Network self-organization explains the statistics and dynamics of synaptic connection strengths in cortex
- The information processing abilities of neural circuits arise from their synaptic connection patterns. Understanding the laws governing these connectivity patterns is essential for understanding brain function. The overall distribution of synaptic strengths of local excitatory connections in cortex and hippocampus is long-tailed, exhibiting a small number of synaptic connections of very large efficacy. At the same time, new synaptic connections are constantly being created and individual synaptic connection strengths show substantial fluctuations across time. It remains unclear through what mechanisms these properties of neural circuits arise and how they contribute to learning and memory. In this study we show that fundamental characteristics of excitatory synaptic connections in cortex and hippocampus can be explained as a consequence of self-organization in a recurrent network combining spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP), structural plasticity and different forms of homeostatic plasticity. In the network, associative synaptic plasticity in the form of STDP induces a rich-get-richer dynamics among synapses, while homeostatic mechanisms induce competition. Under distinctly different initial conditions, the ensuing self-organization produces long-tailed synaptic strength distributions matching experimental findings. We show that this self-organization can take place with a purely additive STDP mechanism and that multiplicative weight dynamics emerge as a consequence of network interactions. The observed patterns of fluctuation of synaptic strengths, including elimination and generation of synaptic connections and long-term persistence of strong connections, are consistent with the dynamics of dendritic spines found in rat hippocampus. Beyond this, the model predicts an approximately power-law scaling of the lifetimes of newly established synaptic connection strengths during development. Our results suggest that the combined action of multiple forms of neuronal plasticity plays an essential role in the formation and maintenance of cortical circuits.
Publication of original research in urologic journals - a neglected orphan?
Roman A. Blaheta
- The pathophysiologic mechanisms behind urologic disease are increasingly being elucidated. The object of this investigation was to evaluate the publication policies of urologic journals during a period of progressively better understanding and management of urologic disease. Based on the ISI Web of Knowledge Journal Citation Reports and the PubMed database, the number and percentage of original experimental, original clinical, review or commentarial articles published between 2002–2010 in six leading urologic journals were analyzed. “British Journal of Urology International”, “European Urology”, “Urologic Oncology-Seminars and Original Investigations” (“Urologic Oncology”), “Urology”, “The Journal of Urology”, and “World Journal of Urology” were chosen, because these journals publish articles in all four categories. The publication policies of the six journals were very heterogeneous during the time period from 2002 to 2010. The percentage of original experimental and original clinical articles, related to all categories, remained the same in “British Journal of Urology International”, “Urologic Oncology”, “Urology” and “The Journal of Urology”. The percentage of experimental reports in “World Journal of Urology” between 2002–2010 significantly increased from 10 to 20%. A distinct elevation in the percentage of commentarial articles accompanied by a reduction of clinical articles became evident in “European Urology” which significantly correlated with a large increase in the journal’s impact factor. No clearly superior policy could be identified with regard to a general increase in the impact factors from all the journals. The publication policy of urologic journals does not expressly reflect the increase in scientific knowledge, which has occurred over the period 2002–2010. One way of increasing the exposure of urologists to research and expand the interface between experimental and clinical research, would be to enlarge the percentage of experimental articles published. There is no indication that such policy would be detrimental to a journal’s impact factor.
Changes in the prevalence, treatment and control of hypertension in Germany? : A clinical-epidemiological study of 50.000 primary care patients
Alexander Michael Labeit
Günter K. Stalla
Andreas Michael Zeiher
- INTRODUCTION: Medical societies have developed guidelines for the detection, treatment and control of hypertension (HTN). Our analysis assessed the extent to which such guidelines were implemented in Germany in 2003 and 2001.
METHODS: Using standardized clinical diagnostic and treatment appraisal forms, blood pressure levels and patient questionnaires for 55,518 participants from the cross-sectional Targets and Essential Data for Commitment of Treatment (DETECT) study (2003) were analyzed. Physician's diagnosis of hypertension (HTN(doc)) was defined as coding hypertension in the clinical appraisal questionnaire. Alternative definitions used were physician's diagnosis or the patient's self-reported diagnosis of hypertension (HTN(doc,pat)), physician's or patient's self-reported diagnosis or a BP measurement with a systolic BP≥140 mmHg and/or a diastolic BP≥90 (HTN(doc,pat,bp)) and diagnosis according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (HTN(NHANES)). The results were compared with the similar German HYDRA study to examine whether changes had occurred in diagnosis, treatment and adequate blood pressure control (BP below 140/90 mmHg) since 2001. Factors associated with pharmacotherapy and control were determined.
RESULTS: The overall prevalence rate for hypertension was 35.5% according to HTN(doc) and 56.0% according to NHANES criteria. Among those defined by NHANES criteria, treatment and control rates were 56.0% and 20.3% in 2003, and these rates had improved from 55.3% and 18.0% in 2001. Significant predictors of receiving antihypertensive medication were: increasing age, female sex, obesity, previous myocardial infarction and the prevalence of comorbid conditions such as coronary heart disease (CHD), hyperlipidemia and diabetes mellitus (DM). Significant positive predictors of adequate blood pressure control were CHD and antihypertensive medication. Inadequate control was associated with increasing age, male sex and obesity.
CONCLUSIONS: Rates of treated and controlled hypertension according to NHANES criteria in DETECT remained low between 2001 and 2003, although there was some minor improvement.
Invasive Ponto-Caspian amphipods and fish increase the distribution range of the acanthocephalan Pomphorhynchus tereticollis in the river Rhine
Harry W. Palm
- Non-indigenous species that become invasive are one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss worldwide. In various freshwater systems in Europe, populations of native amphipods and fish are progressively displaced by highly adaptive non-indigenous species that can perform explosive range extensions. A total of 40 Ponto-Caspian round gobies Neogobius melanostomus from the Rhine River near Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, were examined for metazoan parasites and feeding ecology. Three metazoan parasite species were found: two Nematoda and one Acanthocephala. The two Nematoda, Raphidascaris acus and Paracuaria adunca, had a low prevalence of 2.5%. The Acanthocephala, Pomphorhynchus tereticollis, was the predominant parasite species, reaching a level of 90.0% prevalence in the larval stage, correlated with fish size. In addition, four invasive amphipod species, Corophium curvispinum (435 specimens), Dikerogammarus villosus (5,454), Echinogammarus trichiatus (2,695) and Orchestia cavimana (1,448) were trapped at the sampling site. Only D. villosus was infected with P. tereticollis at a prevalence of 0.04%. The invasive goby N. melanostomus mainly preys on these non-indigenous amphipods, and may have replaced native amphipods in the transmission of P. tereticollis into the vertebrate paratenic host. This study gives insight into a potential parasite-host system that consists mainly of invasive species, such as the Ponto-Caspian fish and amphipods in the Rhine. We discuss prospective distribution and migration pathways of non-indigenous vertebrate (round goby) and invertebrates (amphipods) under special consideration of parasite dispersal.
Patterns of post-glacial genetic differentiation in marginal populations of a marine microalga
Tilman Jens Alpermann
Rosa Isabel Figueroa
- This study investigates the genetic structure of an eukaryotic microorganism, the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium ostenfeldii, from the Baltic Sea, a geologically young and ecologically marginal brackish water estuary which is predicted to support evolution of distinct, genetically impoverished lineages of marine macroorganisms. Analyses of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequences and Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism (AFLP) of 84 A. ostenfeldii isolates from five different Baltic locations and multiple external sites revealed that Baltic A. ostenfeldii is phylogenetically differentiated from other lineages of the species and micro-geographically fragmented within the Baltic Sea. Significant genetic differentiation (FST) between northern and southern locations was correlated to geographical distance. However, instead of discrete genetic units or continuous genetic differentiation, the analysis of population structure suggests a complex and partially hierarchic pattern of genetic differentiation. The observed pattern suggests that initial colonization was followed by local differentiation and varying degrees of dispersal, most likely depending on local habitat conditions and prevailing current systems separating the Baltic Sea populations. Local subpopulations generally exhibited low levels of overall gene diversity. Association analysis suggests predominately asexual reproduction most likely accompanied by frequency shifts of clonal lineages during planktonic growth. Our results indicate that the general pattern of genetic differentiation and reduced genetic diversity of Baltic populations found in large organisms also applies to microscopic eukaryotic organisms.
PI3K inhibition enhances doxorubicin-induced apoptosis in sarcoma cells
- We searched for a drug capable of sensitization of sarcoma cells to doxorubicin (DOX). We report that the dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitor PI103 enhances the efficacy of DOX in several sarcoma cell lines and interacts with DOX in the induction of apoptosis. PI103 decreased the expression of MDR1 and MRP1, which resulted in DOX accumulation. However, the enhancement of DOX-induced apoptosis was unrelated to DOX accumulation. Neither did it involve inhibition of mTOR. Instead, the combination treatment of DOX plus PI103 activated Bax, the mitochondrial apoptosis pathway, and caspase 3. Caspase 3 activation was also observed in xenografts of sarcoma cells in nude mice upon combination of DOX with the specific PI3K inhibitor GDC-0941. Although the increase in apoptosis did not further impact on tumor growth when compared to the efficient growth inhibition by GDC-0941 alone, these findings suggest that inhibition of PI3K may improve DOX-induced proapoptotic effects in sarcoma. Taken together with similar recent studies of neuroblastoma- and glioblastoma-derived cells, PI3K inhibition seems to be a more general option to sensitize tumor cells to anthracyclines.
Feasibility of azacitidine added to standard chemotherapy in older patients with acute myeloid leukemia - a randomised SAL pilot study
Christian Hubertus Brandts
Wolfgang E. Berdel
- INTRODUCTION: Older patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) experience short survival despite intensive chemotherapy. Azacitidine has promising activity in patients with low proliferating AML. The aim of this dose-finding part of this trial was to evaluate feasibility and safety of azacitidine combined with a cytarabine- and daunorubicin-based chemotherapy in older patients with AML.
TRIAL DESIGN: Prospective, randomised, open, phase II trial with parallel group design and fixed sample size.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: Patients aged 61 years or older, with untreated acute myeloid leukemia with a leukocyte count of <20,000/µl at the time of study entry and adequate organ function were eligible. Patients were randomised to receive azacitidine either 37.5 (dose level 1) or 75 mg/sqm (dose level 2) for five days before each cycle of induction (7+3 cytarabine plus daunorubicine) and consolidation (intermediate-dose cytarabine) therapy. Dose-limiting toxicity was the primary endpoint.
RESULTS: Six patients each were randomised into each dose level and evaluable for analysis. No dose-limiting toxicity occurred in either dose level. Nine serious adverse events occurred in five patients (three in the 37.5 mg, two in the 75 mg arm) with two fatal outcomes. Two patients at the 37.5 mg/sqm dose level and four patients at the 75 mg/sqm level achieved a complete remission after induction therapy. Median overall survival was 266 days and median event-free survival 215 days after a median follow up of 616 days.
CONCLUSIONS: The combination of azacitidine 75 mg/sqm with standard induction therapy is feasible in older patients with AML and was selected as an investigational arm in the randomised controlled part of this phase-II study, which is currently halted due to an increased cardiac toxicity observed in the experimental arm.
Different patterns of white matter degeneration using multiple diffusion indices and volumetric data in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer patients
Gilberto Sousa Alves
Carlos Eduardo Alves
- Alzheimeŕs disease (AD) represents the most prevalent neurodegenerative disorder that causes cognitive decline in old age. In its early stages, AD is associated with microstructural abnormalities in white matter (WM). In the current study, multiple indices of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and brain volumetric measurements were employed to comprehensively investigate the landscape of AD pathology. The sample comprised 58 individuals including cognitively normal subjects (controls), amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and AD patients. Relative to controls, both MCI and AD subjects showed widespread changes of anisotropic fraction (FA) in the corpus callosum, cingulate and uncinate fasciculus. Mean diffusivity and radial changes were also observed in AD patients in comparison with controls. After controlling for the gray matter atrophy the number of regions of significantly lower FA in AD patients relative to controls was decreased; nonetheless, unique areas of microstructural damage remained, e.g., the corpus callosum and uncinate fasciculus. Despite sample size limitations, the current results suggest that a combination of secondary and primary degeneration occurrs in MCI and AD, although the secondary degeneration appears to have a more critical role during the stages of disease involving dementia.
3D ultrastructural organization of whole Chlamydomonas reinhardtii cells studied by nanoscale soft x-ray tomography
Achilleas S. Frangakis
- The complex architecture of their structural elements and compartments is a hallmark of eukaryotic cells. The creation of high resolution models of whole cells has been limited by the relatively low resolution of conventional light microscopes and the requirement for ultrathin sections in transmission electron microscopy. We used soft x-ray tomography to study the 3D ultrastructural organization of whole cells of the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii at unprecedented spatial resolution. Intact frozen hydrated cells were imaged using the natural x-ray absorption contrast of the sample without any staining. We applied different fiducial-based and fiducial-less alignment procedures for the 3D reconstructions. The reconstructed 3D volumes of the cells show features down to 30 nm in size. The whole cell tomograms reveal ultrastructural details such as nuclear envelope membranes, thylakoids, basal apparatus, and flagellar microtubule doublets. In addition, the x-ray tomograms provide quantitative data from the cell architecture. Therefore, nanoscale soft x-ray tomography is a new valuable tool for numerous qualitative and quantitative applications in plant cell biology.
Intrinsic up-regulation of 2-AG favors an area specific neuronal survival in different in vitro models of neuronal damage
Ingo Jürgen Bechmann
- BACKGROUND: The endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG) acts as a retrograde messenger and modulates synaptic signaling e. g. in the hippocampus. 2-AG also exerts neuroprotective effects under pathological situations. To better understand the mechanism beyond physiological signaling we used Organotypic Entorhino-Hippocampal Slice Cultures (OHSC) and investigated the temporal regulation of 2-AG in different cell subsets during excitotoxic lesion and dendritic lesion of long range projections in the enthorhinal cortex (EC), dentate gyrus (DG) and the cornu ammonis region 1 (CA1).
RESULTS: 2-AG levels were elevated 24 h after excitotoxic lesion in CA1 and DG (but not EC) and 24 h after perforant pathway transection (PPT) in the DG only. After PPT diacylglycerol lipase alpha (DAGL) protein, the synthesizing enzyme of 2-AG was decreased when Dagl mRNA expression and 2-AG levels were enhanced. In contrast to DAGL, the 2-AG hydrolyzing enzyme monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) showed no alterations in total protein and mRNA expression after PPT in OHSC. MAGL immunoreaction underwent a redistribution after PPT and excitotoxic lesion since MAGL IR disappeared in astrocytes of lesioned OHSC. DAGL and MAGL immunoreactions were not detectable in microglia at all investigated time points. Thus, induction of the neuroprotective endocannabinoid 2-AG might be generally accomplished by down-regulation of MAGL in astrocytes after neuronal lesions.
CONCLUSION: Increase in 2-AG levels during secondary neuronal damage reflects a general neuroprotective mechanism since it occurred independently in both different lesion models. This intrinsic up-regulation of 2-AG is synergistically controlled by DAGL and MAGL in neurons and astrocytes and thus represents a protective system for neurons that is involved in dendritic reorganisation.