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Science News Staff

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.


Certain birth defects are on the rise since Zika arrived in the U.S.

By Laurel Hamers 5:36pm, March 2, 2017
The rate of certain birth defects is much higher in babies born to Zika-infected mothers in the United States, the CDC reports.
Planetary Science,, Oceans

Saturn’s ‘Death Star’ moon may not conceal an ocean after all

By Thomas Sumner 2:07pm, February 28, 2017
A lack of cracks on Mimas suggests that the icy moon of Saturn doesn’t conceal a subsurface ocean of liquid water.
Planetary Science,, Astronomy

Juno spacecraft won’t go into shorter orbit around Jupiter

By Ashley Yeager 4:02pm, February 17, 2017
Juno will remain in its 53-day orbit around Jupiter due to an issue with two helium check valves, NASA reports.
Climate,, Oceans,, Earth

Antarctic sea ice shrinks to record low

By Thomas Sumner 1:14pm, February 17, 2017
The Antarctic sea ice extent has reached a new low just two years after hitting a record high.

See how long Zika lasts in semen and other bodily fluids

By Meghan Rosen 5:03pm, February 14, 2017
For most men infected with Zika, traces of the virus disappear from semen 81 days after symptoms begin. In other bodily fluids, Zika RNA is typically cleared even faster.
Climate,, Animals,, Conservation

Desert songbirds increasingly at risk of dehydration

By Susan Milius 5:11pm, February 13, 2017
With no efforts to curb climate warming, hot spots in the U.S. Southwest could turn uninhabitable for some songbirds.

Dual magma plumes fueled volcanic eruptions during final days of dinosaurs

By Thomas Sumner 2:00pm, February 9, 2017
Two magma plumes fueled the Deccan volcanic eruptions around the time of the dinosaur extinction 66 million years ago.
Animals,, Biophysics,, Cells

How hydras know where to regrow their heads

By Helen Thompson 10:00am, February 9, 2017
Regenerating pond animals called hydras inherit structural patterns from their original forms, researchers find.
Genetics,, Animals,, Agriculture

CRISPR used in cows to help fight tuberculosis

By Helen Thompson 1:00pm, February 3, 2017
Chinese researchers used a CRISPR/Cas 9 gene editor to make cows more resistant to tuberculosis.
Oceans,, Climate,, Animals

Cone snails wander in circles, lose focus with boosted CO2

By Elizabeth Eaton 5:00pm, February 2, 2017
Deadly cone snails wander in circles and become less capable hunters when exposed to higher levels of carbon dioxide in seawater.
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