Genes to Cells Cover Gallery

Cover arts

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We found a spray of ume (Japanese apricot) with some pretty blossoms. To bring out the best appearance of the blossoms, we arranged it in front of a plate on which a budding yeast strain had been streaked. Since the strain had ade2 mutation and carried a plasmid containing ADE2 gene, a moderate number of colonies turned into deep pink color due to loss of the plasmid were scattered on the medium. What we found as a result was a perfect picture of ume blossoms illuminated from behind by the rising full moon.
Walking monozygotic twin sisters in the snow are sharing an umbrella. They share the same genotype; however, they seem to have a different personality and taste as their kimono. It has been pointed out that the difference in epigenome would cause such difference in personality. The data printed on their sleeves that was obtained with the bisulfite sequencing (a method that can detect methylation of individual cytosine residues in DNA) and is showing their methylation patterns at a certain locus of the genome suggests that there are epigenetic differences between them. Our knowledge of the relationship between presumed hereditary traits or diseases and epigenetics will increase through studies of monozygotic twin-pairs of which one twin has such traits or diseases.
In recent years, sirtuin family genes have attracted attention because it has been reported that their activation extended lifespan in some animal species and yeast. Sirtuin family consists of several classes, and the majority of them encode NAD+-dependent deacetylase. The arrow in this picture is called 'hamaya,' which is one of Japanese New Year's good luck charms. It is decorated with two 'ema's (wooden votive plaques) likened five-membered ring of ribose with drawings of a crane and a turtle, common symbols of longevity in Japan. The arrow as a whole is mimicking the structure of NAD+, which is required for sirtuin's deacetylase activity.
A woman is dispensing reagents using a motorized pipettor. She is in a stylish kimono (hogusome) with a pattern like letters written with a brush. The text on her kimono is not only for fashion but also actually the recipe for the reagents (NaCl, glucose, amino acids, acetic acid, etc.); that is exactly to kill two birds with one stone. It will help her do experiments precisely at the busy end of the year.
It is known that an increase of cytosolic concentration of calcium ion (Ca2+) like a wave is initiated from the point of sperm entry and propagates throughout the egg after fertilization in many animal species. This calcium wave is caused by a kind of chain reaction; activated phospholipase C (PLC) produces inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate (IP3) that induces release of Ca2+ from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) near the egg surface, and released Ca2+ induces further release of Ca2+ from nearby ER. The leaves on the round-shape mountain are turning red like a wave coming down from the top of the mountain as if mimicking the calcium wave.
Site-specific DNA recombination technologies such as FLP-FRP and Cre-lox systems have been applied to various purposes including mosaic analysis or conditional knockout. We applied the mechanism to pruning a pine tree. When we gave a signal to the pine tree, a branch was circularized and was cut automatically at the specific site marked with the darker green pine needles.
Soba (buckwheat, Fagopyrum esculentum) is a pseudocereal with rich aroma and flavor, which is mainly eaten as noodles after Edo era in Japan. Yet there still remain many problems to overcome: its lower yield than the wheat or rice mainly caused by heteromorphic self-incompatibility (SI), its allergenic property that sometimes causes severe allergic reactions, and so on. Also, SI has been preventing us from producing good cultivars using genetic approaches. Finally, the buckwheat's whole genome has just been sequenced with next-generation sequencing (NGS), and it shows us a solution for those problems. We may have low-allergenic soba noodles in the foreseeable future.
An infant and his mother are playing with a small fish in a tub. The tub has a knothole from which water is pouring out, so the infant is carefully holding the small fish not to let it out from the hole. In the plasma membrane in various species, from bacteria to higher eukaryotes, there are such water channels called aquaporins that selectively allow water molecules to traverse the membrane. The schematized secondary and tertiary structures of the aquaporin's monomer are drawn on his mother's kimono and sash, respectively. And, aquaporins form tetramers to function in the plasma membrane just like the pattern drawn on the infant's kimono.
Naruto Strait, a strait between Shikoku and Awaji-shima Island, is famous for the huge Naruto-no-uzushio (Naruto whirlpools) that is generated by Japan's fastest current of sea water caused by the tide. It is thanks to the function of our inner ears that we can hear the roaring sound from and feel the acceleration of the rotation of the whirlpools. We saw an illusion of the structure of the inner ear (the semicircular canals, vestibule and cochlea) in a huge whirlpool that shook us by the inner ears.
Among phenotypes, quantitative traits are usually caused by many chromosomal loci (quantitative trait locus, QOL) in a complex manner, and researches using dogs have been fruitful. A number of dog breeds have been produced by human beings. The morphological character is highly variable among breeds, but uniformed within the same breed. Genome-wide association studies that coupled craniometric data obtained from various dog breeds have been conducted, and QTLs in which SNPs that might affect the skull shape existed concentratively were identified. One of the QTLs was mapped near BMP3 gene on Ch. 32, and it was shown that most breeds with shortened head had a common missense mutation in BMP3. Data on the background: Figure 3 of Schoenebeck et al. (2012) PLoS Genet. 8, e1002849 (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002849). Upper panel: SNP distribution around BMP3 locus among various dog breeds. Lower panel: Plots of important SNPs (conserved, exonic, etc.) extracted from the upper panel.
Flow cytometry is a technology that allows high throughput analysis of the characteristics of cell populations by optically and rapidly measuring the morphological characteristics and fluorescent signals of the cells suspended in a narrow stream of fluid in equipment (flow cytometer). In addition, the equipment with a cell sorter can collect a certain type of cells from a heterogeneous population by charging droplets containing such cells identified by the optical data and attracting them by an electrostatic deflector. In this post town in this drawing, 'Positive' inn on the right and 'Negative' inn on the left are finding and attracting potential customers from passersby. They just look like a cell sorter. There is seen above them a cluster of clouds that resembles flow cytometric data.
Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto is famous for its 12-meter high Butai ('stage'). In Edo era, there was a popular superstition that if one survived a jump from the Butai, one's wish would come true. In this drawing, one woman holding an umbrella as a parachute has jumped from the Butai over the fully blossomed cherry trees. In the Drosophila wing imaginal discs drawn on her kimono, the spatial expression patterns of genes involved in pattern formation can be discerned. May the Drosophila wing imaginal discs differentiate into wings before she crashes to the ground. Drosophila adults have gathered from nowhere as if they escorted her in a cherry blossom snowstorm.
Spring, that is the season of arousal for many living creatures. Even among mammals, some squirrels, bears and bats hibernate. This woman is researching hibernation of an individual of the Siberian chipmunk. The body temperature of hibernating chipmunk firstly drops to near ambient temperature, and reciprocally repeats the state of less than 10 °C (sustained hibernation) and the state of almost 37 °C (inter-bout arousal) like the chart on this drawing. We hope that life science will shed light on the mechanisms of various environmental adaptations of life. We thank Dr. Yoshifumi Yamaguchi (Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, The University of Tokyo) for his valuable suggestions for our drawing. Inspired by Figure 1 in Epperson & Martin (2002) Physiol. Genomics 10, 93-102.
In the most popular type of next-generation DNA sequencer, DNA fragments are PCR-amplified in the slide's channel coated by a lawn of PCR primers to form myriads of clone DNA clusters. After that, the DNA sequence of each cluster is determined by taking photographs of fluorescent signals on the slide with the image sensor again and again after each single-nucleotide extension step of a novel dye-terminator method. Thus, the reaction proceeding in the next-generation sequencer is massively parallel sequencing. In this drawing, we schematically expressed this mechanism with a flying hawk (image sensor) viewing clusters of pine trees (DNA) on the channel-shaped reclaimed land divided by embankments.
Worship the first sunrise of the new year from two rocks ‘Meoto-iwa’ (the wedded rocks, Mie, Japan) under double-helical DNA-like contrails in the sky. From left to right, there is the big rock, the sacred straw rope, the smaller rock, and the multi-exposed chain of suns. They just look like an RNA polymerase transcribing DNA into mRNA, its resultant mRNA, a ribosome translating the mRNA, and the new polypeptide chain growing upward from the ribosome, respectively.
Researchers in a lab at the very last moment on the night before a scientific meeting they are supposed to give their presentation. One is elated that her poster has been already done, while the other three are obviously fretting. The two people in the front are preparing for oral presentations. One on the left front is rehearsing with his slideshow, and the other is still revising her manuscript. Most of all, one on the left back is still collecting data for her slides, yet. Do not leave anything behind you, and good luck on your presentation tomorrow! Inspired by Figures 1(A) and 4(E) in Öst et al. (2014) Cell 159, 1352-1364.
The normal white (w+) gene in Drosophila is required for production of red pigment in the eyes. In some mutants in which the w+ gene has been moved to a region near the centrosomal heterochromatin due to an inversion in the X chromosome, the eyes are mottled with red and white patches; the w+ gene in the white cells has been silenced due to spreading heterochromatin, while w+ gene in the red cells is active. This phenomenon is called PEV (position-effect variegation), and a number of factors that control epigenetics, such as histone methyltransferases, have been identified by measuring the extent of variegation. Now, in this sliding screen, maple leaves in autumn were drawn with Japanese ink on gold foil background except some in the central oval with a red paint as an accent. A shadow that looks like Drosophila happened to be cast on it, emerging a figure of the w mutant with a mottled eye.
Kappa, a mischievous monster found in Japanese folklore, supposedly lives in a stream or pond, and has webbed hands and feet so that it's good at swimming. Human hands also have an interdigital web in the early embryo, but it disappears by apoptotic programmed cell death like a tadpole's tail. The intracellular signaling pathway that triggers apoptosis has been studied well; the signal flows down the 'cascade' that consists of multiple caspases (Cysteine-ASPartic proteASE) such as caspase 9 or 3 encoded by CASP9 or CASP3, respectively. This poor Kappa in this drawing has been saturated with the water flowing down the caspase cascade, and its vaunted web is in danger of disappearing by apoptosis.
Shoki (Zhong Kui in Chinese), derived from Chinese Taoism, is a god for warding off diseases. According to a legend, one night when Emperor Genso (Xuanzong) of the Tang Dynasty had a high fever, Shoki appeared to him in a dream, killed a monster, and saved the Emperor at last. In tribute to the legend, Shoki has been worshipped as a god who protects people from illness for hundreds of years in China and Japan. The role of Shoki in the legend is that of the immune system itself. In this drawing, Shoki holds a sasumata (spear fork) with an IgG-like spearhead in the right hand and wears a cloth with a crest of IgM and a pattern of a dendritic cell; they are weapons of mammalian adaptive immunity. In contrast, his left hand contains a monster (pathogen) by melanization, which is one of the weapons of the innate immunity of insects. We thank Prof. Hirotaka Kanuka's lab (The Jikei University School of Medicine) for their valuable suggestions for our drawing.
Transposons (transposable elements), discovered in maize by Barbara McClintock in 1948, are DNA sequences that can change their positions within the genome. Transposition of transposons can introduce mutations in the host genome. Actually, there was a close and astonishing relationship between transposons and the culture of the Edo era. In late Edo, a large number of mutant Asagaos (Japanese morning glory) were isolated, and it became popular to cultivate them; in fact, many mutations were caused by transposons. These mutant Asagaos have been collected by researchers and are currently maintained by a group led mainly by Kyushu University. See the website of National BioResource Project (NBRP) “Asagao” (http://www.shigen.nig.ac.jp/asagao/) for further details.
One of the highlights of the month of July in Japan is Tanabata (Star Festival). Tanabata, a festival to pray to the stars in the Milky Way in summer, was imported from ancient China. People in Edo era started to decorate bamboo branches with ‘tanzaku’ (small pieces of paper) on which they wrote their wishes, and to pray the wishes would come true. The bamboo branches in this drawing are likened to histone tails (H2A, H2B, H4 and H3 from the left). The tanzakus represent epigenetic modifications (acetylation, methylation and phosphorylation) of amino acid residues in histone tails. If you use this histone bamboo, mind that you have to phrase your wishes with the types, positions and combinations of decorations (or modifications). You need a textbook to perform modifications correctly.
It was in 1936 when the existence of ‘florigen’ was initially predicted as a plant hormone that transmits information on daylight length at their leaves to the tip of the stem and stimulates flower initiation. In 2007, it was finally identified as a protein, which is coded by the FT gene in Arabidopsis thaliana. FT protein is produced in the leaves and transmitted to the growing tip at the shoot apical meristem via the phloem, and interacts with a transcription factor (the product of the FD gene in Arabidopsis) to induce genes involved in flower initiation. In this drawing, an actor performing FT is contacting another actor performing FD, and trying to stimulate flower initiation with him in front of hydrangea flowers that represent the month of June in Japan.
There is a Japanese legend of an extraordinary strong child ‘Kintaro’, who caught a carp, taller than himself, only with his arms. Carp are familiar to people all over Japan as Koinobori (carp streamer) that is put up in May for their children's healthy growth. In this drawing, Kintaro is showing his extraordinary grip that acts as an external force to drive cellular convergent extension (a process in which a tissue is elongated along a certain axis by cell intercalation in animal development) to elongate the carp's body. The progression status of the convergent extension can be observed by the pattern of the carp's colored scales.
Genome editing technologies have been invented and improved in recent years, and there is a growing expectation that the technologies can be utilized as a tool not only for molecular biological studies, but also for genetic therapies. Among them, CRISPR-Cas9 system that was originally found as a part of the bacterial adaptive immune system gets noticed for its easy introduction. Here, users are only required to design a guide RNA with a 20-nt sequence that is complementary to the target DNA sequence and co-express Cas9 with the RNA in vivo, then Cas9 protein will cleave the target DNA in site-specific manner. This is a portrait of a kabuki actor who plays Cas9 as indicated by the crest “ku” (‘nine’) on kimono he is wearing. The “actor” definitely has a promising future ahead of him.
The fragrance of Japanese plum blossoms is the essence of early spring in Japan. This well-kept plum garden has a unique feature that it is a copy of a landscape of the outer side of animal plasma membrane. The ground represents hydrophilic head domains of the lipid molecules, while the trimmed trunks and branches in the front and the garden stones in the back look like glycosylated membrane proteins. There are a lot of plum trees that look like glycans far off in the distance. A mound on the ground under a basket and a pond in the back express lipid raft (a microdomain that has a different lipid composition) and endocytosis in process, respectively.
An atmospheric ghost light that is called Kitsunebi ('fox light') is described in Japanese folklore. The most famous one is the one in the Oji Inari shrine (Kita-ku, Tokyo). Every New Year's Eve in the old lunar calendar, foxes from all of the Kanto area, all suited up, gather to this shrine, light Kitsunebi under a big tree, and then stand in line. In this drawing, while the line of Kitsunebi in a standard single color is ahead of the rest, the rest of the foxes gathering under the tree are holding up 'new generation Kitsunebi' in various colors and about to join the line. This scene is reminiscent of the green fluorescent protein (GFP; here are three spatial structure models) genetically engineered so as to be available in different emission peaks.
Some dioecious plants determine sex by sex chromosomes (XY or ZW) like mammals or birds. A pair of birds on branches of a pine tree, which is a symbol of a new year in Japan, is a couple of Eclectus parrots (Eclectus roratus) having extreme sexual dimorphism (left: ZZ male; right: ZW female). What they hold in their beaks are flowers of 'Suiba' (common sorrel or Rumex acetosa; left: XY1Y2 male; right: XX female). Suiba is one of the first species among the seed plants whose existence of sex chromosomes was reported (H. Kimura & T. Ono (1923) Bot. Mag. (Tokyo) 37(438), 147-149. DOI: 10.15281/jplantres1887.37.438_147). It is known that Suiba's sex determination system is similar to that of Drosophila and depends on the ratio of X chromosomes to autosomes.
Genpaku Sugita (1733-1817) is well-known for his translation of 'Kaitai Shinsho' (New Text on Anatomy, in 1774) compiled based on a book of anatomy written in Dutch. This Japanese first full-blown translation from a Western language contributed to the development of medical science in Japan. The masterpiece has been accomplished while many translated terms such as "shinkei" (= nerve) were coined. Over the past 240 years since then, anatomical methods have dramatically improved. Various optical clearing agents have been invented to clear organs including the brain without difficulty. Now, those agents can make brains transparent without damaging any of the fine structures, and enable researchers to observe neurons deep inside the brain. With our great respect to Genpaku Sugita, let us give him components of the optical clearing agents: urea, detergents and aminoalcohol. Behind him stands a vase of a soapberry tree bearing fruit that used to be raw material for detergents in Edo era.
An experimental procedure in behavioral neuroscience known as the Morris water maze is a method to assess the animals' ability of spatial learning and memory. In the experiment, test animals are placed in a pool filled with a pool of clouded water where they are supposed to swim, and scientists record the process how the animals find an invisible platform under the water. In this picture, two scientists are recording behavior of mice in an experiment using the Morris water maze. It rains reminding us of dendrites of neurons. One woman puts up an umbrella over the other to prevent the recorder from being wet.
This wooden stand called "Marudai" is used for braiding a Kumihimo, a decorative belt used for tying on a kimono sash. This particular Marudai has the top surface engraved with a part of the codon table in order to translate nucleotide sequences of genes into the pattern of Kumihimo (polypeptide chain). The Marudai and bobbins actually play the role of ribosomes and tRNAs that synthesize proteins by translating mRNA sequences into amino acid sequences. The color of threads had changed depending on amino acids. The pattern of Kumihimo being braided in this drawing was obtained from the sequence of human insulin. Nothing can be as cool as gene sequences, which design the pattern of brilliantly colored Kumihimo.
FoF1 ATPase (also known as ATP synthase) exists in mitochondrial inner membranes and bacterial plasma membranes to synthesize ATP (adenosine triphosphate) by using electrochemical gradient of protons (H+) between inside and outside of the membranes. Fo is integrated in the membranes and thought to have a rotor ring that rotates horizontally. F1 has a dome-like structure comprised of three α and three β subunits that are alternately arranged, which is anchored to the membranes to prevent rotation. Shaft-like γ subunit connects the center of the rotor ring of Fo and F1. As protons flow down the gradient across the membranes through Fo, the rotor ring of Fo and γ rotate, and the spin force of γ against αβ complex is used to synthesize ATP molecules. In this drawing, a waterwheel (Fo) is rotated by the gradient of water (represents proton gradient), and series of three coins (which represent ATP) are generated from the 'apparatus' (αβ of F1), which is made from six boards being attached to the front side of the waterwheel. A man in the back takes a role to transport protons to the outside of membranes to produce proton gradient.
Tsushima Tenno Festival has been held every summer in Tsushima city, Aichi prefecture, Japan, for the past 500 years. One of the highlights of the festival is the evening festival called Yoi-matsuri when five boats decorated hemispherically with a lot of illuminated lanterns come down the river. The distinctive shape of the hemispherical decoration reminds us of partially formed clathrin-coated vesicles (CCV). So this summer, we dare to replace the decorations with the one which looks exactly like spherical CCV after completion. On the front side of the river, we place Y-shaped structures modeled on the LDL (low-density lipoproteins) receptor that mediates CCV's capturing LDL. The reflection of the light from the lanterns which represent CCV sparkles on the water surface of the river, and creates a fantastic summer night view.
A scene of Yuzen Nagashi (a process of washing kimono silks) at a pontoon bridge over a river. This bridge actually illustrates the way a number of ribosomes (boats) are attached in a row along a single mRNA chain (a bridge) to translate in parallel, and then form a polysome. There is a grove, which is like a poly-A tail, extending from the bridge to the opposite bank of the river. The pieces of fabric form polypeptide chains synthesized by ribosomes with their edges trimmed in the shape of 'M' that is the abbreviation of methionine. Now, the translation processes probably have just terminated at the boats on the far end. The fabric is being folded while it is released from those boats.
A parade of “Kappore”, a dance with “nigaigasa” or double layer umbrellas. A decorative piece of cloth modeled after DNA wraps around each umbrella approximately 2 times to link one umbrella to the adjacent umbrellas. This seems to be a replication of the “beads-on-a-string” structure consisting of a DNA strand and nucleosome cores. Those who hold the “nigaigasa” are men representing the four families of core histones. If you look closely, you can find a towel printed “a-ce” on its tail hanging from one of the men's waist. This looks like the acetylation of a tail of one of the core histones. It has been found that the initiation of transcription is related to histone acetylation. If that is the case, this towel may be a sign to start dancing.
Two artisans are heaping up lumber in the form of layers. The process where the lumber is going to be piled up perfectly in six horizontal layers reminds us of the cerebral cortex in corticogenesis. One of the artisans below, on whose back a Chinese character ‘kan’ (‘stem’) can be seen, may play the role of the neural stem cell (radial glia cell), the source of new lumbers (newly created neurons), and extends a rope (radial glia fibers) upward so as to carry the lumber properly to the top layer. The other artisan above is considered to play a role similar to the cells that secrete reelin. The reelin is a protein that regulates correct migration and positioning of neurons.
“Yaedatami” or an eightfold straw mat is a tatami specially prepared for use in religious services. A craftsman folds “tatamiomote” or woven soft rush straws with edging of specially designed Nishijin brocade several times over so as to perfectly align patterns of creases of the folded edgings. We use the design to schematically illustrate the somitogenesis in vertebrates. As the U-shaped presomitic mesoderm moves tailward, periodic waves of gene expression form pairs of somites one after another from the anterior end. “Oshitone” or the top cushion has a mark of an embryo woven into it. If you carefully look at the edging of “oshitone”, you can find it bears the process of segmentation in Drosophila, a species which forms all of its segments simultaneously. Cooperated by Isogaki Tatami (Kyoto, Japan).
FRET (Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer), which is a phenomenon of energy transfer between two adjacent fluorescent molecules, has been applied to visualization of interaction between proteins in living cells and so on. To carry out high-efficiency FRET, not only the distance between two molecules must be very close (less than about 10 nm) but the relative orientation of two chromophores must also be optimized. One of the women in this picture carries the other with attention paid on how they are oriented to each other, and successfully lightens the plum blossoms just like FRET.
Mt. Fuji glows with the red tint of the rising sun. A bank of clouds is lying behind the mountain and presenting its characteristic appearance. There are lying clouds in shapes like, from the bottom, rough endoplasmic reticulum, smooth endoplasmic reticulum, and transport vesicles. There is seen above it a bank of clouds well-formed like a Golgi apparatus, and further above it smaller clouds like secretory vesicles. There may also be seen clouds like mitochondria. Wonder if it's just an illusion.
Wishing a prosperous new year, two horses, which carry a red and white twisted rope resembling F-actin, are galloping. This reminds us of pseudopodia that are strongly growing by the power generated from G-actin polymerization.
Following last month's issue, let's imagine what an international academic meeting was like in Edo era. No better place can be found than a Kabuki stage for the oral presentation! The presentation is full house. A presenter (probably the president of this meeting?) stands at the center of the stage, and on his left hand, the chairperson of this session is sitting on the stage. Each paper lantern hanging from the ceiling has a picture of crest imitating model organisms. There is a poster for the 36th Annual Meeting of the Molecular Biology Society of Japan (MBSJ) (3-6 December, 2013, Kobe) behind the presenter.
What if there had been an international academic meeting held in Edo era? It must be like this. This picture illustrates how successfully a poster session was being held. A student-like young man on the far left is performing a presentation on a poster titled “idenshi-kara-saibou-made” (in English, “from Genes to Cells”). Another poster on the right end is the one for the 36th Annual Meeting of the Molecular Biology Society of Japan (MBSJ) (3-6 December, 2013, Kobe). Inside the floor, in the back on the right of the picture, attendees from inside and outside the country are having a discussion over snacks.
Protruding from each side of the mountain (represented as cells) like classical cadherin cell adhesion molecules, bridge girders are mutually bound so as to link two summits (cells). This month's cover art represents the mountain surfaces as plasma membranes, the bridge girders and trails as classical cadherins (where each of the bridge girders shows five extracellular cadherin (EC) domains and a transmembrane domain, while the trails show intracellular domains), huts along the trails as catenins, groves of trees as actin filaments, and cliffs as an intercellular space. Sealed with a word “adhesion” at lower right.
Tadataka Inou (1745-1818) was over 50 when he retired from the family business and started to learn Western astronomy. At the age of 55, he led a surveying team to travel throughout Japan islands (40,000 kilometers in total) spending 17 years, and accomplished the first Japanese actual measured map, Dai Nihon Enkai Yochi Zenzu, based on the data collected during the survey. The map created about 200 years ago was so accurate that it later amazed the western surveying teams visiting the country. This month's cover art illustrates Tadataka Inou and his team working together to accomplish a metabolic map. Inspired by Figure 2-35 in The Molecular Biology of the Cell, 5th ed. (Alberts et al. 2008).
All the traditional Japanese sweets replicate the development of an early embryo from the first cleavage. Each confectionery expresses, from the back, a fertilized egg undergoing the first cleavage (made from “konashi” or kneaded sweet bean paste, coated with “kudzu” starch), a 2-cell-stage embryo (“aoume” or a green plum), an 8-cell-stage embryo (modified from “kiku” or chrysanthemum), a morula (“domyoji” or a sweet pink mochi), and a tailbud (modified from “magatama” or a claw-shaped bead).  So, which one would you like to start with? Confectionery Coordination: Gion Narumiya, Kyoto, Japan.
Soma Nomaoi, Soma horse chasing festival, which used to be a religious ceremony, is now an event held in Soso District (north-eastern part of Fukushima prefecture) every July. In ancient times, Samurais captured wild horses roaming around fields, and dedicated them to Kami. Although wild horses were extinct early in Meiji era, later, the ceremony has been revived as an event in which hundreds of horsemen scramble for holy flags. In this cover art, we let warriors on horsebacks carry flags with arms of model organisms, the strongest tools for our research, to join this event. It is Arabidopsis thaliana (right foreground) what colors the field, the stage for the festival, and streamers of double helix are fluttering in the far background.
kaiA, kaiB and kaiC genes and their products constitute a core circadian oscillator in the cyanobacterium S. elongates (derived from a Japanese term “kai”, which means rotation or cycle number). KaiA stimulates autophosphorylation of KaiC, whereas KaiB promotes autodephosphorylation of KaiC. It is the particular characteristics of system of cyanobacteria that the three purified Kai proteins and ATP can reconstitute a circadian oscillation in a test tube. We overlay a diagram of this feedback loop on an armillary sphere in an Ukiyoe, which was installed at an astronomical observatory in Edo era. The pattern of roof tiles in the foreground depicts a circadian oscillation.
Speaking of Japanese seasonal tradition in May, you may think of carp streamers flying high over roofs of houses. People fly the carps, wishing for healthy growth of their children. This month, we have painted each scale of a carp streamer, mimicking a mechanism known as lateral inhibition. So, how would you grade the work?
This month's feature is molecular chaperones which support correct protein folding. A child represents a protein (or a polypeptide) trying to fold correctly, while a woman represents a chaperone teaching calligraphy. Pieces of paper scattered on the floor are misfolded polypeptides. In reality, accumulation of misfolded polypeptides will cause various kinds of diseases. Chaperones are essential to life.
A piece inspired by a fusion of traditional Japanese beauty and life sciences. There are a Japanese cosmetic brush and a hand mirror on a black board. An embryo fantastically reflected in the mirror suddenly reminds you of something: the brush is a very micropipette, and the embryo must be a subject of an experiment with it. How cleavage of a fertilized egg occurs is drawn like a family crest on a vanity bag, as if it indicates whom these cosmetic tools belong to. In the embryo, a lacZ marker transgene was driven by a connexin43 (Cx43) promoter in neural crest cells. Courtesy of Osamu Chisaka.
Kites are flying in the early spring in a town with the backdrop of Mt. Fuji. Being steered into the wind and skillfully manipulated via string, the kites look like metaphase chromosomes aligned on the equator of the cell.
Phages have greatly contributed to flourishing of molecular biology, and even today, they remain useful tools for scientists. In this illustration, a “hikeshi” (a firefighter in Edo) is carrying a “matoi” (a standard of his firefighter team as its symbol), which is likened to a phage. Meanwhile lanterns held by firefighters in the back look like bacteria.
The cover art of this month is the second part of the series from the November issue. It describes how cellular slime molds assemble into a dragon. The cellular slime molds normally are individual of an amoeba-like unicellular organism. However, when they starve, tens of thousands of cells aggregate in one place to form a cluster. The cluster hugs the ground like a slug, searches for the right place for making spores, and forms a fluting body (lower part of the ground). When placed in starvation conditions, the cellular slime molds begin to secrete cAMP, which stimulates nearby slime molds to secrete pulses of cAMP. Once they secrete cAMP, they become inactive for a while. As the result, waves of cAMP propagate as they swing in a spiral form (upper part of the sky).
The principle mechanism of skin pattern formation in vertebrates can be explained with a mathematical model proposed by Alan Turing (reaction-diffusion system, 1952). In this month's cover art, wild-type and mutant tigers are glaring to the right (at a dragon coming up in December issue). In the front of the wild-type tiger, a rock is illustrated with three peaks representing waves of activator and inhibitor that are observed in the reaction-diffusion system. Furthermore, two bamboos having four internodes represent transmembrane domains in a certain variant of connexin (a subunit of the gap junctions), which is a four-span transmembrande protein and one of the responsible genes for morphological mutation in a vertebrate.
Cilia of eukaryotic cells undulate in a well-balanced motion and play a variety of roles essential to life. The cover art for this month's issue presents movements of ciliated cells of respiratory epithelium in an analogy to Susuki glasses, a feature of autumn in Japan. The cilia beat in a given direction is defined by the direction of basal feet (red) that protrude from basal bodies (gray). In the picture, waves to the right are generating a current. There is a goblet cell that secretes mucus, slightly right of the center on the near side of the picture. The moon and geese are also arranged in the picture so as to evoke another feature of autumn in Japan.
The theme of this month is “translation”. The information in DNA is first transcribed into mRNA, which is further converted into a chain of amino acids. This conversion process is called translation and a stop codon marks the end of translation in each mRNA molecule. In the illustration, a fictitious translator on completion of his translation seals the letter with a Chinese character “stop” and amber (which is a nickname for UAG, one of the stop codons). The face of the seal depicts letters of “translation”.
Coloring the summer night sky of Japan, this firework has a theme of the half spindle of animal mitotic cells. A centrosome containing a pair of centrioles is located in the center, and astral microtubules extend to the up to the left, while polar microtubules extend to the opposite direction. Japanese technology currently produces cutting-edge fireworks, and it should not be difficult to produce such fireworks in reality.
This cover depicts The Bridge in the NGS Rain where people are being exposed to torrents of genomic information, that is, fruits of next generation sequencing. The man standing in the middle of the bridge is pictured deep in thought, considering how to utilize this sequence data set of the ALDH2 gene. Another man, shown to the right with a sake bottle, is eager to know whether he is genetically predisposed with a high tolerance for alcohol or not.
The Epigenetic landscape, which was firstly depicted by C. H. Waddington in 1950's, has often been used to illustrate cellular differentiation in the process of biological development. Presented on our cover is a timeless representation of the landscape where we see worshippers of Mt. Fuji are being reprogrammed on the slope. Some are climbing high to acquire pluripotency, while others are traversing the foot, and being directly reprogrammed.
Regulated cell adhesion and cellular motility underlies dynamic cell rearrangement, which is essential for morphogenesis of various organs. We expressed this process using a picture of a stone levee along a canal.
Branched waterfalls are reminiscent of the cell lineage of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans from a zygote to a newly hatched larva.
A woman with a hanagasa (a traditional hat decorated with ornamental flowers) is performing a Japanese classical dance. The ornaments on the hat actually are gap junctions, and some of them are opened and allowing small molecules to pass through.
A fisherman on a cliff is pulling nets as if synchronizing circadian rhythms with the help of light shining down from the sky.
Set against the backdrop of Mt. Fuji, a skilled craftsman is fixing a broken wooden barrel by excising damaged bases and then introducing new ones. We liken this to the process of DNA repair thereby recovering hydrogen bonds between each pair of bases.
Since nerves of higher animals have myelin sheaths, an action potential is propagated rapidly (phenomenon called a saltatory conduction) like the swift wind. The wind god is likened to an action potential that conduct bounces to be propagated.
The Thunder God is generating the action potential, which is not lightning, in a neural network. The illustration is paired with that of December Issue.
Harvest time. Toreutics on a guard of a Japanese sword has a design of ears of rice and a butterfly landing on them. No, they actually are DNA winding around nucleosome.
A huge and prestigious shrine that looks like Izumo-Taisha shrine at a glance. White zigzag paper streamers like a leucine zipper-type transcription factor are tucked in a giant sacred rope (dextrorotatory double-helix). The paper streamers probably bind to specific sequences of dsDNA expressed as a sacred rope.
Being inspired by the similarity in the appearance, KOKESHIs are portrayed as metaphase chromosomes, which pair KOKESHIs. It deserves attention that each pair of KOKESHI is designed the same and tied with a thread at their necks (kinetochores) each other.
Importance of bidirectional transportation between TOHOKU and surrounding districts. The “Kaido” expressed as a stone-pave street is designed to look like microtubules. Carts going left and pulled by bulls and messengers going right are expressions of motor proteins with cargos in eukaryote cells.
A scene from a Chinese-inspired vigorous dragon dance in a festival in Kyushu, Japan. The dragon is likened to a messenger RNA (mRNA), expressing transcription with DNA template.
A beautiful woman of the Heian period is pulled by a dog and peeks out from behind a bamboo blind, which is likened to experimental data of DNase I footprint. Data:Akita et al. Genes to Cells 15(5) pp537-552 (2010).
Grand Sumo showing a YOKOZUNA or grand champion and “hands” of supporters are pulling the horizontal rope of the kesho-mawashi. They want to tie the kesho-mawashi, but simultaneously, they are making a new horizontal rope from an older vertical rope, using Holliday junction-like structure.
A designed family emblem of cell division blends well with traditional Japanese patterns of auspicious omens motifs as pine and bamboo, on the artwork of tiered food boxes in silver lacquer.
Two sets of segregated chromatids during telophase are depicted as cats cuddled up comfortably beside spindle poles.
Overlooking Mount Fuji in the distance through the arching wooden bridge, reflected on the water surface, forming complete circles to resemble a pair of spectacles or a ‘double helix.’