Alex writes:

Hi Vincent and Nels,

I recently started listening to Twievo at work, going through all the episodes from the start. Yesterday I heard the episode about the clonal raider ants with the mutant orco gene that prevented their odorant receptors from developing. It makes sense that ants without odorant receptors would behave like ants raised in social isolation. Since ants rely so predominantly on their sense of smell to interact with their fellow ants, a lack of odorant receptors would cause any ant to develop in social isolation; the other ants might as well not be there. I really enjoyed the episode and can’t wait to hear them all!

When I first found Twievo I was struck by how much Vincent sounds like Ira Flatow, who is the host of Science Friday, another favorite podcast of mine. I would like to recommend it to you both, if you aren’t already familiar. It’s a weekly show that briefly covers a wide breadth of new stories in science, providing a good complement for your show that explores one topic in depth.

Thank you for your hard work,


Cathleen writes:

Hi TWiV team!

A devoted listener of your podcast who works in my lab informed me a recent TWiV covered a paper on a giant virus that has inteins in its genome. He also mentioned your confusion and amazement at these unique self-splicing elements.

Luckily for you, I am a graduate student working on inteins, and have a paper in press at Mobile DNA covering their distribution in the giant viruses (as well as other eukaryotes). They truly are amazing, enigmatic elements. They have also been dubbed ‘nature’s gift to protein chemists’ as they can break and make peptide bonds, and have proved useful as a tool in biotechnology. Inteins are usually found in essential genes, and in proteins that perform replication, recombination, and repair, but are found in other cool spots, too. That’s because many of them are also mobile elements that contain homing endonucleases. They are pretty neat, and I’ve been studying them for 6 years now!

Amongst the small group that studies inteins, we are divided on if they are functionally important or not. Some recent in vitro work suggests inteins might have adapted roles beyond selfish genetic elements. For example, an archaeal intein in a recombinase protein was shown to splice dramatically faster in response to ssDNA, its substrate. Others seem to be regulated by oxidative stress, using cysteine chemistry.

I would be happy to chat more or be a guest on an episode to talk more about my recent paper, as well as others like it.


Cathleen Green

Trudy writes:

Sounds like a good paper for TWiEVO, and maybe invite Dickson for the discussion? Can’t access actual paper, so here is the NY Times link.

“Woman inherits the earth” scene from Jurassic Park came to mind when I read the article….