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David Bricker
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Saturday, October 15, 2005

Indiana Science Monthly flag

Vol. 2, no. 11
Aug. 8, 2005

Indiana Science Monthly is a selection of recent news stories about Indiana University scientists and their research. Comments or questions about this newsletter may be directed to David Bricker, Office of Media Relations (812-856-9035 or

July science news:
* Flies, flies, and more flies
* Auxin receptor found
* How would you react... to an oil-water interface?

July science news

"Oil and Water Do Mix" (CHEMISTRY)
Chemical & Engineering News
Vol. 83, no. 30
July 25, 2005

EXCERPT: Sometimes, all that's needed to overturn generations of conventional chemical wisdom is a vigorous stir.

* Some reactions involving fatty molecules actually happen faster in a vessel where watery and oily solvents meet, although occasionally a "vigorous stir" is needed to get things started. Indiana University Bloomington chemist Joseph Gajewski found this to be so for "Diels-Alder reactions." Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute have learned new things about the mechanisms behind these reactions.


"The flies are in the mail" (BIOLOGY)
The Scientist
Vol. 19, iss. 14
July 18, 2005

EXCERPT: In 2002, the Bloomington Drosophila Stock Center at Indiana University -- on of the world's best known sources of fruit flies -- had a consignment destined for overseas returned by the US Postal Service (USPS). The center's codirector, Kevin Cook, learned that the package had been deemed in contravention of USPS international postal regulations. The Bloomington center mails tens of thousands of fly cultures overseas each year, and "this was the first time a postal inspector had sent back a package," says Cook.

* The gentle simmering of this story over the last year may have something to do with the fact that the exchange of genetically interesting strains and cultivars is a foundation of scientific inquiry. IUB biologist Kevin Cook also tells The Scientist reporter Stephen Pincock, "We were in violation of the law, but what were we supposed to do? A lot of scientists around the world rely on us."
(Requires a subscription)


"Thinking Outside the Icebox on DNA Storage" (BIOLOGY)
The Scientist
Vol. 19, iss. 14
July 18, 2005

EXCERPT: Lab freezers are like mom's attic: cluttered with the property of people long gone. At home, that might include baseball cards and old shoes; in the lab, it's samples that graduate students and postdocs left behind. Mom can clean out her attic easily enough, but what about in the lab?

* IUB Assistant Scientist Kris Klueg tells The Scientist reporter Gail Dutton, "It's a huge issue... The principal investigator had been at the university for 15 years. Between one-third and one half of the freezer space was filled with samples from people who had left. Half of those weren't labeled well."
(Requires a subscription)


"Actin moves chromosomes" (BIOLOGY)
The Scientist
July 14, 2005

EXCERPT: An actin network can move chromosomes during cell division, scientists report in this week's Nature. Their surprise findings are the first indication that the protein filaments play a role in chromosome movement, introducing a novel mechanism that seems necessary for delivering distal chromosomes to within the capture distance of centrosomal microtubules.

* What, exactly, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (Germany) researchers found is up for discussion, however. In her evaluation of the report, IUB biologist Claire Walczak tells The Scientist reporter Marta Paterlini, "I think the data are very solid and convincing... However, I would not call what they are examining congression, but rather capture and translocation of the chromosomes. To me, the definition of congression is the alignment of the chromosomes at the metaphase plate and it is unclear whether this long-range capture is true congression or a mechanism to bring the chromosomes to the spindle proper so that the canonical congression process can occur." Walczak is a Medical Sciences Program Bloomington associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology.


"The joy of no sex" (PSYCHOLOGY)
Toronto Star
July 8, 2005

EXCERPT: Cijay Morgan is not broken, she is not confused and she is not afraid of intimacy... She just has no interest in sex... The 42-year-old Edmonton woman is a self-professed asexual, someone, she says, who doesn't have any sexual feelings for another person, male or female.

* Toronto Star reporter Megan Ogilvie explores asexuality as a legitimate sexual orientation. A study presented by IUB graduate student Nicole Prause to members of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality suggests people who think of themselves as "asexual" are not easily aroused.


"Parasite infiltrates fruitfly research" (BIOLOGY)
Vol. 436, no. 8
July 7, 2005

EXCERPT: An unnoticed parasite could be scuppering fly geneticists' experiments. Up to a third of laboratory strains of their favourite test organism -- the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster -- are infected with a parasite that affects the flies' biology, according to a study of hundreds of stocks of the fly. The finding suggests that the bacterium could be silently affecting the outcome of a significant number of studies.

* A recently published study of 609 Bloomington Drosophila Stock Center strains showed about 30 percent were infected with the bacterial parasite Wolbachia. Wolbachia is a natural parasite of some Drosophila species. Stock center codirector Kathy Matthews tells Nature reporter Claire Ainsworth, "This paper will help alert Drosophila researchers to the possibility of the presence of Wolbachia in any given stock, which is certainly a good thing... But we view it more as a useful point of information about Drosophila biology than a call to arms."


Mark Estelle and Arabidopsis

Photo by: David Bricker

IU Bloomington biologist Mark Estelle has studied Arabidopsis thaliana for 20 years

Print-Quality Photo

"Long search reveals cell receptor for plant growth" (BIOLOGY)
Science News
Vol. 168, no. 1
July 2, 2005

EXCERPT: More than 70 years after biologists identified the powerful plant hormone auxin, they have finally found how plant cells detect it.

* Two (more or less) independent studies published in the same issue of Nature identify the receptor of the plant hormone auxin. The identification of the receptor completes a biochemical pathway map for the important hormone. IUB biologist Mark Estelle led one of the two studies.

IU press release:


"Private farm is hotbed of archaeological activity" (ANTHROPOLOGY)
Associated Press
July 1, 2005

EXCERPT: When he bought his farm outside Jeffersonville in the late 1960s, T. Harold Martin had no idea the gentle slopes on the property were part of an American Indian village from some 900 years ago... But Martin, a dentist just out of school, quickly learned about the importance of the site off Ind. 62. He said students from places like Harvard University would knock on his door, unannounced, and ask to see the four earthen mounds in a pasture where his cattle grazed.

* IUB anthropologist Cheryl Ann Munson is overseeing the Prather excavation project for IU. She tells reporter Alex Davis, "People all over the eastern United States who know about Mississippian archaeology know about the Prather complex... Now we need to learn more about how this mound center came to be."


"The Very Model of a Modern Model Genome" (BIOINFORMATICS)
Genomics & Proteomics
July 2005

EXCERPT: The great irony of biomedical research is that it focuses intently on humans, but seldom studies them. Surprisingly little of basic biology knowledge comes from experiments on people, even though we are clearly the species we care most about.

* IU Bloomington maintains "meta-databases" of genetic, genomic, and proteomic data for model organisms. Some consistency in the way the data is entered (and edited) is crucial if the data is to be useful to the world's Internet-equipped scientists. With regard to the inconsistencies, IUB bioinformaticist Don Gilbert tells Genomics & Proteomics reporter Alan Dove, "The same data [are] presented or listed in different ways for different databases, so the same gene can have many different names." Gilbert is director of the director of the IU Genome Informatics Laboratory.
(Access may require a subscription)


* * * * Do you have an important and/or interesting paper in press? A major event or presentation coming up? Please contact IU Office of Media Relations science writers David Bricker at 812-856-9035,, or Hal Kibbey at 812-855-0074,

Indiana Science Monthly is produced for internal use only. If you have received this eMail in error, or do not wish not to receive this monthly eMail, or if you have a news item for the next edition of ISM, please contact David Bricker at 812-856-9035,