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CaVT Project
Cell Chemical Biology Cover Art

 The Hirohide Saito and his team at CiRA report light-sensitive biotechnology that controls protein translation in human cells. They named this technology, "CaVT" which stands for Caliciviral VPg-based Translational Activator.

The paper and related press release can be seen at the following links.

(CiRA press release )

(Cell Chemical Biology )

"CaVT", Rhinoceros beetle in Japanese


  Dr. Hideyuki Nakanishi, an inventor of CaVT is good at illustrating schema using characters. He used a helmet in his graphical abstract to explain CaVT since we call an ancient old helmet as "Kabuto" in Japanese; similar sounds of CaVT.  When I was asked to create a cover art for their paper, I also thought of a helmet, but I reconsidered and thought that "Kabuto-mushi", or rhinoceros beetle may look more friendly.

Very rough idea for the cover art. 

 The research group made two types of CaVT. In one, they effectively split CaVT, rendering it functionless. However, the function could be recovered by fusing multiple proteins when being exposed to the light.  This split CaVT is illustrated as a green beetle with a large horn, like a Hercules beetle.

 In the second one, they attached a destabilizing domain to CaVT. Again, this CaVT could be activated if when being exposed to the light. This CaVT is illustrated as a dark red beetle, a general rhinoceros beetle found in Japan.

 So when both were exposed to light, both CaVT translated the modified RNA and control protein translation. I made two beetles clinging to the RNA under spot light.

Beetles and RNA were drawn on the film to show slight transparency and organic texture

A finished Cover Art (with official Cell Chemical Biology logo.)

The official legend of the art, as published by Cell Chemical Biology, is as follows: “Among gene regulatory methods in synthetic biology, photoregulation is one promising approach because it enables lesion site-targeted therapeutic gene expression. In this issue, Nakanishi et al. (pp. 662–674) develop two photo-controllable activation and modified nucleotide-compatible translational regulation systems for synthetic mRNAs. Two beetles on the cover show the two systems, “split CaVT” and “DD-CaVT.” With the light exposure, both beetles get activated to translate target modRNAs. DD-CaVT can also be used for translational repression by exchanging the motif in target modRNAs. Cover art by Misaki Ouchida.”

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