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Science Ticker

How a mushroom gets its glow

Biologists are working out the steps to fungal bioluminescence

Neonothopanus gardneri mushroom

MUSHROOM AFTER DARK  A naturally bioluminescent mushroom (Neonothopanus gardneri from Brazil’s palm forests shown) has a usefully easy-going enzyme that might inspire new glow-in-the-dark labels.

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The enzyme that turns on the light for a glow-in-the-dark mushroom seems “promiscuous,” researchers say. But in a good way.

Researchers from Brazil, Russia and Japan have worked out new details of how two Neonothopanus fungi shine softly green at night. The team had earlier figured out that the basic starting material for bioluminescence in these fungi is a compound called hispidin, found in some other fungi as well as plants such as horsetails. Those plants don’t spontaneously give off light, but in the two Neonothopanus mushroom species studied, an enzyme rejiggers a form of hispidin into a compound that glows.

The enzyme that turns a fungus into a natural night-light isn’t that fussy as enzymes go, says Cassius V. Stevani of the University of São Paulo in Brazil. He and colleagues can tweak the enzyme’s natural partner and still get a glow.

This easy-going chemistry has allowed the labs to develop blue to orange glows instead of just the natural yellowish-green. These bonus colors might mark the beginnings of a new labeling tool for molecular biologists, the researchers report April 26 in Science Advances.

Animals,, Genetics

Dog DNA study maps breeds across the world

By Helen Thompson 11:30am, April 26, 2017
Here are five findings from a massive study of dog breed genomes.
Science & Society

Watch the March for Science in Washington, D.C.

By Science News 6:00am, April 22, 2017
Watch the live stream of the March for Science in Washington, D.C. on April 22.
Planetary Science

In ‘grand finale,’ Cassini spacecraft sets off on collision course with Saturn

By Ashley Yeager 7:00am, April 21, 2017
The Cassini spacecraft will plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere and disintegrate on Sept. 15, but is slated to do some solid science before its demise.
Oceans,, Pollution

The Arctic is a final garbage dump for ocean plastic

By Thomas Sumner 2:10pm, April 19, 2017
Ocean currents dump plastic garbage from the North Atlantic into previously pristine Arctic waters, new research shows.
Biomedicine,, Animals

Frog slime protein fights off the flu

By Helen Thompson 9:00am, April 19, 2017
Urumin, a protein found in Indian frog mucus secretions, has a knack for taking down H1 flu viruses, a new study finds.
Planetary Science

Bubbles may put mysterious fizz in Titan’s polar sea

By Ashley Yeager 11:00am, April 18, 2017
Nitrogen bubbles may be the source of the “magic island” on Saturn’s moon Titan.
Animals,, Evolution

Size matters to lizards, but numbers may not

By Helen Thompson 4:00pm, April 14, 2017
Scientists have sized up the quantitative abilities of lizards and found that reptiles may not be as good with numbers as other vertebrates.
Ecology,, Animals,, Earth

Volcanic eruptions nearly snuffed out Gentoo penguin colony

By Helen Thompson 2:00pm, April 12, 2017
Penguin poop dumps data on how a Gentoo colony responded to ancient volcanic eruptions.
Climate,, Oceans,, Ecosystems

The Great Barrier Reef is experiencing a major coral bleaching event right now

By Thomas Sumner 3:45pm, April 11, 2017
A second coral bleaching event has struck the Great Barrier Reef in 12 months, new observations reveal, raising concerns about the natural wonder’s future.
Paleontology

Bedbugs bugged prehistoric humans, too

By Laurel Hamers 9:00am, April 10, 2017
Scientists have found the oldest known specimens of bedbug relatives in an Oregon cave system where ancient humans once lived.
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