Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hot off the presses! Jul 26 PLoS Biol

The Jul 26 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:

  • Why Biotrophs Can't Live Alone
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001097 (2011)
  • Different Paths, Same Structure: "Developmental Systems Drift" at Work
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001113 (2011)
  • Genetic Switch Underlies C. albicans Quick Change Act
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001108 (2011)
  • SRP and NAC: Guiding a Nascent Protein's First Steps
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001103 (2011)
  • Darwin in Mind: New Opportunities for Evolutionary Psychology
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001109 (2011)
    Evolutionary Psychology (EP) views the human mind as organized into many modules, each underpinned by psychological adaptations designed to solve problems faced by our Pleistocene ancestors. We argue that the key tenets of the established EP paradigm require modification in the light of recent findings from a number of disciplines, including human genetics, evolutionary biology, cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, and paleoecology. For instance, many human genes have been subject to recent selective sweeps; humans play an active, constructive role in co-directing their own development and evolution; and experimental evidence often favours a general process, rather than a modular account, of cognition. A redefined EP could use the theoretical insights of modern evolutionary biology as a rich source of hypotheses concerning the human mind, and could exploit novel methods from a variety of adjacent research fields.
  • The Reality of Pervasive Transcription
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1000625 (2011)
  • Response to "The Reality of Pervasive Transcription"
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001102 (2011)
  • Darwin's Theory of Descent with Modification, versus the Biblical Tree of Life
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001096 (2011)
  • Horace Judson (1931–2011)
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001104 (2011)
  • Invertebrate Post-Segregation Distorters: A New Embryo-Killing Gene
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001114 (2011)
    Cytoplasmic incompatibility induced by inherited intracellular bacteria of arthropods, and Medea elements found in flour beetles, are both forms of postsegregation distortion involving the killing of embryos in order to increase the ratio of progeny that inherit them. The recently described peel-zeel element of Caenorhabditis elegans also uses this mechanism; like Medea the genes responsible are in the nuclear genome but it shares a paternal mode of action with the bacteria. The peel-1 gene has now been shown to encode a potent toxin that is delivered by sperm, and rescued by zygotic transcription of the linked zeel-1. The predominance of self-fertilization in C. elegans has produced an unusual distribution pattern for a selfish genetic element; further population and functional studies will shed light on its evolution. The element might also have potential for use in disease control.
  • Nothing Iffy about HIF in the Hypothalamus
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001116 (2011)
    Two crucial biological processes are (1) the sensing and coordination of responses to low oxygen levels and (2) the control of food intake and energy expenditure. The hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) family of proteins is known to regulate responses to low oxygen, whereas neuropeptides derived from proopiomelanocortin (POMC) are implicated in the control of food intake and energy expenditure. It is now becoming apparent that these two apparently disparate processes may be linked, with the exciting discovery that HIF proteins can act in the brain to regulate food intake and energy expenditure as reported in the current issue of PLoS Biology. This primer discusses the traditional role of HIF proteins in terms of responding to oxygen levels in the periphery and also their new role in coordinating responses to nutrients in the brain through regulation of POMC.
  • Modernizing Reference Genome Assemblies
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001091 (2011)
  • Gene Gain and Loss during Evolution of Obligate Parasitism in the White Rust Pathogen of Arabidopsis thaliana
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001094 (2011)
    Biotrophic eukaryotic plant pathogens require a living host for their growth and form an intimate haustorial interface with parasitized cells. Evolution to biotrophy occurred independently in fungal rusts and powdery mildews, and in oomycete white rusts and downy mildews. Biotroph evolution and molecular mechanisms of biotrophy are poorly understood. It has been proposed, but not shown, that obligate biotrophy results from (i) reduced selection for maintenance of biosynthetic pathways and (ii) gain of mechanisms to evade host recognition or suppress host defence. Here we use Illumina sequencing to define the genome, transcriptome, and gene models for the obligate biotroph oomycete and Arabidopsis parasite, Albugo laibachii. A. laibachii is a member of the Chromalveolata, which incorporates Heterokonts (containing the oomycetes), Apicomplexa (which includes human parasites like Plasmodium falciparum and Toxoplasma gondii), and four other taxa. From comparisons with othe! r oomycete plant pathogens and other chromalveolates, we reveal independent loss of molybdenum-cofactor-requiring enzymes in downy mildews, white rusts, and the malaria parasite P. falciparum. Biotrophy also requires "effectors" to suppress host defence; we reveal RXLR and Crinkler effectors shared with other oomycetes, and also discover and verify a novel class of effectors, the "CHXCs", by showing effector delivery and effector functionality. Our findings suggest that evolution to progressively more intimate association between host and parasite results in reduced selection for retention of certain biosynthetic pathways, and particularly reduced selection for retention of molybdopterin-requiring biosynthetic pathways. These mechanisms are not only relevant to plant pathogenic oomycetes but also to human pathogens within the Chromalveolata.
  • A Novel Sperm-Delivered Toxin Causes Late-Stage Embryo Lethality and Transmission Ratio Distortion in C. elegans
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001115 (2011)
    The evolutionary fate of an allele ordinarily depends on its contribution to host fitness. Occasionally, however, genetic elements arise that are able to gain a transmission advantage while simultaneously imposing a fitness cost on their hosts. We previously discovered one such element in C. elegans that gains a transmission advantage through a combination of paternal-effect killing and zygotic self-rescue. Here we demonstrate that this element is composed of a sperm-delivered toxin, peel-1, and an embryo-expressed antidote, zeel-1. peel-1 and zeel-1 are located adjacent to one another in the genome and co-occur in an insertion/deletion polymorphism. peel-1 encodes a novel four-pass transmembrane protein that is expressed in sperm and delivered to the embryo via specialized, sperm-specific vesicles. In the absence of zeel-1, sperm-delivered PEEL-1 causes lethal defects in muscle and epidermal tissue at the 2-fold stage of embryogenesis. zeel-1 is expressed transiently ! in the embryo and encodes a novel six-pass transmembrane domain fused to a domain with sequence similarity to zyg-11, a substrate-recognition subunit of an E3 ubiquitin ligase. zeel-1 appears to have arisen recently, during an expansion of the zyg-11 family, and the transmembrane domain of zeel-1 is required and partially sufficient for antidote activity. Although PEEL-1 and ZEEL-1 normally function in embryos, these proteins can act at other stages as well. When expressed ectopically in adults, PEEL-1 kills a variety of cell types, and ectopic expression of ZEEL-1 rescues these effects. Our results demonstrate that the tight physical linkage between two novel transmembrane proteins has facilitated their co-evolution into an element capable of promoting its own transmission to the detriment of organisms carrying it.
  • Antagonism of LIN-17/Frizzled and LIN-18/Ryk in Nematode Vulva Induction Reveals Evolutionary Alterations in Core Developmental Pathways
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001110 (2011)
    Most diversity in animals and plants results from the modification of already existing structures. Many organ systems, for example, are permanently modified during evolution to create developmental and morphological diversity, but little is known about the evolution of the underlying developmental mechanisms. The theory of developmental systems drift proposes that the development of conserved morphological structures can involve large-scale modifications in their regulatory mechanisms. We test this hypothesis by comparing vulva induction in two genetically tractable nematodes, Caenorhabditis elegans and Pristionchus pacificus. Previous work indicated that the vulva is induced by epidermal growth factor (EGF)/RAS and WNT signaling in Caenorhabditis and Pristionchus, respectively. Here, we show that the evolution of vulva induction involves major molecular alterations and that this shift of signaling pathways involves a novel wiring of WNT signaling and the acquisition o! f novel domains in otherwise conserved receptors in Pristionchus vulva induction. First, Ppa-LIN-17/Frizzled acts as an antagonist of WNT signaling and suppresses the ligand Ppa-EGL-20 by ligand sequestration. Second, Ppa-LIN-18/Ryk transmits WNT signaling and requires inhibitory SH3 domain binding motifs, unknown from Cel-LIN-18/Ryk. Third, Ppa-LIN-18/Ryk signaling involves Axin and β-catenin and Ppa-axl-1/Axin is epistatic to Ppa-lin-18/Ryk. These results confirm developmental system drift as an important theory for the evolution of organ systems and they highlight the significance of protein modularity in signal transduction and the dynamics of signaling networks.
  • Generation of Healthy Mice from Gene-Corrected Disease-Specific Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001099 (2011)
    Using the murine model of tyrosinemia type 1 (fumarylacetoacetate hydrolase [FAH] deficiency; FAH−/− mice) as a paradigm for orphan disorders, such as hereditary metabolic liver diseases, we evaluated fibroblast-derived FAH−/−-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) as targets for gene correction in combination with the tetraploid embryo complementation method. First, after characterizing the FAH−/− iPS cell lines, we aggregated FAH−/−-iPS cells with tetraploid embryos and obtained entirely FAH−/−-iPS cell–derived mice that were viable and exhibited the phenotype of the founding FAH−/− mice. Then, we transduced FAH cDNA into the FAH−/−-iPS cells using a third-generation lentiviral vector to generate gene-corrected iPS cells. We could not detect any chromosomal alterations in these cells by high-resolution array CGH analysis, and after their aggregation with tetraploid embryos, we obtained fully iPS cell–derived healthy mice with an as! tonishing high efficiency for full-term development of up to 63.3%. The gene correction was validated functionally by the long-term survival and expansion of FAH-positive cells of these mice after withdrawal of the rescuing drug NTBC (2-(2-nitro-4-fluoromethylbenzoyl)-1,3-cyclohexanedione). Furthermore, our results demonstrate that both a liver-specific promoter (transthyretin, TTR)-driven FAH transgene and a strong viral promoter (from spleen focus-forming virus, SFFV)-driven FAH transgene rescued the FAH-deficiency phenotypes in the mice derived from the respective gene-corrected iPS cells. In conclusion, our data demonstrate that a lentiviral gene repair strategy does not abrogate the full pluripotent potential of fibroblast-derived iPS cells, and genetic manipulation of iPS cells in combination with tetraploid embryo aggregation provides a practical and rapid approach to evaluate the efficacy of gene correction of human diseases in mouse models.
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor Directs POMC Gene to Mediate Hypothalamic Glucose Sensing and Energy Balance Regulation
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001112 (2011)
    Hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) is a nuclear transcription factor that responds to environmental and pathological hypoxia to induce metabolic adaptation, vascular growth, and cell survival. Here we found that HIF subunits and HIF2α in particular were normally expressed in the mediobasal hypothalamus of mice. Hypothalamic HIF was up-regulated by glucose to mediate the feeding control of hypothalamic glucose sensing. Two underlying molecular pathways were identified, including suppression of PHDs by glucose metabolites to prevent HIF2α degradation and the recruitment of AMPK and mTOR/S6K to regulate HIF2α protein synthesis. HIF activation was found to directly control the transcription of POMC gene. Genetic approach was then employed to develop conditional knockout mice with HIF inhibition in POMC neurons, revealing that HIF loss-of-function in POMC neurons impaired hypothalamic glucose sensing and caused energy imbalance to promote obesity development. The metabolic e! ffects of HIF in hypothalamic POMC neurons were independent of leptin signaling or pituitary ACTH pathway. Hypothalamic gene delivery of HIF counteracted overeating and obesity under conditions of nutritional excess. In conclusion, HIF controls hypothalamic POMC gene to direct the central nutrient sensing in regulation of energy and body weight balance.
  • Synaptic Transmission from Horizontal Cells to Cones Is Impaired by Loss of Connexin Hemichannels
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001107 (2011)
    In the vertebrate retina, horizontal cells generate the inhibitory surround of bipolar cells, an essential step in contrast enhancement. For the last decades, the mechanism involved in this inhibitory synaptic pathway has been a major controversy in retinal research. One hypothesis suggests that connexin hemichannels mediate this negative feedback signal; another suggests that feedback is mediated by protons. Mutant zebrafish were generated that lack connexin 55.5 hemichannels in horizontal cells. Whole cell voltage clamp recordings were made from isolated horizontal cells and cones in flat mount retinas. Light-induced feedback from horizontal cells to cones was reduced in mutants. A reduction of feedback was also found when horizontal cells were pharmacologically hyperpolarized but was absent when they were pharmacologically depolarized. Hemichannel currents in isolated horizontal cells showed a similar behavior. The hyperpolarization-induced hemichannel current was s! trongly reduced in the mutants while the depolarization-induced hemichannel current was not. Intracellular recordings were made from horizontal cells. Consistent with impaired feedback in the mutant, spectral opponent responses in horizontal cells were diminished in these animals. A behavioral assay revealed a lower contrast-sensitivity, illustrating the role of the horizontal cell to cone feedback pathway in contrast enhancement. Model simulations showed that the observed modifications of feedback can be accounted for by an ephaptic mechanism. A model for feedback, in which the number of connexin hemichannels is reduced to about 40%, fully predicts the specific asymmetric modification of feedback. To our knowledge, this is the first successful genetic interference in the feedback pathway from horizontal cells to cones. It provides direct evidence for an unconventional role of connexin hemichannels in the inhibitory synapse between horizontal cells and cones. This is an imp! ortant step in resolving a long-standing debate about the unus! ual form of (ephaptic) synaptic transmission between horizontal cells and cones in the vertebrate retina.
  • Formation of the Long Range Dpp Morphogen Gradient
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001111 (2011)
    The TGF-β homolog Decapentaplegic (Dpp) acts as a secreted morphogen in the Drosophila wing disc, and spreads through the target tissue in order to form a long range concentration gradient. Despite extensive studies, the mechanism by which the Dpp gradient is formed remains controversial. Two opposing mechanisms have been proposed: receptor-mediated transcytosis (RMT) and restricted extracellular diffusion (RED). In these scenarios the receptor for Dpp plays different roles. In the RMT model it is essential for endocytosis, re-secretion, and thus transport of Dpp, whereas in the RED model it merely modulates Dpp distribution by binding it at the cell surface for internalization and subsequent degradation. Here we analyzed the effect of receptor mutant clones on the Dpp profile in quantitative mathematical models representing transport by either RMT or RED. We then, using novel genetic tools, experimentally monitored the actual Dpp gradient in wing discs containing rec! eptor gain-of-function and loss-of-function clones. Gain-of-function clones reveal that Dpp binds in vivo strongly to the type I receptor Thick veins, but not to the type II receptor Punt. Importantly, results with the loss-of-function clones then refute the RMT model for Dpp gradient formation, while supporting the RED model in which the majority of Dpp is not bound to Thick veins. Together our results show that receptor-mediated transcytosis cannot account for Dpp gradient formation, and support restricted extracellular diffusion as the main mechanism for Dpp dispersal. The properties of this mechanism, in which only a minority of Dpp is receptor-bound, may facilitate long-range distribution.
  • Hyphal Development in Candida albicans Requires Two Temporally Linked Changes in Promoter Chromatin for Initiation and Maintenance
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001105 (2011)
    Phenotypic plasticity is common in development. For Candida albicans, the most common cause of invasive fungal infections in humans, morphological plasticity is its defining feature and is critical for its pathogenesis. Unlike other fungal pathogens that exist primarily in either yeast or hyphal forms, C. albicans is able to switch reversibly between yeast and hyphal growth forms in response to environmental cues. Although many regulators have been found involved in hyphal development, the mechanisms of regulating hyphal development and plasticity of dimorphism remain unclear. Here we show that hyphal development involves two sequential regulations of the promoter chromatin of hypha-specific genes. Initiation requires a rapid but temporary disappearance of the Nrg1 transcriptional repressor of hyphal morphogenesis via activation of the cAMP-PKA pathway. Maintenance requires promoter recruitment of Hda1 histone deacetylase under reduced Tor1 (target of rapamycin) signal! ing. Hda1 deacetylates a subunit of the NuA4 histone acetyltransferase module, leading to eviction of the NuA4 acetyltransferase module and blockage of Nrg1 access to promoters of hypha-specific genes. Promoter recruitment of Hda1 for hyphal maintenance happens only during the period when Nrg1 is gone. The sequential regulation of hyphal development by the activation of the cAMP-PKA pathway and reduced Tor1 signaling provides a molecular mechanism for plasticity of dimorphism and how C. albicans adapts to the varied host environments in pathogenesis. Such temporally linked regulation of promoter chromatin by different signaling pathways provides a unique mechanism for integrating multiple signals during development and cell fate specification.
  • Coupled Evolution of Transcription and mRNA Degradation
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001106 (2011)
    mRNA levels are determined by the balance between transcription and mRNA degradation, and while transcription has been extensively studied, very little is known regarding the regulation of mRNA degradation and its coordination with transcription. Here we examine the evolution of mRNA degradation rates between two closely related yeast species. Surprisingly, we find that around half of the evolutionary changes in mRNA degradation were coupled to transcriptional changes that exert opposite effects on mRNA levels. Analysis of mRNA degradation rates in an interspecific hybrid further suggests that opposite evolutionary changes in transcription and in mRNA degradation are mechanistically coupled and were generated by the same individual mutations. Coupled changes are associated with divergence of two complexes that were previously implicated both in transcription and in mRNA degradation (Rpb4/7 and Ccr4-Not), as well as with sequence divergence of transcription factor bindi! ng motifs. These results suggest that an opposite coupling between the regulation of transcription and that of mRNA degradation has shaped the evolution of gene regulation in yeast.
  • Defining the Specificity of Cotranslationally Acting Chaperones by Systematic Analysis of mRNAs Associated with Ribosome-Nascent Chain Complexes
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001100 (2011)
    Polypeptides exiting the ribosome must fold and assemble in the crowded environment of the cell. Chaperones and other protein homeostasis factors interact with newly translated polypeptides to facilitate their folding and correct localization. Despite the extensive efforts, little is known about the specificity of the chaperones and other factors that bind nascent polypeptides. To address this question we present an approach that systematically identifies cotranslational chaperone substrates through the mRNAs associated with ribosome-nascent chain-chaperone complexes. We here focused on two Saccharomyces cerevisiae chaperones: the Signal Recognition Particle (SRP), which acts cotranslationally to target proteins to the ER, and the Nascent chain Associated Complex (NAC), whose function has been elusive. Our results provide new insights into SRP selectivity and reveal that NAC is a general cotranslational chaperone. We found surprising differential substrate specificity ! for the three subunits of NAC, which appear to recognize distinct features within nascent chains. Our results also revealed a partial overlap between the sets of nascent polypeptides that interact with NAC and SRP, respectively, and showed that NAC modulates SRP specificity and fidelity in vivo. These findings give us new insight into the dynamic interplay of chaperones acting on nascent chains. The strategy we used should be generally applicable to mapping the specificity, interplay, and dynamics of the cotranslational protein homeostasis network.
  • The Cryo-EM Structure of a Complete 30S Translation Initiation Complex from Escherichia coli
    - PLoS Biol 9(7):e1001095 (2011)
    Formation of the 30S initiation complex (30S IC) is an important checkpoint in regulation of gene expression. The selection of mRNA, correct start codon, and the initiator fMet-tRNAfMet requires the presence of three initiation factors (IF1, IF2, IF3) of which IF3 and IF1 control the fidelity of the process, while IF2 recruits fMet-tRNAfMet. Here we present a cryo-EM reconstruction of the complete 30S IC, containing mRNA, fMet-tRNAfMet, IF1, IF2, and IF3. In the 30S IC, IF2 contacts IF1, the 30S subunit shoulder, and the CCA end of fMet-tRNAfMet, which occupies a novel P/I position (P/I1). The N-terminal domain of IF3 contacts the tRNA, whereas the C-terminal domain is bound to the platform of the 30S subunit. Binding of initiation factors and fMet-tRNAfMet induces a rotation of the head relative to the body of the 30S subunit, which is likely to prevail through 50S subunit joining until GTP hydrolysis and dissociation of IF2 take place. The structure provides insights! into the mechanism of mRNA selection during translation initiation.

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