DNA methylation reader MECP2: cell type- and differentiation stage-specific protein distribution
Katharina Laurence Jost
Maria Cristina Cardoso
- Background: Methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MECP2) is a protein that specifically binds methylated DNA, thus regulating transcription and chromatin organization. Mutations in the gene have been identified as the principal cause of Rett syndrome, a severe neurological disorder. Although the role of MECP2 has been extensively studied in nervous tissues, still very little is known about its function and cell type specific distribution in other tissues.
Results: Using immunostaining on tissue cryosections, we characterized the distribution of MECP2 in 60 cell types of 16 mouse neuronal and non-neuronal tissues. We show that MECP2 is expressed at a very high level in all retinal neurons except rod photoreceptors. The onset of its expression during retina development coincides with massive synapse formation. In contrast to astroglia, retinal microglial cells lack MECP2, similar to microglia in the brain, cerebellum, and spinal cord. MECP2 is also present in almost all non-neural cell types, with the exception of intestinal epithelial cells, erythropoietic cells, and hair matrix keratinocytes. Our study demonstrates the role of MECP2 as a marker of the differentiated state in all studied cells other than oocytes and spermatogenic cells. MECP2-deficient male (Mecp2−/y) mice show no apparent defects in the morphology and development of the retina. The nuclear architecture of retinal neurons is also unaffected as the degree of chromocenter fusion and the distribution of major histone modifications do not differ between Mecp2−/y and Mecp2wt mice. Surprisingly, the absence of MECP2 is not compensated by other methyl-CpG binding proteins. On the contrary, their mRNA levels were downregulated in Mecp2−/y mice.
Conclusions: MECP2 is almost universally expressed in all studied cell types with few exceptions, including microglia. MECP2 deficiency does not change the nuclear architecture and epigenetic landscape of retinal cells despite the missing compensatory expression of other methyl-CpG binding proteins. Furthermore, retinal development and morphology are also preserved in Mecp2-null mice. Our study reveals the significance of MECP2 function in cell differentiation and sets the basis for future investigations in this direction.
FLRT structure: balancing repulsion and cell adhesion in cortical and vascular development
Daniel del Toro
Ellen Clare Border
E. Yvonne Jones
- FLRTs are broadly expressed proteins with the unique property of acting as homophilic cell adhesion molecules and as heterophilic repulsive ligands of Unc5/Netrin receptors. How these functions direct cell behavior and the molecular mechanisms involved remain largely unclear. Here we use X-ray crystallography to reveal the distinct structural bases for FLRT-mediated cell adhesion and repulsion in neurons. We apply this knowledge to elucidate FLRT functions during cortical development. We show that FLRTs regulate both the radial migration of pyramidal neurons, as well as their tangential spread. Mechanistically, radial migration is controlled by repulsive FLRT2-Unc5D interactions, while spatial organization in the tangential axis involves adhesive FLRT-FLRT interactions. Further, we show that the fundamental mechanisms of FLRT adhesion and repulsion are conserved between neurons and vascular endothelial cells. Our results reveal FLRTs as powerful guidance factors with structurally encoded repulsive and adhesive surfaces.
M-free: scoring the reference bias in sub-tomogram averaging and
Achilleas S. Frangakis
- Cryo-electron tomography provides a snapshot of the cellular proteome. With template matching, the spatial positions of various macromolecular complexes within their native cellular context can be detected. However, the growing awareness of the reference bias introduced by the cross-correlation based approaches, and more importantly the lack of a reliable confidence measurement in the selection of these macromolecular complexes, has restricted the use of these applications. Here we propose a heuristic, in which the reference bias is measured in real space in an analogous way to the R-free value in X-ray crystallography. We measure the reference bias within the mask used to outline the area of the template, and do not modify the template itself. The heuristic works by splitting the mask into a working and a testing area in a volume ratio of 9:1. While the working area is used during the calculation of the cross-correlation function, the information from both areas is explored to calculate the M-free score. We show using artificial data, that the M-free score gives a reliable measure for the reference bias. The heuristic can be applied in template matching and in sub-tomogram averaging. We further test the applicability of the heuristic in tomograms of purified macromolecules, and tomograms of whole Mycoplasma cells.
Resource-mediated indirect effects of grassland management on arthropod
Nadja K. Simons
Martin M. Gossner
Thomas M. Lewinsohn
Stephanie A. Socher
Wolfgang W. Weisser
- Intensive land use is a driving force for biodiversity decline in many ecosystems. In semi-natural grasslands, land-use activities such as mowing, grazing and fertilization affect the diversity of plants and arthropods, but the combined effects of different drivers and the chain of effects are largely unknown. In this study we used structural equation modelling to analyse how the arthropod communities in managed grasslands respond to land use and whether these responses are mediated through changes in resource diversity or resource quantity (biomass). Plants were considered resources for herbivores which themselves were considered resources for predators. Plant and arthropod (herbivores and predators) communities were sampled on 141 meadows, pastures and mown pastures within three regions in Germany in 2008 and 2009. Increasing land-use intensity generally increased plant biomass and decreased plant diversity, mainly through increasing fertilization. Herbivore diversity decreased together with plant diversity but showed no response to changes in plant biomass. Hence, land-use effects on herbivore diversity were mediated through resource diversity rather than quantity. Land-use effects on predator diversity were mediated by both herbivore diversity (resource diversity) and herbivore quantity (herbivore biomass), but indirect effects through resource quantity were stronger. Our findings highlight the importance of assessing both direct and indirect effects of land-use intensity and mode on different trophic levels. In addition to the overall effects, there were subtle differences between the different regions, pointing to the importance of regional land-use specificities. Our study underlines the commonly observed strong effect of grassland land use on biodiversity. It also highlights that mechanistic approaches help us to understand how different land-use modes affect biodiversity.
High levels of diversity uncovered in a widespread nominal taxon: continental phylogeography of the Neotropical tree frog Dendropsophus minutus
Andrew J. Crawford
Victor G. D. Orrico
Lucas S. Barrientos
Ignacio De la Riva
Giuseppe Gagliardi Urrutia
Juan M. Guayasamin
Philippe J. R. Kok
José P. Pombal Jr
Fernando J. M. Rojas-Runjaic
J. Celsa Señaris
Miguel Trefaut Rodrigues
Celio F. B. Haddad
- Species distributed across vast continental areas and across major biomes provide unique model systems for studies of biotic diversification, yet also constitute daunting financial, logistic and political challenges for data collection across such regions. The tree frog Dendropsophus minutus (Anura: Hylidae) is a nominal species, continentally distributed in South America, that may represent a complex of multiple species, each with a more limited distribution. To understand the spatial pattern of molecular diversity throughout the range of this species complex, we obtained DNA sequence data from two mitochondrial genes, cytochrome oxidase I (COI) and the 16S rhibosomal gene (16S) for 407 samples of D. minutus and closely related species distributed across eleven countries, effectively comprising the entire range of the group. We performed phylogenetic and spatially explicit phylogeographic analyses to assess the genetic structure of lineages and infer ancestral areas. We found 43 statistically supported, deep mitochondrial lineages, several of which may represent currently unrecognized distinct species. One major clade, containing 25 divergent lineages, includes samples from the type locality of D. minutus. We defined that clade as the D. minutus complex. The remaining lineages together with the D. minutus complex constitute the D. minutus species group. Historical analyses support an Amazonian origin for the D. minutus species group with a subsequent dispersal to eastern Brazil where the D. minutus complex originated. According to our dataset, a total of eight mtDNA lineages have ranges >100,000 km2. One of them occupies an area of almost one million km2 encompassing multiple biomes. Our results, at a spatial scale and resolution unprecedented for a Neotropical vertebrate, confirm that widespread amphibian species occur in lowland South America, yet at the same time a large proportion of cryptic diversity still remains to be discovered.
Microplastics in freshwater ecosystems: what we know and what we need to know
A. Dick Vethaak
- BackgroundWhile the use of plastic materials has generated huge societal benefits, the `plastic age? comes with downsides: One issue of emerging concern is the accumulation of plastics in the aquatic environment. Here, so-called microplastics (MP), fragments smaller than 5?mm, are of special concern because they can be ingested throughout the food web more readily than larger particles. Focusing on freshwater MP, we briefly review the state of the science to identify gaps of knowledge and deduce research needs.State of the scienceEnvironmental scientists started investigating marine (micro)plastics in the early 2000s. Today, a wealth of studies demonstrates that MP have ubiquitously permeated the marine ecosystem, including the polar regions and the deep sea. MP ingestion has been documented for an increasing number of marine species. However, to date, only few studies investigate their biological effects.The majority of marine plastics are considered to originate from land-based sources, including surface waters. Although they may be important transport pathways of MP, data from freshwater ecosystems is scarce. So far, only few studies provide evidence for the presence of MP in rivers and lakes. Data on MP uptake by freshwater invertebrates and fish is very limited.Knowledge gapsWhile the research on marine MP is more advanced, there are immense gaps of knowledge regarding freshwater MP. Data on their abundance is fragmentary for large and absent for small surface waters. Likewise, relevant sources and the environmental fate remain to be investigated. Data on the biological effects of MP in freshwater species is completely lacking. The accumulation of other freshwater contaminants on MP is of special interest because ingestion might increase the chemical exposure. Again, data is unavailable on this important issue.ConclusionsMP represent freshwater contaminants of emerging concern. However, to assess the environmental risk associated with MP, comprehensive data on their abundance, fate, sources, and biological effects in freshwater ecosystems are needed. Establishing such data critically depends on a collaborative effort by environmental scientists from diverse disciplines (chemistry, hydrology, ecotoxicology, etc.) and, unsurprisingly, on the allocation of sufficient public funding.
Identification and characterization of selected secondary metabolite biosynthetic pathways from Xenorhabdus nematophila
Genetic and chemical biology approaches for the characterization of the yeast PDK1 orthologs in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida albicans
- Fungal organisms, including the most common human pathogens Candida spp., are commensal organisms that are widely present as part of the human flora. Fungal infections are, most frequently, local infections that do not compromise the life of patients. However, mycotic diseases can be life-threatening if they become systemic infections. Systemic fungal infections have risen over the last three decades in parallel to the increased immune-compromised population as a consequence of diseases (e.g. HIV/AIDS) or therapeutic interventions that affect the immune system (e.g. chemotherapy for cancer treatment and immunosuppressors used for patients with organ transplants). This has resulted in the demand of new antifungal drugs that can eradicate the new infections caused by these opportunistic fungal pathogens. However, most of the current compounds have poor pharmaceutical properties such as narrow spectrum of activity, susceptibility to be extruded by efflux pumps or lack of specificity, which make them not suitable for human clinical applications. The treatment of fungal and parasitic infections has been traditionally difficult because the infective organisms are eukaryotic cells that share most of the pathways and enzymes with human cells. To avoid side effects and to develop a targeted therapy, the research has traditionally been centered on the very few enzymes and pathways existing in the infectious organism but absent in humans. Until now, antifungal therapeutic options are limited and are almost dominated by azole class of sterol biosynthesis inhibitors affecting the synthesis of ergosterol, a major constituent of the fungal cell membrane. Because human cells do not have a cell wall, the development of effective and safe antifungal agents has also been directed to enzymes required for the synthesis of the cell wall. Alternatively, it is theoretically possible to target enzymes that are present in fungal organisms and in humans, when: 1) sufficient selectivity can be achieved, and 2) inhibition of the fungal enzyme is lethal to the fungus but does not produce major side effects to humans. In this line, it would be ideal to evaluate the development of selective inhibitors of enzymes which are already known to be drug targets, like protein kinases.
An Illumina metabarcoding pipeline for fungi
- High-throughput metabarcoding studies on fungi and other eukaryotic microorganisms are rapidly becoming more frequent and more complex, requiring researchers to handle ever increasing amounts of raw sequence data. Here, we provide a flexible pipeline for pruning and analyzing fungal barcode (ITS rDNA) data generated as paired-end reads on Illumina MiSeq sequencers. The pipeline presented includes specific steps fine-tuned for ITS, that are mostly missing from pipelines developed for prokaryotes. It (1) employs state of the art programs and follows best practices in fungal high-throughput metabarcoding; (2) consists of modules and scripts easily modifiable by the user to ensure maximum flexibility with regard to specific needs of a project or future methodological developments; and (3) is straightforward to use, also in classroom settings. We provide detailed descriptions and revision techniques for each step, thus giving the user maximum control over data treatment and avoiding a black-box approach. Employing this pipeline will improve and speed up the tedious and error-prone process of cleaning fungal Illumina metabarcoding data.
Identification and characterization of RNA guanine-quadruplex binding proteins
Annekathrin von Hacht
- Guanine quadruplex (G-quadruplex) motifs in the 5′ untranslated region (5′-UTR) of mRNAs were recently shown to influence the efficiency of translation. In the present study, we investigate the interaction between cellular proteins and the G-quadruplexes located in two mRNAs (MMP16 and ARPC2). Formation of the G-quadruplexes was confirmed by biophysical characterization and the inhibitory activity on translation was shown by luciferase reporter assays. In experiments with whole cell extracts from different eukaryotic cell lines, G-quadruplex-binding proteins were isolated by pull-down assays and subsequently identified by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry. The binding partners of the RNA G-quadruplexes we discovered included several heterogenous nuclear ribonucleoproteins, ribosomal proteins, and splicing factors, as well as other proteins that have previously not been described to interact with nucleic acids. While most of the proteins were specific for either of the investigated G-quadruplexes, some of them bound to both motifs. Selected candidate proteins were subsequently produced by recombinant expression and dissociation constants for the interaction between the proteins and RNA G-quadruplexes in the low nanomolar range were determined by surface plasmon resonance spectroscopy. The present study may thus help to increase our understanding of the mechanisms by which G-quadruplexes regulate translation.