August, 2007

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Astrocytes Found to Release ATP through Lysosomal Exocytosis

Dr. Duan Shumin and his students including Zhang Zhijun, Chen Gang and Zhou Wei, from the Laboratory of Synapse Development and Plasticity of the Institute of Neuroscience, CAS have revealed that lysosomes in astrocytes contain abundant ATP and exhibit different modes of exocytosis in response to physiological and pathological stimulations. Lysosomes have been regarded as "digestion organelles" of the cell for degrading "waste proteins." This present finding indicates that the regulated lysosomal exocytosis of ATP from astrocytes may have important physiological and pathological functions of various nerves in astrocytes. This work was published online on July 8 in Nature Cell Biology.

Nature: New Achievement in Archaeological Study

Teaming up with local scholars, CAS paleontologists recently discovered a giant bird-like dinosaur from Erlian, one of the world-famous graveyards of "terrible lizards" in Inner Mongolia. The new findings, named Gigantoraptor erlianensis, is a new but bird-like dinosaur and the fourth new dinosaur taxon recovered from the basin in recent years. Researchers say that its discovery will greatly enrich our knowledge on the complexity in the evolutionary process of the bird's origin.

As reported at the June 14 issue of the prestigious British journal Nature, the dinosaur's fossil remains were brought to light by Xu Xing with the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, CAS in Beijing and his co-workers in Inner Mongolia from an 80 million-year-old late Cretaceous formation in Erlian Basin. Scientists speculate that the Gigantoraptor was about eight meters long, more than five meters tall and weighed not less than 1.4 tons. Although on a par with the formidable tyrannosaur in size, it was surprisingly found to be more closely related to the oviraptorosaur (egg-eating dinosaur), which was a close relative of primitive birds but in relatively small size, mostly weighed about several kilograms or even less than one kilogram.

Major Progress in Insect Evolution Ecology

Headed by Prof. Kang Le, a research team from the Institute of Zoology, CAS has recently made breakthrough progress in identifying insect-specific proteins (ISPs). As reported in the recent issue of BMC Genomics, the team designated more than 50 ISPs by analyzing genome data of holometabola (insects undergo complete metamorphosis), and heterometabola (insects undergo incomplete metamorphosis), and by comparing the data with those of other members of the eukaryote. Their studies suggest that the protein sets, including those related to stress and stimulus responses as well as epidermal proteins and general odorant binding proteins, could offer clues to reveal insects' uniqueness in environmental adaptation and information exchanges with their outside world.


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