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Preview: PLoS Biology: New Articles

PLOS Biology: New Articles

A Peer-Reviewed Open-Access Journal

Updated: 2018-04-25T20:46:40Z


(XML) Full disclosure: Genome assembly is still hard


by Stephen Richards

Two recent papers highlight the fascinating comparative genomics of anhydrobiosis, the ability to withstand complete desiccation, in bdelloid rotifers and tardigrades. However, both groups had to openly deal with the significant difficulties of generating and interpreting short-read draft assemblies—especially challenging in microscopic species with high sequence polymorphism. These exemplars demonstrate the need to go beyond single draft-quality reference genomes to high-quality multiple species comparative genomics if we are to fully capture the value of genomics.(image)

(XML) Evolutionary novelty in gravity sensing through horizontal gene transfer and high-order protein assembly


by Tu Anh Nguyen, Jamie Greig, Asif Khan, Cara Goh, Gregory Jedd

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) can promote evolutionary adaptation by transforming a species’ relationship to the environment. In most well-understood cases of HGT, acquired and donor functions appear to remain closely related. Thus, the degree to which HGT can lead to evolutionary novelties remains unclear. Mucorales fungi sense gravity through the sedimentation of vacuolar protein crystals. Here, we identify the octahedral crystal matrix protein (OCTIN). Phylogenetic analysis strongly supports acquisition of octin by HGT from bacteria. A bacterial OCTIN forms high-order periplasmic oligomers, and inter-molecular disulphide bonds are formed by both fungal and bacterial OCTINs, suggesting that they share elements of a conserved assembly mechanism. However, estimated sedimentation velocities preclude a gravity-sensing function for the bacterial structures. Together, our data suggest that HGT from bacteria into the Mucorales allowed a dramatic increase in assembly scale and emergence of the gravity-sensing function. We conclude that HGT can lead to evolutionary novelties that emerge depending on the physiological and cellular context of protein assembly.(image)

(XML) Comparative genomics of bdelloid rotifers: Insights from desiccating and nondesiccating species


by Reuben W. Nowell, Pedro Almeida, Christopher G. Wilson, Thomas P. Smith, Diego Fontaneto, Alastair Crisp, Gos Micklem, Alan Tunnacliffe, Chiara Boschetti, Timothy G. Barraclough

Bdelloid rotifers are a class of microscopic invertebrates that have existed for millions of years apparently without sex or meiosis. They inhabit a variety of temporary and permanent freshwater habitats globally, and many species are remarkably tolerant of desiccation. Bdelloids offer an opportunity to better understand the evolution of sex and recombination, but previous work has emphasised desiccation as the cause of several unusual genomic features in this group. Here, we present high-quality whole-genome sequences of 3 bdelloid species: Rotaria macrura and R. magnacalcarata, which are both desiccation intolerant, and Adineta ricciae, which is desiccation tolerant. In combination with the published assembly of A. vaga, which is also desiccation tolerant, we apply a comparative genomics approach to evaluate the potential effects of desiccation tolerance and asexuality on genome evolution in bdelloids. We find that ancestral tetraploidy is conserved among all 4 bdelloid species, but homologous divergence in obligately aquatic Rotaria genomes is unexpectedly low. This finding is contrary to current models regarding the role of desiccation in shaping bdelloid genomes. In addition, we find that homologous regions in A. ricciae are largely collinear and do not form palindromic repeats as observed in the published A. vaga assembly. Consequently, several features interpreted as genomic evidence for long-term ameiotic evolution are not general to all bdelloid species, even within the same genus. Finally, we substantiate previous findings of high levels of horizontally transferred nonmetazoan genes in both desiccating and nondesiccating bdelloid species and show that this unusual feature is not shared by other animal phyla, even those with desiccation-tolerant representatives. These comparisons call into question the proposed role of desiccation in mediating horizontal genetic transfer.(image)

(XML) Agent-specific learning signals for self–other distinction during mentalising


by Sam Ereira, Raymond J. Dolan, Zeb Kurth-Nelson

Humans have a remarkable ability to simulate the minds of others. How the brain distinguishes between mental states attributed to self and mental states attributed to someone else is unknown. Here, we investigated how fundamental neural learning signals are selectively attributed to different agents. Specifically, we asked whether learning signals are encoded in agent-specific neural patterns or whether a self–other distinction depends on encoding agent identity separately from this learning signal. To examine this, we tasked subjects to learn continuously 2 models of the same environment, such that one was selectively attributed to self and the other was selectively attributed to another agent. Combining computational modelling with magnetoencephalography (MEG) enabled us to track neural representations of prediction errors (PEs) and beliefs attributed to self, and of simulated PEs and beliefs attributed to another agent. We found that the representational pattern of a PE reliably predicts the identity of the agent to whom the signal is attributed, consistent with a neural self–other distinction implemented via agent-specific learning signals. Strikingly, subjects exhibiting a weaker neural self–other distinction also had a reduced behavioural capacity for self–other distinction and displayed more marked subclinical psychopathological traits. The neural self–other distinction was also modulated by social context, evidenced in a significantly reduced decoding of agent identity in a nonsocial control task. Thus, we show that self–other distinction is realised through an encoding of agent identity intrinsic to fundamental learning signals. The observation that the fidelity of this encoding predicts psychopathological traits is of interest as a potential neurocomputational psychiatric biomarker.(image)

(XML) Activation of temperature-sensitive TRPV1-like receptors in ARC POMC neurons reduces food intake


by Jae Hoon Jeong, Dong Kun Lee, Shun-Mei Liu, Streamson C. Chua Jr., Gary J. Schwartz, Young-Hwan Jo

Proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus (ARC) respond to numerous hormonal and neural signals, resulting in changes in food intake. Here, we demonstrate that ARC POMC neurons express capsaicin-sensitive transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 receptor (TRPV1)-like receptors. To show expression of TRPV1-like receptors in ARC POMC neurons, we use single-cell reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), immunohistochemistry, electrophysiology, TRPV1 knock-out (KO), and TRPV1-Cre knock-in mice. A small elevation of temperature in the physiological range is enough to depolarize ARC POMC neurons. This depolarization is blocked by the TRPV1 receptor antagonist and by Trpv1 gene knockdown. Capsaicin-induced activation reduces food intake that is abolished by a melanocortin receptor antagonist. To selectively stimulate TRPV1-like receptor-expressing ARC POMC neurons in the ARC, we generate an adeno-associated virus serotype 5 (AAV5) carrying a Cre-dependent channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2)–enhanced yellow fluorescent protein (eYFP) expression cassette under the control of the two neuronal POMC enhancers (nPEs). Optogenetic stimulation of TRPV1-like receptor-expressing POMC neurons decreases food intake. Hypothalamic temperature is rapidly elevated and reaches to approximately 39 °C during treadmill running. This elevation is associated with a reduction in food intake. Knockdown of the Trpv1 gene exclusively in ARC POMC neurons blocks the feeding inhibition produced by increased hypothalamic temperature. Taken together, our findings identify a melanocortinergic circuit that links acute elevations in hypothalamic temperature with acute reductions in food intake.(image)

(XML) Dissecting the null model for biological invasions: A meta-analysis of the propagule pressure effect


by Phillip Cassey, Steven Delean, Julie L. Lockwood, Jason Sadowski, Tim M. Blackburn

A consistent determinant of the establishment success of alien species appears to be the number of individuals that are introduced to found a population (propagule pressure), yet variation in the form of this relationship has been largely unexplored. Here, we present the first quantitative systematic review of this form, using Bayesian meta-analytical methods. The relationship between propagule pressure and establishment success has been evaluated for a broad range of taxa and life histories, including invertebrates, herbaceous plants and long-lived trees, and terrestrial and aquatic vertebrates. We found a positive mean effect of propagule pressure on establishment success to be a feature of every hypothesis we tested. However, establishment success most critically depended on propagule pressures in the range of 10–100 individuals. Heterogeneity in effect size was associated primarily with different analytical approaches, with some evidence of larger effect sizes in animal rather than plant introductions. Conversely, no variation was accounted for in any analysis by the scale of study (field to global) or methodology (observational, experimental, or proxy) used. Our analyses reveal remarkable consistency in the form of the relationship between propagule pressure and alien population establishment success.(image)

(XML) In vivo clonal analysis reveals spatiotemporal regulation of thalamic nucleogenesis


by Samuel Z. H. Wong, Earl Parker Scott, Wenhui Mu, Xize Guo, Ella Borgenheimer, Madeline Freeman, Guo-li Ming, Qing-Feng Wu, Hongjun Song, Yasushi Nakagawa

The thalamus, a crucial regulator of cortical functions, is composed of many nuclei arranged in a spatially complex pattern. Thalamic neurogenesis occurs over a short period during mammalian embryonic development. These features have hampered the effort to understand how regionalization, cell divisions, and fate specification are coordinated and produce a wide array of nuclei that exhibit distinct patterns of gene expression and functions. Here, we performed in vivo clonal analysis to track the divisions of individual progenitor cells and spatial allocation of their progeny in the developing mouse thalamus. Quantitative analysis of clone compositions revealed evidence for sequential generation of distinct sets of thalamic nuclei based on the location of the founder progenitor cells. Furthermore, we identified intermediate progenitor cells that produced neurons populating more than one thalamic nuclei, indicating a prolonged specification of nuclear fate. Our study reveals an organizational principle that governs the spatial and temporal progression of cell divisions and fate specification and provides a framework for studying cellular heterogeneity and connectivity in the mammalian thalamus.(image)

(XML) In vivo insertion pool sequencing identifies virulence factors in a complex fungal–host interaction


by Simon Uhse, Florian G. Pflug, Alexandra Stirnberg, Klaus Ehrlinger, Arndt von Haeseler, Armin Djamei

Large-scale insertional mutagenesis screens can be powerful genome-wide tools if they are streamlined with efficient downstream analysis, which is a serious bottleneck in complex biological systems. A major impediment to the success of next-generation sequencing (NGS)-based screens for virulence factors is that the genetic material of pathogens is often underrepresented within the eukaryotic host, making detection extremely challenging. We therefore established insertion Pool-Sequencing (iPool-Seq) on maize infected with the biotrophic fungus U. maydis. iPool-Seq features tagmentation, unique molecular barcodes, and affinity purification of pathogen insertion mutant DNA from in vivo-infected tissues. In a proof of concept using iPool-Seq, we identified 28 virulence factors, including 23 that were previously uncharacterized, from an initial pool of 195 candidate effector mutants. Because of its sensitivity and quantitative nature, iPool-Seq can be applied to any insertional mutagenesis library and is especially suitable for genetically complex setups like pooled infections of eukaryotic hosts.(image)

(XML) How measurement science can improve confidence in research results


by Anne L. Plant, Chandler A. Becker, Robert J. Hanisch, Ronald F. Boisvert, Antonio M. Possolo, John T. Elliott

The current push for rigor and reproducibility is driven by a desire for confidence in research results. Here, we suggest a framework for a systematic process, based on consensus principles of measurement science, to guide researchers and reviewers in assessing, documenting, and mitigating the sources of uncertainty in a study. All study results have associated ambiguities that are not always clarified by simply establishing reproducibility. By explicitly considering sources of uncertainty, noting aspects of the experimental system that are difficult to characterize quantitatively, and proposing alternative interpretations, the researcher provides information that enhances comparability and reproducibility.(image)

(XML) The neural system of metacognition accompanying decision-making in the prefrontal cortex


by Lirong Qiu, Jie Su, Yinmei Ni, Yang Bai, Xuesong Zhang, Xiaoli Li, Xiaohong Wan

Decision-making is usually accompanied by metacognition, through which a decision maker monitors uncertainty regarding a decision and may then consequently revise the decision. These decisional metacognitive processes can occur prior to or in the absence of feedback. However, the neural mechanisms of metacognition remain controversial. One theory proposes an independent neural system for metacognition in the prefrontal cortex (PFC); the other, that metacognitive processes coincide and overlap with the systems used for the decision-making process per se. In this study, we devised a novel “decision–redecision” paradigm to investigate the neural metacognitive processes involved in redecision as compared to the initial decision-making process. The participants underwent a perceptual decision-making task and a rule-based decision-making task during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). We found that the anterior PFC, including the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and lateral frontopolar cortex (lFPC), were more extensively activated after the initial decision. The dACC activity in redecision positively scaled with decisional uncertainty and correlated with individual metacognitive uncertainty monitoring abilities—commonly occurring in both tasks—indicating that the dACC was specifically involved in decision uncertainty monitoring. In contrast, the lFPC activity seen in redecision processing was scaled with decision uncertainty reduction and correlated with individual accuracy changes—positively in the rule-based decision-making task and negatively in the perceptual decision-making task. Our results show that the lFPC was specifically involved in metacognitive control of decision adjustment and was subject to different control demands of the tasks. Therefore, our findings support that a separate neural system in the PFC is essentially involved in metacognition and further, that functions of the PFC in metacognition are dissociable.(image)

(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)