Having just published our 100,000th article, the staff at PLOS ONE realizes that easily finding research papers among our wide selection is very important to our diverse community. This is one reason we’ve now joined forces with the PLOS article-level metrics (ALMs) team to regularly identify and present a selection of our recently published papers that demonstrate high ALM activity*. This post will be the first in a series that highlights new content for our readers.
From genetics to paleontology and microbiology to ecology, all the papers featured here have drawn the attention of the general public and scientific community over the past four months. This list is just the tip of the iceberg and if you haven’t already perused these papers, we encourage you to explore the work here and join the rich conversations already ongoing surrounding them.
Without further ado, this month’s top papers include the following:
1. Investigating “knockin” and “knockdown” in a human cell line
Using CRISPR/Cas9, a biological gene editing system that has allowed rapid and efficient modification of an organism’s DNA—as well as captured the imagination of biomedical researchers in the last two years—the authors of “CRISPR/Cas9 Allows Efficient and Complete Knock-In of a Destabilization Domain-Tagged Essential Protein in a Human Cell Line, Allowing Rapid Knockdown of Protein Function” were able to add a destabilizing element to “knockdown” an essential gene ( TCOF1) in a human cell line, effectively impairing cell growth and controlling protein levels. This strategy will hopefully allow the authors to investigate this gene further, as it is critical for cell growth and viability and has been associated with Treacher Collins–Franceschetti syndrome.
Published 4/17/2014, Image from the article
2. The shapes of 2.1 billion year-old macroscopic marine biota
The authors of “The 2.1 Ga Old Francevillian Biota: Biogenicity, Taphonomy and Biodiversity” analyzed the shapes and structures of fossilized material from the Paleoproterozoic Era—when the Earth’s surface and atmospheric environment was still in flux—found in the Francevillian black shale rocks in southeastern Gabon in Central Africa. The results suggest a biota fossilized during the formation of sedimentary rocks, likely following the rise and fall of atmospheric oxygen. These 400 biota may represent the oldest known macroscopic organisms.
Published 6/25/2014, Image from the article
3. Musical training may benefit young brains
The authors of “Behavioral and Neural Correlates of Executive Functioning in Musicians and Non-Musicians” put working adult musicians, adults with no musical training, and kids with a couple years of musical training through a series of tasks to measure various cognitive capabilities. They found that the adults and children with musical training showed enhanced performance in working memory and processing speed compared to those without training.
Published 6/17/2014, Image from the article
4. Cheers for the “bugs” in Lambic beers’ (yeast and bacteria)
Traditional Lambic sour beers ferment for one to three years before bottling using wild yeast and bacteria from the air of the Senne river valley in Belgium. To dive into the microbial diversity in fermenting Lambic sour beer in a brewery in Belgium, the authors of “The Microbial Diversity of Traditional Spontaneously Fermented Lambic Beer” analyzed over 2000 bacterial and yeast isolates. They found a wide variety of bacterial species and only minor variation between batches. The authors also observed a pattern in the way the “bugs” changed during the fermentation process, which started with a mostly Enterobacteriaceae, replaced by Pediococcus damnosus and Saccharomyces spp. in the second month, and finally replaced at 6 months by Dekkera bruxellensis. Understanding the progression of “bugs” might allow breweries from around the world to replicate this region-specific fermentation process.
Published 4/18/2014, Image: Brakspear Oxford Gold Organic Beer by Christer Edvartsen
5. Latent virus reactivation in patients with sepsis
Reactivation of latent viruses may occur with prolonged sepsis. The authors of “Reactivation of Multiple Viruses in Patients with Sepsis” analyzed blood samples from critically-ill septic, critically-ill non-septic, and healthy patients to see if certain latent viruses—herpesviruses, polyomaviruses, and the anellovirus TTV—reactivated in these patients. The results suggested latent virus reactivation may be common with prolonged sepsis, consistent with development of an immunosuppressive state.
Published 6/11/2014, Image: Model of a Virus by Tom Thai
6. Prehistoric crocodiles may have dined on each other
The authors of “An Additional Baurusuchid from the Cretaceous of Brazil with Evidence of Interspecific Predation among Crocodyliformes” have discovered the fossils of a new crocodyliformes (crocodilians), Aplestosuchus sordidus, from the Late Cretaceous in Brazil. Not only did the researchers find a new species, but they also discovered fossilized remnants of another crocodylian inside its stomach, suggesting that Aplestosuchus sordidus likely feasted on other crocodyliforms.
Published 5/8/2014, Image from the article
7. Microbes hitching a ride on the skin of a humpback whale
Humpback whales live in oceans around the world and the authors of “Humpback Whale Populations Share a Core Skin Bacterial Community: Towards a Health Index for Marine Mammals?” genetically sequenced over 500,000 bacteria collected from humpback whale skin from different geographical areas, as well as in various health conditions to explore the role these microbes play in their health. They found that in general, two bacterial species, Tenacibaculum and Psychrobacter, were hitching a ride on most healthy whales, but the overall composition of the bacterial populations differed depending on their various geographical locations, as well as on whether individual whales were stressed or deceased. These results indicate that scientists may be able to monitor these widespread whales’ health using microbes in the future.
Published 3/26/2014, Image from the article
8. Up close with 3D insects
Scientists working to develop a cost-effective method to create natural-color 3D models of insects in “Capturing Natural-Colour 3D Models of Insects for Species Discovery and Diagnostics” have used “off-the-shelf” equipment to image and model the insects in 3D. The 3D models are compact in size (~ 10 MB each); have excellent resolution; and can be embedded into documents and web pages, as well as mobile devices. The authors report that the system is portable, safe, and relatively affordable; complements existing imaging techniques; and opens up opportunities to use images of these delicate specimens for research, education, and art.
Published 4/23/2014, Image from the article
9. Mass extinction may not have resulted in slow recovery of prehistoric predators
Organism recovery after the end-Permian mass extinction is thought to have been slow, lasting up to eight million years or more. The authors of “Early Triassic Marine Biotic Recovery: The Predators’ Perspective” surveyed the global distribution and size of Early Triassic and Anisian marine predatory vertebrates—fishes, amphibians and reptiles—to take a closer look at organism recovery after the mass extinction event. Scientists observed no significant predator size increase from the Early Triassic to the Anisian, as would be expected with slow or stepwise recovery. These results likely indicate that from the Early Triassic onward, marine ecosystems were comprised multiple trophic levels.
Published 3/19/2014, Image from the article
10. Let’s study lions, tigers, and bears (and more?)
Scientists work hard to understand the role carnivores play in ecosystems, but all carnivorous species may not receive the same amount of attention. To investigate further the patterns in carnivore research, the authors of “Correlates of Research Effort in Carnivores: Body Size, Range Size and Diet Matter” combined bibliometric information they obtained from ~16,500 published papers on the Order Carnivora, a well-known group of nearly 300 species. The researchers found that scientists tend to study carnivores with large bodies and large geographic ranges, like bears and walruses, moreso than species with greater adaptability and broader diets.
Published 4/2/2014, Image: Ours noir en colombie britanique by Ludovic Hirlimann
Thank you for taking a moment to enjoy these PLOS ONE papers from the past four months. We’re looking forward to next list and meanwhile, you may explore our ALMs report to make your own lists.
* This list will be selected each month from a report of papers generated based on the following ALMs ratio: PDF downloads/HTML ratios. Only papers published within the last four calendar months were eligible for inclusion. (This list was pulled from March 15, 2014- July 15, 2014)