Haloferax volcanii, a Prokaryotic Species that Does Not Use the Shine Dalgarno Mechanism for Translation Initiation at 5′-UTRs
- It was long assumed that translation initiation in prokaryotes generally occurs via the so-called Shine Dalgarno (SD) mechanism. Recently, it became clear that translation initiation in prokaryotes is more heterogeneous. In the haloarchaeon Haloferax volcanii, the majority of transcripts is leaderless and most transcripts with a 5′-UTR lack a SD motif. Nevertheless, a bioinformatic analysis predicted that 20–30% of all genes are preceded by a SD motif in haloarchaea. To analyze the importance of the SD mechanism for translation initiation in haloarchaea experimentally the monocistronic sod gene was chosen, which contains a 5′-UTR with an extensive SD motif of seven nucleotides and a length of 19 nt, the average length of 5′UTRs in this organism. A translational fusion of part of the sod gene with the dhfr reporter gene was constructed. A mutant series was generated that matched the SD motif from zero to eight positions, respectively. Surprisingly, there was no correlation between the base pairing ability between transcripts and 16S rRNA and translational efficiency in vivo under several different growth conditions. Furthermore, complete replacement of the SD motif by three unrelated sequences did not reduce translational efficiency. The results indicate that H. volcanii does not make use of the SD mechanism for translation initiation in 5′-UTRs. A genome analysis revealed that while the number of SD motifs in 5′-UTRs is rare, their fraction within open reading frames is high. Possible biological functions for intragenic SD motifs are discussed, including re-initiation of translation at distal genes in operons.
Function of ephrinBs in Reelin signaling during nervous system development and plasticity
- Nervous system development requires a sequence of processes such as neuronal migration, the development of dendrites and dendritic spines and the formation of synapses. The extracellular matrix protein Reelin plays an important role in these processes, Reelin regulates for example the migration of neurons from proliferative zones to their target positions in the brain. As a consequence, layered structures are formed in the neocortex, the hippocampus and cerebellum (Lambert de Rouvroit et al., 1999). Reelin exerts its functions by binding to two transmembrane receptors, apolipoprotein E receptor 2 (ApoER2) and very-low-density lipoprotein receptor (VLDLR). This binding causes phosphorylation of the intracellular adapter protein Disabled-1 (Dab1) (D’Arcangelo et al., 1999) via activation of Src-family kinases (SFKs) (Bock and Herz, 2003), leading to cytoskeletal reorganization which enables cell migration and morphological changes (Lambert de Rouvroit and Goffinet, 2001). Since ApoER2 and VLDLR do not possess intrinsic kinase activity to activate SFKs, the existence of a co-receptor was suggested. EphrinBs are transmembrane ligands for Eph receptors and have signaling capabilities required for axon guidance (Cowan et al., 2004), dendritic spine maturation (Segura et al., 2007) and synaptic plasticity (Essmann et al., 2008; Grunwald et al., 2004). As stimulation of cultured cortical neurons with soluble EphB receptors causes recruitment of SFKs to ephrinB-containing membrane patches and SFK activation (Palmer et al., 2002), we investigated whether ephrinB ligands would be the missing co-receptors in the Reelin signaling pathway functioning during neuronal migration, dendritic spine maturation and synaptic plasticity. We found that the extracellular part of ephrinBs directly binds to Reelin and that ephrinBs interact with Dab1, phospho-Dab1, ApoER2 and VLDLR. EphrinB3 is localized in the same neurons as ApoER2 and Dab1 in the cortex and hippocampus, and in the cerebellum ephrinB2 is detected in neurons that express Dab1. To investigate the requirement of ephrinBs for neuronal migration, triple knockout mice lacking all ephrinB ligands were analyzed. The cortical layering of ephrinB1, B2, B3 knockout brains is inverted, showing the outside-in pattern typical for the reeler cortex. The hippocampus and cerebellum of triple knockout mice also exhibit reeler-like malformations, although less penetrant than the cortical defects. Dab1 phosphorylation is impaired in mice lacking ephrinB3 and this effect is strongly enhanced in neurons lacking all ephrin ligands. Moreover, activation of ephrinB3 reverse signaling induces Dab1phosphorylation in reeler primary neurons. In agreement with an important regulatory function of ephrinBs in Reelin signaling, activation of ephrinB3 reverse signaling is even able to rescue reeler defects in cortical layering in organotypic slice cultures. In summary, all these results identify ephrinBs as co-receptors for Reelin signaling, playing essential roles in neuronal migration during the development of cortex, hippocampus and cerebellum (Sentürk et al., 2011).
DNA as a phosphate storage polymer and the alternative advantages of polyploidy for growth or survival
R. Thane Papke
- Haloferax volcanii uses extracellular DNA as a source for carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous. However, it can also grow to a limited extend in the absence of added phosphorous, indicating that it contains an intracellular phosphate storage molecule. As Hfx. volcanii is polyploid, it was investigated whether DNA might be used as storage polymer, in addition to its role as genetic material. It could be verified that during phosphate starvation cells multiply by distributing as well as by degrading their chromosomes. In contrast, the number of ribosomes stayed constant, revealing that ribosomes are distributed to descendant cells, but not degraded. These results suggest that the phosphate of phosphate-containing biomolecules (other than DNA and RNA) originates from that stored in DNA, not in rRNA. Adding phosphate to chromosome depleted cells rapidly restores polyploidy. Quantification of desiccation survival of cells with different ploidy levels showed that under phosphate starvation Hfx. volcanii diminishes genetic advantages of polyploidy in favor of cell multiplication. The consequences of the usage of genomic DNA as phosphate storage polymer are discussed as well as the hypothesis that DNA might have initially evolved in evolution as a storage polymer, and the various genetic benefits evolved later.
Electrophysiological characterization of surviving dopaminergic neurons in a mouse model of Parkinsonʼs disease
- The midbrain DA system comprising dopamine (DA) neurons of the substantia nigra (SN) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA) is involved in various brain functions, including voluntary movement and the encoding and prediction of behaviorally relevant stimuli. In Parkinsonʼs disease (PD), a progressive degeneration of particularly vulnerable SN DA neurons causes a progressive DA depletion of striatal projection sites. As a consequence, motor symptoms such as tremor, hypokinesia and rigidity appear once about 50 % to 70 % of SN DA neurons have been lost. Under physiological conditions, SN DA neurons can encode behaviorally salient events and coordinated movements through tonic and phasic activity and correlated striatal DA release. Burst-activity mediates a phasic, supralinear rise of striatal DA levels and allows to activate coordinated movements via modulation of corticostriatal signals.
In the present dissertation project, pathophysiological adaptations of surviving SN DA neurons after a partial degeneration of the nigrostiatal system have been studied using a 6-hydroxydopamine mouse model of PD. Combining in vivo retrograde tracing techniques with in vitro whole-cell patch-clamp recordings, multifluorescent immunolabeling and confocal microscopy allowed an unambiguous correlation of electrophysiological phenotypes, anatomical positions and neurochemical phenotypes of recorded neurons on a single-cell level. In vitro, neuronal activity of SN DA neurons is characterized by spontaneous, slow pacemaker activity of 1 to 10 Hz and a high degree of spike-timing precision. In vitro current-clamp recordings of surviving SN DA neurons using acute brain slice preparations after a partial, PD-like degeneration of the nigrostriatal DA system showed a significant perturbation of spontaneous pacemaker activity, mirrored by a decreased spike-timing precision compared to controls. Selective pharmacology and whole-cell voltage-clamp recordings served to identify calciumactivated SK channels as molecular effectors of a perturbated pacemaker activity of surviving SN DA neurons. SK channels and have been shown to critically contribute to the spike-timing precision of SN DA neurons. Consistently, in vitro current-clamp recordings after pharmacological blockade of SK channels in vitro caused a significant decrease of spike-timing precision, occluding previously observed differences between surviving SN DA neurons and controls.In addition to in vitro patch-clamp recordings, extracellular single-unit recordings in anaesthetized animals in vivo served to study surviving SN DA neurons embedded in an intact neuronal network after a partial, PD-like degeneration of the nigrostriatal DA system. Combining in vivo single-unit recordings, juxtacellular neurobiotin labeling and multifluorescent immunohistochemistry allowed to directly correlate electrophysiological and neurochemical phenotypes as well as anatomical positions on a single-cell level. In vivo, surviving SN DA neurons showed a significant decrease of spike-timing precision as reflected by an increased irregularity and an augmented burst activity compared to controls.
The present dissertation project provided a unique combination of a neurotoxicological PD mouse model, retrograde tracing techniques and in vitro as well as in vivo electrophysiologiy, allowing to unambiguously correlate electrophysiological adaptations, projection-specific anatomical positions and neurochemical phenotypes of SN DA neurons after a partial degeneration of the nigrostriatal system. Surviving SN DA neurons exhibited a significant deficit of SK channel activity after a partial degeneration of the nigrostriatal DA system. In consequence of a diminished SK channel activity observed in vitro, surviving SN DA neurons exhibited and enhanced burst activity in vivo, providing a plausible mechanism to compensate a striatal DA depletion.
A solid supported membrane based electrophysiological study of the escherichia coli NhaA variant E241C
Marco Daniel Kokic
- The dependence of the Escherichia coli Na+H+ antiporter A (EcNhaA) pH sensor mutant E241C on H+ and Na+ concentrations was tested using a solid supported membrane (SSM) based electrophysiological approach. Proteoliposome preparations with right side out (RSO) oriented carriers were used to investigate the passive downhill uptake mode (physiologically the reverse transport mode) at zero membrane potential. Na+ concentration gradients established with a rapid solution exchange acted as the driving force. When a Na+ concentration gradient was established at symmetrical pH, the transport activity of the E241C EcNhaA variant was similar to that of the wildtype EcNhaA, with no shift of the bell-shaped pH dependence, an increase of the KmNa at acidic pH and a decrease of the KmNa at alkaline pH, supporting the model of a competitive binding of Na+ and H+ to a common binding site.
The Decade Project: Variabilität von Mikrosatelliten-Loci in klonalen Linien ausgewählter Daphnia-Taxa über die Zeit : Protokoll zum Einarbeiten in die wissenschaftliche Arbeitstechnik ; Ökologie und Evolution der Tiere
Robert H. Kraus
- In dieser Arbeit werden erstmals Mutationsraten von Mikrosatelliten von Daphnia-Taxa aus der Klasse der Crustaceen vorgestellt. Es wurden zwölf Loci bei 27 Individuen über einen Zeitraum von 240 Generationen getestet, von denen 267 Klon/Locus-Kombinationen informativ waren und in denen an drei solcher Kombinationen Mutation beobachtet wurde. Gemittelt über alle Taxa und Loci wurde eine Rate von 2,34 * 10-5 Mutationen pro Allel und Generation gefunden. Der Vergleich mit Mutationsraten anderer Organismen zeigt, dass die gefundene Rate durchaus in deren Größenordnung liegt. Am nächsten kommen sie den Raten, die bei Schweinen und Fruchtfliegen gefunden wurden.
The evolution of the ribosome biogenesis pathway from a yeast perspective
Matthias S. Leisegang
Arndt von Haeseler
Markus T. Bohnsack
- Ribosome biogenesis is fundamental for cellular life, but surprisingly little is known about the underlying pathway. In eukaryotes a comprehensive collection of experimentally verified ribosome biogenesis factors (RBFs) exists only for Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Far less is known for other fungi, animals or plants, and insights are even more limited for archaea. Starting from 255 yeast RBFs, we integrated ortholog searches, domain architecture comparisons and, in part, manual curation to investigate the inventories of RBF candidates in 261 eukaryotes, 26 archaea and 57 bacteria. The resulting phylogenetic profiles reveal the evolutionary ancestry of the yeast pathway. The oldest core comprising 20 RBF lineages dates back to the last universal common ancestor, while the youngest 20 factors are confined to the Saccharomycotina. On this basis, we outline similarities and differences of ribosome biogenesis across contemporary species. Archaea, so far a rather uncharted domain, possess 38 well-supported RBF candidates of which some are known to form functional sub-complexes in yeast. This provides initial evidence that ribosome biogenesis in eukaryotes and archaea follows similar principles. Within eukaryotes, RBF repertoires vary considerably. A comparison of yeast and human reveals that lineage-specific adaptation via RBF exclusion and addition characterizes the evolution of this ancient pathway.
The phylogeny of the genus Gazella and the phylogeography and population genetics of arabian species
- Biodiversity is caused by a fundamental evolutionary process: speciation. When species can spread into new habitats and are allowed to colonize new ecological niches, speciation can become accelerated and is then called radiation. This can happen, e.g., when formerly separated land masses become connected. A prime example of such a scenario is the Arabian Peninsula that connects Africa and Asia since the Oligocene (approx. 30 Ma ago). Since then, the peninsula promoted several faunal exchanges between both continents. The mammalian genus Gazella is an excellent candidate for investigating this faunal exchange. Species are distributed on both, the African and Asian continent as well as on the Arabian Peninsula that is located in between. The aim of my thesis was to cast new light on the evolution and speciation of the genus and, furthermore, to evaluate the currently problematic taxonomy to infer suggestions for improved conservation actions for threatened gazelle species. Therefore, I investigated the taxon Gazella genetically and identified factors that promoted the speciation of this diverse genus. I assessed intraspecific genetic variability for species that inhabited the Arabian Peninsula to infer the past demography of those species and to estimate the history of species divergence and past population parameters.
In the first part of my thesis I inferred a mitochondrial phylogeny based on cytochrome b gene sequences using samples of all nine extant species of Gazella and also of closely related taxa (chapter 2). Besides the monophyly of the genus Gazella two reciprocally monophyletic clades were detected that evolved in allopatry: one predominantly African and one predominantly Asian clade. Within both clades species pairs could be inferred with species being ecologically adapted to different habitats: one species is a desert-dweller (probably the ancestral character state combination), while the other one is adapted to rather mountainous and humid habitats. These adaptations also correlate with the behavior of the species with the mountainous forms being sedentary, territorial and living in small groups and the desert forms being migratory, non-territorial and living in larger herds.
The second part of my thesis focuses on the Arabian gazelle species. In a study about G. subgutturosa I could show that the Arabian form G. marica (sand gazelle)—previously recognized as a subspecies of G. subgutturosa—is genetically distinct from the nominate form (chapter 3). Moreover, a phylogenetic tree based on cytochrome b gene sequences revealed a polyphyly of G. subgutturosa and G. marica with sand gazelles being more closely related to G. leptoceros and G. cuvieri of North Africa. Consequently, I suggested the restoration to full species level for G. marica corroborating earlier conservation practices of breeding both taxa separately in captivity.
In case of G. dorcas such a genetic differentiation could not be detected (chapter 4). Despite the large distribution range from Mali in the west to Saudi Arabia in the east only low genetic variation was detectable in mitochondrial sequence data. Statistically parsimony network analyses revealed pronounced haplotype sharing across regions. Using a coalescence approach I observed a steep population decline that started about 25,000 years ago and which is still ongoing. The decline could be correlated with human hunting activities in the Sahara. Hence, hunting of G. dorcas (already in ancient times) had a much larger impact on gazelle populations than previously thought and even led to the extinction of the Arabian form of G. dorcas.
In chapter 5 of my thesis I provided a rigorous test to genetically distinguish between the potential species G. gazella and G. arabica. Previously recognized as a single species mitochondrial sequence analyses provided first hints for the separation of both taxa. But without the investigation of nuclear loci the observed pattern could also be the result of male biased dispersal combined with female philopatry. Therefore, I amplified mitochondrial sequence markers and nuclear microsatellite loci for both taxa and found support for the earlier view of two separate species. No signs of recurrent gene flow could be detected between neighboring populations of G. arabica and G. gazella. The split of both species could be estimated one million years ago and the recommendation of breeding both taxa separately in captivity for conservation purposes is fully justified.
Several populations of G. arabica suffer from a severe decline. In chapter 6 I asked whether the population occurring on the Farasan archipelago—being at stable individual numbers for decades—may serve as potential source for future reintroduction on the Arabian mainland, although the gazelles show a reduced body size. Analyzing the genetic differentiation of Farasan gazelles, a genetic cluster could be inferred being endemic to the archipelago. However, only approx. 70% of Farasan individuals were assigned to this specific cluster, while the others showed at least intermediate or even complete assignment to the mainland cluster. This indicates ongoing introgression that is probably mediated by human translocations of gazelles from and onto the islands. Considering the uniform dwarfism of Farasan gazelles, reasons for the smaller body size might be direct consequences of resource limitations, i.e., phenotypic plasticity. If the population decline on the mainland will hold on Farasan gazelles could serve as stocks for future reintroductions.
Development of β-Lactamase as a Tool for Monitoring Conditional Gene Expression by a Tetracycline-Riboswitch in Methanosarcina acetivorans
Miriam M. Geist
Julia E. Weigand
- The use of reporter gene fusions to assess cellular processes such as protein targeting and regulation of transcription or translation is established technology in archaeal, bacterial, and eukaryal genetics. Fluorescent proteins or enzymes resulting in chromogenic substrate turnover, like β -galactosidase, have been particularly useful for microscopic and screening purposes. However, application of such methodology is of limited use for strictly anaerobic organisms due to the requirement of molecular oxygen for chromophore formation or color development. We have developed β -lactamase from Escherichia coli (encoded by bla) in conjunction with the chromogenic substrate nitrocefin into a reporter system usable under anaerobic conditions for the methanogenic archaeon Methanosarcina acetivorans. By using a signal peptide of a putative flagellin from M. acetivorans and different catabolic promoters, we could demonstrate growth substrate-dependent secretion of β -lactamase, facilitating its use in colony screening on agar plates. Furthermore, a series of fusions comprised of a constitutive promoter and sequences encoding variants of the synthetic tetracycline-responsive riboswitch (tc-RS) was created to characterize its influence on translation initiation in M. acetivorans. One tc-RS variant resulted in more than 11-fold tetracycline-dependent regulation of bla expression, which is in the range of regulation by naturally occurring riboswitches. Thus, tc-RS fusions represent the first solely cis-active, that is, factor-independent system for controlled gene expression in Archaea.
Are accessory hearing structures linked to inner ear morphology? Insights from 3D orientation patterns of ciliary bundles in three cichlid species
Brian D. Metscher
- Background: Cichlid fishes show considerable diversity in swim bladder morphology. In members of the subfamily Etroplinae, the connection between anterior swim bladder extensions and the inner ears enhances sound transmission and translates into an improved hearing ability. We tested the hypothesis that those swim bladder modifications coincide with differences in inner ear morphology and thus compared Steatocranus tinanti (vestigial swim bladder), Hemichromis guttatus (large swim bladder without extensions), and Etroplus maculatus (intimate connection between swim bladder and inner ears). Methodology and results We applied immunostaining together with confocal imaging and scanning electron microscopy for the investigation of sensory epithelia, and high-resolution, contrast-enhanced microCT imaging for characterizing inner ears in 3D, and evaluated otolith dimensions. Compared to S. tinanti and H. guttatus, inner ears of E. maculatus showed an enlargement of all three maculae, and a particularly large lacinia of the macula utriculi. While our analysis of orientation patterns of ciliary bundles on the three macula types using artificially flattened maculae uncovered rather similar orientation patterns of ciliary bundles, interspecific differences became apparent when illustrating the orientation patterns on the 3D models of the maculae: differences in the shape and curvature of the lacinia of the macula utriculi, and the anterior arm of the macula lagenae resulted in an altered arrangement of ciliary bundles.
Conclusions: Our results imply that improved audition in E. maculatus is associated not only with swim bladder modifications but also with altered inner ear morphology. However, not all modifications in E. maculatus could be connected to enhanced auditory abilities, and so a potential improvement of the vestibular sense, among others, also needs to be considered. Our study highlights the value of analyzing orientation patterns of ciliary bundles in their intact 3D context in studies of inner ear morphology and physiology.