There are different ways of producing progeny. In eukaryotes, the most widespread method is for two reproductive cells of the opposite sex to meet and fuse. This may sound straightforward but mating is never an easy affair. Not only must the two cells belong to the same species but they must also make sure that they belong to different mating-types. They then have to know how to recognise each other, adhere to one another, fuse and create a space in which their nuclei will meet, mingle and ultimately give birth to a new individual - a series of events that demonstrates how accidental any form of life is in the first place. Though to date very little is known about reproductive cell fusion on the molecular level, each of these steps probably involves a complex interplay of many different proteins. In the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii scientists have unveiled part of the molecular mechanics of a protein that has a direct role in fusing such cells. It has been called Hapless 2.
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Snapshot : Transcription factor Pha-4
Life is something not many of us are ready to lose. From elixirs to genetic tinkering, over the years humans have searched for ways of lengthening our time here on Earth. Some have even tried to define what the process of getting older actually is. Is it a way of ensuring that the younger – and hence the fittest – get a decent go at reproducing and not their ageing parents? Or is it the result of an accumulation of negative events – such as mutations – ultimately leading to death? Or are we given a certain amount of energy to be spent in a lifetime, which is distributed between reproducing and maintaining our organism?
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