01 February 2009

Mendel's Garden, 28th Edition

Hello and welcome to the 28th edition of the genetics blog carnival known as Mendel's Garden, where we celebrate blogging on topics related to anything touching on what Mendel discovered (or thought he discovered).

While reading these interesting and informative pieces, please think about work that should be featured in a future edition and/or blogs (like yours) that would serve well as future hosts.

So do tomato seeds get you excited? No? Oh. Well, they should, if you're at all interested in evolutionary genetics. Michael White at Adaptive Complexity explores some new findings in which evolutionary changes in seed size in tomatoes are explained to a large extent by variation in a single gene, pinpointed through the use of standard genetic crosses. He summarizes the work as "a clear case of natural genetic variation controlling the size of seeds, variation for evolution (or plant breeders) to work on when larger or smaller seed sizes are needed to adapt to a new environment." Not peas, but close. Mendel would be proud.

"Mendel would be proud" happens to be the title of a post by Michael at Ricochet Science, pointing to a new educational site which he hopes will help students and laypersons learn genetics.

Ouroboros describes experiments on an interesting DNA repair enzyme called Ercc1. One might think that deletion of the gene encoding this protein (it controls nucleotide excision repair) would be a Bad Thing, but in fact mice that have been so altered are strikingly cancer-resistant. And there's more, but you'll have to check out the excellent Ouroboros blog (focused on aging and related biology) yourself.

At the Spittoon, Erin introduces her post entitled "Miss Con-GENE-iality" with this teaser: "If Facebook is starting to take over your life, maybe your genes are partly to blame." The subject is heritability of various aspects of social connectedness, and instead of whining "I could quit Facebook anytime I want" just go read about these new genetic analyses of our social behavior.

On a more serious note, Razib at Gene Expression explores the genetics that might underlie the interesting case of Sandra Laing, a woman born to apparently white parents but who appeared to be "of a different race." And in South Africa. For more on the genetics of human appearance, see the Eye on DNA interview with Dr. Tzung-Fu Hsieh, developer of a test for the red hair gene.

Oh, and before you give your credit card number to a personal genomics outfit, spend some time at Genetic Future – Daniel notes when a company is charging too much, and comments on some recent remarks by Francis Collins on the future of "consumer genetics."

Organic transgenic food might sound like an oxymoron, but Anastasia at Genetic Maize explains why it's not and introduces the new word for such methods: orgenic.

Jonathan Eisen at The Tree of Life is recruiting people to help with analysis of metagenomic data. Go there to learn more. I forgot to inquire about salary and benefits.

Back to evolutionary genetics: Todd at Evolutionary Novelties reports on an extraordinary example of evolutionary convergence, involving proteins called opsins which are best known for their roles in vision.

Need more evolution (with genetics)? Go read about pink iguanas at Nothing's Shocking. This should get you thinking about speciation, and that means it's time to read about "speciation genes" at Evolving Thoughts. John's not crazy about the term. What a grouch.

And here's a new twist on the whole "species boundary" concept: Ed at Not Exactly Rocket Science writes about a single gene in glowing bacteria that accounts for the ability of the same bacterial species to colonize (in a mutualistic relationship) two completely different organisms (pinecone fish with glowing "headlights" and squid with a luminous "cloaking device"). Now that's cool.

Let's give the Digital Cuttlefish the last word, at least because the blogosphere recently treated us to intensely disturbing images of cuttlefish meeting violent ends. At that little piece of blogospheric heaven, the Digital Cuttlefish reports on the cuttlefish genome project. It's not what you think – it's better.

Thanks for reading, and look for the next edition of Mendel's Garden the first Sunday in March at Biofortified.

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