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.
Halophilic Archaea Cultivated from Surface Sterilized Middle-Late Eocene Rock Salt Are Polyploid
Salla T. Jaakkola
Dennis H. Bamford
Hanna M. Oksanen
- Live bacteria and archaea have been isolated from several rock salt deposits of up to hundreds of millions of years of age from all around the world. A key factor affecting their longevity is the ability to keep their genomic DNA intact, for which efficient repair mechanisms are needed. Polyploid microbes are known to have an increased resistance towards mutations and DNA damage, and it has been suggested that microbes from deeply buried rock salt would carry several copies of their genomes. Here, cultivable halophilic microbes were isolated from a surface sterilized middle-late Eocene (38–41 million years ago) rock salt sample, drilled from the depth of 800 m at Yunying salt mine, China. Eight unique isolates were obtained, which represented two haloarchaeal genera, Halobacterium and Halolamina. We used real-time PCR to show that our isolates are polyploid, with genome copy numbers of 11–14 genomes per cell in exponential growth phase. The ploidy level was slightly downregulated in stationary growth phase, but the cells still had an average genome copy number of 6–8. The polyploidy of halophilic archaea living in ancient rock salt might be a factor explaining how these organisms are able to overcome the challenge of prolonged survival during their entombment.
A phylogeographic break and bioacoustic intraspecific differentiation in the Buff-barred Warbler (Phylloscopus pulcher) (Aves: Passeriformes, Phylloscopidae)
Balduin S. Fischer
Dieter Thomas Tietze
- Background: According to current taxonomy only three out of 27 Sinohimalayan leaf warbler species (Phylloscopidae) are considered genetically uniform across their entire breeding range along the Southeastern margin of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, the Buff-barred Warbler (Phylloscopus pulcher) being one of them. Because marked differentiation among Himalayan and Chinese populations has been recently demonstrated for a number of Phylloscopus species (or sister species) we investigated the intraspecific variation of a mitochondrial gene, songs and morphology of P. pulcher in a phylogeographic approach.
Methods: We sequenced a fragment of the mitochondrial cytochrome b, reconstructed haplotype networks and analyzed DNA polymorphism among Himalayan and Chinese populations. We measured time and frequency parameters of two distinct song types and analyzed among population-differentiation in a principal component analysis and a discriminant analysis. We also compared measurements of body size dimensions taken from museum specimens.
Results: The mitochondrial haplotype network (cytb) was divided into two distinct clusters corresponding to geographic origin of samples. Pairwise genetic distances among Himalayan and Chinese mtDNA lineages account for 1.3% which coincides with Pleistocene lineage separation at roughly 650,000 years ago. Genetic diversity is slightly higher in the Chinese part of the species’ range with respect to haplotype and nucleotide diversity while the less diversified Himalayan population lineage shows signs of recent range expansion. The vocal repertoire of P. pulcher comprises two distinct verse types that are combined with short interspersed click notes to long continuous song displays. Trill verse types showed significant differences among regions in almost all measured frequency and time parameters: Chinese males displayed more rapid and more broad-banded trills at a lower pitch. In contrast, warbling verse types showed a distinctively different structure among regions: Himalayan songs consisted of repeated syllables while Chinese songs comprised repetitions of single, long and strongly modulated elements. Subtle morphological differences among specimens from the two study regions could only be confirmed for plumage coloration but not for metric characters.
Conclusions: Based on the genetic and bioacoustic distinctiveness of Chinese Buff-barred Warbler populations, we recommend that the name Phylloscopus pulcher vegetus Bangs, 1913 should be re-validated for this taxon.
In silico analysis of regulatory networks underlines the role of miR-10b-5p and its target BDNF in huntington’s disease
- Non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) play various roles during central nervous system development. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of ncRNAs that exert their function together with argonaute proteins by post-transcriptional gene silencing of messenger RNAs (mRNAs). Several studies provide evidence for alterations in miRNA expression in patients with neurodegenerative diseases. Among these is huntington‘s disease (HD), a dominantly inherited fatal disorder characterized by deregulation of neuronal-specific mRNAs as well as miRNAs. Recently, next-generation sequencing (NGS) miRNA profiles from human HD and neurologically normal control brain tissues were reported. Five consistently upregulated miRNAs affect the expression of genes involved in neuronal differentiation, neurite outgrowth, cell death and survival. We re-analyzed the NGS data publicly available in array express and detected nineteen additional differentially expressed miRNAs. Subsequently, we connected these miRNAs to genes implicated in HD development and network analysis pointed to miRNA-mediated downregulation of twenty-two genes with roles in the pathogenesis as well as treatment of the disease. In silico prediction and reporter systems prove that levels of BDNF, a central node in the miRNA-mRNA regulatory network, can be post-transcriptionally controlled by upregulated miR-10b-5p and miR-30a-5p. Reduced BDNF expression is associated with neuronal dysfunction and death in HD. Moreover, the 3’UTR of CREB1 harbors a predicted binding site for these two miRNAs. CREB1 is similarly downregulated in HD and overexpression decreased susceptibility to 3-nitropropionic-induced toxicity in a cell model. In contradiction to these observations, it is presumed that miR-10b-5p upregulation in HD exerts a neuroprotective role in response to the mutation in the huntingtin gene. Therefore, the function of miR-10b-5p and especially its effect on BDNF expression in HD requires further academic research.
Editorial: (Micro)Plastics and the environment
- (Micro)Plastics in the aquatic environment are an issue of emerging concern. However, to date, there is considerable lack of knowledge on the abundance and toxicity of plastic debris in aquatic ecosystems, especially with regard to the freshwater situation. In this editorial, we briefly discuss important aspects of the research on environmental (micro)plastics to stimulate research and call for papers.