Stony corals form the foundation of coral reef ecosystems. Their phylogeny is characterized by a deep evolutionary divergence that separates corals into a robust and complex clade dating back to at least 245 mya. However, the genomic consequences and clade-specific evolution remain unexplored. In this study we have produced the genome of a robust coral, Stylophora pistillata, and compared it to the available genome of a complex coral, Acropora digitifera. We conducted a fine-scale gene-based analysis focusing on ortholog groups. Among the core set of conserved proteins, we found an emphasis on processes related to the cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbiosis. Genes associated with the algal symbiosis were also independently expanded in both species, but both corals diverged on the identity of ortholog groups expanded, and we found uneven expansions in genes associated with innate immunity and stress response. Our analyses demonstrate that coral genomes can be surprisingly disparate. Future analyses incorporating more genomic data should be able to determine whether the patterns elucidated here are not only characteristic of the differences between S. pistillata and A. digitifera but also representative of corals from the robust and complex clade at large.
Campos, Mônica C.; Phelan, Jody; Francisco, Amanda F.; Taylor, Martin C.; Lewis, Michael D.; Pain, Arnab; Clark, Taane G.; Kelly, John M.(Scientific Reports, Springer Nature, 2017-10-31)[Article]
Chagas disease is caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and affects 5–8 million people in Latin America. Although the nitroheterocyclic compound benznidazole has been the front-line drug for several decades, treatment failures are common. Benznidazole is a pro-drug and is bio-activated within the parasite by the mitochondrial nitroreductase TcNTR-1, leading to the generation of reactive metabolites that have trypanocidal activity. To better assess drug action and resistance, we sequenced the genomes of T. cruzi Y strain (35.5 Mb) and three benznidazole-resistant clones derived from a single drug-selected population. This revealed the genome-wide accumulation of mutations in the resistant parasites, in addition to variations in DNA copy-number. We observed mutations in DNA repair genes, linked with increased susceptibility to DNA alkylating and inter-strand cross-linking agents. Stop-codon-generating mutations in TcNTR-1 were associated with cross-resistance to other nitroheterocyclic drugs. Unexpectedly, the clones were also highly resistant to the ergosterol biosynthesis inhibitor posaconazole, a drug proposed for use against T. cruzi infections, in combination with benznidazole. Our findings therefore identify the highly mutagenic activity of benznidazole metabolites in T. cruzi, demonstrate that this can result in multi-drug resistance, and indicate that vigilance will be required if benznidazole is used in combination therapy.
The Sox6 transcription factor is crucial for terminal maturation of definitive red blood cells. Sox6-null mouse fetuses present misshapen and nucleated erythrocytes, due to impaired actin assembly and cytoskeleton stability. These defects are accompanied with a reduced survival of Sox6-/- red blood cells, resulting in a compensated anemia. Sox6-overexpression in K562 cells and in human primary ex vivo erythroid cultures enhances erythroid differentiation and leads to hemoglobinization, the hallmark of erythroid maturation. To obtain an overview on processes downstream to Sox6 expression, we performed a differential proteomic analysis on human erythroid K562 cells overexpressing Sox6. Sox6-overexpression induces dysregulation of 64 proteins, involved in cytoskeleton remodeling and in protein synthesis, folding and trafficking, key processes for erythroid maturation. Moreover, 43 out of 64 genes encoding for differentially expressed proteins contain within their proximal regulatory regions sites that are bound by SOX6 according to ENCODE ChIP-seq datasets and are possible direct SOX6 targets. SAR1B, one of the most induced proteins upon Sox6 overexpression, shares a conserved regulatory module, composed by a double SOX6 binding site and a GATA1 consensus, with the adjacent SEC24 A gene. Since both genes encode for COPII components, this element could concur to the coordinated expression of these proteins during erythropoiesis.
Both excitatory and inhibitory synaptic contacts display activity dependent dynamic changes in their efficacy that are globally termed synaptic plasticity. Although the molecular mechanisms underlying glutamatergic synaptic plasticity have been extensively investigated and described, those responsible for inhibitory synaptic plasticity are only beginning to be unveiled. In this framework, the ultrastructural changes of the inhibitory synapses during plasticity have been poorly investigated. Here we combined confocal fluorescence microscopy (CFM) with high resolution scanning electron microscopy (HRSEM) to characterize the fine structural rearrangements of post-synaptic GABAA Receptors (GABAARs) at the nanometric scale during the induction of inhibitory long-term potentiation (iLTP). Additional electron tomography (ET) experiments on immunolabelled hippocampal neurons allowed the visualization of synaptic contacts and confirmed the reorganization of post-synaptic GABAAR clusters in response to chemical iLTP inducing protocol. Altogether, these approaches revealed that, following the induction of inhibitory synaptic potentiation, GABAAR clusters increase in size and number at the post-synaptic membrane with no other major structural changes of the pre- and post-synaptic elements.
Self-assembly of small biomolecules is a prevalent phenomenon that is increasingly being recognised to hold the key to building complex structures from simple monomeric units. Small peptides, in particular ultrashort peptides containing up to seven amino acids, for which our laboratory has found many biomedical applications, exhibit immense potential in this regard. For next-generation applications, more intricate control is required over the self-assembly processes. We seek to find out how subtle moiety variation of peptides can affect self-assembly and nanostructure formation. To this end, we have selected a library of 54 tripeptides, derived from systematic moiety variations from seven tripeptides. Our study reveals that subtle structural changes in the tripeptides can exert profound effects on self-assembly, nanostructure formation, hydrogelation, and even phase transition of peptide nanostructures. By comparing the X-ray crystal structures of two tripeptides, acetylated leucine-leucine-glutamic acid (Ac-LLE) and acetylated tyrosine-leucine-aspartic acid (Ac-YLD), we obtained valuable insights into the structural factors that can influence the formation of supramolecular peptide structures. We believe that our results have major implications on the understanding of the factors that affect peptide self-assembly. In addition, our findings can potentially assist current computational efforts to predict and design self-assembling peptide systems for diverse biomedical applications.
Learning the causal relationships that define a molecular system allows us to predict how the system will respond to different interventions. Distinguishing causality from mere association typically requires randomized experiments. Methods for automated causal discovery from limited experiments exist, but have so far rarely been tested in systems biology applications. In this work, we apply state-of-the art causal discovery methods on a large collection of public mass cytometry data sets, measuring intra-cellular signaling proteins of the human immune system and their response to several perturbations. We show how different experimental conditions can be used to facilitate causal discovery, and apply two fundamental methods that produce context-specific causal predictions. Causal predictions were reproducible across independent data sets from two different studies, but often disagree with the KEGG pathway databases. Within this context, we discuss the caveats we need to overcome for automated causal discovery to become a part of the routine data analysis in systems biology.
Sedimentation, nutrients and metal loading to coastal environments are increasing, associated with urbanization and global warming, hence there is a growing need to predict ecological responses to such change. Using a regression technique we predicted how maximum abundance of 20 macrobenthic taxa and 22 functional traits separately and interactively responded to these key stressors. The abundance of most taxa declined in response to sedimentation and metal loading while a unimodal response was often associated with nutrient loading. Optimum abundances for both taxa and traits occurred at relatively low stressor levels, highlighting the vulnerability of estuaries to increasing stressor loads. Individual taxa were more susceptible to stress than traits, suggesting that functional traits may be less sensitive for detecting changes in ecosystem health. Multiplicative effects were more common than additive interactions. The observed sensitivity of most taxa to increasing sedimentation and metal loading and the documented interaction effects between multiple stressors have important implications for understanding and managing the ecological consequences of eutrophication, sedimentation and contaminants on coastal ecosystems.
Potouroglou, Maria; Bull, James C.; Krauss, Ken W.; Kennedy, Hilary A.; Fusi, Marco; Daffonchio, Daniele; Mangora, Mwita M.; Githaiga, Michael N.; Diele, Karen; Huxham, Mark(Scientific Reports, Springer Nature, 2017-09-13)[Article]
Seagrass meadows provide numerous ecosystem services and their rapid global loss may reduce human welfare as well as ecological integrity. In common with the other 'blue carbon' habitats (mangroves and tidal marshes) seagrasses are thought to provide coastal defence and encourage sediment stabilisation and surface elevation. A sophisticated understanding of sediment elevation dynamics in mangroves and tidal marshes has been gained by monitoring a wide range of different sites, located in varying hydrogeomorphological conditions over long periods. In contrast, similar evidence for seagrasses is sparse; the present study is a contribution towards filling this gap. Surface elevation change pins were deployed in four locations, Scotland, Kenya, Tanzania and Saudi Arabia, in both seagrass and unvegetated control plots in the low intertidal and shallow subtidal zone. The presence of seagrass had a highly significant, positive impact on surface elevation at all sites. Combined data from the current work and the literature show an average difference of 31 mm per year in elevation rates between vegetated and unvegetated areas, which emphasizes the important contribution of seagrass in facilitating sediment surface elevation and reducing erosion. This paper presents the first multi-site study for sediment surface elevation in seagrasses in different settings and species.
Alrasheed, Salma; Di Fabrizio, Enzo M.(Scientific Reports, Springer Nature, 2017-09-05)[Article]
We present a theoretical approach to narrow the plasmon linewidth and enhance the near-field intensity at a plasmonic dimer gap (hot spot) through coupling the electric localized surface plasmon (LSP) resonance of a silver hemispherical dimer with the resonant modes of a Fabry-Perot (FP) cavity. The strong coupling is demonstrated by the large anticrossing in the reflection spectra and a Rabi splitting of 76 meV. Up to 2-fold enhancement increase can be achieved compared to that without using the cavity. Such high field enhancement has potential applications in optics, including sensors and high resolution imaging devices. In addition, the resonance splitting allows for greater flexibility in using the same array at different wavelengths. We then further propose a practical design to realize such a device and include dimers of different shapes and materials.
The approval of genetically modified (GM) crops is preceded by years of intensive research to demonstrate safety to humans and environment. We recently showed that in vitro culture stress is the major factor influencing proteomic differences of GM vs. non-GM plants. This made us question the number of generations needed to erase such
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