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  1. Abstract Background Wound healing is one of the defining features of life and is seen not only in tissues but also within individual cells. Understanding wound response at the single-cell level is critical for determining fundamental cellular functions needed for cell repair and survival. This understanding could also enable the engineering of single-cell wound repair strategies in emerging synthetic cell research. One approach is to examine and adapt self-repair mechanisms from a living system that already demonstrates robust capacity to heal from large wounds. Towards this end, Stentor coeruleus , a single-celled free-living ciliate protozoan, is a unique model because of its robust wound healing capacity. This capacity allows one to perturb the wounding conditions and measure their effect on the repair process without immediately causing cell death, thereby providing a robust platform for probing the self-repair mechanism. Results Here we used a microfluidic guillotine and a fluorescence-based assay to probe the timescales of wound repair and of mechanical modes of wound response in Stentor . We found that Stentor requires ~ 100–1000 s to close bisection wounds, depending on the severity of the wound. This corresponds to a healing rate of ~ 8–80 μm 2 /s, faster than most other single cells reported in the literature. Further, we characterized three distinct mechanical modes of wound response in Stentor : contraction, cytoplasm retrieval, and twisting/pulling. Using chemical perturbations, active cilia were found to be important for only the twisting/pulling mode. Contraction of myonemes, a major contractile fiber in Stentor , was surprisingly not important for the contraction mode and was of low importance for the others. Conclusions While events local to the wound site have been the focus of many single-cell wound repair studies, our results suggest that large-scale mechanical behaviors may be of greater importance to single-cell wound repair than previously thought. The work here advances our understanding of the wound response in Stentor and will lay the foundation for further investigations into the underlying components and molecular mechanisms involved. 
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  2. Transcription polymerases can exhibit an unusual mode of regenerating certain RNA templates from RNA, yielding systems that can replicate and evolve with RNA as the information carrier. Two classes of pathogenic RNAs (hepatitis delta virus in animals and viroids in plants) are copied by host transcription polymerases. Using in vitro RNA replication by the transcription polymerase of T7 bacteriophage as an experimental model, we identify hundreds of new replicating RNAs, define three mechanistic hallmarks of replication (subterminal de novo initiation, RNA shape-shifting, and interrupted rolling-circle synthesis), and describe emergence from DNA seeds as a mechanism for the origin of novel RNA replicons. These results inform models for the origins and replication of naturally occurring RNA genetic elements and suggest a means by which diverse RNA populations could be propagated as hereditary material in cellular contexts.

     
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