ii) red-black-grey variant

 

Books: “The Jungle Book” and “The Second Jungle Book”

Well, because of some changing in my life situation right now I have to sell some of the books from my collection which is breaking my hart, sniiiffff… I decided to keep everything concerning botany, history of science (oh, well, more or less everything), and majority of botanical prints, but all other books should go.

I think the first one will be: the bundle of “The Jungle Book” and “The Second Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling, early edition, published in London by Macmillan & Co, 1898 & 1899. Each volume is an identical reprint from a first UK edition, (1854 & 1855). I LOVE these books: tiny engravings and full-page pictures with superb details. Blue boards with gold embossed vignette on front and spine and gold page edging. As of old books survived so long, spine ends show some wear and corners bumped. Some foxing on the inner pages (especially extensive in The Jungle Book); The Second Jungle Book is signed and have ex-libris. Inner hinges just starting in both books but holding firmly.

My favorite story is from The Jungle Book, and, I think, it is the most famous of the other stories – “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”, the story of a heroic mongoose.

“The Jungle Book” and “The Second Jungle Book”

More photos below.

BTW, a few words about mongoose. There over 30 known species in the family. Length of the body can be 7 to 25 inches (18 to 64 cm). Imagine 7 inches long mongoose! Tail – 6 to 21 inches (15 to 53 cm), weight 340 gm to 5 kg (12 oz to 11 lb). They live up to 20 years (just like dogs!). They are obligate carnivorous meaning they are eating a LOT of meat. Their diet includes insects, crabs, earthworms, lizards, snakes, chickens and even rodents. Usually mongooses are terrestrial, but there are some species semi-aquatic (most or at least half of the time spend in the water) or even arboreal (most of the time spend on the trees) ones. Though mongooses live in burrows, they seldom dig holes for themselves. Rather, they just move into the burrows left by other animals. A mongoose is fast enough to save itself from the strikes of a snake very easily plus a mongoose has a great tolerance towards the poison of a snake. Mongooses are social and use an alarm call to warn others of any bigger carnivores. As soon as the other mongooses hear the call, they rush to the nearest hole.

Rikki-Tikki-Tavi from The Book of Jungle (1898).

The hand colored lithograph of the mongoose. It is from an exceedingly rare set published by The Zoological Society of London in 1848-1849.

Mission accomplished

The good news! One of my papers was accepted for publication in Molecular Biology and Evolution. This is one of the best journals publishing evolutionary biology research. To be honest, this paper suck too much blood from me that I do not want even celebrate the positive final of the [never-ending] struggle.

The paper entitled: Vertical evolution and horizontal transfer of CR1 non- LTR retrotransposons and Tc1/mariner DNA transposons in Lepidoptera species.

In a few words, there are two forms of inheritance  – vertical, from parents to children, and horizontal – between non-related organisms.  The vertical inheritance is somewhat familiar to everybody, we all have features we got either from paternal or maternal lineages. The most obvious could be the color of hair and eyes, inherited disorders, etc. The horizontal inheritance is very common among bacteria. For example, the resistance to the certain antibiotics can be acquired from non-related bacterial cells or even from different bacterial species co-existing in habitat. The horizontal inheritance among bacteria is possible thanks to the existence of the special circular DNA ‘chromosomes’ [called mobile elements; mobile  plasmids; etc.] which can travel from one cell to another. These mobile plasmids carry special genes which make bacteria-recipient resistant to the particular antibiotic. BTW, these features are very widely utilized in modern molecular biology, [bio]medical engineering, and biotechnology. The horizontal inheritance was unknown for eukaryotes (non-bacterial species, including human) till about 25 years ago. However only in post-genomic era of biology, when we gain the access to the enormous amount of genetic information, we were able to detect numerous cases of horizontal transfer of genes between various eukaryotic  species/groups.

In my research I tried to address one of the key problems in ‘horizontal inheritance among eukaryotes’ – possible mechanisms involved in the process. The  major problem is that we and other eukaryotes do not have any special highly-tuned systems for horizontal transfer of genes, which means – all reported cases of horizontal transfer were spontaneous and, most probably, did not utilize any universal ‘schemes’. One of the possible mechanisms could involve package of the random DNA into virus particle and subsequent transfer between species. In this paper we explore a little bit more complicated potential pathway for the horizontal transfer between butterflies from the genus Maculinea and moths from the genus Bombyx.

I think my next post will be about Large Blue Maculinea butterflies…

Maculinea arion or Large Blue butterfly completely extinct in the UK in 1979. After 25-year effort to restore this amazing butterfly in UK, researches finally announced triumph in 2009. Meticulous research showed that the extinction was caused by a subtle change in habitat that disrupted the unusual life cycle of this spectacular butterfly. Previously, the extinction had been attributed to the work of overzealous collectors.