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.
Epicutanoeus immunotherapy as a novel prophylactic and therapeutic strategy for birch pollen allergy
- The development of a convenient, effective and safe allergen-specific immunotherapy (SIT) for birch pollen allergy, one of the most prevalent allergic diseases in Northern Europe, North
America and Northern Japan, is of crucial importance. Epicutaneous immunotherapy (EPIT) has gained attention as a safe and non-invasive alternative for subcutaneous immunotherapy, a conventional SIT. However, clinical studies showed a limited effcacy of EPIT, indicating the necessity of improvement of the treatment regime. In this study, we hypothesized that a combination of a hypoallergen with an appropriate adjuvant could be a strategy to improve
EPIT. To verify this hypothesis, we aimed at investigating the efficacy of epicutaneous treatment with rBet v 1, the major birch pollen allergen, plus Toll-like receptor (TLR)
agonists for prophylaxis and therapy of birch pollen allergy using a murine model of birch pollen-induced allergic asthma. Furthermore, the efficacy of rBet v 1B2, a hypoallergenic
variant of Bet v 1, as a therapeutic allergen in EPI was pre-clinically investigated. TLRs recognize conserved microbial molecules (like PAMPs), and are known to promote the
counter-regulation of TH2 responses by the induction of TH1-type and/or regulatory cytokines by immune cells.
The hypoallergen Bet v 1B2 is a folding-variant of the wild-type allergen rBet v 1 with reduced allergenicity, but retained T-cell immunogenicity. The low allergenicity, could
allow the application of hypoallergens in higher doses, and therefore provide a safer and more effective treatment to regulate T-cell immune responses. First, the expression and
purification of recombinant Bet v 1 and Bet v 1B2 was optimized. Compared to natural proteins, recombinant proteins offer the possibility to use well-defined molecules with a
consistent pharmaceutical quality. Using optimal Escherichia coli expression strains in combination with immobilized metal chelate affinity chromatography (IMAC) and size exclusion chromatography (SEC), we successfully prepared a large amount of rBet v 1 and rBet v 1B2 with a high purity. The allergenic potency of rBet v 1 and the hypoallergenic characteristics of rBet v 1B2 were confirmed by measurement of IgE reactivity and mediator release capacity using ELISA and basophil activation tests, respectively. In a second part, a murine model of birch pollen-induced allergic asthma was established. It was shown that intraperetoneal sensitization with an optimal dose of rBet v 1 and intranasal challenge with birch pollen extract induced elevated IgE levels, airway eosinophilia and pulmonary inflammation in BALB/c mice. The clinical features are comparable to those in patients with allergic asthma, indicating that sensitized and challenged mice could be used for a pre-clinical study to assess the efficacy of the treatment for birch pollen allergy. Next, we investigated the adjuvant effects of Polyadenylic:polyuridylic acid (Poly(A:U)), a TLR3 agonist, and R848 (resiquimod), a TLR7 agonist, in prophylactic EPI with rBet v 1 to intervene with birch pollen allergy. Here, we hypothesized that TLR3 and TLR7 could be possible target receptors to induce adjuvant effects in EPI, since these receptors are expressed in Langerhans cells and dermal dendritic cells, persistent antigen presenting cells
in the cutaneous tissues. BALB/c mice received EPI with rBet v 1 alone, or plus Poly(A:U), or R848 on their depilated back using patches. Mice treated epicutaneously were then sensitized with rBet v 1 plus ALUM and intranasally challenged with birch pollen extract. We found that prophylactic EPI with rBet v 1 plus R848 inhibited the production of Bet v 1-specific IgE antibodies in sensitization, suppressed pulmonary inflammation and airway
hyperreactivity upon challenge. In contrast to R848, no adjuvant effect of Poly(A:U) on suppression of asthmatic features was observed. Our results indicated that R848, but not Poly(A:U), could be a potential adjuvant for prophylactic EPI of birch pollen induced allergic asthma. Finally, the therapeutic potency of EPI with rBet v 1, or rBet v 1B2 alone, or plus R848 was assessed. After sensitization and challenge, mice received therapeutic EPI with rBet v 1 alone, or plus R848, and re-challenge with birch pollen extract. We found that therapeutic treatment with Bet v 1B2 reduced established Bet v 1-specific IgE antibodies, pulmonary inflammation and airway hyperreactivity upon re-challenge. Therapeutic treatment with the recombinant wild-type allergen does not influence these key characteristics of allergic asthma. In contrast to the findings in the prophylactic treatment with rBet v 1 plus R848,no therapeutic benefit was found upon combination with R848. This could be due to the high number of treatment days. Reduction of this number may lead to a beneficial effect. However, these findings indicate that Bet v 1B2 could be a potential therapeutic agent for the treatment of established birch pollen induced allergic asthma. In conclusion, this study demonstrates for the first time that prophylactic EPI with the recombinant form of Bet v 1 in combination with R848 could prevent and suppress asthmatic features in an established birch pollen allergy. Not only therapeutic, but also prophylactic applications of EPI could be of importance to prevent allergic sensitization, considering the high prevalence of allergic diseases. R848 could be a potential adjuvant for enhancing the prophylactic potential of EPI for the treatment of birch pollen allergy. Furthermore, the beneficial use of the hypoallergen Bet v 1B2 in therapeutic EPI was demonstrated by intervention of established asthmatic features. In the future, a combination of hypoallergens alone or together with adjuvants in EPIT could lead to a more convenient and effective therapeutic treatment of established birch pollen induced allergic asthma.
"A great poet on a great brother poet": a parallactic reading of Goethe and James Joyce
- The essay provides a contrapuntal ‘parallactic’ reading of Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s ‘Bildungsroman’ Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre - with its extensions Wilhelm Meisters theatralische Sendung and Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre - and James Joyce’s high modernist A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Ulysses (1922). Derived from astronomy, the term parallax designates, transferred to literary history, a narrative stratagem, a metapoetical rationale, and an interpretive method. Joyce employs it as a key concept and narrative tool in Ulysses to denote a stereoscopic perspective applied to the protagonists’ actions and the world they live in. Leopold Bloom thus refl ects on it and the technique of Ulysses is determined by it. On a higher plane, literary critics, too, engage in literary historical parallax whenever they read texts intertextually — as exemplified in this essay. A parallactic reading of the novels’ protagonists Wilhelm Meister and Stephen Dedalus, as regards not just their identification with Shakespeare’s Hamlet but also the symbolic connotations embedded in their names and mythological pretexts, allows us to shed new light on the roles and significance of narrative irony, chance, and paternity in these novels.
Development of specially shaped laser beams for the optimized acceleration of particles
- The laser-driven acceleration of protons from thin foils irradiated by hollow high-intensity laser beams in the regime of target normal sheath acceleration is reported for the first time. The use of hollow beams aims at reducing the initial emission solid angle of the TNSA source, due to a flattening of the electron sheath at the target rear side. The experiments were conducted at the PHELIX laser facility at the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH with laser intensities in the range from 10^18 to 10^20 W/cm^2. We observed an average reduction of the half opening angle by (3.07±0.42)° or (13.2±2)% when the targets have a thickness between 12 to 14 μm. In addition, the highest proton energies were achieved with the hollow laser beam in comparison to the typical Gaussian focal spot.
Enlarging the toolbox for allergen epitope definition with an allergen-type model protein
Christian Seutter von Loetzen
- Background: Birch pollen-allergic subjects produce polyclonal cross-reactive IgE antibodies that mediate pollen-associated food allergies. The major allergen Bet v 1 and its homologs in plant foods bind IgE in their native protein conformation. Information on location, number and clinical relevance of IgE epitopes is limited. We addressed the use of an allergen-related protein model to identify amino acids critical for IgE binding of PR-10 allergens.
Method: Norcoclaurine synthase (NCS) from meadow rue is structurally homologous to Bet v 1 but does not bind Bet v 1-reactive IgE. NCS was used as the template for epitope grafting. NCS variants were tested with sera from 70 birch pollen allergic subjects and with monoclonal antibody BV16 reported to compete with IgE binding to Bet v 1.
Results: We generated an NCS variant (Δ29NCSN57/I58E/D60N/V63P/D68K) harboring an IgE epitope of Bet v 1. Bet v 1-type protein folding of the NCS variant was evaluated by 1H-15N-HSQC NMR spectroscopy. BV16 bound the NCS variant and 71% (50/70 sera) of our study population showed significant IgE binding. We observed IgE and BV16 cross-reactivity to the epitope presented by the NCS variant in a subgroup of Bet v 1-related allergens. Moreover BV16 blocked IgE binding to the NCS variant. Antibody cross-reactivity depended on a defined orientation of amino acids within the Bet v 1-type conformation.
Conclusion: Our system allows the evaluation of patient-specific epitope profiles and will facilitate both the identification of clinically relevant epitopes as biomarkers and the monitoring of therapeutic outcomes to improve diagnosis, prognosis, and therapy of allergies caused by PR-10 proteins.
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.
Isolation Facilities for Highly Infectious Diseases in Europe – A Cross-Sectional Analysis in 16 Countries
Francesco Maria Fusco
Giuseppina De Iaco
Helena C. Maltezou
Highly Infectious Diseases (HIDs) are (i) easily transmissible form person to person; (ii) cause a life-threatening illness with no or few treatment options; and (iii) pose a threat for both personnel and the public. Hence, even suspected HID cases should be managed in specialised facilities minimizing infection risks but allowing state-of-the-art critical care. Consensus statements on the operational management of isolation facilities have been published recently. The study presented was set up to compare the operational management, resources, and technical equipment among European isolation facilities. Due to differences in geography, population density, and national response plans it was hypothesized that adherence to recommendations will vary.
Methods and Findings
Until mid of 2010 the European Network for Highly Infectious Diseases conducted a cross-sectional analysis of isolation facilities in Europe, recruiting 48 isolation facilities in 16 countries. Three checklists were disseminated, assessing 44 items and 148 specific questions. The median feedback rate for specific questions was 97.9% (n = 47/48) (range: n = 7/48 (14.6%) to n = 48/48 (100%). Although all facilities enrolled were nominated specialised facilities' serving countries or regions, their design, equipment and personnel management varied. Eighteen facilities fulfilled the definition of a High Level Isolation Unit'. In contrast, 24 facilities could not operate independently from their co-located hospital, and five could not ensure access to equipment essential for infection control. Data presented are not representative for the EU in general, as only 16/27 (59.3%) of all Member States agreed to participate. Another limitation of this study is the time elapsed between data collection and publication; e.g. in Germany one additional facility opened in the meantime.
There are disparities both within and between European countries regarding the design and equipment of isolation facilities. With regard to the International Health Regulations, terminology, capacities and equipment should be standardised.
Performance of Two HCV RNA Assays during Protease Inhibitor-Based Triple Therapy in Patients with Advanced Liver Fibrosis and Cirrhosis
Michael P. Manns
On-treatment HCV RNA measurements are crucial for the prediction of a sustained virological response (SVR) and to determine treatment futility during protease inhibitor-based triple therapies. In patients with advanced liver disease an accurate risk/benefit calculation based on reliable HCV RNA results can reduce the number of adverse events. However, the different available HCV RNA assays vary in their diagnostic performance.
To investigate the clinical relevance of concordant and discordant results of two HCV RNA assays during triple therapy with boceprevir and telaprevir in patients with advanced liver fibrosis/cirrhosis.
We collected on-treatment samples of 191 patients with advanced liver fibrosis/cirrhosis treated at four European centers for testing with the Abbott RealTime (ART) and COBAS AmpliPrep/COBAS TaqMan HCV v2.0 (CTM) assays.
Discordant test results for HCV RNA detectability were observed in 23% at week 4, 17% at week 8/12 and 9% at week 24 on-treatment. The ART detected HCV RNA in 41% of week 4 samples tested negative by the CTM. However, the positive predictive value of an undetectable week 4 result for SVR was similar for both assays (80% and 82%). Discordance was also found for application of stopping rules. In 27% of patients who met stopping rules by CTM the ART measured levels below the respective cut-offs of 100 and 1000 IU/ml, respectively, which would have resulted in treatment continuation. In contrast, in nine patients with negative HCV RNA by CTM at week 24 treatment would have been discontinued due to detectable residual HCV RNA by the ART assay. Importantly, only 4 of these patients failed to achieve SVR.
Application of stopping rules determined in approval studies by one assay to other HCV RNA assays in clinical practice may lead to over and undertreatment in a significant number of patients undergoing protease inhibitor-based triple therapy.
MAIN: Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives
Natalʹja Vladimirovna Gagarina
- The Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives (MAIN) was designed in order to assess narrative skills in children who acquire one or more languages from birth or from early age. MAIN is suitable for children from 3 to 10 years and evaluates both comprehension and production of narratives. Its design allows for the assessment of several languages in the same child, as well as for different elicitation modes: Model Story, Retelling, and Telling.
MAIN contains four parallel stories, each with a carefully designed six-picture sequence. The stories are controlled for cognitive and linguistic complexity, parallelism in macrostructure and microstructure, as well as for cultural appropriateness and robustness.
The instrument has been developed on the basis of extensive piloting with more than 550 monolingual and bilingual children aged 3 to 10, for 15 different languages and language combinations.
Even though MAIN has not been norm-referenced yet, its standardized procedures can be used for evaluation, intervention and research purposes. MAIN is currently available in the following languages: English, Afrikaans, Albanian, Basque, Bulgarian, Croatian, Cypriot Greek, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Icelandic, Italian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Standard Arabic, Swedish, Turkish, Vietnamese, and Welsh.
The dynamics of crises and the equity premium
- There has been a considerable debate about whether disaster models can rationalize the equity premium puzzle. This is because empirically disasters are not single extreme events, but long-lasting periods in which moderate negative consumption growth realizations cluster. Our paper proposes a novel way to explain this stylized fact. By allowing for consumption drops that can spark an economic crisis, we introduce a new economic channel that combines long-run and short-run risk. First, we document that our model can match consumption data of several countries. Second, it generates a large equity risk premium even if consumption drops are of moderate size.