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Highlights of the Biophysical Society 56th Annual Meeting
Date:2/6/2012

say researchers from Ben Gurion University in Israel. Understanding these evolutionary forces can help researchers predict which part of unstudied toxins will do damage. Scientists have long suspected that evolutionary forces that encourage diversity could play a role in shaping how a toxin works; if such forces were in play, toxins could rapidly evolve within a single species or change quickly from species to species, supporting predators and prey in the "arms race" that keeps them in competition. Still, it was not clear whether the same rules dictate neurotoxin evolution between animals from different phyla (that is, that have very little genetically in common with each other), or whether there are different rules in play for different organisms. Using the published gene sequences for dozens of different toxins from various species of poisonous scorpions, spiders, and snakes, the Ben Gurion researchers studied toxins that targeted a variety of ion channels and receptors. They found a clear correlation between the active parts of the toxins and the parts that experience these diversifying forces.

Presentation 681-Pos, "Molding the business end of neurotoxins by diversifying evolution," is at 1:45 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 26.

Vaccines for HIV: A new design strategy: Vaccines prime the immune system to target molecular signatures associated with a particular pathogen, but HIV's ability to mutate has made it difficult to identify reliable vaccine targets. Physical scientists and clinical virologists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Ragon Institute in Cambridge, Mass., have identified a promising strategy for HIV vaccine design using a mathematical technique that has also been used in problems related to quantum physics, as well as in analyses of stock price fluctuations and studies of enzymes. The team sought to identify groups of amino acids that are both evolutionarily constrained (meaning that they are not able to change g
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Contact: Ellen Weiss
eweiss@biophysics.org
240-290-5606
American Institute of Physics
Source:Eurekalert

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