Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hot off the presses! Nov 30 PLoS Biol

The Nov 30 issue of the PLoS Biol is now up on Pubget (About PLoS Biol): if you're at a subscribing institution, just click the link in the latest link at the home page. (Note you'll only be able to get all the PDFs in the issue if your institution subscribes to Pubget.)

Latest Articles Include:

  • Open Engagement: Exploring Public Participation in the Biosciences
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000549 (2010)
  • Ancient DNA Indicates Farmers, not Just Farming, Spread West
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000535 (2010)
  • You Aren't Always What You Eat
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1001000 (2010)
  • There Goes the (Gene Expression) Neighbourhood Theory
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1001002 (2010)
  • Protein's "Part-Time Job" Reveals New Facet of Signaling Pathway
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1001001 (2010)
  • Functional Brain Imaging in the Clinical Assessment of Consciousness
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000548 (2010)
  • "Interactive Technology Assessment" and Beyond: the Field Trial of Genetically Modified Grapevines at INRA-Colmar
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000551 (2010)
  • The Alarming Proximity of Parasites
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000526 (2010)
  • Epigenetics of Royalty
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000532 (2010)
  • Ancient DNA from European Early Neolithic Farmers Reveals Their Near Eastern Affinities
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000536 (2010)
    In Europe, the Neolithic transition (8,000–4,000 b.c.) from hunting and gathering to agricultural communities was one of the most important demographic events since the initial peopling of Europe by anatomically modern humans in the Upper Paleolithic (40,000 b.c.). However, the nature and speed of this transition is a matter of continuing scientific debate in archaeology, anthropology, and human population genetics. To date, inferences about the genetic make up of past populations have mostly been drawn from studies of modern-day Eurasian populations, but increasingly ancient DNA studies offer a direct view of the genetic past. We genetically characterized a population of the earliest farming culture in Central Europe, the Linear Pottery Culture (LBK; 5,500–4,900 calibrated b.c.) and used comprehensive phylogeographic and population genetic analyses to locate its origins within the broader Eurasian region, and to trace potential dispersal routes into Europe. We clo! ned and sequenced the mitochondrial hypervariable segment I and designed two powerful SNP multiplex PCR systems to generate new mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal data from 21 individuals from a complete LBK graveyard at Derenburg Meerenstieg II in Germany. These results considerably extend the available genetic dataset for the LBK (n = 42) and permit the first detailed genetic analysis of the earliest Neolithic culture in Central Europe (5,500–4,900 calibrated b.c.). We characterized the Neolithic mitochondrial DNA sequence diversity and geographical affinities of the early farmers using a large database of extant Western Eurasian populations (n = 23,394) and a wide range of population genetic analyses including shared haplotype analyses, principal component analyses, multidimensional scaling, geographic mapping of genetic distances, and Bayesian Serial Simcoal analyses. The results reveal that the LBK population shared an affinity with the modern-day Near East and ! Anatolia, supporting a major genetic input from this area duri! ng the advent of farming in Europe. However, the LBK population also showed unique genetic features including a clearly distinct distribution of mitochondrial haplogroup frequencies, confirming that major demographic events continued to take place in Europe after the early Neolithic.
  • Evolutionary Relationships of Wild Hominids Recapitulated by Gut Microbial Communities
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000546 (2010)
    Multiple factors over the lifetime of an individual, including diet, geography, and physiologic state, will influence the microbial communities within the primate gut. To determine the source of variation in the composition of the microbiota within and among species, we investigated the distal gut microbial communities harbored by great apes, as present in fecal samples recovered within their native ranges. We found that the branching order of host-species phylogenies based on the composition of these microbial communities is completely congruent with the known relationships of the hosts. Although the gut is initially and continuously seeded by bacteria that are acquired from external sources, we establish that over evolutionary timescales, the composition of the gut microbiota among great ape species is phylogenetically conserved and has diverged in a manner consistent with vertical inheritance.
  • Pheromonal and Behavioral Cues Trigger Male-to-Female Aggression in Drosophila
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000541 (2010)
    Appropriate displays of aggression rely on the ability to recognize potential competitors. As in most species, Drosophila males fight with other males and do not attack females. In insects, sex recognition is strongly dependent on chemosensory communication, mediated by cuticular hydrocarbons acting as pheromones. While the roles of chemical and other sensory cues in stimulating male to female courtship have been well characterized in Drosophila, the signals that elicit aggression remain unclear. Here we show that when female pheromones or behavior are masculinized, males recognize females as competitors and switch from courtship to aggression. To masculinize female pheromones, a transgene carrying dsRNA for the sex determination factor transformer (traIR) was targeted to the pheromone producing cells, the oenocytes. Shortly after copulation males attacked these females, indicating that pheromonal cues can override other sensory cues. Surprisingly, masculinization of f! emale behavior by targeting traIR to the nervous system in an otherwise normal female also was sufficient to trigger male aggression. Simultaneous masculinization of both pheromones and behavior induced a complete switch in the normal male response to a female. Control males now fought rather than copulated with these females. In a reciprocal experiment, feminization of the oenocytes and nervous system in males by expression of transformer (traF) elicited high levels of courtship and little or no aggression from control males. Finally, when confronted with flies devoid of pheromones, control males attacked male but not female opponents, suggesting that aggression is not a default behavior in the absence of pheromonal cues. Thus, our results show that masculinization of either pheromones or behavior in females is sufficient to trigger male-to-female aggression. Moreover, by manipulating both the pheromonal profile and the fighting patterns displayed by the opponent, male beh! avioral responses towards males and females can be completely ! reversed. Therefore, both pheromonal and behavioral cues are used by Drosophila males in recognizing a conspecific as a competitor.
  • The Leukemia-Associated Mllt10/Af10-Dot1l Are Tcf4/β-Catenin Coactivators Essential for Intestinal Homeostasis
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000539 (2010)
    Wnt signaling maintains the undifferentiated state of intestinal crypt progenitor cells by inducing the formation of nuclear TCF4/β-catenin complexes. In colorectal cancer, activating mutations in Wnt pathway components cause inappropriate activation of TCF4/β-catenin-driven transcription. Despite the passage of a decade after the discovery of TCF4 and β-catenin as the molecular effectors of the Wnt signal, few transcriptional activators essential and unique to the regulation of this transcription program have been found. Using proteomics, we identified the leukemia-associated Mllt10/Af10 and the methyltransferase Dot1l as Tcf4/β-catenin interactors in mouse small intestinal crypts. Mllt10/Af10-Dot1l, essential for transcription elongation, are recruited to Wnt target genes in a β-catenin-dependent manner, resulting in H3K79 methylation over their coding regions in vivo in proliferative crypts of mouse small intestine in colorectal cancer and Wnt-inducible HEK293T! cells. Depletion of MLLT10/AF10 in colorectal cancer and Wnt-inducible HEK293T cells followed by expression array analysis identifies MLLT10/AF10 and DOT1L as essential activators to a large extent dedicated to Wnt target gene regulation. In contrast, previously published β-catenin coactivators p300 and BRG1 displayed a more pleiotropic target gene expression profile controlling Wnt and other pathways. tcf4, mllt10/af10, and dot1l are co-expressed in Wnt-driven tissues in zebrafish and essential for Wnt-reporter activity. Intestinal differentiation defects in apc-mutant zebrafish can be rescued by depletion of Mllt10 and Dot1l, establishing these genes as activators downstream of Apc in Wnt target gene activation in vivo. Morpholino-depletion of mllt10/af10-dot1l in zebrafish results in defects in intestinal homeostasis and a significant reduction in the in vivo expression of direct Wnt target genes and in the number of proliferative intestinal epithelial cells. We conclu! de that Mllt10/Af10-Dot1l are essential, largely dedicated act! ivators of Wnt-dependent transcription, critical for maintenance of intestinal proliferation and homeostasis. The methyltransferase DOT1L may present an attractive candidate for drug targeting in colorectal cancer.
  • A Post-Burst Afterdepolarization Is Mediated by Group I Metabotropic Glutamate Receptor-Dependent Upregulation of Cav2.3 R-Type Calcium Channels in CA1 Pyramidal Neurons
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000534 (2010)
    Activation of group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (subtypes mGluR1 and mGluR5) regulates neural activity in a variety of ways. In CA1 pyramidal neurons, activation of group I mGluRs eliminates the post-burst afterhyperpolarization (AHP) and produces an afterdepolarization (ADP) in its place. Here we show that upregulation of Cav2.3 R-type calcium channels is responsible for a component of the ADP lasting several hundred milliseconds. This medium-duration ADP is rapidly and reversibly induced by activation of mGluR5 and requires activation of phospholipase C (PLC) and release of calcium from internal stores. Effects of mGluR activation on subthreshold membrane potential changes are negligible but are large following action potential firing. Furthermore, the medium ADP exhibits a biphasic activity dependence consisting of short-term facilitation and longer-term inhibition. These findings suggest that mGluRs may dramatically alter the firing of CA1 pyramidal neurons ! via a complex, activity-dependent modulation of Cav2.3 R-type channels that are activated during spiking at physiologically relevant rates and patterns.
  • Microglial Interactions with Synapses Are Modulated by Visual Experience
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000527 (2010)
    Microglia are the immune cells of the brain. In the absence of pathological insult, their highly motile processes continually survey the brain parenchyma and transiently contact synaptic elements. Aside from monitoring, their physiological roles at synapses are not known. To gain insight into possible roles of microglia in the modification of synaptic structures, we used immunocytochemical electron microscopy, serial section electron microscopy with three-dimensional reconstructions, and two-photon in vivo imaging to characterize microglial interactions with synapses during normal and altered sensory experience, in the visual cortex of juvenile mice. During normal visual experience, most microglial processes displayed direct apposition with multiple synapse-associated elements, including synaptic clefts. Microglial processes were also distinctively surrounded by pockets of extracellular space. In terms of dynamics, microglial processes localized to the vicinity of smal! l and transiently growing dendritic spines, which were typically lost over 2 d. When experience was manipulated through light deprivation and reexposure, microglial processes changed their morphology, showed altered distributions of extracellular space, displayed phagocytic structures, apposed synaptic clefts more frequently, and enveloped synapse-associated elements more extensively. While light deprivation induced microglia to become less motile and changed their preference of localization to the vicinity of a subset of larger dendritic spines that persistently shrank, light reexposure reversed these behaviors. Taken together, these findings reveal different modalities of microglial interactions with synapses that are subtly altered by sensory experience. These findings suggest that microglia may actively contribute to the experience-dependent modification or elimination of a specific subset of synapses in the healthy brain.
  • Quantitative Control of Organ Shape by Combinatorial Gene Activity
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000538 (2010)
    The development of organs with particular shapes, like wings or flowers, depends on regional activity of transcription factors and signalling molecules. However, the mechanisms that link these molecular activities to the morphogenetic events underlying shape are poorly understood. Here we describe a combination of experimental and computational approaches that address this problem, applying them to a group of genes controlling flower shape in the Snapdragon (Antirrhinum). Four transcription factors are known to play a key role in the control of floral shape and asymmetry in Snapdragon. We use quantitative shape analysis of mutants for these factors to define principal components underlying flower shape variation. We show that each transcription factor has a specific effect on the shape and size of regions within the flower, shifting the position of the flower in shape space. These shifts are further analysed by generating double mutants and lines that express some of t! he genes ectopically. By integrating these observations with known gene expression patterns and interactions, we arrive at a combinatorial scheme for how regional effects on shape are genetically controlled. We evaluate our scheme by incorporating the proposed interactions into a generative model, where the developing flower is treated as a material sheet that grows according to how genes modify local polarities and growth rates. The petal shapes generated by the model show a good quantitative match with those observed experimentally for each petal in numerous genotypes, thus validating the hypothesised scheme. This article therefore shows how complex shapes can be accounted for by combinatorial effects of transcription factors on regional growth properties. This finding has implications not only for how shapes develop but also for how they may have evolved through tinkering with transcription factors and their targets.
  • Genetic Control of Organ Shape and Tissue Polarity
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000537 (2010)
    The mechanisms by which genes control organ shape are poorly understood. In principle, genes may control shape by modifying local rates and/or orientations of deformation. Distinguishing between these possibilities has been difficult because of interactions between patterns, orientations, and mechanical constraints during growth. Here we show how a combination of growth analysis, molecular genetics, and modelling can be used to dissect the factors contributing to shape. Using the Snapdragon (Antirrhinum) flower as an example, we show how shape development reflects local rates and orientations of tissue growth that vary spatially and temporally to form a dynamic growth field. This growth field is under the control of several dorsoventral genes that influence flower shape. The action of these genes can be modelled by assuming they modulate specified growth rates parallel or perpendicular to local orientations, established by a few key organisers of tissue polarity. Model! s in which dorsoventral genes only influence specified growth rates do not fully account for the observed growth fields and shapes. However, the data can be readily explained by a model in which dorsoventral genes also modify organisers of tissue polarity. In particular, genetic control of tissue polarity organisers at ventral petal junctions and distal boundaries allows both the shape and growth field of the flower to be accounted for in wild type and mutants. The results suggest that genetic control of tissue polarity organisers has played a key role in the development and evolution of shape.
  • A Polarised Population of Dynamic Microtubules Mediates Homeostatic Length Control in Animal Cells
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000542 (2010)
    Because physical form and function are intimately linked, mechanisms that maintain cell shape and size within strict limits are likely to be important for a wide variety of biological processes. However, while intrinsic controls have been found to contribute to the relatively well-defined shape of bacteria and yeast cells, the extent to which individual cells from a multicellular animal control their plastic form remains unclear. Here, using micropatterned lines to limit cell extension to one dimension, we show that cells spread to a characteristic steady-state length that is independent of cell size, pattern width, and cortical actin. Instead, homeostatic length control on lines depends on a population of dynamic microtubules that lead during cell extension, and that are aligned along the long cell axis as the result of interactions of microtubule plus ends with the lateral cell cortex. Similarly, during the development of the zebrafish neural tube, elongated neuroepi! thelial cells maintain a relatively well-defined length that is independent of cell size but dependent upon oriented microtubules. A simple, quantitative model of cellular extension driven by microtubules recapitulates cell elongation on lines, the steady-state distribution of microtubules, and cell length homeostasis, and predicts the effects of microtubule inhibitors on cell length. Together this experimental and theoretical analysis suggests that microtubule dynamics impose unexpected limits on cell geometry that enable cells to regulate their length. Since cells are the building blocks and architects of tissue morphogenesis, such intrinsically defined limits may be important for development and homeostasis in multicellular organisms.
  • Control of Directed Cell Migration In Vivo by Membrane-to-Cortex Attachment
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000544 (2010)
    Cell shape and motility are primarily controlled by cellular mechanics. The attachment of the plasma membrane to the underlying actomyosin cortex has been proposed to be important for cellular processes involving membrane deformation. However, little is known about the actual function of membrane-to-cortex attachment (MCA) in cell protrusion formation and migration, in particular in the context of the developing embryo. Here, we use a multidisciplinary approach to study MCA in zebrafish mesoderm and endoderm (mesendoderm) germ layer progenitor cells, which migrate using a combination of different protrusion types, namely, lamellipodia, filopodia, and blebs, during zebrafish gastrulation. By interfering with the activity of molecules linking the cortex to the membrane and measuring resulting changes in MCA by atomic force microscopy, we show that reducing MCA in mesendoderm progenitors increases the proportion of cellular blebs and reduces the directionality of cell mig! ration. We propose that MCA is a key parameter controlling the relative proportions of different cell protrusion types in mesendoderm progenitors, and thus is key in controlling directed migration during gastrulation.
  • WRAP53 Is Essential for Cajal Body Formation and for Targeting the Survival of Motor Neuron Complex to Cajal Bodies
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000521 (2010)
    The WRAP53 gene gives rise to a p53 antisense transcript that regulates p53. This gene also encodes a protein that directs small Cajal body–specific RNAs to Cajal bodies. Cajal bodies are nuclear organelles involved in diverse functions such as processing ribonucleoproteins important for splicing. Here we identify the WRAP53 protein as an essential factor for Cajal body maintenance and for directing the survival of motor neuron (SMN) complex to Cajal bodies. By RNA interference and immunofluorescence we show that Cajal bodies collapse without WRAP53 and that new Cajal bodies cannot be formed. By immunoprecipitation we find that WRAP53 associates with the Cajal body marker coilin, the splicing regulatory protein SMN, and the nuclear import receptor importinβ, and that WRAP53 is essential for complex formation between SMN–coilin and SMN–importinβ. Furthermore, depletion of WRAP53 leads to accumulation of SMN in the cytoplasm and prevents the SMN complex from reac! hing Cajal bodies. Thus, WRAP53 mediates the interaction between SMN and associated proteins, which is important for nuclear targeting of SMN and the subsequent localization of the SMN complex to Cajal bodies. Moreover, we detect reduced WRAP53–SMN binding in patients with spinal muscular atrophy, which is the leading genetic cause of infant mortality worldwide, caused by mutations in SMN1. This suggests that loss of WRAP53-mediated SMN trafficking contributes to spinal muscular atrophy.
  • Neighbourhood Continuity Is Not Required for Correct Testis Gene Expression in Drosophila
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000552 (2010)
    It is now widely accepted that gene organisation in eukaryotic genomes is non-random and it is proposed that such organisation may be important for gene expression and genome evolution. In particular, the results of several large-scale gene expression analyses in a range of organisms from yeast to human indicate that sets of genes with similar tissue-specific or temporal expression profiles are clustered within the genome in gene expression neighbourhoods. While the existence of neighbourhoods is clearly established, the underlying reason for this facet of genome organisation is currently unclear and there is little experimental evidence that addresses the genomic requisites for neighbourhood organisation. We report the targeted disruption of three well-defined male-specific gene expression neighbourhoods in the Drosophila genome by the synthesis of precisely mapped chromosomal inversions. We compare gene expression in individuals carrying inverted chromosomes with the! ir non-inverted but otherwise identical progenitors using whole-transcriptome microarray analysis, validating these data with specific quantitative real-time PCR assays. For each neighbourhood we generate and examine multiple inversions. We find no significant differences in the expression of genes that define each of the neighbourhoods. We further show that the inversions spatially separate both halves of a neighbourhood in the nucleus. Thus, models explaining neighbourhood organisation in terms of local sequence interactions, enhancer crosstalk, or short-range chromatin effects are unlikely to account for this facet of genome organisation. Our study challenges the notion that, at least in the case of the testis, expression neighbourhoods are a feature of eukaryotic genome organisation necessary for correct gene expression.
  • Phenotypic Consequences of Copy Number Variation: Insights from Smith-Magenis and Potocki-Lupski Syndrome Mouse Models
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000543 (2010)
    A large fraction of genome variation between individuals is comprised of submicroscopic copy number variation of genomic DNA segments. We assessed the relative contribution of structural changes and gene dosage alterations on phenotypic outcomes with mouse models of Smith-Magenis and Potocki-Lupski syndromes. We phenotyped mice with 1n (Deletion/+), 2n (+/+), 3n (Duplication/+), and balanced 2n compound heterozygous (Deletion/Duplication) copies of the same region. Parallel to the observations made in humans, such variation in gene copy number was sufficient to generate phenotypic consequences: in a number of cases diametrically opposing phenotypes were associated with gain versus loss of gene content. Surprisingly, some neurobehavioral traits were not rescued by restoration of the normal gene copy number. Transcriptome profiling showed that a highly significant propensity of transcriptional changes map to the engineered interval in the five assessed tissues. A statist! ically significant overrepresentation of the genes mapping to the entire length of the engineered chromosome was also found in the top-ranked differentially expressed genes in the mice containing rearranged chromosomes, regardless of the nature of the rearrangement, an observation robust across different cell lineages of the central nervous system. Our data indicate that a structural change at a given position of the human genome may affect not only locus and adjacent gene expression but also "genome regulation." Furthermore, structural change can cause the same perturbation in particular pathways regardless of gene dosage. Thus, the presence of a genomic structural change, as well as gene dosage imbalance, contributes to the ultimate phenotype.
  • Co-Evolution of Transcriptional Silencing Proteins and the DNA Elements Specifying Their Assembly
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000550 (2010)
    Co-evolution of transcriptional regulatory proteins and their sites of action has been often hypothesized but rarely demonstrated. Here we provide experimental evidence of such co-evolution in yeast silent chromatin, a finding that emerged from studies of hybrids formed between two closely related Saccharomyces species. A unidirectional silencing incompatibility between S. cerevisiae and S. bayanus led to a key discovery: asymmetrical complementation of divergent orthologs of the silent chromatin component Sir4. In S. cerevisiae/S. bayanus interspecies hybrids, ChIP-Seq analysis revealed a restriction against S. cerevisiae Sir4 associating with most S. bayanus silenced regions; in contrast, S. bayanus Sir4 associated with S. cerevisiae silenced loci to an even greater degree than did S. cerevisiae's own Sir4. Functional changes in silencer sequences paralleled changes in Sir4 sequence and a reduction in Sir1 family members in S. cerevisiae. Critically, species-specific! silencing of the S. bayanus HMR locus could be reconstituted in S. cerevisiae by co-transfer of the S. bayanus Sir4 and Kos3 (the ancestral relative of Sir1) proteins. As Sir1/Kos3 and Sir4 bind conserved silencer-binding proteins, but not specific DNA sequences, these rapidly evolving proteins served to interpret differences in the two species' silencers presumably involving emergent features created by the regulatory proteins that bind sequences within silencers. The results presented here, and in particular the high resolution ChIP-Seq localization of the Sir4 protein, provided unanticipated insights into the mechanism of silent chromatin assembly in yeast.
  • The DNA Methylome of Human Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000533 (2010)
    DNA methylation plays an important role in biological processes in human health and disease. Recent technological advances allow unbiased whole-genome DNA methylation (methylome) analysis to be carried out on human cells. Using whole-genome bisulfite sequencing at 24.7-fold coverage (12.3-fold per strand), we report a comprehensive (92.62%) methylome and analysis of the unique sequences in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from the same Asian individual whose genome was deciphered in the YH project. PBMC constitute an important source for clinical blood tests world-wide. We found that 68.4% of CpG sites and <0.2% of non-CpG sites were methylated, demonstrating that non-CpG cytosine methylation is minor in human PBMC. Analysis of the PBMC methylome revealed a rich epigenomic landscape for 20 distinct genomic features, including regulatory, protein-coding, non-coding, RNA-coding, and repeat sequences. Integration of our methylome data with the YH genome seq! uence enabled a first comprehensive assessment of allele-specific methylation (ASM) between the two haploid methylomes of any individual and allowed the identification of 599 haploid differentially methylated regions (hDMRs) covering 287 genes. Of these, 76 genes had hDMRs within 2 kb of their transcriptional start sites of which >80% displayed allele-specific expression (ASE). These data demonstrate that ASM is a recurrent phenomenon and is highly correlated with ASE in human PBMCs. Together with recently reported similar studies, our study provides a comprehensive resource for future epigenomic research and confirms new sequencing technology as a paradigm for large-scale epigenomics studies.
  • The Honey Bee Epigenomes: Differential Methylation of Brain DNA in Queens and Workers
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000506 (2010)
    In honey bees (Apis mellifera) the behaviorally and reproductively distinct queen and worker female castes derive from the same genome as a result of differential intake of royal jelly and are implemented in concert with DNA methylation. To determine if these very different diet-controlled phenotypes correlate with unique brain methylomes, we conducted a study to determine the methyl cytosine (mC) distribution in the brains of queens and workers at single-base-pair resolution using shotgun bisulfite sequencing technology. The whole-genome sequencing was validated by deep 454 sequencing of selected amplicons representing eight methylated genes. We found that nearly all mCs are located in CpG dinucleotides in the exons of 5,854 genes showing greater sequence conservation than non-methylated genes. Over 550 genes show significant methylation differences between queens and workers, revealing the intricate dynamics of methylation patterns. The distinctiveness of the differe! ntially methylated genes is underscored by their intermediate CpG densities relative to drastically CpG-depleted methylated genes and to CpG-richer non-methylated genes. We find a strong correlation between methylation patterns and splicing sites including those that have the potential to generate alternative exons. We validate our genome-wide analyses by a detailed examination of two transcript variants encoded by one of the differentially methylated genes. The link between methylation and splicing is further supported by the differential methylation of genes belonging to the histone gene family. We propose that modulation of alternative splicing is one mechanism by which DNA methylation could be linked to gene regulation in the honey bee. Our study describes a level of molecular diversity previously unknown in honey bees that might be important for generating phenotypic flexibility not only during development but also in the adult post-mitotic brain.
  • Control of Transcription by Cell Size
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000523 (2010)
    Cell size increases significantly with increasing ploidy. Differences in cell size and ploidy are associated with alterations in gene expression, although no direct connection has been made between cell size and transcription. Here we show that ploidy-associated changes in gene expression reflect transcriptional adjustment to a larger cell size, implicating cellular geometry as a key parameter in gene regulation. Using RNA-seq, we identified genes whose expression was altered in a tetraploid as compared with the isogenic haploid. A significant fraction of these genes encode cell surface proteins, suggesting an effect of the enlarged cell size on the differential regulation of these genes. To test this hypothesis, we examined expression of these genes in haploid mutants that also produce enlarged size. Surprisingly, many genes differentially regulated in the tetraploid are identically regulated in the enlarged haploids, and the magnitude of change in gene expression cor! relates with the degree of size enlargement. These results indicate a causal relationship between cell size and transcription, with a size-sensing mechanism that alters transcription in response to size. The genes responding to cell size are enriched for those regulated by two mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways, and components in those pathways were found to mediate size-dependent gene regulation. Transcriptional adjustment to enlarged cell size could underlie other cellular changes associated with polyploidy. The causal relationship between cell size and transcription suggests that cell size homeostasis serves a regulatory role in transcriptome maintenance.
  • Regulation of Na+/K+ ATPase Transport Velocity by RNA Editing
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000540 (2010)
    Because firing properties and metabolic rates vary widely, neurons require different transport rates from their Na+/K+ pumps in order to maintain ion homeostasis. In this study we show that Na+/K+ pump activity is tightly regulated by a novel process, RNA editing. Three codons within the squid Na+/K+ ATPase gene can be recoded at the RNA level, and the efficiency of conversion for each varies dramatically, and independently, between tissues. At one site, a highly conserved isoleucine in the seventh transmembrane span can be converted to a valine, a change that shifts the pump's intrinsic voltage dependence. Mechanistically, the removal of a single methyl group specifically targets the process of Na+ release to the extracellular solution, causing a higher turnover rate at the resting membrane potential.
  • The Translation Initiation Factor 3f (eIF3f) Exhibits a Deubiquitinase Activity Regulating Notch Activation
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000545 (2010)
    Activation of the mammalian Notch receptor after ligand binding relies on a succession of events including metalloprotease-cleavage, endocytosis, monoubiquitination, and eventually processing by the gamma-secretase, giving rise to a soluble, transcriptionally active molecule. The Notch1 receptor was proposed to be monoubiquitinated before its gamma-secretase cleavage; the targeted lysine has been localized to its submembrane domain. Investigating how this step might be regulated by a deubiquitinase (DUB) activity will provide new insight for understanding Notch receptor activation and downstream signaling. An immunofluorescence-based screening of an shRNA library allowed us to identify eIF3f, previously known as one of the subunits of the translation initiation factor eIF3, as a DUB targeting the activated Notch receptor. We show that eIF3f has an intrinsic DUB activity. Knocking down eIF3f leads to an accumulation of monoubiquitinated forms of activated Notch, an effe! ct counteracted by murine WT eIF3f but not by a catalytically inactive mutant. We also show that eIF3f is recruited to activated Notch on endocytic vesicles by the putative E3 ubiquitin ligase Deltex1, which serves as a bridging factor. Finally, catalytically inactive forms of eIF3f as well as shRNAs targeting eIF3f repress Notch activation in a coculture assay, showing that eIF3f is a new positive regulator of the Notch pathway. Our results support two new and provocative conclusions: (1) The activated form of Notch needs to be deubiquitinated before being processed by the gamma-secretase activity and entering the nucleus, where it fulfills its transcriptional function. (2) The enzyme accounting for this deubiquitinase activity is eIF3f, known so far as a translation initiation factor. These data improve our knowledge of Notch signaling but also open new avenues of research on the Zomes family and the translation initiation factors.
  • The Function and Three-Dimensional Structure of a Thromboxane A2/Cysteinyl Leukotriene-Binding Protein from the Saliva of a Mosquito Vector of the Malaria Parasite
    - PLoS Biol 8(11):e1000547 (2010)
    The highly expressed D7 protein family of mosquito saliva has previously been shown to act as an anti-inflammatory mediator by binding host biogenic amines and cysteinyl leukotrienes (CysLTs). In this study we demonstrate that AnSt-D7L1, a two-domain member of this group from Anopheles stephensi, retains the CysLT binding function seen in the homolog AeD7 from Aedes aegypti but has lost the ability to bind biogenic amines. Unlike any previously characterized members of the D7 family, AnSt-D7L1 has acquired the important function of binding thromboxane A2 (TXA2) and its analogs with high affinity. When administered to tissue preparations, AnSt-D7L1 abrogated Leukotriene C4 (LTC4)-induced contraction of guinea pig ileum and contraction of rat aorta by the TXA2 analog U46619. The protein also inhibited platelet aggregation induced by both collagen and U46619 when administered to stirred platelets. The crystal structure of AnSt-D7L1 contains two OBP-like domains and has a ! structure similar to AeD7. In AnSt-D7L1, the binding pocket of the C-terminal domain has been rearranged relative to AeD7, making the protein unable to bind biogenic amines. Structures of the ligand complexes show that CysLTs and TXA2 analogs both bind in the same hydrophobic pocket of the N-terminal domain. The TXA2 analog U46619 is stabilized by hydrogen bonding interactions of the ω-5 hydroxyl group with the phenolic hydroxyl group of Tyr 52. LTC4 and occupies a very similar position to LTE4 in the previously determined structure of its complex with AeD7. As yet, it is not known what, if any, new function has been acquired by the rearranged C-terminal domain. This article presents, to our knowledge, the first structural characterization of a protein from mosquito saliva that inhibits collagen mediated platelet activation.

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