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.
Population Structure and Distribution Patterns of the Sibling Mosquito Species Culex pipiens and Culex torrentium (Diptera: Culicidae) Reveal Different Evolutionary Paths
Adriaan W. C. Dorresteijn
- Nowadays a number of endemic mosquito species are known to possess vector abilities for various diseases, as e.g. the sibling species Culex pipiens and Culex torrentium. Due to their morphological similarity, ecology, distribution and vector abilities, knowledge about these species' population structure is essential. Culicidae from 25 different sampling sites were collected from March till October 2012. All analyses were performed with aligned cox1 sequences with a total length of 658 bp. Population structure as well as distribution patterns of both species were analysed using molecular methods and different statistical tests like distance based redundancy analysis (dbDRA), analysis of molecular variances (AMOVA) or McDonald & Kreitman test and Tajima's D. Within both species, we could show a genetic variability among the cox1 fragment. The construction of haplotype networks revealed one dominating haplotype for Cx. pipiens, widely distributed within Germany and a more homogeneous pattern for Cx. torrentium. The low genetic differences within Cx. pipiens could be a result of an infection with Wolbachia which can induce a sweep through populations by passively taking the also maternally inherited mtDNA through the population, thereby reducing the mitochondrial diversity as an outcome of reproductive incompatibility. Pairwise population genetic differentiation (FST) ranged significantly from moderate to very great between populations of Cx. pipiens and Cx. torrentium. Analyses of molecular variances revealed for both species that the main genetic variability exists within the populations (Cx. pipiens [88.38%]; Cx. torrentium [66.54%]). Based on a distance based redundancy analysis geographical origin explained a small but significant part of the species' genetic variation. Overall, the results confirm that Cx. pipiens and Cx. torrentium underlie different factors regarding their mitochondrial differentiation, which could be a result of endosymbiosis, dispersal between nearly located populations or human introduction.
Gene loss rather than gene gain is associated with a host jump from monocots to dicots in the smut fungus Melanopsichium pennsylvanicum
- Smut fungi are well-suited to investigate the ecology and evolution of plant pathogens, as they are strictly biotrophic, yet cultivable on media. Here we report the genome sequence of Melanopsichium pennsylvanicum, closely related to Ustilago maydis and other Poaceae-infecting smuts, but parasitic to a dicot plant. To explore the evolutionary patterns resulting from host adaptation after this huge host jump, the genome of M. pennsylvanicum was sequenced and compared to the genomes of Ustilago maydis, Sporisorium reilianum, and Ustilago hordei. While all four genomes had a similar completeness in CEGMA analyses, gene absence was highest in M. pennsylvanicum, and most pronounced in putative secreted proteins, which are often considered as effector candidates. In contrast, the amount of private genes was similar among the species, highlighting that gene loss rather than gene gain is the hallmark of adaptation after the host jump to the dicot host. Our analyses revealed a trend of putative effectors to be next to another putative effector, but the majority of these are not in clusters and thus the focus on pathogenicity clusters might not be appropriate for all smut genomes. Positive selection studies revealed that M. pennsylvanicum has the highest number and proportion of genes under positive selection. In general, putative effectors showed a higher proportion of positively selected genes than non-effector candidates. The 248 putative secreted effectors found in all four smut genomes might constitute a core set needed for pathogenicity, while those 92 that are found in all grass-parasitic smuts, but have no ortholog in M. pennsylvanicum might constitute a set of effectors important for successful colonization of grass hosts.
Factors affecting date of implantation, parturition, and den entry estimated from activity and body temperature in free-ranging brown bears
Alina L. Evans
Jon M. Arnemo
Jon E. Swenson
- Knowledge of factors influencing the timing of reproduction is important for animal conservation and management. Brown bears (Ursus arctos) are able to vary the birth date of their cubs in response to their fat stores, but little information is available about the timing of implantation and parturition in free-ranging brown bears. Body temperature and activity of pregnant brown bears is higher during the gestation period than during the rest of hibernation and drops at parturition. We compared mean daily body temperature and activity levels of pregnant and nonpregnant females during preimplantation, gestation, and lactation. Additionally we tested whether age, litter size, primiparity, environmental conditions, and the start of hibernation influence the timing of parturition. The mean date of implantation was 1 December (SD = 12), the mean date of parturition was 26 January (SD = 12), and the mean duration of the gestation period was 56 days (SD = 2). The body temperature of pregnant females was higher during the gestation and lactation periods than that of nonpregnant bears. The body temperature of pregnant females decreased during the gestation period. Activity recordings were also used to determine the date of parturition. The parturition dates calculated with activity and body temperature data did not differ significantly and were the same in 50% of the females. Older females started hibernation earlier. The start of hibernation was earlier during years with favorable environmental conditions. Dates of parturition were later during years with good environmental conditions which was unexpected. We suggest that free-ranging pregnant brown bears in areas with high levels of human activities at the beginning of the denning period, as in our study area, might prioritize investing energy in early denning than in early parturition during years with favorable environmental conditions, as a strategy to prevent disturbances caused by human.
APADB: a database for alternative polyadenylation and microRNA regulation events
Adam M. Zawada
- Alternative polyadenylation (APA) is a widespread mechanism that contributes to the sophisticated dynamics of gene regulation. Approximately 50% of all protein-coding human genes harbor multiple polyadenylation (PA) sites; their selective and combinatorial use gives rise to transcript variants with differing length of their 3' untranslated region (3'UTR). Shortened variants escape UTR-mediated regulation by microRNAs (miRNAs), especially in cancer, where global 3'UTR shortening accelerates disease progression, dedifferentiation and proliferation. Here we present APADB, a database of vertebrate PA sites determined by 3' end sequencing, using massive analysis of complementary DNA ends. APADB provides (A)PA sites for coding and non-coding transcripts of human, mouse and chicken genes. For human and mouse, several tissue types, including different cancer specimens, are available. APADB records the loss of predicted miRNA binding sites and visualizes next-generation sequencing reads that support each PA site in a genome browser. The database tables can either be browsed according to organism and tissue or alternatively searched for a gene of interest. APADB is the largest database of APA in human, chicken and mouse. The stored information provides experimental evidence for thousands of PA sites and APA events. APADB combines 3' end sequencing data with prediction algorithms of miRNA binding sites, allowing to further improve prediction algorithms. Current databases lack correct information about 3'UTR lengths, especially for chicken, and APADB provides necessary information to close this gap. Database URL: http://tools.genxpro.net/apadb/
A pre-ribosomal RNA interaction network involving snoRNAs and the Rok1 helicase
Katherine E. Sloan
Markus T. Bohnsack
- Ribosome biogenesis in yeast requires 75 small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs) and a myriad of cofactors for processing, modification, and folding of the ribosomal RNAs (rRNAs). For the 19 RNA helicases implicated in ribosome synthesis, their sites of action and molecular functions have largely remained unknown. Here, we have used UV cross-linking and analysis of cDNA (CRAC) to reveal the pre-rRNA binding sites of the RNA helicase Rok1, which is involved in early small subunit biogenesis. Several contact sites were identified in the 18S rRNA sequence, which interestingly all cluster in the “foot” region of the small ribosomal subunit. These include a major binding site in the eukaryotic expansion segment ES6, where Rok1 is required for release of the snR30 snoRNA. Rok1 directly contacts snR30 and other snoRNAs required for pre-rRNA processing. Using cross-linking, ligation and sequencing of hybrids (CLASH) we identified several novel pre-rRNA base-pairing sites for the snoRNAs snR30, snR10, U3, and U14, which cluster in the expansion segments of the 18S rRNA. Our data suggest that these snoRNAs bridge interactions between the expansion segments, thereby forming an extensive interaction network that likely promotes pre-rRNA maturation and folding in early pre-ribosomal complexes and establishes long-range rRNA interactions during ribosome synthesis.