Great science is at the heart of eLife

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Dear colleagues,

This week we’re announcing the release of theeLifejournal website. The staff, the editors and I have worked hard for the past year to realize our vision for a new path forward in the review and publication of the most important work in the life sciences. Now you can explore and interact with theeLifejournal itself – browse our earliest papers, see what we’ve done with figures and data, and read letters from the review process. This is a major milestone, and an opportunity for many new readers to assess for themselves the quality and range of work we seek foreLife.

The practicing scientists who serve aseLifeeditors would like to share with you their views on how the individual reports they’ve evaluated and selected promise to advance basic understanding, and to forge new opportunities in important areas of biology and health science. Our senior editors have offered comments on a selection of papers now available in the journal, which you’ll encounter as you navigate the material. I’ve included some highlights below.

With the launch of the website and the publication of a new collection of articles, we remind you that all our efforts are designed to drive science. Through open access, technology, researcher engagement and more, eLife’s goal is to bring great stories like these to life.

-- Randy Schekman

Sodium taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide is a functional receptor for human hepatitis B and D virus

Huan Yan, Guocai Zhong, Guangwei Xu, Wenhui He, Zhiyi Jing, Zhenchao Gao, Yi Huang, Yonghe Qi, Bo Peng, Haimin Wang, Liran Fu, Mei Song, Pan Chen, Wenqing Gao, Bijie Ren, Yinyan Sun, Tao Cai, Xiaofeng Feng, Jianhua Sui, Wenhui Li

Comment by Joe Goldstein, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Senior editor, eLife

Who would have predicted that the long-sought liver receptor for hepatitis B would be a bile acid transporter? The ingenious route that led to this discovery is reported in this article.

Detlef Weigel, Deputy Editor, adds: This article is impressive because in addition to identifying the receptor for hepatitis B and D viruses, the experiments were not performed on cells taken from rats or mice or other readily available model organisms. Rather, the researchers used cells taken from treeshrews, which meant that they had to develop a range of new genetic tools from scratch.

http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00049

Global divergence in critical income for adult and childhood survival: analyses of mortality using Michaelis–Menten

Ryan J Hum, Prabhat Jha, Anita M McGahan, Yu-Ling Cheng

Comment by Fiona Watt, King’s College London, Deputy editor, eLife

Human life expectancy has increased dramatically since the middle of the twentieth century. Hum et al apply the Michaelis–Menten equation – classically used by biochemists to model enzyme kinetics – to explore the relationship between national income and life expectancy. They show that the increases in life expectancy in low-income countries have been largely a result of increases in child survival; increases in adult survival rates have been largely restricted to high-income countries.

http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00051

RecA filament sliding on DNA facilitates homology search

Kaushik Ragunathan, Cheng Liu, Taekjip Ha

Comment by Detlef Weigel, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Deputy editor, eLife

The recombination protein RecA has a big job to do – it must find identical DNA sequences, so that one can be used as template in DNA repair. Using sophisticated single-molecule imaging, this paper reveals that RecA can find such sequences by sliding back and forth along a DNA molecule until a match to the template is found.

http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00067

The activity-dependent histone variant H2BE modulates the life span of olfactory neurons

Stephen W Santoro, Catherine Dulac

Comment by Huda Zoghbi, Baylor College of Medicine, Senior editor, eLife

The paper is exciting because it provides clues into how a sensory epithelium adapts to the environment. The histone variant H2BE affects neuronal longevity by promoting cell death in neurons that are not active. One wonders whether other histone variants serve similar functions in brain areas where there is active neurogenesis and where environmental experiences might modulate activity.

http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00070

The unfolded protein response in fission yeast modulates stability of select mRNAs to maintain protein homeostasis

Philipp Kimmig, Marcy Diaz, Jiashun Zheng, Christopher C Williams, Alexander Lang, Tomas Aragón, Hao Li, Peter Walter

Comment by Randy Schekman, University of California-Berkeley, Editor-in-chief, eLife

Cells respond to the burden of misfolded secretory proteins by up-regulating the synthesis of an ER chaperone protein called BiP and down-regulating the synthesis of competing secretory proteins. The classic pathway first identified in S. cerevisiae involves the regulated transcription and translation of BiP. Mammalian cells use a similar transcriptional program but also control secretory protein synthesis and mRNA stability. This article reports the surprising discovery that S. pombe employs an unfolded response pathway exclusively dependent on mRNA stability, including a quite novel stabilization of a processed form of BiP mRNA.

http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00048