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Science Ticker


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.

Astronomy,, Physics

Event Horizon Telescope to try to capture images of elusive black hole edge

By Emily Conover 5:00am, April 5, 2017
Network of radio observatories will attempt a first-ever glimpse at an event horizon.
Technology,, Astronomy

SpaceX launches and lands its first reused rocket

By Emily DeMarco 6:42pm, March 30, 2017
Aerospace company SpaceX has successfully reused a Falcon 9 rocket’s booster section for the first time.
Anthropology,, Archaeology

Neandertals had an eye for patterns

By Bruce Bower 2:00pm, March 29, 2017
Neandertals carved notches in a raven bone, possibly to produce a pleasing or symbolic pattern, scientists say.
Climate,, Oceans

Arctic sea ice hits record wintertime low

By Thomas Sumner 12:31pm, March 23, 2017
Warm temperatures and heat waves reduced sea ice extent in the Arctic to its smallest maximum extent ever seen.
Animals,, Ecology

Tool use in sea otters doesn't run in the family

By Helen Thompson 8:44pm, March 21, 2017
A genetic study suggests that tool-use behavior isn’t hereditary in sea otters, and that only some animals need to use tools due to the type of food available in their ecosystem.
Particle Physics

Large Hadron Collider experiment nabs five new particles

By Emily Conover 3:25pm, March 21, 2017
LHCb experiment detects new particles composed of two strange quarks and one charm quark.
Animals,, Science & Society

Tropical bedbugs outclimb common bedbugs

By Helen Thompson 6:03pm, March 15, 2017
A study of bedbug traps and feet names finds that tropical bedbugs are much better at scaling slippery walls than common bedbugs.
Astronomy

In new Cassini portraits, Saturn’s moon Pan looks like pasta

By Helen Thompson 5:30pm, March 10, 2017
Photographs taken this week by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft provide a closer view of Saturn’s small moon Pan, which resembles ravioli.
Archaeology,, Microbiology,, Evolution

Ancient dental plaque tells tales of Neandertal diet and disease

By Helen Thompson 1:22pm, March 8, 2017
Researchers have reconstructed the diet and disease history of ancient Neandertals.
Particle Physics,, Astronomy

Rare triplet of high-energy neutrinos detected from an unknown source

By Emily Conover 1:20pm, March 3, 2017
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory spotted three neutrinos within 100 seconds that seem to have come from the same place in the sky.
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