Disentangling the relationship of the Australian marsupial orders using retrotransposon and evolutionary network analyses
Maria A. Nilsson
- The ancestors to the Australian marsupials entered Australia around 60 (54-72) million years ago from Antarctica, and radiated into the four living orders Peramelemorphia, Dasyuromorphia, Diprotodontia and Notoryctemorphia. The relationship between the four Australian marsupial orders has been a long-standing question, because different phylogenetic studies were not able to consistently reconstruct the same topology. Initial in silico analysis of the Tasmanian devil genome and experimental screening in the seven marsupial orders revealed 20 informative transposable element insertions for resolving the inter- and intraordinal relationships of Australian and South American orders. However, the retrotransposon insertions support three conflicting topologies regarding Peramelemorphia, Dasyuromorphia and Notoryctemorphia, indicating that the split between the three orders may be best understood as a network. This finding is supported by a phylogenetic re-analysis of nuclear gene sequences, using a consensus network approach that allows depicting hidden phylogenetic conflict, otherwise lost when forcing the data into a bifurcating tree. The consensus network analysis agrees with the transposable element analysis in that all possible topologies regarding Peramelemorphia, Dasyuromorphia, and Notoryctemorphia in a rooted four-taxon topology are equally well supported. In addition, retrotransposon insertion data supports the South American order Didelphimorphia being the sistergroup to all other living marsupial orders. The four Australian orders originated within three million years at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary. The rapid divergences left conflicting phylogenetic information in the genome possibly generated by incomplete lineage sorting or introgressive hybridisation, leaving the relationship among Australian marsupial orders unresolvable as a bifurcating process million years later.
Contrasting Taxonomic and Phylogenetic Diversity Responses to Forest Modifications: Comparisons of Taxa and Successive Plant Life Stages in South African Scarp Forest
Eike Lena Neuschulz
- The degradation of natural forests to modified forests threatens subtropical and tropical biodiversity worldwide. Yet, species responses to forest modification vary considerably. Furthermore, effects of forest modification can differ, whether with respect to diversity components (taxonomic or phylogenetic) or to local (α-diversity) and regional (β-diversity) spatial scales. This real-world complexity has so far hampered our understanding of subtropical and tropical biodiversity patterns in human-modified forest landscapes. In a subtropical South African forest landscape, we studied the responses of three successive plant life stages (adult trees, saplings, seedlings) and of birds to five different types of forest modification distinguished by the degree of within-forest disturbance and forest loss. Responses of the two taxa differed markedly. Thus, the taxonomic α-diversity of birds was negatively correlated with the diversity of all plant life stages and, contrary to plant diversity, increased with forest disturbance. Conversely, forest disturbance reduced the phylogenetic α-diversity of all plant life stages but not that of birds. Forest loss neither affected taxonomic nor phylogenetic diversity of any taxon. On the regional scale, taxonomic but not phylogenetic β-diversity of both taxa was well predicted by variation in forest disturbance and forest loss. In contrast to adult trees, the phylogenetic diversity of saplings and seedlings showed signs of contemporary environmental filtering. In conclusion, forest modification in this subtropical landscape strongly shaped both local and regional biodiversity but with contrasting outcomes. Phylogenetic diversity of plants may be more threatened than that of mobile species such as birds. The reduced phylogenetic diversity of saplings and seedlings suggests losses in biodiversity that are not visible in adult trees, potentially indicating time-lags and contemporary shifts in forest regeneration. The different responses of taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity to forest modifications imply that biodiversity conservation in this subtropical landscape requires the preservation of natural and modified forests.
Posttranscriptional regulation of the microRNA-17-92a cluster
- By far not all genetic information is expressed by mRNA coding regions of the DNA. 98% of the human genome is not encoding for proteins. Therefore, these non-coding regions have been considered as “junk DNA” for a long time [1, 2]. The last years, new high throughput sequencing techniques have allowed the elucidation of the heterogeneous population of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs, Table 1). RNAs longer than 200 nucleotides (nt) belong to the family of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs). They can exhibit numerous functions: The biggest family of RNAs is represented by the ribosomal RNAs (rRNAs). Together with the transfer RNAs (tRNAs) they are essential for the translation of mRNA into an amino acid sequence.
A Description of Biremis panamae sp. nov., a New Diatom Species from the Marine Littoral, with an Account of the Phylogenetic Position of Biremis D.G. Mann et E.J. Cox (Bacillariophyceae)
David G. Mann
Jascha L. F. Weisenborn
Matt P. Ashworth
Krzysztof J. Kurzydłowski
- Here we present a formal description of Biremis panamae Barka, Witkowski et Weisenborn sp. nov., which was isolated from the marine littoral environment of the Pacific Ocean coast of Panama. The description is based on morphology (light and electron microscopy) and the rbcL, psbC and SSU sequences of one clone of this species. The new species is included in Biremis due to its morphological features; i.e. two marginal rows of foramina, chambered striae, and girdle composed of numerous punctate copulae. The new species also possesses a striated valve face which is not seen in most known representatives of marine littoral Biremis species. In this study we also present the relationship of Biremis to other taxa using morphology, DNA sequence data and observations of auxosporulation. Our results based on these three sources point to an evolutionary relationship between Biremis, Neidium and Scoliopleura. The unusual silicified incunabular caps present in them are known otherwise only in Muelleria, which is probably related to the Neidiaceae and Scoliotropidaceae. We also discuss the relationship between Biremis and the recently described Labellicula and Olifantiella.
Identification of biomarkers for the fruiting body formation in Myxococcus xanthus
- Myxobacteria are on order of Gram-negative, soil dwelling bacteria that feature an impressive number of properties: they can glide on solid surfaces by using two different motility motors, subsist by preying on other microorganisms, are often producers of multiple natural products, and upon adverse environmental conditions, they are able to form multicellular structures called “fruiting bodies”. The process, in which these macroscopically visible structures arise from independent single cells, has been the predominant subject of myxobacterial research for many decades. More precisely, researchers have strived for the discovery of genes, proteins and small molecules that act as signals, receivers or modulators of this complex process. In this regard, the species Myxococcus xanthus has evolved into the model organism due to its relatively simple and reliable handling in a laboratory environment. The research underlying this thesis focused on the identification and biosynthesis of lipids that may act as intercellular signaling molecules during the course of fruiting body formation of the myxobacterium Myxococcus xanthus as part of the “E-signal” system. In general, lipids containing branched-chain fatty acids with an uneven number of carbon atoms were found to be important players in this particular process. Nevertheless, their exact roles remain largely unknown as of this day. The first publication that is part of this thesis deals with an aspect that even strengthened the importance of role of iso-branched compounds in myxobacteria: myxobacterial metabolism is able to transform precursors of iso-lipids to isoprenoids. It addresses the question whether isoprenoids in general are important for fruiting body formation. Phenotypic analysis of mutants impaired in the biosynthesis of the central isoprenoid precursor 3-hydroxymethylglutaryl-Coenzyme A (3-HMG-CoA) from acetate and/or branched chain keto acids and their genetic and metabolic complementation clearly showed that isoprenoids are essential for fruiting body formation and confirmed that leucine derived isovalerate is an important source for isoprenoid precursors in myxobacteria. The second, and by far and away most tedious and sophisticated study, addressed the question as to how myxobacteria form fatty acid derived iso-branched ether lipids and to what extent they are important for fruiting body formation and sporulation. In a previous study, those unusual lipids were identified as specific biomarkers for myxobacterial development. No biochemical pathways to ether lipids specific for prokaryotes were known by then. In this study, a putative candidate gene that may be in involved in ether lipid biosynthesis was investigated. A combination of gene disruption and complementation experiments, phenotypic analysis and monitoring of ether lipid formation by means of GC-MS demonstrated its involvement in myxobacterial ether lipid biosynthesis and the importance of these lipids for the developmental process. Heterologous expression and biochemical testing of this gene together with in-silico sequence analysis and docking experiments confirmed the functions of its predicted domains. The discussion section provides an additional suggestion on how the ether bond formation is performed. Furthermore and most importantly, iso-branched ether lipids were found to be essential for sporulation but not for fruiting body formation. In summary, one or several molecules derived from an iso-branched alkylglycerol seem to play a role during sporulation in M. xanthus and a multidomain enzyme unique for myxobacteria is involved in their biosynthesis. The last manuscript addresses the complexity of lipid metabolism in myxobacteria. Prior to this work, there was limited knowledge about the exact composition of the myxobacterial lipidome and no method was available to monitor putative changes in the myxobacterial lipidome down to the single molecular species for studying lipid biosynthesis or regulation. An ultra-performance liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry based method with electrospray ionization (UPLC-ESI-MS) utilizing standard equipment and a water/acetonitrile/isopropanol based eluent system proved to be geared for the construction of lipid profiles for wild type and mutant cells of M. xanthus and to show their differences. Fragmentation spectra based structure elucidation of lipid molecular species resulted in the identification of 99 molecular species comprising glycerophosphoethanolamines, glycerophosphoglycerols, glycerolipids, ceramides and ceramide phosphoinositols. The latter have never been described for any prokaryotes before. Three dimensional plots were created from the relative intensity differences of the single molecular ion species between the different samples to provide an efficient and versatile visualization of the data and enable the researcher to quickly detect differences.
Identification of novel base methyltransferases of the 25S rRNA in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
- RNA modifications are present in all three kingdoms of life and detected in all classes of cellular RNAs. RNA modifications are diverse, with more than 100 types of chemical modifications identified to date. These chemical modifications expand the topological repertoire of RNAs and are expected to fine-tune their functions. Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) contains two types of covalent modifications, either methylation on the sugar (Nm) or bases (mN), or base isomerization (conversion of uridine into pseudouridines, "). Pseudouridylations and ribose methylations are catalyzed by site-specific H/ACA and C/D box snoRNPs, respectively. The RNA component (snoRNA) of both types of snoRNPs is responsible for the site selection by base pairing with the rRNA substrate, whereas the protein component catalyzes the modification reaction: Nop1 in C/D box and Cbf5 in H/ACA box snoRNPs. Contrastingly, base methylations are performed by snoRNA independent, ‘protein-only’, methyltransferases (MTases). rRNA modifications occur at highly conserved positions, all clustering around functional ribosomal sites. Mutations in factors involved in rRNA modification have been linked to severe human diseases (e.g. X-linked Dyskeratosis congenita). Emerging evidences indicate that heterogeneity in RNA modification prevails, i.e. not all positions are modified at all time, and the concept of ‘specialized ribosomes’ has been coined. rRNA modification heterogeneity has been correlated with disease etiology (cancer), and shown to play a role in cell differentiation(hematopoiesis). Remarkably, alteration in rRNA modification patterns profoundly affects the preference of ribosomes for cap- versus IRESdependent translation initiation, with major consequences on cell physiology.
Pigeon Navigation: Different Routes Lead to Frankfurt
Tracks of pigeons homing to the Frankfurt loft revealed an odd phenomenon: whereas birds returning from the North approach their loft more or less directly in a broad front, pigeons returning from the South choose, from 25 km from home onward, either of two corridors, a direct one and one with a considerable detour to the West. This implies differences in the navigational process.
Pigeons released at sites at the beginning of the westerly corridor and in this corridor behave just like pigeons returning from farther south, deviating to the west before turning towards their loft. Birds released at sites within the straight corridors, in contrast, take more or less straight routes. The analysis of the short-term correlation dimension, a quantity reflecting the complexity of the system and with it, the number of factors involved in the navigational process, reveals that it is significantly larger in pigeons choosing the westerly corridor than in the birds flying straight - 3.03 vs. 2.85. The difference is small, however, suggesting a different interpretation of the same factors, with some birds apparently preferring particular factors over others.
The specific regional distribution of the factors which pigeons use to determine their home course seems to provide ambiguous information in the area 25 km south of the loft, resulting in the two corridors. Pigeons appear to navigate by deriving their routes directly from the locally available navigational factors which they interpret in an individual way. The fractal nature of the correlation dimensions indicates that the navigation process of pigeons is chaotic-deterministic; published tracks of migratory birds suggest that this may apply to avian navigation in general.
Ribosomal Readthrough at a Short UGA Stop Codon Context Triggers Dual Localization of Metabolic Enzymes in Fungi and Animals
Alina C. Stiebler
Kay O. Schink
Britta A. M. Tillmann
- Translation of mRNA into a polypeptide chain is a highly accurate process. Many prokaryotic and eukaryotic viruses, however, use leaky termination of translation to optimize their coding capacity. Although growing evidence indicates the occurrence of ribosomal readthrough also in higher organisms, a biological function for the resulting extended proteins has been elucidated only in very few cases. Here, we report that in human cells programmed stop codon readthrough is used to generate peroxisomal isoforms of cytosolic enzymes. We could show for NAD-dependent lactate dehydrogenase B (LDHB) and NAD-dependent malate dehydrogenase 1 (MDH1) that translational readthrough results in C-terminally extended protein variants containing a peroxisomal targeting signal 1 (PTS1). Efficient readthrough occurs at a short sequence motif consisting of a UGA termination codon followed by the dinucleotide CU. Leaky termination at this stop codon context was observed in fungi and mammals. Comparative genome analysis allowed us to identify further readthrough-derived peroxisomal isoforms of metabolic enzymes in diverse model organisms. Overall, our study highlights that a defined stop codon context can trigger efficient ribosomal readthrough to generate dually targeted protein isoforms. We speculate that beyond peroxisomal targeting stop codon readthrough may have also other important biological functions, which remain to be elucidated.
Getting What Is Served? Feeding Ecology Influencing Parasite-Host Interactions in Invasive Round Goby Neogobius melanostomus
- Freshwater ecosystems are increasingly impacted by alien invasive species which have the potential to alter various ecological interactions like predator-prey and host-parasite relationships. Here, we simultaneously examined predator-prey interactions and parasitization patterns of the highly invasive round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) in the rivers Rhine and Main in Germany. A total of 350 N. melanostomus were sampled between June and October 2011. Gut content analysis revealed a broad prey spectrum, partly reflecting temporal and local differences in prey availability. For the major food type (amphipods), species compositions were determined. Amphipod fauna consisted entirely of non-native species and was dominated by Dikerogammarus villosus in the Main and Echinogammarus trichiatus in the Rhine. However, the availability of amphipod species in the field did not reflect their relative abundance in gut contents of N. melanostomus. Only two metazoan parasites, the nematode Raphidascaris acus and the acanthocephalan Pomphorhynchus sp., were isolated from N. melanostomus in all months, whereas unionid glochidia were only detected in June and October in fish from the Main. To analyse infection pathways, we examined 17,356 amphipods and found Pomphorhynchus sp. larvae only in D. villosus in the river Rhine at a prevalence of 0.15%. Dikerogammarus villosus represented the most important amphipod prey for N. melanostomus in both rivers but parasite intensities differed between rivers, suggesting that final hosts (large predatory fishes) may influence host-parasite dynamics of N. melanostomus in its introduced range.
Seed Transmission of Pseudoperonospora cubensis
Avia E. Rubin
- Pseudoperonospora cubensis, an obligate biotrophic oomycete causing devastating foliar disease in species of the Cucurbitaceae family, was never reported in seeds or transmitted by seeds. We now show that P. cubensis occurs in fruits and seeds of downy mildew-infected plants but not in fruits or seeds of healthy plants. About 6.7% of the fruits collected during 2012–2014 have developed downy mildew when homogenized and inoculated onto detached leaves and 0.9% of the seeds collected developed downy mildew when grown to the seedling stage. This is the first report showing that P. cubensis has become seed-transmitted in cucurbits. Species-specific PCR assays showed that P. cubensis occurs in ovaries, fruit seed cavity and seed embryos of cucurbits. We propose that international trade of fruits or seeds of cucurbits might be associated with the recent global change in the population structure of P. cubensis.