Current Biology
This journal offers authors two options (open access or subscription) to publish research

May 06, 2013

Volume 23Issue 9p739-834, R331-R418
Open Archive
On the cover: Summer, by Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526–1593). Arcimboldo famously made portraits out of food items, as in this case with fruits and vegetables. This special issue of Current Biology includes reviews, news features, and other items on diverse aspects of the biology of food. Image reproduced with permission of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien....
On the cover: Summer, by Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526–1593). Arcimboldo famously made portraits out of food items, as in this case with fruits and vegetables. This special issue of Current Biology includes reviews, news features, and other items on diverse aspects of the biology of food. Image reproduced with permission of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien.


Book review

  • Paleo bird spotting

    • Michael J. Benton
    A field guide to any extinct organisms might seem absurd. After all, we cannot know what the organisms looked like externally, so what would be the point? A field guide to extinct birds might seem even more extraordinary, since so much in bird identification depends on their feather colors and patterns. No doubt, of course, it is this imaginative aspect that attracts so many people to extinct animals and plants — after all, the imagination can run free!

Q & A

  • Miriam B. Goodman

    • Miriam B. Goodman
    Miriam B. Goodman is an Associate Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University. Her lab is a collection of people with diverse training and a shared interest in understanding how sensation works. Her first exposure to scientific research was as a high school student in Bethesda, MD, when she wrote custom scientific software at NIH. After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, she returned to the NIH, working in the Laboratory of Neurophysiology before beginning graduate studies at The University of Chicago, where she studied hearing in turtles.

Quick guide

  • Chordotonal organs

    • Ryan G. Kavlie,
    • Jörg T. Albert
    What are chordotonal organs? Chordotonal organs are miniature sensory organs present in insects and crustaceans but not found in any other class of animals. They are formed by repeats of a characteristic multicellular unit called the scolopidium (Figure 1). The copy numbers of scolopidia per chordotonal organ differ vastly between different insect species, and also between different chordotonal organs within the same species; they can harbour just one single scolopidium with only one sensory neuron, such as in the tympanal ear of a notodontid moth, or up to several thousand scolopidia, each equipped with between one and four sensory neurons, as in the antennal ears of a male mosquito.


  • Dermal fin rays and scales derive from mesoderm, not neural crest

    • Raymond Teck Ho Lee,
    • Jean Paul Thiery,
    • Thomas J. Carney
    Neural crest cells disperse throughout the embryonic head to generate diverse cell types of two classes: non-ectomesenchymal (including melanocytes, peripheral neurons and glia) and ectomesenchymal (skeletogenic, odontogenic, cartilaginous and connective tissue cell fates). In contrast to cranial neural crest, trunk neural crest of amniotes generates only non-ectomesenchymal cell types. Anamniote trunk neural crest, however, has been assumed to generate derivatives of both classes, including osteoblasts of dermal skeletal elements, which includes scales and fin rays.
  • Scales of fish arise from mesoderm

    • Alessandro Mongera,
    • Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard
    The trunk of fish is covered by a large variety of morphologically and structurally diverse skeletal elements, such as scales, scutes and bony plates [1]. These elements are formed from intramembraneous ossifications and are part of the integumentary skeleton [2]. Histological and developmental similarities with neural crest-derived teeth in fossil and extant vertebrates, have led to the widely accepted notion that scales and fin rays, which are thought to be a scale modification, primarily derive from neural crest and not from mesodermal sources as the majority of the post-cranial skeleton [2].


  • Plant Venation: From Succulence to Succulents

    • Howard Griffiths
    Succulent plants dominate certain semi-arid habitats. A new study shows independent origins of 3D venation reflect hydraulic advantages for tissue succulence, and has implications for the molecular development of venation and tissue differentiation, as well as the evolution of crassulacean acid metabolism.
  • Mother–Infant Communication: Carrying Understanding to a New Level

    • Stephen C. Gammie
    A recent study has found that carrying — not just holding — by human mothers has a specific calming effect on crying infants, inducing a coordinated physiological response that includes a reduction in heart rate. A similar response in mice has opened the door to elucidating the underlying neural mechanisms.
  • Microbial Evolution: Regulatory Design Prevents Cancer-like Overgrowths

    • Steven A. Frank
    Mutant lineages may cause cancer-like overgrowths in microbial populations. Theory predicts that microbial regulatory controls may be designed to limit the origin and competitive potential of rogue lineages. A new study shows how a Salmonella species protects itself against overgrowths.
  • Chemical Communication: A Jewel Sheds Light on Signal Evolution

    • Jean-Marc Lassance,
    • Christer Löfstedt
    When others show sexy tails or sing elaborate songs, many animals use the language of chemistry to attract potential mates. A study provides insights into the evolutionary conundrum of how new chemical signals can evolve in an established communication system.
  • Mechanosensation: Tethered Ion Channels

    • Damiano Zanini,
    • Martin C. Göpfert
    Two new studies show that the Drosophila transient receptor potential (TRP) family member NOMPC forms both a mechanically gated ion channel and a fine filament that, by tethering the protein to microtubules, might act as a gating spring.
  • Marine Ecology: Reaping the Benefits of Local Dispersal

    • Peter M. Buston,
    • Cassidy C. D’Aloia
    A central question of marine ecology is, how far do larvae disperse? Evidence is accumulating that the probability of dispersal declines rapidly with distance. This provides an incentive for communities to manage their own fish stocks and cooperate with neighbors.

Biology of Food Special Issue

Guest editorial

  • The evolution of human nutrition

    • Richard Wrangham
    This issue of Current Biology addresses the biology of food. Scientific and public interest in food covers many different perspectives, but since there is no discipline of food, food research tends to be carried out separately in such areas as ecology, physiology, and the neurosciences. The integration promised by Current Biology’s multiple reviews is therefore particularly valuable.


  • The psychology of GMO

    • Cyrus Martin
    Despite receiving the seal of approval from scientists, genetically modified food continues to be unpalatable in many parts of the world. As Cyrus Martin reports, a combination of factors, including economics and culture, may help to explain the differences.
  • Does the gut microbiome hold clues to obesity and diabetes?

    • Michael Gross
    As high-throughput genome sequencing technology now enables researchers to study the microbiota in our digestive system both in breadth and in detail, the hope is that mysteries of common problems, including obesity and diabetes, will finally be solved. Michael Gross reports.
  • Frugal fishing at hand

    • Cyrus Martin
    The European Union is on the cusp of major reforms to its fishing industry. First up on the agenda is a ban on fish discarding that is expected to be approved in June. But as Cyrus Martin reports, the solutions are complex, involving a combination of improved technology, better enforcement, and creative thinking.

Quick guide

  • Olives

    • Anne Knowlton
    What is an olive? Well, botanically speaking, the fruit of the olive tree is a drupe, or stone fruit, and is cultivated on all continents (Figure 1), but the olive is much more than a fruit — it’s a symbol. Olives and the trees that bear them are mentioned in The Odyssey, the Quran, the Torah, and the Bible, just to name a few. Representing peace, abundance, and victory, this divine fruit has its origins in the cradle of Western civilization, and for centuries they have been considered sacred by the cultures that depended on them.


  • Multisensory flavour perception

    • Charles Spence
    “Eating is the only thing we do that involves all the senses. I don’t think that we realize just how much influence the senses actually have on the way that we process information from mouth to brain.”— Heston Blumenthal, Tasting Menu, The Fat Duck restaurant“Cooking is the most multi-sensual art. I try to stimulate all the senses.”— Ferran Adrià, elBulli
  • Nutrient sensors

    • Tetsuya Miyamoto,
    • Geraldine Wright,
    • Hubert Amrein
    Elucidating the cellular and molecular basis of nutrient metabolism and regulation of feeding has become a major focus in scientific research over the last twenty years. Because of the increasing number of overweight and obese people in western and other societies, research efforts have initially been directed towards the basic metabolic processes that regulate nutrient uptake of cells and organ systems. One of the major goals of this research is to better understand the physiological and molecular processes that are disrupted or deregulated in various diseases, including diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome and heart disease.


  • Better Fruits and Vegetables through Sensory Analysis

    • Linda M. Bartoshuk,
    • Harry J. Klee
    The flavor quality of many fresh fruits available to consumers today is generally believed to have deteriorated. While agricultural and postharvest practices certainly contribute to poor flavor, a large part of the problem is the challenge of breeding for and accurately assessing such a complex, multigenic trait in a natural product such as a fruit. Here we address the parallel challenges linked to measurement of flavor and human preferences, particularly as it applies to a complex, whole food in which many chemicals and sensations are synthesized into a distinct and recognizable flavor profile.


  • Integration of Satiety Signals by the Central Nervous System

    • Adam P. Chambers,
    • Darleen A. Sandoval,
    • Randy J. Seeley
    Individual meals are products of a complex interaction of signals related to both short-term and long-term availability of energy stores. In addition to maintaining the metabolic demands of the individual in the short term, levels of energy intake must also maintain and defend body weight over longer periods. To accomplish this, satiety pathways are regulated by a sophisticated network of endocrine and neuroendocrine pathways. Higher brain centers modulate meal size through descending inputs to caudal brainstem regions responsible for the motor pattern generators associated with ingestion.
  • Mucosal Immunology of Food Allergy

    • M. Cecilia Berin,
    • Hugh A. Sampson
    Food allergies are increasing in prevalence at a higher rate than can be explained by genetic factors, suggesting a role for as yet unidentified environmental factors. In this review, we summarize the state of knowledge about the healthy immune response to antigens in the diet and the basis of immune deviation that results in immunoglobulin E (IgE) sensitization and allergic reactivity to foods. The intestinal epithelium forms the interface between the external environment and the mucosal immune system, and emerging data suggest that the interaction between intestinal epithelial cells and mucosal dendritic cells is of particular importance in determining the outcome of immune responses to dietary antigens.
  • Early Influences on the Development of Food Preferences

    • Alison K. Ventura,
    • John Worobey
    The ability to perceive flavors begins in utero with the development and early functioning of the gustatory and olfactory systems. Because both amniotic fluid and breast milk contain molecules derived from the mother’s diet, learning about flavors in foods begins in the womb and during early infancy. This early experience serves as the foundation for the continuing development of food preferences across the lifespan, and is shaped by the interplay of biological, social, and environmental factors.
  • An Evolutionary Perspective on Food and Human Taste

    • Paul A.S. Breslin
    The sense of taste is stimulated when nutrients or other chemical compounds activate specialized receptor cells within the oral cavity. Taste helps us decide what to eat and influences how efficiently we digest these foods. Human taste abilities have been shaped, in large part, by the ecological niches our evolutionary ancestors occupied and by the nutrients they sought. Early hominoids sought nutrition within a closed tropical forest environment, probably eating mostly fruit and leaves, and early hominids left this environment for the savannah and greatly expanded their dietary repertoire.


  • Infant Calming Responses during Maternal Carrying in Humans and Mice

    • Gianluca Esposito,
    • Sachine Yoshida,
    • Ryuko Ohnishi,
    • Yousuke Tsuneoka,
    • Maria del Carmen Rostagno,
    • Susumu Yokota,
    • Shota Okabe,
    • Kazusaku Kamiya,
    • Mikio Hoshino,
    • Masaki Shimizu,
    • Paola Venuti,
    • Takefumi Kikusui,
    • Tadafumi Kato,
    • Kumi O. Kuroda
    Mother-infant bonding is the earliest and most critical social relationship of mammalian infants. To promote this bond, infants have innate behaviors to seek maternal proximity and protest upon separation via communication with the mother vocally and through body movement. However, the physiological mechanisms regulating these infant behaviors remain largely undefined.
  • Neuropeptide Secreted from a Pacemaker Activates Neurons to Control a Rhythmic Behavior

    • Han Wang,
    • Kelly Girskis,
    • Tom Janssen,
    • Jason P. Chan,
    • Krishnakali Dasgupta,
    • James A. Knowles,
    • Liliane Schoofs,
    • Derek Sieburth
    Rhythmic behaviors are driven by endogenous biological clocks in pacemakers, which must reliably transmit timing information to target tissues that execute rhythmic outputs. During the defecation motor program in C. elegans, calcium oscillations in the pacemaker (intestine), which occur about every 50 s, trigger rhythmic enteric muscle contractions through downstream GABAergic neurons that innervate enteric muscles. However, the identity of the timing signal released by the pacemaker and the mechanism underlying the delivery of timing information to the GABAergic neurons are unknown.
  • A NOMPC-Dependent Membrane-Microtubule Connector Is a Candidate for the Gating Spring in Fly Mechanoreceptors

    • Xin Liang,
    • Johnson Madrid,
    • Roland Gärtner,
    • Jean-Marc Verbavatz,
    • Christoph Schiklenk,
    • Michaela Wilsch-Bräuninger,
    • Aliona Bogdanova,
    • Florian Stenger,
    • Axel Voigt,
    • Jonathon Howard
    Mechanoreceptors contain compliant elements, termed “gating springs,” that transfer macroscopic stimuli impinging on the cells into microscopic stimuli that open the mechanosensitive channels. Evidence for gating springs comes from mechanical experiments; they have not been identified molecularly or ultrastructurally.


  • Octameric CENP-A Nucleosomes Are Present at Human Centromeres throughout the Cell Cycle

    • Abbas Padeganeh,
    • Joël Ryan,
    • Jacques Boisvert,
    • Anne-Marie Ladouceur,
    • Jonas F. Dorn,
    • Paul S. Maddox
    The presence of a single centromere on each chromosome that signals formation of a mitotic kinetochore is central to accurate chromosome segregation [1]. The histone H3 variant centromere protein-A (CENP-A) is critical for centromere identity and function; CENP-A chromatin acts as an epigenetic mark to direct both centromere and kinetochore assembly [2–4]. Interpreting the centromere epigenetic mark ensures propagation of a single centromere per chromosome to maintain ploidy. Thus, understanding the nature of CENP-A chromatin is crucial for all cell divisions.
  • The Budding Yeast Point Centromere Associates with Two Cse4 Molecules during Mitosis

    • Pavithra Aravamudhan,
    • Isabella Felzer-Kim,
    • Ajit P. Joglekar
    The centromere is defined by the incorporation of the centromere-specific histone H3 variant centromere protein A (CENP-A). Like histone H3, CENP-A can form CENP-A-H4 heterotetramers in vitro [1]. However, the in vivo conformation of CENP-A chromatin has been proposed by different studies as hemisomes, canonical, or heterotypic nucleosomes [2–8]. A clear understanding of the in vivo architecture of CENP-A chromatin is important, because it influences the molecular mechanisms of the assembly and maintenance of the centromere and its function in kinetochore nucleation.
  • Sperm from Sneaker Male Squids Exhibit Chemotactic Swarming to CO2

    • Noritaka Hirohashi,
    • Luis Alvarez,
    • Kogiku Shiba,
    • Eiji Fujiwara,
    • Yoko Iwata,
    • Tatsuma Mohri,
    • Kazuo Inaba,
    • Kazuyoshi Chiba,
    • Hiroe Ochi,
    • Claudiu T. Supuran,
    • Nico Kotzur,
    • Yasutaka Kakiuchi,
    • U. Benjamin Kaupp,
    • Shoji A. Baba
    Behavioral traits of sperm are adapted to the reproductive strategy that each species employs. In polyandrous species, spermatozoa often form motile clusters, which might be advantageous for competing with sperm from other males [1]. Despite this presumed advantage for reproductive success [2, 3], little is known about how sperm form such functional assemblies. Previously, we reported that males of the coastal squid Loligo bleekeri produce two morphologically different euspermatozoa that are linked to distinctly different mating behaviors [4].
  • Doxorubicin Enhances Nucleosome Turnover around Promoters

    • Fan Yang,
    • Christopher J. Kemp,
    • Steven Henikoff
    Doxorubicin is an anthracycline DNA intercalator that is among the most commonly used anticancer drugs [1]. Doxorubicin causes DNA double-strand breaks in rapidly dividing cells, although whether it also affects general chromatin properties is unknown. Here, we use a metabolic labeling strategy to directly measure nucleosome turnover [2] to examine the effect of doxorubicin on chromatin dynamics in squamous cell carcinoma cell lines derived from genetically defined mice. We find that doxorubicin enhances nucleosome turnover around gene promoters and that turnover correlates with gene expression level.
  • ANGUSTIFOLIA3 Signaling Coordinates Proliferation between Clonally Distinct Cells in Leaves

    • Kensuke Kawade,
    • Gorou Horiguchi,
    • Takeshi Usami,
    • Masami Yokota Hirai,
    • Hirokazu Tsukaya
    Coordinated proliferation between clonally distinct cells via inter-cell-layer signaling largely determines the size and shape of plant organs [1–4]. Nonetheless, the signaling mechanism underlying this coordination in leaves remains elusive because of a lack of understanding of the signaling molecule (or molecules) involved. ANGUSTIFOLIA3 (AN3, also called GRF-INTERACTING FACTOR1) encodes a putative transcriptional coactivator with homology to human synovial sarcoma translocation protein [5–7].
  • Visual Crowding at a Distance during Predictive Remapping

    • William J. Harrison,
    • James D. Retell,
    • Roger W. Remington,
    • Jason B. Mattingley
    When we move our eyes, images of objects are displaced on the retina, yet the visual world appears stable. Oculomotor activity just prior to an eye movement contributes to perceptual stability by providing information about the predicted location of a relevant object on the retina following a saccade [1, 2]. It remains unclear, however, whether an object’s features are represented at the remapped location. Here, we exploited the phenomenon of visual crowding [3] to show that presaccadic remapping preserves the elementary features of objects at their predicted postsaccadic locations.
  • Flies Cope with Uncontrollable Stress by Learned Helplessness

    • Zhenghong Yang,
    • Franco Bertolucci,
    • Reinhard Wolf,
    • Martin Heisenberg
    In a wide range of animals, uncontrollable stressful events can induce a condition called “learned helplessness.” In mammals it is associated with low general activity, poor learning, disorders of sleep and feeding, ulcers, and reduced immune status, as well as with increased serotonin in parts of the brain. It is considered an animal model of depression in humans [1–4]. Here we investigate learned helplessness in Drosophila, showing that this behavioral state consists of a cognitive and a modulatory, possibly mood-like, component.
  • Dynamic Regulation of Cortical Microtubule Organization through Prefoldin-DELLA Interaction

    • Antonella Locascio,
    • Miguel A. Blázquez,
    • David Alabadí
    Plant morphogenesis relies on specific patterns of cell division and expansion. It is well established that cortical microtubules influence the direction of cell expansion [1, 2], but less is known about the molecular mechanisms that regulate microtubule arrangement. Here we show that the phytohormones gibberellins (GAs) regulate microtubule orientation through physical interaction between the nuclear-localized DELLA proteins and the prefoldin complex, a cochaperone required for tubulin folding [3].
  • Sensory Map Transfer to the Neocortex Relies on Pretarget Ordering of Thalamic Axons

    • Ludmilla Lokmane,
    • Rémi Proville,
    • Nicolas Narboux-Nême,
    • Ildiko Györy,
    • Maryama Keita,
    • Caroline Mailhes,
    • Clément Léna,
    • Patricia Gaspar,
    • Rudolf Grosschedl,
    • Sonia Garel
    Sensory maps, such as the representation of mouse facial whiskers, are conveyed throughout the nervous system by topographic axonal projections that preserve neighboring relationships between adjacent neurons [1]. In particular, the map transfer to the neocortex is ensured by thalamocortical axons (TCAs), whose terminals are topographically organized in response to intrinsic cortical signals [2–5]. However, TCAs already show a topographic order early in development, as they navigate toward their target [6, 7].
  • An Auxin Transport Mechanism Restricts Positive Orthogravitropism in Lateral Roots

    • Michel Ruiz Rosquete,
    • Daniel von Wangenheim,
    • Peter Marhavý,
    • Elke Barbez,
    • Ernst H.K. Stelzer,
    • Eva Benková,
    • Alexis Maizel,
    • Jürgen Kleine-Vehn
    As soon as a seed germinates, plant growth relates to gravity to ensure that the root penetrates the soil and the shoot expands aerially. Whereas mechanisms of positive and negative orthogravitropism of primary roots and shoots are relatively well understood [1–3], lateral organs often show more complex growth behavior [4]. Lateral roots (LRs) seemingly suppress positive gravitropic growth and show a defined gravitropic set-point angle (GSA) that allows radial expansion of the root system (plagiotropism) [3, 4].
  • GABA Shapes the Dynamics of Bistable Perception

    • Anouk M. van Loon,
    • Tomas Knapen,
    • H. Steven Scholte,
    • Elexa St. John-Saaltink,
    • Tobias H. Donner,
    • Victor A.F. Lamme
    Sometimes, perception fluctuates spontaneously between two distinct interpretations of a constant sensory input. These bistable perceptual phenomena provide a unique window into the neural mechanisms that create the contents of conscious perception [1]. Models of bistable perception posit that mutual inhibition between stimulus-selective neural populations in visual cortex plays a key role in these spontaneous perceptual fluctuations [2, 3]. However, a direct link between neural inhibition and bistable perception has not yet been established experimentally.
  • Myosin-V Opposes Microtubule-Based Cargo Transport and Drives Directional Motility on Cortical Actin

    • Lukas C. Kapitein,
    • Petra van Bergeijk,
    • Joanna Lipka,
    • Nanda Keijzer,
    • Phebe S. Wulf,
    • Eugene A. Katrukha,
    • Anna Akhmanova,
    • Casper C. Hoogenraad
    Intracellular transport is driven by motor proteins that either use microtubules or actin filaments as their tracks [1], but the interplay between these transport pathways is poorly understood [2–4]. Whereas many microtubule-based motors are known to drive long-range transport, several actin-based motors have been proposed to function predominantly in cargo tethering [4–6]. How these opposing activities are integrated on cargoes that contain both types of motors is unknown. Here we use inducible intracellular transport assays to show that acute recruitment of myosin-V to kinesin-propelled cargo reduces their motility near the cell periphery and enhances their localization at the actin-rich cell cortex.