Sunday, May 9, 2010

Book review: The Manga Guide to Molecular Biology

After getting the Manga Guides to Statistics and Databases, I recently bought the Manga Guide to Molecular Biology. All of these guides are very basic, so if you already know a substantial amount you won't learn anything new, but I think they can be useful for teachers and for raw beginners.

The molecular biology guide does a good job explaining the classic, core ideas: DNA replication, transcription, translation, and some of the biochemical structures. To give an idea of the level of detail, Okazaki fragments, the structure of transfer RNA, and introns and exons are included, but not poly-adenylation. Some topics, like micro-RNA, are briefly described in sections that are in a more traditional textbook style.

Perhaps the best use of this book is as a gift to someone to encourage an interest in molecular biology - for example, a high school student relative.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A suspicious histone of Symbion pandora

Recently on the blog Neatorama they highlighted a very strange creature, a parasite of the lobster that is pretty unrelated to other animals - Symbion pandora. Its got a rather complicated reproductive cycle, as described in the links below.

The articles mention that it was so unusual that a new phylum was proposed, the Cycliophora. I was curious about this so I looked up what sequences are available for Symbion pandora. There are some ESTs that are in the trace read archive, un-annotated as far as I can tell, and about 100 nucleotide records. Most of those are for RNA subunits, or cytochrome oxidase subunits, but there is one histone record. I've been reading about histones quite a bit recently so I BLASTed that record. It seems very suspicious to me that all the top hits were to lobsters (see alignment below, the top hit. Nephrops norvegicus is the Norway lobster). I strongly suspect that this was contaminated, and is not a correct Symbion pandora sequence.

The Neatorama link
More info is available from the New Scientist article that Neatorama links to.