Unlocking the biochemical treasure chest within microbes

Secondary metabolites—the compounds produced by microbes to mediate internal and external messaging, self-defense, and chemical warfare—are the basis for hundreds of invaluable agricultural, industrial, and medical products. ...

A new way to block unwanted genetic transfer

We receive half of our genes from each biological parent, so there's no avoiding inheriting a blend of characteristics from both. Yet, for single-celled organisms like bacteria that reproduce by splitting into two identical ...

Parasitic plants use stolen genes to make them better parasites

Some parasitic plants steal genetic material from their host plants and use the stolen genes to more effectively siphon off the host's nutrients. A new study led by researchers at Penn State and Virginia Tech reveals that ...

Determining the timing of methanogen evolution

Early forms of life very likely had metabolisms that transformed the primordial Earth, such as initiating the carbon cycle and producing most of the planet's oxygen through photosynthesis. About 3.5 billion years ago, the ...

'Most famous wheat gene' found

Washington State University researchers have found "the most famous wheat gene," a reproductive traffic cop of sorts that can be used to transfer valuable genes from other plants to wheat.

Ferns borrowed genes to flourish in low light

During the age of the dinosaurs, the arrival of flowering plants as competitors could have spelled doom for the ancient fern lineage. Instead, ferns diversified and flourished under the new canopy—using a mysterious gene ...

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