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Eating the heart healthy

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The heart is composed of cardiomyocytes that beat all day every day with very little cellular turnover. How do these cells manage to keep themselves healthy in the face of such constant stress? Nicolás-Ávila et al. found that macrophages residing in the myocardium actively contribute to cardiomyocyte maintenance. Cardiomyocytes expel damaged organelles, including mitochondria, in packages that resemble structures in the brain called exophers. These membranous particles are then consumed by macrophages using phagocytosis. When cardiac macrophages were depleted in mice, the myocardium became compromised. Cardiomyocytes accumulated defective mitochondria and displayed activation of inflammasomes, autophagy, and metabolic dysfunction. Thus, cardiac macrophages play an important role in maintaining heart health by providing a way for cardiomyocytes to maintain organelle and metabolic homeostasis under incessant stress.

Cell 10.1016/j.cell.2020.08.031 (2020).

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How neuron types encode behavioral states

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What is the contribution of molecularly defined cell types to neural coding of stimuli and states? Xu et al. aimed to evaluate neural representation of multiple behavioral states in the mouse paraventricular hypothalamus. To achieve this goal, they combined deep-brain two-photon imaging with post hoc validation of gene expression in the imaged cells. The behavioral states could be well predicted by the neural response of multiple neuronal clusters. Some clusters were broadly tuned and contributed strongly to the decoding of multiple behavioral states, whereas others were more specifically tuned to certain behaviors or specific time windows of a behavioral state.

Science, this issue p. eabb2494

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Fiber tension enables tissue scaling

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Tissue development, homeostasis, and repair require cells to sense mechanical forces. Although many molecular actors implicated in cell mechanosensitivity have been extensively studied, the basis by which cells adapt their mechanical responses to their geometry remains poorly defined. López-Gay et al. now identify how two fundamental epithelial structures—stress fibers and tricellular junctions—endow Drosophila cells with an internal ruler to scale their mechanical response with their area. This work explains how cells of different sizes within an epithelial tissue collectively adapt their mechanical response to control tissue shape and proliferation. Scaling of biological properties with size is a core property of other biological systems.

Science, this issue p. eabb2169

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Species richness maintains mutualisms

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Mutualistic communities of species that benefit each other are ubiquitous in ecosystems and are important for ecosystem functioning. However, the relationship between the persistence of mutualisms and species richness has remained unclear. Vidal et al. used a synthetic mutualism in brewer’s yeast to experimentally test whether species richness buffers mutualistic communities against exploitation by species that do not provide benefits in return. They showed that richer mutualist communities survive exploitation more often than pairwise mutualisms and that higher species richness and functional redundancy allow mutualist communities to persist in the presence of exploiters. These results provide experimental support for the hypothesis that species richness is necessary for the function and maintenance of mutualistic communities.

Science, this issue p. 346

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