There are 18 new articles in PLoS ONE today. As always, you should rate the articles, post notes and comments and send trackbacks when you blog about the papers. You can now also easily place articles on various social services (CiteULike, Mendeley, Connotea, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg) with just one click. Here are my own picks for the week – you go and look for your own favourites:
The sabertooth cat, Smilodon fatalis, was an enigmatic predator without a true living analog. Their elongate canine teeth were more vulnerable to fracture than those of modern felids, making it imperative for them to immobilize prey with their forelimbs when making a kill. As a result, their need for heavily muscled forelimbs likely exceeded that of modern felids and thus should be reflected in their skeletons. Previous studies on forelimb bones of S. fatalis found them to be relatively robust but did not quantify their ability to withstand loading. Using radiographs of the sabertooth cat, Smilodon fatalis, 28 extant felid species, and the larger, extinct American lion Panthera atrox, we measured cross-sectional properties of the humerus and femur to provide the first estimates of limb bone strength in bending and torsion. We found that the humeri of Smilodon were reinforced by cortical thickening to a greater degree than those observed in any living felid, or the much larger P. atrox. The femur of Smilodon also was thickened but not beyond the normal variation found in any other felid measured. Based on the cross-sectional properties of its humerus, we interpret that Smilodon was a powerful predator that differed from extant felids in its greater ability to subdue prey using the forelimbs. This enhanced forelimb strength was part of an adaptive complex driven by the need to minimize the struggles of prey in order to protect the elongate canines from fracture and position the bite for a quick kill.
A large number of studies have been dedicated to identify the structural and sequence based features of RNA thermometers, mRNAs that regulate their translation initiation rate with temperature. It has been shown that the melting of the ribosome-binding site (RBS) plays a prominent role in this thermosensing process. However, little is known as to how widespread this melting phenomenon is as earlier studies on the subject have worked with a small sample of known RNA thermometers. We have developed a novel method of studying the melting of RNAs with temperature by computationally sampling the distribution of the RNA structures at various temperatures using the RNA folding software Vienna. In this study, we compared the thermosensing property of 100 randomly selected mRNAs and three well known thermometers – rpoH, ibpA and agsA sequences from E. coli. We also compared the rpoH sequences from 81 mesophilic proteobacteria. Although both rpoH and ibpA show a higher rate of melting at their RBS compared with the mean of non-thermometers, contrary to our expectations these higher rates are not significant. Surprisingly, we also do not find any significant differences between rpoH thermometers from other -proteobacteria and E. coli non-thermometers.