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Preview: PLoS Biology: New Articles

PLOS Biology: New Articles

A Peer-Reviewed Open-Access Journal

Updated: 2018-04-23T05:50:18Z


(XML) Elasticity-based boosting of neuroepithelial nucleokinesis via indirect energy transfer from mother to daughter


by Tomoyasu Shinoda, Arata Nagasaka, Yasuhiro Inoue, Ryo Higuchi, Yoshiaki Minami, Kagayaki Kato, Makoto Suzuki, Takefumi Kondo, Takumi Kawaue, Kanako Saito, Naoto Ueno, Yugo Fukazawa, Masaharu Nagayama, Takashi Miura, Taiji Adachi, Takaki Miyata

Neural progenitor cells (NPCs), which are apicobasally elongated and densely packed in the developing brain, systematically move their nuclei/somata in a cell cycle–dependent manner, called interkinetic nuclear migration (IKNM): apical during G2 and basal during G1. Although intracellular molecular mechanisms of individual IKNM have been explored, how heterogeneous IKNMs are collectively coordinated is unknown. Our quantitative cell-biological and in silico analyses revealed that tissue elasticity mechanically assists an initial step of basalward IKNM. When the soma of an M-phase progenitor cell rounds up using actomyosin within the subapical space, a microzone within 10 μm from the surface, which is compressed and elastic because of the apical surface’s contractility, laterally pushes the densely neighboring processes of non–M-phase cells. The pressed processes then recoil centripetally and basally to propel the nuclei/somata of the progenitor’s daughter cells. Thus, indirect neighbor-assisted transfer of mechanical energy from mother to daughter helps efficient brain development.(image)

(XML) On ways to overcome the magical capacity limit of working memory


by Zsolt Turi, Ivan Alekseichuk, Walter Paulus

The ability to simultaneously process and maintain multiple pieces of information is limited. Over the past 50 years, observational methods have provided a large amount of insight regarding the neural mechanisms that underpin the mental capacity that we refer to as “working memory.” More than 20 years ago, a neural coding scheme was proposed for working memory. As a result of technological developments, we can now not only observe but can also influence brain rhythms in humans. Building on these novel developments, we have begun to externally control brain oscillations in order to extend the limits of working memory.(image)

(XML) Ups and downs in early electron cryo-microscopy


by Jacques Dubochet, Erwin Knapek

This is a tale of two scientists who, in their younger days, had their scientific judgement clouded by the promise of a big discovery. Two years later, they found that their conclusions had been considerably exaggerated. They were lucky, though, as their later work would prove to be significant. Now, more than 30 years after those events, they met again and put in writing their understanding of what went wrong.(image)

(XML) Unconventional function of an Achaete-Scute homolog as a terminal selector of nociceptive neuron identity


by Neda Masoudi, Saeed Tavazoie, Lori Glenwinkel, Leesun Ryu, Kyuhyung Kim, Oliver Hobert

Proneural genes are among the most early-acting genes in nervous system development, instructing blast cells to commit to a neuronal fate. Drosophila Atonal and Achaete-Scute complex (AS-C) genes, as well as their vertebrate orthologs, are basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factors with such proneural activity. We show here that a C. elegans AS-C homolog, hlh-4, functions in a fundamentally different manner. In the embryonic, larval, and adult nervous systems, hlh-4 is expressed exclusively in a single nociceptive neuron class, ADL, and its expression in ADL is maintained via transcriptional autoregulation throughout the life of the animal. However, in hlh-4 null mutants, the ADL neuron is generated and still appears neuronal in overall morphology and expression of panneuronal and pansensory features. Rather than acting as a proneural gene, we find that hlh-4 is required for the ADL neuron to function properly, to adopt its correct morphology, to express its unusually large repertoire of olfactory receptor–encoding genes, and to express other known features of terminal ADL identity, including neurotransmitter phenotype, neuropeptides, ion channels, and electrical synapse proteins. hlh-4 is sufficient to induce ADL identity features upon ectopic expression in other neuron types. The expression of ADL terminal identity features is directly controlled by HLH-4 via a phylogenetically conserved E-box motif, which, through bioinformatic analysis, we find to constitute a predictive feature of ADL-expressed terminal identity markers. The lineage that produces the ADL neuron was previously shown to require the conventional, transient proneural activity of another AS-C homolog, hlh-14, demonstrating sequential activities of distinct AS-C-type bHLH genes in neuronal specification. Taken together, we have defined here an unconventional function of an AS-C-type bHLH gene as a terminal selector of neuronal identity and we speculate that such function could be reflective of an ancestral function of an “ur-” bHLH gene.(image)

(XML) The gender gap in science: How long until women are equally represented?


by Luke Holman, Devi Stuart-Fox, Cindy E. Hauser

Women comprise a minority of the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine (STEMM) workforce. Quantifying the gender gap may identify fields that will not reach parity without intervention, reveal underappreciated biases, and inform benchmarks for gender balance among conference speakers, editors, and hiring committees. Using the PubMed and arXiv databases, we estimated the gender of 36 million authors from >100 countries publishing in >6000 journals, covering most STEMM disciplines over the last 15 years, and made a web app allowing easy access to the data ( Despite recent progress, the gender gap appears likely to persist for generations, particularly in surgery, computer science, physics, and maths. The gap is especially large in authorship positions associated with seniority, and prestigious journals have fewer women authors. Additionally, we estimate that men are invited by journals to submit papers at approximately double the rate of women. Wealthy countries, notably Japan, Germany, and Switzerland, had fewer women authors than poorer ones. We conclude that the STEMM gender gap will not close without further reforms in education, mentoring, and academic publishing.(image)

(XML) Mitochondrial nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide reduced (NADH) oxidation links the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle with methionine metabolism and nuclear DNA methylation


by Oswaldo A. Lozoya, Inmaculada Martinez-Reyes, Tianyuan Wang, Dagoberto Grenet, Pierre Bushel, Jianying Li, Navdeep Chandel, Richard P. Woychik, Janine H. Santos

Mitochondrial function affects many aspects of cellular physiology, and, most recently, its role in epigenetics has been reported. Mechanistically, how mitochondrial function alters DNA methylation patterns in the nucleus remains ill defined. Using a cell culture model of induced mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) depletion, in this study we show that progressive mitochondrial dysfunction leads to an early transcriptional and metabolic program centered on the metabolism of various amino acids, including those involved in the methionine cycle. We find that this program also increases DNA methylation, which occurs primarily in the genes that are differentially expressed. Maintenance of mitochondrial nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide reduced (NADH) oxidation in the context of mtDNA loss rescues methionine salvage and polyamine synthesis and prevents changes in DNA methylation and gene expression but does not affect serine/folate metabolism or transsulfuration. This work provides a novel mechanistic link between mitochondrial function and epigenetic regulation of gene expression that involves polyamine and methionine metabolism responding to changes in the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. Given the implications of these findings, future studies across different physiological contexts and in vivo are warranted.(image)

(XML) Dectin-1/2–induced autocrine PGE2 signaling licenses dendritic cells to prime Th2 responses


by Maria M. M. Kaisar, Manuel Ritter, Carlos del Fresno, Hulda S. Jónasdóttir, Alwin J. van der Ham, Leonard R. Pelgrom, Gabriele Schramm, Laura E. Layland, David Sancho, Clarissa Prazeres da Costa, Martin Giera, Maria Yazdanbakhsh, Bart Everts

The molecular mechanisms through which dendritic cells (DCs) prime T helper 2 (Th2) responses, including those elicited by parasitic helminths, remain incompletely understood. Here, we report that soluble egg antigen (SEA) from Schistosoma mansoni, which is well known to drive potent Th2 responses, triggers DCs to produce prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), which subsequently—in an autocrine manner—induces OX40 ligand (OX40L) expression to license these DCs to drive Th2 responses. Mechanistically, SEA was found to promote PGE2 synthesis through Dectin-1 and Dectin-2, and via a downstream signaling cascade involving spleen tyrosine kinase (Syk), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), cytosolic phospholipase A2 (cPLA2), and cyclooxygenase 1 and 2 (COX-1 and COX-2). In addition, this pathway was activated independently of the actions of omega-1 (ω-1), a previously described Th2-priming glycoprotein present in SEA. These findings were supported by in vivo murine data showing that ω-1–independent Th2 priming by SEA was mediated by Dectin-2 and Syk signaling in DCs. Finally, we found that Dectin-2−/−, and to a lesser extent Dectin-1−/− mice, displayed impaired Th2 responses and reduced egg-driven granuloma formation following S. mansoni infection, highlighting the physiological importance of this pathway in Th2 polarization during a helminth infection. In summary, we identified a novel pathway in DCs involving Dectin-1/2-Syk-PGE2-OX40L through which Th2 immune responses are induced.(image)

(XML) A noncanonical role for dynamin-1 in regulating early stages of clathrin-mediated endocytosis in non-neuronal cells


by Saipraveen Srinivasan, Christoph J. Burckhardt, Madhura Bhave, Zhiming Chen, Ping-Hung Chen, Xinxin Wang, Gaudenz Danuser, Sandra L. Schmid

Dynamin Guanosine Triphosphate hydrolases (GTPases) are best studied for their role in the terminal membrane fission process of clathrin-mediated endocytosis (CME), but they have also been proposed to regulate earlier stages of CME. Although highly enriched in neurons, dynamin-1 (Dyn1) is, in fact, widely expressed along with Dyn2 but inactivated in non-neuronal cells via phosphorylation by glycogen synthase kinase-3 beta (GSK3β) kinase. Here, we study the differential, isoform-specific functions of Dyn1 and Dyn2 as regulators of CME. Endogenously expressed Dyn1 and Dyn2 were fluorescently tagged either separately or together in two cell lines with contrasting Dyn1 expression levels. By quantitative live cell dual- and triple-channel total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy, we find that Dyn2 is more efficiently recruited to clathrin-coated pits (CCPs) than Dyn1, and that Dyn2 but not Dyn1 exhibits a pronounced burst of assembly, presumably into supramolecular collar-like structures that drive membrane scission and clathrin-coated vesicle (CCV) formation. Activation of Dyn1 by acute inhibition of GSK3β results in more rapid endocytosis of transferrin receptors, increased rates of CCP initiation, and decreased CCP lifetimes but did not significantly affect the extent of Dyn1 recruitment to CCPs. Thus, activated Dyn1 can regulate early stages of CME that occur well upstream of fission, even when present at low, substoichiometric levels relative to Dyn2. Under physiological conditions, Dyn1 is activated downstream of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling to alter CCP dynamics. We identify sorting nexin 9 (SNX9) as a preferred binding partner to activated Dyn1 that is partially required for Dyn1-dependent effects on early stages of CCP maturation. Together, we decouple regulatory and scission functions of dynamins and report a scission-independent, isoform-specific regulatory role for Dyn1 in CME.(image)

(XML) Do non-native species contribute to biodiversity?


by Martin A. Schlaepfer

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) emphasises the role of biodiversity in delivering benefits essential for all people and, as a result, seeks to safeguard all life-forms. The indices that are used to measure progress towards international conservation and sustainability goals, however, focus solely on the ‘native’ component of biodiversity. A subset of non-native species can cause undesirable economic, social, or biological effects. But non-native species also contribute to regional biodiversity (species richness and biotic interactions) and ecosystem services. In some regions and cities, non-native species make up more than half of all species. Currently, the contributions of these species to biodiversity and ecosystem services are overlooked. Here, I argue that biodiversity and sustainability indices should include all species. This is not only consistent with definitions of biodiversity but also will promote the idea that long-term, sustainable, human well-being is intricately tied to benefits derived from nature.(image)

(XML) Correction: Selective stalling of human translation through small-molecule engagement of the ribosome nascent chain


by Nathanael G. Lintner, Kim F. McClure, Donna Petersen, Allyn T. Londregan, David W. Piotrowski, Liuqing Wei, Jun Xiao, Michael Bolt, Paula M. Loria, Bruce Maguire, Kieran F. Geoghegan, Austin Huang, Tim Rolph, Spiros Liras, Jennifer A. Doudna, Robert G. Dullea, Jamie H. D. Cate


(XML) Laboratory mouse housing conditions can be improved using common environmental enrichment without compromising data


by Viola André, Christine Gau, Angelika Scheideler, Juan A. Aguilar-Pimentel, Oana V. Amarie, Lore Becker, Lillian Garrett, Wolfgang Hans, Sabine M. Hölter, Dirk Janik, Kristin Moreth, Frauke Neff, Manuela Östereicher, Ildiko Racz, Birgit Rathkolb, Jan Rozman, Raffi Bekeredjian, Jochen Graw, Martin Klingenspor, Thomas Klopstock, Markus Ollert, Carsten Schmidt-Weber, Eckhard Wolf, Wolfgang Wurst, Valérie Gailus-Durner, Markus Brielmeier, Helmut Fuchs, Martin Hrabé de Angelis

Animal welfare requires the adequate housing of animals to ensure health and well-being. The application of environmental enrichment is a way to improve the well-being of laboratory animals. However, it is important to know whether these enrichment items can be incorporated in experimental mouse husbandry without creating a divide between past and future experimental results. Previous small-scale studies have been inconsistent throughout the literature, and it is not yet completely understood whether and how enrichment might endanger comparability of results of scientific experiments. Here, we measured the effect on means and variability of 164 physiological parameters in 3 conditions: with nesting material with or without a shelter, comparing these 2 conditions to a “barren” regime without any enrichments. We studied a total of 360 mice from each of 2 mouse strains (C57BL/6NTac and DBA/2NCrl) and both sexes for each of the 3 conditions. Our study indicates that enrichment affects the mean values of some of the 164 parameters with no consistent effects on variability. However, the influence of enrichment appears negligible compared to the effects of other influencing factors. Therefore, nesting material and shelters may be used to improve animal welfare without impairment of experimental outcome or loss of comparability to previous data collected under barren housing conditions.(image)

(XML) Organic cation transporter 1 (OCT1) modulates multiple cardiometabolic traits through effects on hepatic thiamine content


by Xiaomin Liang, Sook Wah Yee, Huan-Chieh Chien, Eugene C. Chen, Qi Luo, Ling Zou, Meiling Piao, Arias Mifune, Ligong Chen, Meredith E. Calvert, Sarah King, Frode Norheim, Janna Abad, Ronald M. Krauss, Kathleen M. Giacomini

A constellation of metabolic disorders, including obesity, dysregulated lipids, and elevations in blood glucose levels, has been associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Analysis of data from recently published genome-wide association studies (GWAS) demonstrated that reduced-function polymorphisms in the organic cation transporter, OCT1 (SLC22A1), are significantly associated with higher total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and triglyceride (TG) levels and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus, yet the mechanism linking OCT1 to these metabolic traits remains puzzling. Here, we show that OCT1, widely characterized as a drug transporter, plays a key role in modulating hepatic glucose and lipid metabolism, potentially by mediating thiamine (vitamin B1) uptake and hence its levels in the liver. Deletion of Oct1 in mice resulted in reduced activity of thiamine-dependent enzymes, including pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH), which disrupted the hepatic glucose–fatty acid cycle and shifted the source of energy production from glucose to fatty acids, leading to a reduction in glucose utilization, increased gluconeogenesis, and altered lipid metabolism. In turn, these effects resulted in increased total body adiposity and systemic levels of glucose and lipids. Importantly, wild-type mice on thiamine deficient diets (TDs) exhibited impaired glucose metabolism that phenocopied Oct1 deficient mice. Collectively, our study reveals a critical role of hepatic thiamine deficiency through OCT1 deficiency in promoting the metabolic inflexibility that leads to the pathogenesis of cardiometabolic disease.(image)

(XML) Biocuration: Distilling data into knowledge


by International Society for Biocuration

Data, including information generated from them by processing and analysis, are an asset with measurable value. The assets that biological research funding produces are the data generated, the information derived from these data, and, ultimately, the discoveries and knowledge these lead to. From the time when Henry Oldenburg published the first scientific journal in 1665 (Proceedings of the Royal Society) to the founding of the United States National Library of Medicine in 1879 to the present, there has been a sustained drive to improve how researchers can record and discover what is known. Researchers’ experimental work builds upon years and (collectively) billions of dollars’ worth of earlier work. Today, researchers are generating data at ever-faster rates because of advances in instrumentation and technology, coupled with decreases in production costs. Unfortunately, the ability of researchers to manage and disseminate their results has not kept pace, so their work cannot achieve its maximal impact. Strides have recently been made, but more awareness is needed of the essential role that biological data resources, including biocuration, play in maintaining and linking this ever-growing flood of data and information. The aim of this paper is to describe the nature of data as an asset, the role biocurators play in increasing its value, and consistent, practical means to measure effectiveness that can guide planning and justify costs in biological research information resources’ development and management.(image)

(XML) The ecology of immune state in a wild mammal, Mus musculus domesticus


by Stephen Abolins, Luke Lazarou, Laura Weldon, Louise Hughes, Elizabeth C. King, Paul Drescher, Michael J. O. Pocock, Julius C. R. Hafalla, Eleanor M. Riley, Mark Viney

The immune state of wild animals is largely unknown. Knowing this and what affects it is important in understanding how infection and disease affects wild animals. The immune state of wild animals is also important in understanding the biology of their pathogens, which is directly relevant to explaining pathogen spillover among species, including to humans. The paucity of knowledge about wild animals' immune state is in stark contrast to our exquisitely detailed understanding of the immunobiology of laboratory animals. Making an immune response is costly, and many factors (such as age, sex, infection status, and body condition) have individually been shown to constrain or promote immune responses. But, whether or not these factors affect immune responses and immune state in wild animals, their relative importance, and how they interact (or do not) are unknown. Here, we have investigated the immune ecology of wild house mice—the same species as the laboratory mouse—as an example of a wild mammal, characterising their adaptive humoral, adaptive cellular, and innate immune state. Firstly, we show how immune variation is structured among mouse populations, finding that there can be extensive immune discordance among neighbouring populations. Secondly, we identify the principal factors that underlie the immunological differences among mice, showing that body condition promotes and age constrains individuals’ immune state, while factors such as microparasite infection and season are comparatively unimportant. By applying a multifactorial analysis to an immune system-wide analysis, our results bring a new and unified understanding of the immunobiology of a wild mammal.(image)

(XML) The rostromedial tegmental nucleus is essential for non-rapid eye movement sleep


by Su-Rong Yang, Zhen-Zhen Hu, Yan-Jia Luo, Ya-Nan Zhao, Huan-Xin Sun, Dou Yin, Chen-Yao Wang, Yu-Dong Yan, Dian-Ru Wang, Xiang-Shan Yuan, Chen-Bo Ye, Wei Guo, Wei-Min Qu, Yoan Cherasse, Michael Lazarus, Yu-Qiang Ding, Zhi-Li Huang

The rostromedial tegmental nucleus (RMTg), also called the GABAergic tail of the ventral tegmental area, projects to the midbrain dopaminergic system, dorsal raphe nucleus, locus coeruleus, and other regions. Whether the RMTg is involved in sleep–wake regulation is unknown. In the present study, pharmacogenetic activation of rat RMTg neurons promoted non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep with increased slow-wave activity (SWA). Conversely, rats after neurotoxic lesions of 8 or 16 days showed decreased NREM sleep with reduced SWA at lights on, which persisted until after lesions of 25 days. Similarly, pharmacological and pharmacogenetic inactivation of rat RMTg neurons decreased NREM sleep. Electrophysiological experiments combined with optogenetics showed a direct inhibitory connection between the terminals of RMTg neurons and midbrain dopaminergic neurons. The bidirectional effects of the RMTg on the sleep–wake cycle were mimicked by the modulation of ventral tegmental area (VTA)/substantia nigra compacta (SNc) dopaminergic neuronal activity using a pharmacogenetic approach. Furthermore, during the 2-hour recovery period following 6-hour sleep deprivation, the amount of NREM sleep in both the lesion and control rats was significantly increased compared with baseline levels; however, only the control rats showed a significant increase in SWA compared with baseline levels. Collectively, our findings reveal an essential role of the RMTg in the promotion of NREM sleep and homeostatic regulation.(image)

(XML) Stable centrosomal roots disentangle to allow interphase centriole independence


by Robert Mahen

The centrosome is a non–membrane-bound cellular compartment consisting of 2 centrioles surrounded by a protein coat termed the pericentriolar material (PCM). Centrioles generally remain physically associated together (a phenomenon called centrosome cohesion), yet how this occurs in the absence of a bounding lipid membrane is unclear. One model posits that pericentriolar fibres formed from rootletin protein directly link centrioles, yet little is known about the structure, biophysical properties, or assembly kinetics of such fibres. Here, I combine live-cell imaging of endogenously tagged rootletin with cell fusion and find previously unrecognised plasticity in centrosome cohesion. Rootletin forms large, diffusionally stable bifurcating fibres, which amass slowly on mature centrioles over many hours from anaphase. Nascent centrioles (procentrioles), in contrast, do not form roots and must be licensed to do so through polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1) activity. Transient separation of roots accompanies centriolar repositioning during the interphase, suggesting that centrioles organize as independent units, each containing discrete roots. Indeed, forced induction of duplicate centriole pairs allows independent reshuffling of individual centrioles between the pairs. Therefore collectively, these findings suggest that progressively nucleated polymers mediate the dynamic association of centrioles as either 1 or 2 interphase centrosomes, with implications for the understanding of how non–membrane-bound organelles self-organise.(image)

(XML) The paradoxical extinction of the most charismatic animals


by Franck Courchamp, Ivan Jaric, Céline Albert, Yves Meinard, William J. Ripple, Guillaume Chapron

A widespread opinion is that conservation efforts disproportionately benefit charismatic species. However, this doesn’t mean that they are not threatened, and which species are “charismatic” remains unclear. Here, we identify the 10 most charismatic animals and show that they are at high risk of imminent extinction in the wild. We also find that the public ignores these animals’ predicament and we suggest it could be due to the observed biased perception of their abundance, based more on their profusion in our culture than on their natural populations. We hypothesize that this biased perception impairs conservation efforts because people are unaware that the animals they cherish face imminent extinction and do not perceive their urgent need for conservation. By freely using the image of rare and threatened species in their product marketing, many companies may participate in creating this biased perception, with unintended detrimental effects on conservation efforts, which should be compensated by channeling part of the associated profits to conservation. According to our hypothesis, this biased perception would be likely to last as long as the massive cultural and commercial presence of charismatic species is not accompanied by adequate information campaigns about the imminent threats they face.(image)

(XML) Age is not just a number: Naive T cells increase their ability to persist in the circulation over time


by Sanket Rane, Thea Hogan, Benedict Seddon, Andrew J. Yates

The processes regulating peripheral naive T-cell numbers and clonal diversity remain poorly understood. Conceptually, homeostatic mechanisms must fall into the broad categories of neutral (simple random birth–death models), competition (regulation of cell numbers through quorum-sensing, perhaps via limiting shared resources), adaptation (involving cell-intrinsic changes in homeostatic fitness, defined as net growth rate over time), or selection (involving the loss or outgrowth of cell populations deriving from intercellular variation in fitness). There may also be stably maintained heterogeneity within the naive T-cell pool. To distinguish between these mechanisms, we confront very general models of these processes with an array of experimental data, both new and published. While reduced competition for homeostatic stimuli may impact cell survival or proliferation in neonates or under moderate to severe lymphopenia, we show that the only mechanism capable of explaining multiple, independent experimental studies of naive CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell homeostasis in mice from young adulthood into old age is one of adaptation, in which cells act independently and accrue a survival or proliferative advantage continuously with their post-thymic age. However, aged naive T cells may also be functionally impaired, and so the accumulation of older cells via ‘conditioning through experience’ may contribute to reduced immune responsiveness in the elderly.(image)

(XML) Correction: The Economics of Reproducibility in Preclinical Research


by The PLOS Biology Staff


(XML) Nitric oxide-mediated posttranslational modifications control neurotransmitter release by modulating complexin farnesylation and enhancing its clamping ability


by Susan W. Robinson, Julie-Myrtille Bourgognon, Jereme G. Spiers, Carlo Breda, Susanna Campesan, Adrian Butcher, Giovanna R. Mallucci, David Dinsdale, Nobuhiro Morone, Raj Mistry, Tim M. Smith, Maria Guerra-Martin, R. A. John Challiss, Flaviano Giorgini, Joern R. Steinert

Nitric oxide (NO) regulates neuronal function and thus is critical for tuning neuronal communication. Mechanisms by which NO modulates protein function and interaction include posttranslational modifications (PTMs) such as S-nitrosylation. Importantly, cross signaling between S-nitrosylation and prenylation can have major regulatory potential. However, the exact protein targets and resulting changes in function remain elusive. Here, we interrogated the role of NO-dependent PTMs and farnesylation in synaptic transmission. We found that NO compromises synaptic function at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction (NMJ) in a cGMP-independent manner. NO suppressed release and reduced the size of available vesicle pools, which was reversed by glutathione (GSH) and occluded by genetic up-regulation of GSH-generating and de-nitrosylating glutamate-cysteine-ligase and S-nitroso-glutathione reductase activities. Enhanced nitrergic activity led to S-nitrosylation of the fusion-clamp protein complexin (cpx) and altered its membrane association and interactions with active zone (AZ) and soluble N-ethyl-maleimide-sensitive fusion protein Attachment Protein Receptor (SNARE) proteins. Furthermore, genetic and pharmacological suppression of farnesylation and a nitrosylation mimetic mutant of cpx induced identical physiological and localization phenotypes as caused by NO. Together, our data provide evidence for a novel physiological nitrergic molecular switch involving S-nitrosylation, which reversibly suppresses farnesylation and thereby enhances the net-clamping function of cpx. These data illustrate a new mechanistic signaling pathway by which regulation of farnesylation can fine-tune synaptic release.(image)

(XML) Semantic representation in the white matter pathway


by Yuxing Fang, Xiaosha Wang, Suyu Zhong, Luping Song, Zaizhu Han, Gaolang Gong, Yanchao Bi

Object conceptual processing has been localized to distributed cortical regions that represent specific attributes. A challenging question is how object semantic space is formed. We tested a novel framework of representing semantic space in the pattern of white matter (WM) connections by extending the representational similarity analysis (RSA) to structural lesion pattern and behavioral data in 80 brain-damaged patients. For each WM connection, a neural representational dissimilarity matrix (RDM) was computed by first building machine-learning models with the voxel-wise WM lesion patterns as features to predict naming performance of a particular item and then computing the correlation between the predicted naming score and the actual naming score of another item in the testing patients. This correlation was used to build the neural RDM based on the assumption that if the connection pattern contains certain aspects of information shared by the naming processes of these two items, models trained with one item should also predict naming accuracy of the other. Correlating the neural RDM with various cognitive RDMs revealed that neural patterns in several WM connections that connect left occipital/middle temporal regions and anterior temporal regions associated with the object semantic space. Such associations were not attributable to modality-specific attributes (shape, manipulation, color, and motion), to peripheral picture-naming processes (picture visual similarity, phonological similarity), to broad semantic categories, or to the properties of the cortical regions that they connected, which tended to represent multiple modality-specific attributes. That is, the semantic space could be represented through WM connection patterns across cortical regions representing modality-specific attributes.(image)

(XML) Ultrastructural localisation of protein interactions using conditionally stable nanobodies


by Nicholas Ariotti, James Rae, Nichole Giles, Nick Martel, Emma Sierecki, Yann Gambin, Thomas E. Hall, Robert G. Parton

We describe the development and application of a suite of modular tools for high-resolution detection of proteins and intracellular protein complexes by electron microscopy (EM). Conditionally stable GFP- and mCherry-binding nanobodies (termed csGBP and csChBP, respectively) are characterized using a cell-free expression and analysis system and subsequently fused to an ascorbate peroxidase (APEX) enzyme. Expression of these cassettes alongside fluorescently labelled proteins results in recruitment and stabilisation of APEX, whereas unbound APEX nanobodies are efficiently degraded by the proteasome. This greatly simplifies correlative analyses, enables detection of less-abundant proteins, and eliminates the need to balance expression levels between fluorescently labelled and APEX nanobody proteins. Furthermore, we demonstrate the application of this system to bimolecular complementation (‘EM split-fluorescent protein’), for localisation of protein–protein interactions at the ultrastructural level.(image)

(XML) Amino acid starvation sensing dampens IL-1β production by activating riboclustering and autophagy


by Srikanth Battu, Sumbul Afroz, Jeevan Giddaluru, Saima Naz, Weishan Huang, Saratchandra Singh Khumukcham, Rafiq Ahmad Khan, Saleem Yousuf Bhat, Insaf Ahmed Qureshi, Bramanandam Manavathi, Aleem Ahmed Khan, Avery August, Seyed Ehtesham Hasnain, Nooruddin Khan

Activation of the amino acid starvation response (AAR) increases lifespan and acute stress resistance as well as regulates inflammation. However, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we show that activation of AAR pharmacologically by Halofuginone (HF) significantly inhibits production of the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin 1β (IL-1β) and provides protection from intestinal inflammation in mice. HF inhibits IL-1β through general control nonderepressible 2 kinase (GCN2)–dependent activation of the cytoprotective integrated stress response (ISR) pathway, resulting in rerouting of IL-1β mRNA from translationally active polysomes to inactive ribocluster complexes—such as stress granules (SGs)—via recruitment of RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) T cell–restricted intracellular antigen-1(TIA-1)/TIA-1–related (TIAR), which are further cleared through induction of autophagy. GCN2 ablation resulted in reduced autophagy and SG formation, which is inversely correlated with IL-1β production. Furthermore, HF diminishes inflammasome activation through suppression of reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. Our study unveils a novel mechanism by which IL-1β is regulated by AAR and further suggests that administration of HF might offer an effective therapeutic intervention against inflammatory diseases.(image)

(XML) Preclinical efficacy studies in investigator brochures: Do they enable risk–benefit assessment?


by Susanne Wieschowski, William Wei Lim Chin, Carole Federico, Sören Sievers, Jonathan Kimmelman, Daniel Strech

Human protection policies require favorable risk–benefit judgments prior to launch of clinical trials. For phase I and II trials, evidence for such judgment often stems from preclinical efficacy studies (PCESs). We undertook a systematic investigation of application materials (investigator brochures [IBs]) presented for ethics review for phase I and II trials to assess the content and properties of PCESs contained in them. Using a sample of 109 IBs most recently approved at 3 institutional review boards based at German Medical Faculties between the years 2010–2016, we identified 708 unique PCESs. We then rated all identified PCESs for their reporting on study elements that help to address validity threats, whether they referenced published reports, and the direction of their results. Altogether, the 109 IBs reported on 708 PCESs. Less than 5% of all PCESs described elements essential for reducing validity threats such as randomization, sample size calculation, and blinded outcome assessment. For most PCESs (89%), no reference to a published report was provided. Only 6% of all PCESs reported an outcome demonstrating no effect. For the majority of IBs (82%), all PCESs were described as reporting positive findings. Our results show that most IBs for phase I/II studies did not allow evaluators to systematically appraise the strength of the supporting preclinical findings. The very rare reporting of PCESs that demonstrated no effect raises concerns about potential design or reporting biases. Poor PCES design and reporting thwart risk–benefit evaluation during ethical review of phase I/II studies.(image)

(XML) Degenerate time-dependent network dynamics anticipate seizures in human epileptic brain


by Adrià Tauste Campo, Alessandro Principe, Miguel Ley, Rodrigo Rocamora, Gustavo Deco

Epileptic seizures are known to follow specific changes in brain dynamics. While some algorithms can nowadays robustly detect these changes, a clear understanding of the mechanism by which these alterations occur and generate seizures is still lacking. Here, we provide crossvalidated evidence that such changes are initiated by an alteration of physiological network state dynamics. Specifically, our analysis of long intracranial electroencephalography (iEEG) recordings from a group of 10 patients identifies a critical phase of a few hours in which time-dependent network states become less variable ("degenerate"), and this phase is followed by a global functional connectivity reduction before seizure onset. This critical phase is characterized by an abnormal occurrence of highly correlated network instances and is shown to be particularly associated with the activity of the resected regions in patients with validated postsurgical outcome. Our approach characterizes preseizure network dynamics as a cascade of 2 sequential events providing new insights into seizure prediction and control.(image)

(XML) What exactly is ‘N’ in cell culture and animal experiments?


by Stanley E. Lazic, Charlie J. Clarke-Williams, Marcus R. Munafò

Biologists determine experimental effects by perturbing biological entities or units. When done appropriately, independent replication of the entity–intervention pair contributes to the sample size (N) and forms the basis of statistical inference. If the wrong entity–intervention pair is chosen, an experiment cannot address the question of interest. We surveyed a random sample of published animal experiments from 2011 to 2016 where interventions were applied to parents and effects examined in the offspring, as regulatory authorities provide clear guidelines on replication with such designs. We found that only 22% of studies (95% CI = 17%–29%) replicated the correct entity–intervention pair and thus made valid statistical inferences. Nearly half of the studies (46%, 95% CI = 38%–53%) had pseudoreplication while 32% (95% CI = 26%–39%) provided insufficient information to make a judgement. Pseudoreplication artificially inflates the sample size, and thus the evidence for a scientific claim, resulting in false positives. We argue that distinguishing between biological units, experimental units, and observational units clarifies where replication should occur, describe the criteria for genuine replication, and provide concrete examples of in vitro, ex vivo, and in vivo experimental designs.(image)

(XML) Meta-research matters: Meta-spin cycles, the blindness of bias, and rebuilding trust


by Lisa Bero


Meta-research is research about research. Meta-research may not be as click-worthy as a meta-pug—a pug dog dressed up in a pug costume—but it is crucial to understanding research. A particularly valuable contribution of meta-research is to identify biases in a body of evidence. Bias can occur in the design, conduct, or publication of research and is a systematic deviation from the truth in results or inferences. The findings of meta-research can tell us which evidence to trust and what must be done to improve future research. We should be using meta-research to provide the evidence base for implementing systemic changes to improve research, not for discrediting it.


(XML) The metabolic theory of ecology and the cost of parasitism


by Mary I. O’Connor, Joanna R. Bernhardt

With over 1 million species on earth, each biologically unique, do we have any hope of understanding whether species will persist in a warming world? We might, because it turns out that there is surprising regularity in how warming accelerates the major metabolic processes that power life. A persistent challenge has been to understand ecological effects of temperature in the context of species interactions, especially when individuals not only experience temperature but also mortality due to parasitism or predation. Kirk et al. have shown how the effects of parasites vary with warming in a manner entirely consistent with general temperature dependence of host and parasite metabolism.(image)

(XML) Dynamic frontotemporal systems process space and time in working memory


by Elizabeth L. Johnson, Jenna N. Adams, Anne-Kristin Solbakk, Tor Endestad, Pål G. Larsson, Jugoslav Ivanovic, Torstein R. Meling, Jack J. Lin, Robert T. Knight

How do we rapidly process incoming streams of information in working memory, a cognitive mechanism central to human behavior? Dominant views of working memory focus on the prefrontal cortex (PFC), but human hippocampal recordings provide a neurophysiological signature distinct from the PFC. Are these regions independent, or do they interact in the service of working memory? We addressed this core issue in behavior by recording directly from frontotemporal sites in humans performing a visuospatial working memory task that operationalizes the types of identity and spatiotemporal information we encounter every day. Theta band oscillations drove bidirectional interactions between the PFC and medial temporal lobe (MTL; including the hippocampus). MTL theta oscillations directed the PFC preferentially during the processing of spatiotemporal information, while PFC theta oscillations directed the MTL for all types of information being processed in working memory. These findings reveal an MTL theta mechanism for processing space and time and a domain-general PFC theta mechanism, providing evidence that rapid, dynamic MTL–PFC interactions underlie working memory for everyday experiences.(image)