Biology—Research Highlights

Biology is an international, open access, peer-reviewed biological sciences journal, published quarterly online by MDPI. The aim of the journal is to bring together studies employing the varied experimental and theoretical approaches that are fueling biological discovery. It is an inclusive journal that covers a wide variety of disciplines and sub-disciplines: biochemistry, genetics, immunology, paleontology, zoology, biophysics, neuroscience, developmental biology, mathematical biology, bacteriology, systems biology, virology, botany, genomics, medicine, parasitology, pharmacology, proteomics. More details about the journal and its scope are available in the first editorial.

We present a selection of recently published papers that were highly rated during the review process and highlight the latest research in biological sciences.

Intraguild Predation Dynamics in a Lake Ecosystem Based on a Coupled Hydrodynamic-Ecological Model: The Example of Lake Kinneret (Israel)

Vardit Makler-Pick, Matthew R. Hipsey, Tamar Zohary, Yohay Carmel and Gideon Gal

The food web of Lake Kinneret contains intraguild predation (IGP). Predatory invertebrates and planktivorous fish both feed on herbivorous zooplankton, while the planktivorous fish also feed on the predatory invertebrates. In this study, a complex mechanistic hydrodynamic-ecological model, coupled to a bioenergetics-based fish population model (DYCD-FISH), was employed with the aim of revealing IGP dynamics. The results indicate that the predation pressure of predatory zooplankton on herbivorous zooplankton varies widely, depending on the season. At the time of its annual peak, it is 10–20 times higher than the fish predation pressure. When the number of fish was significantly higher, as occurs in the lake after atypical meteorological years, the effect was a shift from a bottom-up controlled ecosystem, to the top-down control of planktivorous fish and a significant reduction of predatory and herbivorous zooplankton biomass. Yet, seasonally, the decrease in predatory-zooplankton biomass was followed by a decrease in their predation pressure on herbivorous zooplankton, leading to an increase of herbivorous zooplankton biomass to an extent similar to the base level. The analysis demonstrates the emergence of non-equilibrium IGP dynamics due to intra-annual and inter-annual changes in the physico-chemical characteristics of the lake, and suggests that IGP dynamics should be considered in food web models in order to more accurately capture mass transfer and trophic interactions.

SNP Discovery Using a Pangenome: Has the Single Reference Approach Become Obsolete?

Bhavna Hurgobin and David Edwards

Increasing evidence suggests that a single individual is insufficient to capture the genetic diversity within a species due to gene presence absence variation. In order to understand the extent to which genomic variation occurs in a species, the construction of its pangenome is necessary. The pangenome represents the complete set of genes of a species; it is composed of core genes, which are present in all individuals, and variable genes, which are present only in some individuals. Aside from variations at the gene level, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are also an important form of genetic variation. The advent of next-generation sequencing (NGS) coupled with the heritability of SNPs make them ideal markers for genetic analysis of human, animal, and microbial data. SNPs have also been extensively used in crop genetics for association mapping, quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis, analysis of genetic diversity, and phylogenetic analysis. This review focuses on the use of pangenomes for SNP discovery. It highlights the advantages of using a pangenome rather than a single reference for this purpose. This review also demonstrates how extra information not captured in a single reference alone can be used to provide additional support for linking genotypic data to phenotypic data.

STAT5-Interacting Proteins: A Synopsis of Proteins that Regulate STAT5 Activity

Ashley A. Able, Jasmine A. Burrell and Jacqueline M. Stephens

Signal Transducers and Activators of Transcription (STATs) are key components of the JAK/STAT pathway. Of the seven STATs, STAT5A and STAT5B are of particular interest for their critical roles in cellular differentiation, adipogenesis, oncogenesis, and immune function. The interactions of STAT5A and STAT5B with cytokine/hormone receptors, nuclear receptors, transcriptional regulators, proto-oncogenes, kinases, and phosphatases all contribute to modulating STAT5 activity. Among these STAT5 interacting proteins, some serve as coactivators or corepressors to regulate STAT5 transcriptional activity and some proteins can interact with STAT5 to enhance or repress STAT5 signaling. In addition, a few STAT5 interacting proteins have been identified as positive regulators of STAT5 that alter serine and tyrosine phosphorylation of STAT5 while other proteins have been identified as negative regulators of STAT5 via dephosphorylation. This review article will discuss how STAT5 activity is modulated by proteins that physically interact with STAT5.