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Science expands Science Signaling, featuring research related to medical advances, and more

The journal Science, published by the non-profit American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), today announced plans to expand its online journal, Science Signaling, which focuses on new insights for combating disease as well as understanding normal human biology. See

Michael B. Yaffe, a prominent cell signaling researcher and associate professor of biology and biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has accepted a new position as Chief Scientific Editor for Science Signaling. Dr. Yaffe will help set the strategic direction of the journal and work with the staff to attract and publish top-notch signaling research.

An array of biological events from reproduction and embryonic differentiation to programmed cell death and cancer development -- is governed by how cells talk to each other, through signal transduction pathways.

By tracing the intricate pathways of cell signals, a growing research community is developing new disease-fighting ideas, based on altering key biochemical events along the route, or knocking out genes that code for proteins involved in unhealthy signals.

To support such efforts, Science in 1999 established an online journal, Sciences Signal Transduction Knowledge Environment (STKE). Since then, the site has featured an array of Perspective, Review, and Protocol articles offering context for signal transduction research. The site also includes a Database of Cell Signaling, illustrating known pathways for signal transduction, and other resources such as the Teaching Resources and Glossary that advance education of topics in cell signaling.

This year, the popular online resource became Science Signaling, and now Science is gearing up to add original, peer-reviewed research reports to the sites lineup by Fall 2008. In addition to weekly online publication, an optional monthly print version of Science Signaling is expected to debut in September 2008 and feature original research.

Signal transduction refers to the sequence of biochemical processes by which cells respond to cues in their internal or external environment. Some signal transduction pathways can alter gene expression and thereby control cell fate, influence cell movement, control cell survival or sentence a cell to death. These pathways are therefore the natural control circuits that regulate biological systems, and they provide potent targets for development of therapeutic agents to combat disease.

Signal transduction is a very dynamic, rapidly evolving field, and even among specialists, the volume and complexity of information can sometimes be overwhelming, said the new Chief Scientific Editor for Science Signaling, MITs Yaffe. Science Signaling pulls all of that information together, and it offers many different ways to learn, through original research, reviews, and other types of articles.

The mechanisms of pathogens, antibiotic resistance, psychiatric disorders, aging, cancer and other diseases are all related to signal transduction, Yaffe noted. Key cellular events, metabolism, protein synthesis, and other classic areas of research from biochemistry seem to be related to signaling mechanisms in extraordinary ways, he added. Science Signaling will help us to further investigate all of these questions from a systems-based level.

Yaffe is perhaps best known for his efforts to understand how certain cellular defects -- resulting from the addition of phosphate groups to proteins -- can lead to human cancer or inflammation. Yaffe earned his M.D.-Ph.D. degree in 1989 from Case Western Reserve University.

What is Signal Transduction?

Simple examples of cellular transduction occur when signals activate receptor molecules on the cells surface. Some receptors are channels, which allow charged atoms called ions to move into or out of the cell. Ions zooming along these cellular corridors then change the electrical potential of the cell, thereby propagating a signal. Other, more complicated forms of signal transduction involve receptors, enzymes, protein interactions, or even the interaction of proteins with DNA or RNA.

Some signal transduction researchers are trying to understand the molecular targets of currently used drugs and chemicals; whereas others seek to understand the aberrant signaling that can cause disease in order to develop new targeted therapeutics.

Some researchers in the field are investigating, for example, how signaling by members of the Toll-like receptor family, which are involved in the first response to pathogens, may contribute to cancer and may prove to be an attractive target for treatment of this complex disease. Others are trying to understand how signaling events lead to changes in the brain that produce learning and memory or what changes in brain signaling cause mood disorders in order to develop more effective therapies.

Understanding signaling pathways is also important for understanding how pathogens infect their hosts. For agriculture, researchers are trying to understand the signaling events that allow plants adapt to changes in their environment, as well as the signals that allow plants to communicate with each other or repel the insects that would eat them or attract the beneficial insects, such as those that would help pollination.

Specific Examples of Signaling Research

  • Insect Repellent

    Blood-feeding insects are responsible for spreading some of the deadliest infectious diseases and topically applied insect repellents play a crucial role in protecting humans from these insects. Researchers found that in fruit flies and in the malaria mosquito, DEET, which has been widely used in insect repellents for many years, blocks the insects' sense of smell. It seems that DEET functions by masking the odor that would attract the insect by blocking odorant receptors that require the olfactory co-receptor OR83b.

    M. Ditzen, M. Pellegrino, L. B. Vosshall, Insect odorant receptors are molecular targets of the insect repellent DEET. Science 319, 1838-1842 (2008).

  • Lymphoma

    Differentiation, survival, and growth of B cells, a particular type of immune cell, requires proper functioning of the nuclear factor B (NF- B) signaling pathway, which includes a protein called CARD11 that serves as a docking site for signaling molecules. Lenz et al. discovered that a common form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma in humans is caused by mutations in the CARD11 gene. These mutant forms of CARD11 caused inappropriate activation of the NF- B pathway.

    G. Lenz, R. E. Davis, V. N. Ngo, L. Lam, T. C. George, G. W. Wright, S. S. Dave, H. Zhao, W. Xu, A. Rosenwald, G. Ott, H. K. Muller-Hermelink, R. D. Gascoyne, J. M. Connors, L. M. Rimsza, E. Campo, E. S. Jaffe, J. Delabie, E. B. Smeland, R. I. Fisher, W. C. Chan, L. M. Staudt, Oncogenic CARD11 mutations in human diffuse large B cell lymphoma. Science 319, 1676-1679 (2008).

  • Colorectal Carcinoma

    The Wnt signal transduction pathway is a critical player in animal development; however, inappropriate activation of this pathway triggers tumorigenesis. For example, disruption of the tumor suppressor known as APC, a negative regulator of Wnt signaling, results in colorectal carcinoma. Although APC is a well known inhibitor of Wnt signaling, now it appears that in fruit flies APC has an activating role in Wnt signaling.

    C. M. Takacs, J. R. Baird, E. G. Hughes, S. S. Kent, H. Benchabane, R. Paik, Y. Ahmed, Dual positive and negative regulation of Wingless signaling by adenomatous polyposis coli. Science 319, 333-336 (2008).

Why Science Signaling?

Science Signaling builds on Sciences contributions to the field of signal transduction, established through STKE nine years ago, by adding original, peer-reviewed research to a field that promises improved medical treatments based on fundamental insights to human biology, said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of the journal Science.

In addition to Chief Scientific Editor Michael Yaffe, Science Signaling leadership includes Editor Nancy Gough and Science Executive Editor Monica Bradford. The Editor-in-Chief of the journal Science is Bruce Alberts.


Contact: Natasha Pinol
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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