Scale-dependent impact of landscape characteristics on spider diversity in winter oilseed rape fields
Johann G. Zaller
- Agricultural intensification is a major threat to biological diversity worldwide. Land management activities enhancing landscape diversity are therefore regarded as a key strategy to halt species loss in cultural landscapes. Diverse and abundant communities of predatory arthropods, e.g. spiders (Araneae), have a high potential to suppress pest populations (Symondson et al. 2002) and could therefore contribute to allow reductions of pesticide use. Crop fields alone are usually not able to sustain diverse and individual-rich populations of predatory arthropods, because agricultural management results in disturbances and habitat deteriorations (harvest, soil cultivation, pesticide application) that kill or drive away large parts of the populations. Therefore semi-natural and perennial habitats in agricultural landscapes are considered to be of great importance for beneficial arthropods. On the one hand they offer refuge habitats in times when arable fields are hostile, e.g. fields with bare grounds during winter (Schmidt & Tscharntke 2005). On the other hand, viable populations of predatory arthropods in semi-natural habitats can serve as sources for (re-) colonisation of arable fields (Schmidt & Tscharntke 2005). Because of these exchanges between crop and non-crop areas it is important to include the surrounding landscape when investigating field-scale processes. We investigated the relations between spider assemblages in arable fields and the surrounding landscape in 29 fields of winter oilseed rape (OSR) in an agricultural landscape in eastern Austria. The objectives of this study were to estimate (1) how much spider assemblages in oilseed rape fields are influenced by the surrounding landscape, (2) the relative influence of landscape variables compared to field-scale variables and (3) at which spatial scales landscape variables are effective.
Identification of the endo- and ectosymbiotic bacteria and cellulolytic activities of the symbiotic flagellates of the Australian termite Mastotermes darwiniensis
- The lower wood-feeding Australian termite Mastotermes darwiniensis Froggatt (Fig. 1) is the only living member of the family Mastotermitidae. The complex symbiotic hindgut flora consists of protozoa (formerly named Archaezoa; Cleveland & Grimstone 1964; Brugerolle & al. 1994; Berchtold & König 1995; Fröhlich & König 1999a, b), bacteria (Berchtold & König 1996; Berchtold & al. 1999), archaea (Fröhlich & König 1999a, b) and yeasts (Prillinger & al. 1996; Schäfer & al. 1996). The digestive system of Mastotermes darwiniensis consists of the foregut with the crop and the gizzard, the midgut, and the hindgut (Noirot & Noirot-Timothée 1969; 1995). The hindgut consists of five segments (P1 – P5): the proctodeal segment, the enteric valve, the paunch, the colon and the rectum. The paunch is the main microbial fermentation chamber, but the colon also contains microorganisms. The paunch is subdivided into a dilated thin-walled region (P3a) and a thick walled more tubular region (P3b) (Fig. 1c). In the case of Mastotermes darwiniensis oxygen diffusion gradients could be detected up to 100 μm below the epithelium (Berchtold & al., 1999).
The xylobiontic beetle fauna of old oaks colonised by the endangered longhorn beetle Cerambyx cerdo Linnaeus, 1758 (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae)
- In our present-day landscape in Central Europe major parts of the xylobiontic especially of the saproxylic beetle fauna belong to the group of endangered species assemblages (Speight 1989, Geiser 1994). Oaks, in Central Europe mainly Quercus robur and Q. petraea, are well known for their large number of associated insect species and harbour the highest beetle diversity, especially for dead wood inhabiting species, of all broadleaved tree species in this region (e.g. Palm 1959). A characteristic species associated with oaks in its life-cycle is the endangered Great Capricorn Cerambyx cerdo. C. cerdo is one of the protected species explicitly named in the Habitats Directive of the European Union with the goal of maintaining existing populations and establishing long-term survival (Council of the European Communities 1992). The last remaining colonised areas of this longhorn beetle in Central Europe are well known for the enormous number of very rare xylobiontic beetle species. Thus, we are interested in the following research questions: 1) Are there typical species associated with C. cerdo? 2) If so, what kind of relationship do these associated species have to C. cerdo from a nature conservation point of view?
A novel, non-invasive, online-monitoring, versatile and easy plant-based probe for measuring leaf water status
Matthias Wolf Bauer
- A high-precision pressure probe is described which allows non-invasive online-monitoring of the water relations of intact leaves. Real-time recording of the leaf water status occurred by data transfer to an Internet server. The leaf patch clamp pressure probe measures the attenuated pressure, Pp, of a leaf patch in response to a constant clamp pressure, Pclamp. Pp is sensed by a miniaturized silicone pressure sensor integrated into the device. The magnitude of Pp is dictated by the transfer function of the leaf, Tf, which is a function of leaf patch volume and ultimately of cell turgor pressure, Pc, as shown theoretically. The power function Tf=f(Pc) theoretically derived was experimentally confirmed by concomitant Pp and Pc measurements on intact leaflets of the liana Tetrastigma voinierianum under greenhouse conditions. Simultaneous Pp recordings on leaflets up to 10 m height above ground demonstrated that changes in Tf induced by Pc changes due to changes of microclimate and/or of the irrigation regime were sensitively reflected in corresponding changes of Pp. Analysis of the data show that transpirational water loss during the morning hours was associated with a transient rise in turgor pressure gradients within the leaflets. Subsequent recovery of turgescence during the afternoon was much faster than the preceding transpiration-induced water loss if the plants were well irrigated. Our data show the enormous potential of the leaf patch clamp pressure probe for leaf water studies including unravelling of the hydraulic communication between neighbouring leaves and over long distances within tall plants (trees).
Phosphorylation regulates the assembly of chloroplast import machinery
- Chloroplast function depends on the translocation of cytosolically synthesized precursor proteins into the organelle. The recognition and transfer of most precursor proteins across the outer membrane depend on a membrane inserted complex. Two receptor components of this complex, Toc34 and Toc159, are GTPases, which can be phosphorylated by kinases present in the hosting membrane. However, the physiological function of phosphorylation is not yet understood in detail. It is demonstrated that both receptors are phosphorylated within their G-domains. In vitro, the phosphorylation of Toc34 disrupts both homo- and heterodimerization of the G-domains as determined using a phospho-mimicking mutant. In endogenous membranes this mutation or phosphorylation of the wild-type receptor disturbs the association of Toc34, but not of Toc159 with the translocation pore. Therefore, phosphorylation serves as an inhibitor for the association of Toc34 with other components of the complex and phosphorylation can now be discussed as a mechanism to exchange different isoforms of Toc34 within this ensemble.
Genome-wide analysis of the UDP-glucose dehydrogenase gene family in Arabidopsis, a key enzyme for matrix polysaccharides in cell walls
- Arabidopsis cell walls contain large amounts of pectins and hemicelluloses, which are predominantly synthesized via the common precursor UDP-glucuronic acid. The major enzyme for the formation of this nucleotide-sugar is UDP-glucose dehydrogenase, catalysing the irreversible oxidation of UDP-glucose into UDP-glucuronic acid. Four functional gene family members and one pseudogene are present in the Arabidopsis genome, and they show distinct tissue-specific expression patterns during plant development. The analyses of reporter gene lines indicate gene expression of UDP-glucose dehydrogenases in growing tissues. The biochemical characterization of the different isoforms shows equal affinities for the cofactor NAD+ (~40 µM) but variable affinities for the substrate UDP-glucose (120–335 µM) and different catalytic constants, suggesting a regulatory role for the different isoforms in carbon partitioning between cell wall formation and sucrose synthesis as the second major UDP-glucose-consuming pathway. UDP-glucose dehydrogenase is feedback inhibited by UDP-xylose. The relatively (compared with a soybean UDP-glucose dehydrogenase) low affinity of the enzymes for the substrate UDP-glucose is paralleled by the weak inhibition of the enzymes by UDP-xylose. The four Arabidopsis UDP-glucose dehydrogenase isoforms oxidize only UDP-glucose as a substrate. Nucleotide-sugars, which are converted by similar enzymes in bacteria, are not accepted as substrates for the Arabidopsis enzymes.
Enhanced gene trapping in mouse embryonic stem cells
Patricia Ruiz Noppinger
Harald von Melchner
- Gene trapping is used to introduce insertional mutations into genes of mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs). It is performed with gene trap vectors that simultaneously mutate and report the expression of the endogenous gene at the site of insertion and provide a DNA tag for rapid identification of the disrupted gene. Gene traps have been employed worldwide to assemble libraries of mouse ESC lines harboring mutations in single genes, which can be used to make mutant mice. However, most of the employed gene trap vectors require gene expression for reporting a gene trap event and therefore genes that are poorly expressed may be under-represented in the existing libraries. To address this problem, we have developed a novel class of gene trap vectors that can induce gene expression at insertion sites, thereby bypassing the problem of intrinsic poor expression. We show here that the insertion of the osteopontin enhancer into several conventional gene trap vectors significantly increases the gene trapping efficiency in high-throughput screens and facilitates the recovery of poorly expressed genes.
Mirror-induced behavior in the magpie (Pica pica) : evidence of self-recognition
- Comparative studies suggest that at least some bird species have evolved mental skills similar to those found in humans and apes. This is indicated by feats such as tool use, episodic-like memory, and the ability to use one´s own experience in predicting the behavior of conspecifics. It is, however, not yet clear whether these skills are accompanied by an understanding of the self. In apes, self-directed behavior in response to a mirror has been taken as evidence of self-recognition. We investigated mirror-induced behavior in the magpie, a songbird species from the crow family. As in apes, some individuals behaved in front of the mirror as if they were testing behavioral contingencies. When provided with a mark, magpies showed spontaneous mark-directed behavior. Our findings provide the first evidence of mirror self-recognition in a non-mammalian species. They suggest that essential components of human self-recognition have evolved independently in different vertebrate classes with a separate evolutionary history.
The crystal structure of Nep1 reveals an extended SPOUT-class methyltransferase fold and a pre-organized SAM-binding site
Alexander B. Taylor
Belinda Z. Leal
P. John Hart
- Ribosome biogenesis in eukaryotes requires the participation of a large number of ribosome assembly factors. The highly conserved eukaryotic nucleolar protein Nep1 has an essential but unknown function in 18S rRNA processing and ribosome biogenesis. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae the malfunction of a temperature-sensitive Nep1 protein (nep1-1ts) was suppressed by the addition of S-adenosylmethionine (SAM). This suggests the participation of Nep1 in a methyltransferase reaction during ribosome biogenesis. In addition, yeast Nep1 binds to a 6-nt RNA-binding motif also found in 18S rRNA and facilitates the incorporation of ribosomal protein Rps19 during the formation of pre-ribosomes. Here, we present the X-ray structure of the Nep1 homolog from the archaebacterium Methanocaldococcus jannaschii in its free form (2.2 Å resolution) and bound to the S-adenosylmethionine analog S-adenosylhomocysteine (SAH, 2.15 Å resolution) and the antibiotic and general methyltransferase inhibitor sinefungin (2.25 Å resolution). The structure reveals a fold which is very similar to the conserved core fold of the SPOUT-class methyltransferases but contains a novel extension of this common core fold. SAH and sinefungin bind to Nep1 at a preformed binding site that is topologically equivalent to the cofactor-binding site in other SPOUT-class methyltransferases. Therefore, our structures together with previous genetic data suggest that Nep1 is a genuine rRNA methyltransferase.
Can a Segulah free an Agunah? : Jewish beliefs and practices for locating a drowned body
- Bency Eichorn learns in kollel and, on the side, has been researching about various segulos. For his wedding he authored a book, Simchas Zion, discussing the segulah of keeping the afikomom from year-to-year. The post below is a small part of a much larger project on this segulah and has been adapted for the blog.