This article is a response to Vibranovski et al.
See correspondence article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/10/49 and the original research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/9/29
We have previously reported a high propensity of testis-expressed X-linked genes to activation in meiotic cells, a similarity in global gene expression between the X chromosome and autosomes in meiotic germline, and under-representation of various types of tissue-specific genes on the X chromosome. Based on our findings and a critical review of the current literature, we believe that there is no global and severe silencing of the X chromosome in the meiotic male germline of Drosophila. The term 'meiotic sex chromosome inactivation' (MSCI) therefore seems misleading when used to describe the minor underexpression of the X chromosome in the testis of Drosophila, because this term erroneously implies a profound and widespread silencing of the X-linked genes, by analogy to the well-studied MSCI system in mammals, and therefore distracts from identification and analysis of the real mechanisms that orchestrate gene expression and evolution in this species.
There have been notable advances in the scientific understanding of regeneration within the past year alone, including two recently published in BMC Biology. Increasingly, progress in the regeneration field is being inspired by comparisons with stem cell biology and enabled by newly developed techniques that allow simultaneous examination of thousands of genes and proteins.
See research articles http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/7/83 and http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/5.
Verbal autopsy is a method for assessing probable causes of death from lay reporting of signs, symptoms and circumstances by family members or caregivers of a deceased person. Several methods of automated diagnoses of causes of death from standardized verbal autopsy questionnaires have been developed recently (Inter-VA, Tariff, Random Forest and King-Lu). Their performances have been assessed in a series of papers in BMC Medicine. Overall, and despite high specificity, the current strategies of automated computer diagnoses lead to relatively low sensitivity and positive predictive values, even for causes which are expected to be easily assessed by interview. Some methods have even abnormally low sensitivity for selected diseases of public health importance and could probably be improved. Ways to improve the current strategies are proposed: more detailed questionnaires; using more information on disease duration; stratifying for large groups of causes of death by age, sex and main category; using clusters of signs and symptoms rather than quantitative scores or ranking; separating indeterminate causes; imputing unknown cause with appropriate methods.
Please see related articles: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/12/5; http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/12/19; http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/12/20; http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/12/21; http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/12/22; http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/12/23.
Cause of death; Verbal autopsy; Automated diagnosis; Health information system; Evaluation of health programs; Public health
The ideal malaria parasite populations for initial mapping of genomic regions contributing to phenotypes such as drug resistance and virulence, through genome-wide association studies, are those with high genetic diversity, allowing for numerous informative markers, and rare meiotic recombination, allowing for strong linkage disequilibrium (LD) between markers and phenotype-determining loci. However, levels of genetic diversity and LD in field populations of the major human malaria parasite P. vivax remain little characterized.
We examined single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and LD patterns across a 100-kb chromosome segment of P. vivax in 238 field isolates from areas of low to moderate malaria endemicity in South America and Asia, where LD tends to be more extensive than in holoendemic populations, and in two monkey-adapted strains (Salvador-I, from El Salvador, and Belem, from Brazil). We found varying levels of SNP diversity and LD across populations, with the highest diversity and strongest LD in the area of lowest malaria transmission. We found several clusters of contiguous markers with rare meiotic recombination and characterized a relatively conserved haplotype structure among populations, suggesting the existence of recombination hotspots in the genome region analyzed. Both silent and nonsynonymous SNPs revealed substantial between-population differentiation, which accounted for ~40% of the overall genetic diversity observed. Although parasites clustered according to their continental origin, we found evidence for substructure within the Brazilian population of P. vivax. We also explored between-population differentiation patterns revealed by loci putatively affected by natural selection and found marked geographic variation in frequencies of nucleotide substitutions at the pvmdr-1 locus, putatively associated with drug resistance.
These findings support the feasibility of genome-wide association studies in carefully selected populations of P. vivax, using relatively low densities of markers, but underscore the risk of false positives caused by population structure at both local and regional levels.
See commentary: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/90
Daphnia pulex is the first crustacean to have its genome sequenced. Availability of the genome sequence will have implications for research in aquatic ecology and evolution in particular, as addressed by a series of papers published recently in BMC Evolutionary Biology and BMC Genomics.
See research articles http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/9/78, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/527, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/9/79, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/175, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/172, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/169, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/170 and http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/9/243.
Often considered an 'aging' hormone due to its role in accelerating such developmental processes as ripening, senescence, and abscission, the plant hormone ethylene also regulates many aspects of growth and development throughout the life cycle of the plant. Multiple mechanisms have been identified by which transcriptional output from the ethylene signaling pathway can be tailored to meet the needs of particular developmental pathways. Of special interest is the report by Lumba et al. in BMC Biology on how vegetative transitions are regulated through the effect of the transcription factor FUSCA3 on ethylene-controlled gene expression, providing an elegant example of how hormonal control can be integrated into a developmental pathway.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/10/8
One of the amazing qualities of plants is their phenotypic plasticity. Consider, for example, how a pine tree will grow to a towering hundreds of feet in height in Yosemite Valley, but to only a gnarled few feet in height up near the timberline. This diversity of form, though originating from the same genotype, points to the degree to which plant growth and development can be modulated. Much of this control is mediated by a small group of plant hormones that include auxin, cytokinin, gibberellin, abscisic acid, brassinosteroid, jasmonic acid, and ethylene . These are often considered 'classical' plant hormones because they were discovered decades ago; indeed, the presence of some was inferred over a century ago. Their early discovery is no doubt due in part to their general function throughout the life cycle of the plant. More recently, and in the remarkably short period of time since the advent of Arabidopsis as a genetic model, key elements in the primary signaling pathways of these plant hormones have been uncovered. The important question is no longer simply how are these hormones perceived, but how are the hormonal signals integrated into the control of particular developmental pathways? In pursuing such a question, Lumba et al.  have now uncovered a role for the plant hormone ethylene in regulating the conversion of juvenile to adult leaves. These new data, in combination with prior research implicating the plant hormones abscisic acid and gibberellin in this transition , form an important step in defining how a hormonal network regulates a key developmental process.
Two recent studies in BMC Biology and Evolution raise important questions about a textbook case of frequency-dependent selection in scale-eating cichlid fishes. They also suggest a fascinating new line of research testing the effects of handed behavior on morphological asymmetry.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/8.
Important advances in the field of tissue engineering are arising from increased interest in novel biomaterial designs with bioactive components that directly influence cell behavior. Following the recent work of Mitchell and co-workers published in BMC Biology, we review how spatial and temporal control of signaling molecules in a matrix material regulates cellular responses for tissue-specific applications.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/57
The identification of an increasing number of cancer genes is opening up unexpected scenarios in cancer genetics. When analyzed for their systemic properties, these genes show a general fragility towards perturbation. A recent paper published in BMC Biology shows how the founder domains of known cancer genes emerged at two macroevolutionary transitions - the advent of the first cell and the transition to metazoan multicellularity.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/66
A recent study in BMC Biology has determined that the immature stage of the bed bug (the nymph) signals its reproductive status to adult males using pheromones and thus avoids the trauma associated with copulation in this species. The success of this nymphal strategy of deterrence is instructive. Against the background of increasing problems with bed bugs, this research raises the question whether pheromones might be used to control them.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/121
The combination of molecular sequence data and bioinformatics has revolutionized phylogenetic inference over the past decade, vastly increasing the scope of the evolutionary trees that we are able to infer. A recent paper in BMC Biology describing a new phylogenomic pipeline to help automate the inference of evolutionary trees from public sequence databases provides another important tool in our efforts to derive the Tree of Life.
See research article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/9/55
An international collaborative effort has recently uncovered the genome of the zebra finch, a songbird model that has provided unique insights into an array of biological phenomena.
See research articles http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/9/131, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/11/220/, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2202/11/46/ and http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/28/
A recent article in BMC Biology illustrates the use of a systems-biology approach to integrate data across the transcriptome, proteome and metabolome of budding yeast in order to dissect the relationship between nutrient conditions and cell growth.
See research article http://jbiol.com/content/6/2/4 and http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/68
In a paper in BMC Biology Virk et al. show that Caenorhabditis elegans lifespan is extended in response to a diet of folate-deficient Escherichia coli. The deficiencies in folate biosynthesis were due to an aroD mutation, or treatment of E. coli with sulfa drugs, which are mimics of the folate precursor para-aminobenzoic acid. This study suggests that pharmacological manipulation of the gut microbiome folate status may be a viable approach to slow animal aging, and raises questions about folate supplementation.
See research article http://www.http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/10/67
The mitochondrial genome of plants is-in every respect and for yet unclear reasons-very different from the well-studied one of animals. Thanks to next-generation sequencing technologies, Davila et al. precisely characterized the role played by recombination and DNA repair in controlling mitochondrial variations in Arabidopsis thaliana, thus opening new perspectives on the long-term evolution of this intriguing genome.
See research article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/9/64
The mitochondrial genome of plants is a challenge to molecular evolutionary biologists. Its content is highly dynamic: plant mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is large and variable in size (200 to 2,500 kb), contains many introns and repeated elements (typically 90% of the total sequence), and experiences frequent gene gain/loss/transfer/duplication, and genome rearrangements . Its nucleotide substitution rate, paradoxically, is remarkably low-even lower than for nuclear DNA. These features are in sharp contrast with the highly studied mtDNA of animals, which is small-sized, structurally conserved, devoid of selfish elements, and has a very fast nucleotide substitution rate . Why these two genomes behave so differently is one of the most head-scratching questions of current comparative genomics. The study by Davila et al.  contributes a potentially decisive argument by connecting the plant mtDNA mutation rate to yet another intriguing feature of this organellar genome-recombination.
Current interest in proteasome inhibitors for cancer therapy has stimulated considerable research efforts to identify the molecular pathway to their cytotoxicity with a view to identifying the mechanisms of sensitivity and resistance as well as informing the development of new drugs. Zhao and Vuori describe this month in BMC Biology experiments indicating a novel role of the adaptor protein p130Cas in sensitivity to apoptosis induced not only by proteasome inhibitors but also by the unrelated drug doxorubicin.
See research article: http:// http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/9/73
The complex physiology of the gastrointestinal tract is regulated by intricate neural networks embedded within the gut wall. How neural crest cells colonize the intestine to form the enteric nervous system is of great interest to developmental biologists, but also highly relevant for understanding gastrointestinal disorders. A recent paper in BMC Biology addresses this issue with live imaging of gut explants from mouse embryos.
See research article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/12/23.
Mutations in the proteins that bind insulator DNA elements that define the boundaries of chromatin domains can give morphogenetic readouts in Drosophila, as recently reported in BMC Biology by Bonchuk et al. in the Georgiev laboratory. But disentangling the effects on the phenotype may not be simple.
See research article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/13/63
The complexity of the core promoter transcription machinery has emerged as an additional level of transcription regulation that is used during vertebrate development. Recent studies, including one published in BMC Biology, provide mechanistic insights into how the TATA binding protein (TBP) and its vertebrate-specific paralog TBP2 (TRF3) switch function during the transition from the oocyte to the embryo.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/7/45
Bioinformatics-based searches for correlations between subcellular localization and pI or charge distribution of proteins have failed to detect meaningful correlations. Recent work published in BMC Biology finds that a physicochemical metric of charge distribution correlates better with subcellular pH than does pI.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/7/69
A study in the current issue of BMC Biology has identified a mouse major urinary protein as a pheromone that attracts female mice to male urine marks and induces a learned attraction to the volatile urinary odor of the producer. See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/75
The basis for transcriptional fidelity by RNA polymerase is not understood, but the 'trigger loop', a conserved structural element that is rearranged in the presence of correct substrate nucleotides, is thought to be critical. A study just published in BMC Biology sheds new light on the ways in which the trigger loop may promote selection of correct nucleotide triphosphate substrates.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/54
A recent report in BMC Biology on the discovery and analysis of biosynthetic genes for ribosomal peptide natural products confirms that these pathways are much more common and diverse than previously suspected, contributing substantially to the chemical arsenal employed by bacteria.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/70
Although proteins involved in determining apical-basal cell polarity have been directly linked to tumorigenesis, their precise roles in this process remain unclear. A recent report in BMC Biology clarifies the signaling pathways that control cell polarity, proliferation and apoptosis downstream of the tumor suppressor and apical-basal polarity determinant Scribble.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/7/62.
The use of cultivation-independent approaches to map microbial diversity, including recent work published in BMC Biology, has now shown that protists, like bacteria/archaea, are much more diverse than had been realized. Uncovering eukaryotic diversity may now be limited not by access to samples or cost but rather by the availability of full-length reference sequence data.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/7/72