This week is Biophysics Week, organised annually by the Biophysical Society. We publish all sorts of biophysical papers across many of our journals, and in celebration of Biophysics Week we have selected a few of our favourite papers from the year so far.  

Clever chemokines

Chemokines are a family of extracellular proteins that, as well as other functions, control the migration of immune cells to sites of inflammation. Chemokines function either by binding to cell surface receptors or by interacting with sugar molecules (glycosaminoglycans) to form oligomers. This paper focuses on the latter, and highlights novel chemokine-glycosaminoglycan interactions which may be important in immune cell recruitment.


Why are buttercups so glossy?

Buttercup flowers are exceptional because they feature a distinct gloss as well as their matte-yellow colouration, but the mechanism and function of this unique glossiness has remained a mystery until now. This study shows that a pigmented upper epidermis acting as a thin-film reflector provides the gloss, and additionally serves as a filter for light backscattered by the starch and mesophyll layers, which gives the matte-yellow colour.


Variability in E.coli populations

E.coli cells are typically 1 – 2 µm long, but what causes this variation? This paper, published in Royal Society Open Science, looks at the effect of growth rate on cell size.  Using a combination of static and dynamic microscopy, computational image analysis and microfluidics, the authors find that growth rate, above a certain threshold, results in increasing variability of E.coli cell sizes. They also provide a genetic basis for this threshold effect.


Acoustic ecology

Ocean soundscapes provide important dynamic and sensory information about marine organisms in space and time, and previous studies have shown that sound production could provide an indication of marine health status. This paper considers the impact of fishing on the soundscape. The authors collected acoustic data from maerl beds exposed to different levels of fishing, and found that unfished maels beds were three times as loud and showed greater diversity in sound frequencies compared to data collected from fished maerl beds.


Night vision

Several species of nocturnal insects exhibit complex visually guided behaviour in conditions where most animals are practically blind. This review covers what is known about the physiological adaptations of insect retinal photoreceptors – the first step in the transfer of visual information – for low-light vision. Published in Philosophical Transactions B, this paper is part of the themed issue ‘Vision in dim light’.


Silky attachments

Silks play an important role in the life of various arthropods, but in order to make versatile use of silk it needs to be sufficiently attached to substrates. Many plants have waxy and rough surfaces that interfere with a proper adhesion of silks. The authors of this paper, published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface, found that bagworms (butterfly and moth family) chew off parts of the leaf epidermis to enhance the attachment of their cocoons. This is the first study on the mechanics of silk anchorages in insects.

If not open access already, all these papers are free to access until the end the end March. This is just a small selection of biophysics research we publish — for more even more fascinating papers take a look at this extended collection.

Happy Biophysics Week!