Physiology and mechanics of insect hearing organs
- Tympanal hearing organs of insects emit distortion-product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs) which are indicative of nonlinear mechanical sound processing. General characteristics of insect DPOAEs are comparable to those measured in vertebrates, despite distinct differences in ear anatomy. DPOAEs appear during simultaneous stimulation with two pure tones (f1<f2) as additional spectral peaks at frequencies of nf1-(n-1)f2 and nf2-(n-1)f1, with the 2f1-f2 emission being the most prominent one. Insect DPOAEs are highly vulnerable to manipulations that interfere with the animal's physiological state and disappear after death. First evidence from locusts suggested that scolopidial mechanoreceptors might play a role in frequency-specific DPOAE generation (Möckel et al. 2007). The overall aim of this thesis was to determine the source of sensitive, nonlinear hearing at high frequencies and of DPOAE generation in tympanal organs of insects.
The first project of the present thesis involved general characteristics of DPOAE generation in the bushcricket Mecopoda elongata and the selective exclusion of the scolopidial mechanoreceptors using the neuroactive insectizide pymetrozine (Möckel et al. 2011). Pymetrozin appears to act highly effective and selectively on chordotonal organs, without affecting other sensory organs that lack scolopidial receptors. Pymetrozine solutions were applied as closely as possible to the scolopidia via a cuticle opening in the tibia, distally to the organ. Applications at concentrations between 10-3 and 10-7 M led to a pronounced and irreversible decrease of DPOAE amplitudes. Both this study on bushcrickets (Möckel et al. 2011) and an earlier one on locusts (Möckel et al. 2007) hence indicate the involvement of scolopidia in DPOAE generation in insects, by using complementary methods (pharmacological versus mechanical manipulation) and different animal models.
The second project of the present thesis investigated the temperature-dependence of DPOAEs in the locust Locusta migratoria (Möckel et al. 2012). The suggested biological origin of acoustic two-tone distortions in insects should involve metabolic processes, whose temperature-dependence would directly affect the DPOAE generation. Body temperature shifts resulted in reversible, level- and frequency-dependent effects on the 2f1–f2 emission. Using low f2 frequencies of up to 10 kHz, a body temperature increase (median +8–9°C) led to an upward shift of DPOAE amplitudes of approximately +10 dB, whereas a temperature decrease (median –7°C) was followed by a reduction of DPOAE amplitudes by 3 to 5 dB. Both effects were only present in the range of the low-level component of DPOAE growth functions below f2 stimulus levels of approximately 30-40 dB SPL. Emissions induced by higher stimulus levels and frequencies (e.g. 12 and 18 kHz) remained unaffected by any temperature shifts. The Arrhenius activation energy of the underlying cellular component amounted to 34 and 41 kJmol-1 (for growth functions measured with 8 and 10 kHz as f2, respectively). Such activation energy values provide a hint that an intact dynein-tubulin system within the scolopidial receptors could play an essential part in the DPOAE generation in tympanal organs.
The third project of this thesis demonstrated mechanical DPOAE analogs in the tympanum's vibration pattern during two-tone stimulation in the locust Schistocerca gregaria, using laser Doppler vibrometry (Möckel et al. 2014). DPOAE generation crucially relies on the integrity of the scolopidial mechanoreceptors (Möckel et al. 2007, 2011), which in locusts, directly attach to the tympanal membrane. During two-tone stimulation, DPOAEs were shown to mechanically emerge at the tympanum region where the auditory mechanoreceptors are attached. Those emission-coupled vibrations differed remarkably from tympanum waves evoked by external pure tones of the same frequency, in terms of wave propagation, energy distribution, and location of amplitude maxima. In contrast to traveling wave-like characteristics of externally evoked vibrations, intrinsically generated waves were locally restricted to the region around the high frequency receptors’ attachment position. The mechanical gradient of the tympanal membrane that leads to direction-dependent properties probably avoids the spreading of these locally evoked waves, which are then reflected and occur only in restricted areas as standing waves. Selective inactivation of mechanoreceptors by mechanical lesions did not affect the tympanum's response to external pure tones, but abolished the emission's displacement amplitude peak. These findings provide evidence that tympanal auditory receptors, comparable to the situation in mammals, comprise the required nonlinear response characteristics, which during two-tone stimulation lead to additional, highly localized deflections of the tympanum.
Direct observation of mobility state transitions in RNA trajectories by sensitive single molecule feedback tracking
Tim P. Kaminski
Jennifer S. Rinne
- Observation and tracking of fluorescently labeled molecules and particles in living cells reveals detailed information about intracellular processes on the molecular level. Whereas light microscopic particle observation is usually limited to two-dimensional projections of short trajectory segments, we report here image-based real-time three-dimensional single particle tracking in an active feedback loop with single molecule sensitivity. We tracked particles carrying only 1-3 fluorophores deep inside living tissue with high spatio-temporal resolution. Using this approach, we succeeded to acquire trajectories containing several hundred localizations. We present statistical methods to find significant deviations from random Brownian motion in such trajectories. The analysis allowed us to directly observe transitions in the mobility of ribosomal (r)RNA and Balbiani ring (BR) messenger (m)RNA particles in living Chironomus tentans salivary gland cell nuclei. We found that BR mRNA particles displayed phases of reduced mobility, while rRNA particles showed distinct binding events in and near nucleoli.
Phenotypic variation of 38 European Ambrosia artemisiifolia populations measured in a common garden experiment
Marion Carmen Leiblein-Wild
- The knowledge of phenotypic variation in the European range of the highly allergenic Ambrosia artemisiifolia L. (common ragweed) is not entirely complete, even though it is an invasive species of utmost concern. We hypothesized the prevalence of phenotypic differentiations between common ragweed populations in the introduced range, and we assumed that those differentiations were related to environmental conditions at the points of origin. Using a common garden experiment, we investigated biomass allocation, growth rates, and flowering phenology of 38 European common ragweed populations originating from a major geographical gradient. We observed considerable phenotypic variation in growth parameters and flowering phenology, e.g. mean aboveground biomass varied from 23.3 to 47.3 g between the populations. We were able to relate most measured traits with environmental parameters prevailing at the points of origin. For example, early growth of ruderal populations was highly correlated with temperature and precipitation at the point of origin. Late growth and flowering phenology were highly correlated with latitude, i.e. individuals from northern populations grew smaller and flowered and dispersed their pollen and seeds up to 5 weeks earlier than individuals from southern populations. We also found a longitudinal gradient in flowering phenology which has not yet been described. The existence of such a high variability in the introduced range may facilitate further range expansion. We suggest that the correlation with environmental variables rests upon genetic variation possibly due to adaptations to the respective environment. To clarify if such adaptation results from multiple events of introduction or as evolutionary response after introduction, genetic investigations are needed.
Characterization of an invertebrate-type dopamine receptor of the American cockroach, Periplaneta americana
- We have isolated a cDNA coding for a putative invertebrate-type dopamine receptor (Peadop2) from P. americana brain by using a PCR-based strategy. The mRNA is present in samples from brain and salivary glands. We analyzed the distribution of the PeaDOP2 receptor protein with specific affinity-purified polyclonal antibodies. On Western blots, PeaDOP2 was detected in protein samples from brain, subesophageal ganglion, thoracic ganglia, and salivary glands. In immunocytochemical experiments, we detected PeaDOP2 in neurons with their somata being located at the anterior edge of the medulla bilaterally innervating the optic lobes and projecting to the ventro-lateral protocerebrum. In order to determine the functional and pharmacological properties of the cloned receptor, we generated a cell line constitutively expressing PeaDOP2. Activation of PeaDOP2-expressing cells with dopamine induced an increase in intracellular cAMP. In contrast, a C-terminally truncated splice variant of this receptor did not exhibit any functional property by itself. The molecular and pharmacological characterization of the first dopamine receptor from P. americana provides the basis for forthcoming studies focusing on the significance of the dopaminergic system in cockroach behavior and physiology.
The genome of the basal agaricomycete Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous provides insights into the organization of its acetyl-CoA derived pathways and the evolution of Agaricomycotina
- Background: Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous is a basal agaricomycete with uncertain taxonomic placement, known for its unique ability to produce astaxanthin, a carotenoid with antioxidant properties. It was the aim of this study to elucidate the organization of its CoA-derived pathways and to use the genomic information of X. dendrorhous for a phylogenomic investigation of the Basidiomycota.
Results: The genome assembly of a haploid strain of Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous revealed a genome of 19.50 Megabases with 6385 protein coding genes. Phylogenetic analyses were conducted including 48 fungal genomes. These revealed Ustilaginomycotina and Agaricomycotina as sister groups. In the latter a well-supported sister-group relationship of two major orders, Polyporales and Russulales, was inferred. Wallemia occupies a basal position within the Agaricomycotina and X. dendrorhous represents the basal lineage of the Tremellomycetes, highlighting that the typical tremelloid parenthesomes have either convergently evolved in Wallemia and the Tremellomycetes, or were lost in the Cystofilobasidiales lineage. A detailed characterization of the CoA-related pathways was done and all genes for fatty acid, sterol and carotenoid synthesis have been assigned.
Conclusions: The current study ascertains that Wallemia with tremelloid parenthesomes is the most basal agaricomycotinous lineage and that Cystofilobasidiales without tremelloid parenthesomes are deeply rooted within Tremellomycetes, suggesting that parenthesomes at septal pores might be the core synapomorphy for the Agaricomycotina. Apart from evolutionary insights the genome sequence of X. dendrorhous will facilitate genetic pathway engineering for optimized astaxanthin or oxidative alcohol production.
Massive analysis of cDNA Ends (MACE) and miRNA expression profiling identifies proatherogenic pathways in chronic kidney disease
Adam M. Zawada
Kyrill S. Rogacev
Gunnar H. Heine
- Epigenetic dysregulation contributes to the high cardiovascular disease burden in chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients. Although microRNAs (miRNAs) are central epigenetic regulators, which substantially affect the development and progression of cardiovascular disease (CVD), no data on miRNA dysregulation in CKD-associated CVD are available until now. We now performed high-throughput miRNA sequencing of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from ten clinically stable hemodialysis (HD) patients and ten healthy controls, which allowed us to identify 182 differentially expressed miRNAs (e.g., miR-21, miR-26b, miR-146b, miR-155). To test biological relevance, we aimed to connect miRNA dysregulation to differential gene expression. Genome-wide gene expression profiling by MACE (Massive Analysis of cDNA Ends) identified 80 genes to be differentially expressed between HD patients and controls, which could be linked to cardiovascular disease (e.g., KLF6, DUSP6, KLF4), to infection / immune disease (e.g., ZFP36, SOCS3, JUND), and to distinct proatherogenic pathways such as the Toll-like receptor signaling pathway (e.g., IL1B, MYD88, TICAM2), the MAPK signaling pathway (e.g., DUSP1, FOS, HSPA1A), and the chemokine signaling pathway (e.g., RHOA, PAK1, CXCL5). Formal interaction network analysis proved biological relevance of miRNA dysregulation, as 68 differentially expressed miRNAs could be connected to 47 reciprocally expressed target genes. Our study is the first comprehensive miRNA analysis in CKD that links dysregulated miRNA expression with differential expression of genes connected to inflammation and CVD. After recent animal data suggested that targeting miRNAs is beneficial in experimental CVD, our data may now spur further research in the field of CKD-associated human CVD.
LuxR solos in Photorhabdus species
Helge Björn Bode
- Bacteria communicate via small diffusible molecules to mediate group-coordinated behavior, a process designated as quorum sensing. The basic molecular quorum sensing system of Gram-negative bacteria consists of a LuxI-type autoinducer synthase producing acyl-homoserine lactones (AHLs) as signaling molecules, and a LuxR-type receptor detecting the AHLs to control expression of specific genes. However, many proteobacteria possess one or more unpaired LuxR-type receptors that lack a cognate LuxI-like synthase, referred to as LuxR solos. The enteric and insect pathogenic bacteria of the genus Photorhabdus harbor an extraordinarily high number of LuxR solos, more than any other known bacteria, and all lack a LuxI-like synthase. Here, we focus on the presence and the different types of LuxR solos in the three known Photorhabdus species using bioinformatics analyses. Generally, the N-terminal signal-binding domain (SBD) of LuxR-type receptors sensing AHLs have a motif of six conserved amino acids that is important for binding and specificity of the signaling molecule. However, this motif is altered in the majority of the Photorhabdus-specific LuxR solos, suggesting the use of other signaling molecules than AHLs. Furthermore, all Photorhabdus species contain at least one LuxR solo with an intact AHL-binding motif, which might allow the ability to sense AHLs of other bacteria. Moreover, all three species have high AHL-degrading activity caused by the presence of different AHL-lactonases and AHL-acylases, revealing a high quorum quenching activity against other bacteria. However, the majority of the other LuxR solos in Photorhabdus have a N-terminal so-called PAS4-domain instead of an AHL-binding domain, containing different amino acid motifs than the AHL-sensors, which potentially allows the recognition of a highly variable range of signaling molecules that can be sensed apart from AHLs. These PAS4-LuxR solos are proposed to be involved in host sensing, and therefore in inter-kingdom signaling. Overall, Photorhabdus species are perfect model organisms to study bacterial communication via LuxR solos and their role for a symbiotic and pathogenic life style.
How to switch a master switch
- The crystal structure of a nucleotide exchange factor in white blood cells reveals an autoinhibitory mechanism that reinforces the switch-like behaviour of the signalling protein Ras.
Research organism: Human
Combined transcript, proteome, and metabolite analysis of transgenic maize seeds engineered for enhanced carotenoid synthesis reveals pleotropic effects in core metabolism
- The aim of this study was to assess whether endosperm-specific carotenoid biosynthesis influenced core metabolic processes in maize embryo and endosperm and how global seed metabolism adapted to this expanded biosynthetic capacity. Although enhancement of carotenoid biosynthesis was targeted to the endosperm of maize kernels, a concurrent up-regulation of sterol and fatty acid biosynthesis in the embryo was measured. Targeted terpenoid analysis, and non-targeted metabolomic, proteomic, and transcriptomic profiling revealed changes especially in carbohydrate metabolism in the transgenic line. In-depth analysis of the data, including changes of metabolite pools and increased enzyme and transcript concentrations, gave a first insight into the metabolic variation precipitated by the higher up-stream metabolite demand by the extended biosynthesis capacities for terpenoids and fatty acids. An integrative model is put forward to explain the metabolic regulation for the increased provision of terpenoid and fatty acid precursors, particularly glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate and pyruvate or acetyl-CoA from imported fructose and glucose. The model was supported by higher activities of fructokinase, glucose 6-phosphate isomerase, and fructose 1,6-bisphosphate aldolase indicating a higher flux through the glycolytic pathway. Although pyruvate and acetyl-CoA utilization was higher in the engineered line, pyruvate kinase activity was lower. A sufficient provision of both metabolites may be supported by a by-pass in a reaction sequence involving phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase, malate dehydrogenase, and malic enzyme.
Forests, savannas, and grasslands: bridging the knowledge gap between ecology and dynamic global vegetation models
Stefan C. Dekker
Peter M. van Bodegom
Steven I. Higgins
Christian H. Reick
Miguel Ángel de Zavala
- The forest, savanna, and grassland biomes, and the transitions between them, are expected to undergo major changes in the future due to global climate change. Dynamic global vegetation models (DGVMs) are very useful for understanding vegetation dynamics under the present climate, and for predicting its changes under future conditions. However, several DGVMs display high uncertainty in predicting vegetation in tropical areas. Here we perform a comparative analysis of three different DGVMs (JSBACH, LPJ-GUESS-SPITFIRE and aDGVM) with regard to their representation of the ecological mechanisms and feedbacks that determine the forest, savanna, and grassland biomes, in an attempt to bridge the knowledge gap between ecology and global modeling. The outcomes of the models, which include different mechanisms, are compared to observed tree cover along a mean annual precipitation gradient in Africa. By drawing on the large number of recent studies that have delivered new insights into the ecology of tropical ecosystems in general, and of savannas in particular, we identify two main mechanisms that need improved representation in the examined DGVMs. The first mechanism includes water limitation to tree growth, and tree–grass competition for water, which are key factors in determining savanna presence in arid and semi-arid areas. The second is a grass–fire feedback, which maintains both forest and savanna presence in mesic areas. Grasses constitute the majority of the fuel load, and at the same time benefit from the openness of the landscape after fires, since they recover faster than trees. Additionally, these two mechanisms are better represented when the models also include tree life stages (adults and seedlings), and distinguish between fire-prone and shade-tolerant forest trees, and fire-resistant and shade-intolerant savanna trees. Including these basic elements could improve the predictive ability of the DGVMs, not only under current climate conditions but also and especially under future scenarios.