In the perilous hours immediately after birth, a newborn mammal must survive the sudden loss of food supply from its mother. Under normal circumstances, newborns mount a metabolic response to ward off starvation until feeding occurs. This survival response involves a process of controlled breakdown of internal energetic sources known as autophagy. Although autophagy has been well documented, the key mechanistic regulators of autophagy in vivo have remained poorly understood. Researchers have now discovered that a family of nutrient-sensing enzymes, dubbed Rag GTPases, modulates the activity of the mTORC1 protein complex, whose inhibition is essential for autophagy and survival in newborns.
Autistic-like behaviors can be partially remedied by normalizing excessive levels of protein synthesis in the brain, a team of researchers has found in a study of laboratory mice. The findings provide a pathway to the creation of pharmaceuticals aimed at treating autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that are associated with diminished social interaction skills, impaired communication ability, and repetitive behaviors.
In a forced game of molecular tug-of war, some strings of atoms can act like a lever, accelerating reactions 1000 times faster than other molecules. The discovery suggests that scientists could use these molecular levers to drive chemical and mechanical reactivity among atoms and ultimately engineer more efficient materials.