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1.  Molecular Phylogeny of the Leafy Liverwort Lejeunea (Porellales): Evidence for a Neotropical Origin, Uneven Distribution of Sexual Systems and Insufficient Taxonomy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82547.
Lejeunea is a largely epiphytic, subcosmopolitan liverwort genus with a complex taxonomic history. Species circumscriptions and their relationships are subject to controversy; biogeographic history and diversification through time are largely unknown.
Methodology and Results
We employed sequences of two chloroplast regions (trnL-trnF, rbcL) and the nuclear ribosomal ITS region of 332 accessions to explore the phylogeny of the Harpalejeunea-Lejeunea-Microlejeunea complex. Lejeunea forms a well-supported clade that splits into two main lineages corresponding to L. subg. Lejeunea and L. subg. Crossotolejeunea. Neotropical accessions dominate early diverging lineages of both main clades of Lejeunea. This pattern suggests an origin in the Neotropics followed by several colonizations from the Neotropics into the Paleotropics and vice versa. Most Afro-Madagascan clades are related to Asian clades. Several temperate Lejeunea radiations were detected. Eighty two of the 91 investigated Lejeunea species could be identified to species level. Of these 82 species, 54 were represented by multiple accessions (25 para- or polyphyletic, 29 monophyletic). Twenty nine of the 36 investigated species of L. subg. Lejeunea were monoicous and 7 dioicous. Within L. subg. Crossotolejeunea, 15 of the 46 investigated species were monoicous and 31 dioicous. Some dioicous as well as some monoicous species have disjunct ranges.
We present the first global phylogeny of Lejeunea and the first example of a Neotropical origin of a Pantropical liverwort genus. Furthermore, we provide evidence for the Neotropics as a cradle of Lejeunea lineages and detect post-colonization radiations in Asia, Australasia, Afro-Madagascar and Europe. Dioicy/monoicy shifts are likely non-randomly distributed. The presented phylogeny points to the need of integrative taxonomical studies to clarify many Lejeunea binomials. Most importantly, it provides a framework for future studies on the diversification of this lineage in space and time, especially in the context of sexual systems in Lejeuneaceae.
PMCID: PMC3867362  PMID: 24367522
2.  Impacts of long-term enhanced UV-B radiation on bryophytes in two sub-Arctic heathland sites of contrasting water availability 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(3):557-565.
Background and Aims
Anthropogenic depletion of stratospheric ozone in Arctic latitudes has resulted in an increase of ultraviolet-B radiation (UV-B) reaching the biosphere. UV-B exposure is known to reduce above-ground biomass and plant height, to increase DNA damage and cause accumulation of UV-absorbing compounds in polar plants. However, many studies on Arctic mosses tended to be inconclusive. The importance of different water availability in influencing UV-B impacts on lower plants in the Arctic has been poorly explored and might partially explain the observed wide variation of responses, given the importance of water in controlling bryophyte physiology. This study aimed to assess the long-term responses of three common sub-Arctic bryophytes to enhanced UV-B radiation (+UV-B) and to elucidate the influence of water supply on those responses.
Responses of three sub-Arctic bryophytes (the mosses Hylocomium splendens and Polytrichum commune and the liverwort Barbilophozia lycopodioides) to +UV-B for 15 and 13 years were studied in two field experiments using lamps for UV-B enhancement with identical design and located in neighbouring areas with contrasting water availability (naturally mesic and drier sites). Responses evaluated included bryophyte abundance, growth, sporophyte production and sclerophylly; cellular protection by accumulation of UV-absorbing compounds, β-carotene, xanthophylls and development of non-photochemical quenching (NPQ); and impacts on photosynthesis performance by maximum quantum yield (Fv /Fm) and electron transport rate (ETR) through photosystem II (PSII) and chlorophyll concentrations.
Responses were species specific: H. splendens responded most to +UV-B, with reduction in both annual growth (–22 %) and sporophyte production (–44 %), together with increased β-carotene, violaxanthin, total chlorophyll and NPQ, and decreased zeaxanthin and de-epoxidation of the xanthophyll cycle pool (DES). Barbilophozia lycopodioides responded less to +UV-B, showing increased β-carotene and sclerophylly and decreased UV-absorbing compounds. Polytrichum commune only showed small morphogenetic changes. No effect of UV-B on bryophyte cover was observed. Water availability had profound effects on bryophyte ecophysiology, and plants showed, in general, lower growth and ETR, together with a higher photoprotection in the drier site. Water availability also influenced bryophyte responses to +UV-B and, in particular, responses were less detectable in the drier site.
Impacts of UV-B exposure on Arctic bryophytes were significant, in contrast to modest or absent UV-B effects measured in previous studies. The impacts were more easily detectable in species with high plasticity such as H. splendens and less obvious, or more subtle, under drier conditions. Species biology and water supply greatly influences the impact of UV-B on at least some Arctic bryophytes and could contribute to the wide variation of responses observed previously.
PMCID: PMC3158694  PMID: 21803739
Enhanced long-term UV-B; water availability; sub-Arctic bryophytes; xanthophylls; chlorophyll fluorescence; sporophytes
3.  Does the silver moss Bryum argenteum exhibit sex-specific patterns in vegetative growth rate, asexual fitness or prezygotic reproductive investment? 
Annals of Botany  2011;107(6):897-907.
Background and Aims
Expected life history trade-offs associated with sex differences in reproductive investment are often undetected in seed plants, with the difficulty arising from logistical issues of conducting controlled experiments. By controlling genotype, age and resource status of individuals, a bryophyte was assessed for sex-specific and location-specific patterns of vegetative, asexual and sexual growth/reproduction across a regional scale.
Twelve genotypes (six male, six female) of the dioecious bryophyte Bryum argenteum were subcultured to remove environmental effects, regenerated asexually to replicate each genotype 16 times, and grown over a period of 92 d. Plants were assessed for growth rates, asexual and sexual reproductive traits, and allocation to above- and below-ground regenerative biomass.
Key Results
The degree of sexual versus asexual reproductive investment appears to be under genetic control, with three distinct ecotypes found in this study. Protonemal growth rate was positively correlated with asexual reproduction and sexual reproduction, whereas asexual reproduction was negatively correlated (appeared to trade-off) with vegetative growth (shoot production). No sex-specific trade-offs were detected. Female sex-expressing shoots were longer than males, but the sexes did not differ in growth traits, asexual traits, sexual induction times, or above- and below-ground biomass. Males, however, had much higher rates of inflorescence production than females, which translated into a significantly higher (24x) prezygotic investment for males relative to females.
Evidence for three distinct ecotypes is presented for a bryophyte based on regeneration traits. Prior to zygote production, the sexes of this bryophyte did not differ in vegetative growth traits but significantly differed in reproductive investment, with the latter differences potentially implicated in the strongly biased female sex ratio. The disparity between males and females for prezygotic reproductive investment is the highest known for bryophytes.
PMCID: PMC3080617  PMID: 21320878
Bryum argenteum; silver moss; bryophyte; sex ratio; reproductive investment; ecotype; trade-off; gender specific fitness; asexual reproduction; sexual reproduction; protonema; inflorescence
4.  Vegetative and reproductive innovations of early land plants: implications for a unified phylogeny. 
As the oldest extant lineages of land plants, bryophytes provide a living laboratory in which to evaluate morphological adaptations associated with early land existence. In this paper we examine reproductive and structural innovations in the gametophyte and sporophyte generations of hornworts, liverworts, mosses and basal pteridophytes. Reproductive features relating to spermatogenesis and the architecture of motile male gametes are overviewed and evaluated from an evolutionary perspective. Phylogenetic analyses of a data set derived from spermatogenesis and one derived from comprehensive morphogenetic data are compared with a molecular analysis of nuclear and mitochondrial small subunit rDNA sequences. Although relatively small because of a reliance on water for sexual reproduction, gametophytes of bryophytes are the most elaborate of those produced by any land plant. Phenotypic variability in gametophytic habit ranges from leafy to thalloid forms with the greatest diversity exhibited by hepatics. Appendages, including leaves, slime papillae and hairs, predominate in liverworts and mosses, while hornwort gametophytes are strictly thalloid with no organized external structures. Internalization of reproductive and vegetative structures within mucilage-filled spaces is an adaptive strategy exhibited by hornworts. The formative stages of gametangial development are similar in the three bryophyte groups, with the exception that in mosses apical growth is intercalated into early organogenesis, a feature echoed in moss sporophyte ontogeny. A monosporangiate, unbranched sporophyte typifies bryophytes, but developmental and structural innovations suggest the three bryophyte groups diverged prior to elaboration of this generation. Sporophyte morphogenesis in hornworts involves non-synchronized sporogenesis and the continued elongation of the single sporangium, features unique among archegoniates. In hepatics, elongation of the sporophyte seta and archegoniophore is rapid and requires instantaneous wall expandability and hydrostatic support. Unicellular, spiralled elaters and capsule dehiscence through the formation of four regular valves are autapomorphies of liverworts. Sporophytic sophistications in the moss clade include conducting tissue, stomata, an assimilative layer and an elaborate peristome for extended spore dispersal. Characters such as stomata and conducting cells that are shared among sporophvtes of mosses, hornworts and pteridophytes are interpreted as parallelisms and not homologies. Our phylogenetic analysis of three different data sets is the most comprehensive to date and points to a single phylogenetic solution for the evolution of basal embryophytes. Hornworts are supported as the earliest divergent embryophyte clade with a moss/liverwort clade sister to tracheophytes. Among pteridophytes, lycophytes are monophyletic and an assemblage containing ferns, Equisetum and psilophytes is sister to seed plants. Congruence between morphological and molecular hypotheses indicates that these data sets are tracking the same phylogenetic signal and reinforces our phylogenetic conclusions. It appears that total evidence approaches are valuable in resolving ancient radiations such as those characterizing the evolution of early embryophytes. More information on land plant phylogeny can be found at: http: // landplants/index.html.
PMCID: PMC1692784  PMID: 10905609
5.  Female-specific gene expression in dioecious liverwort Pellia endiviifolia is developmentally regulated and connected to archegonia production 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:168.
In flowering plants a number of genes have been identified which control the transition from a vegetative to generative phase of life cycle. In bryophytes representing basal lineage of land plants, there is little data regarding the mechanisms that control this transition. Two species from bryophytes - moss Physcomitrella patens and liverwort Marchantia polymorpha are under advanced molecular and genetic research. The goal of our study was to identify genes connected to female gametophyte development and archegonia production in the dioecious liverwort Pellia endiviifolia species B, which is representative of the most basal lineage of the simple thalloid liverworts.
The utility of the RDA-cDNA technique allowed us to identify three genes specifically expressed in the female individuals of P.endiviifolia: PenB_CYSP coding for cysteine protease, PenB_MT2 and PenB_MT3 coding for Mysterious Transcripts1 and 2 containing ORFs of 143 and 177 amino acid residues in length, respectively. The exon-intron structure of all three genes has been characterized and pre-mRNA processing was investigated. Interestingly, five mRNA isoforms are produced from the PenB_MT2 gene, which result from alternative splicing within the second and third exon. All observed splicing events take place within the 5′UTR and do not interfere with the coding sequence. All three genes are exclusively expressed in the female individuals, regardless of whether they were cultured in vitro or were collected from a natural habitat. Moreover we observed ten-fold increased transcripts level for all three genes in the archegonial tissue in comparison to the vegetative parts of the same female thalli grown in natural habitat suggesting their connection to archegonia development.
We have identified three genes which are specifically expressed in P.endiviifolia sp B female gametophytes. Moreover, their expression is connected to the female sex-organ differentiation and is developmentally regulated. The contribution of the identified genes may be crucial for successful liverwort sexual reproduction.
PMCID: PMC4074843  PMID: 24939387
Liverwort; Pellia; Archegonia development; Sexual reproduction; Dioecious gametophytes; Gene expression
6.  Impact of Land-Use Intensity and Productivity on Bryophyte Diversity in Agricultural Grasslands 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51520.
While bryophytes greatly contribute to plant diversity of semi-natural grasslands, little is known about the relationships between land-use intensity, productivity, and bryophyte diversity in these habitats. We recorded vascular plant and bryophyte vegetation in 85 agricultural used grasslands in two regions in northern and central Germany and gathered information on land-use intensity. To assess grassland productivity, we harvested aboveground vascular plant biomass and analyzed nutrient concentrations of N, P, K, Ca and Mg. Further we calculated mean Ellenberg indicator values of vascular plant vegetation. We tested for effects of land-use intensity and productivity on total bryophyte species richness and on the species richness of acrocarpous (small & erect) and pleurocarpous (creeping, including liverworts) growth forms separately. Bryophyte species were found in almost all studied grasslands, but species richness differed considerably between study regions in northern Germany (2.8 species per 16 m2) and central Germany (6.4 species per 16 m2) due environmental differences as well as land-use history. Increased fertilizer application, coinciding with high mowing frequency, reduced bryophyte species richness significantly. Accordingly, productivity estimates such as plant biomass and nitrogen concentration were strongly negatively related to bryophyte species richness, although productivity decreased only pleurocarpous species. Ellenberg indicator values for nutrients proved to be useful indicators of species richness and productivity. In conclusion, bryophyte composition was strongly dependent on productivity, with smaller bryophytes that were likely negatively affected by greater competition for light. Intensive land-use, however, can also indirectly decrease bryophyte species richness by promoting grassland productivity. Thus, increasing productivity is likely to cause a loss of bryophyte species and a decrease in species diversity.
PMCID: PMC3520803  PMID: 23251563
7.  Projected Range Contractions of European Protected Oceanic Montane Plant Communities: Focus on Climate Change Impacts Is Essential for Their Future Conservation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95147.
Global climate is rapidly changing and while many studies have investigated the potential impacts of this on the distribution of montane plant species and communities, few have focused on those with oceanic montane affinities. In Europe, highly sensitive bryophyte species reach their optimum occurrence, highest diversity and abundance in the north-west hyperoceanic regions, while a number of montane vascular plant species occur here at the edge of their range. This study evaluates the potential impact of climate change on the distribution of these species and assesses the implications for EU Habitats Directive-protected oceanic montane plant communities. We applied an ensemble of species distribution modelling techniques, using atlas data of 30 vascular plant and bryophyte species, to calculate range changes under projected future climate change. The future effectiveness of the protected area network to conserve these species was evaluated using gap analysis. We found that the majority of these montane species are projected to lose suitable climate space, primarily at lower altitudes, or that areas of suitable climate will principally shift northwards. In particular, rare oceanic montane bryophytes have poor dispersal capacity and are likely to be especially vulnerable to contractions in their current climate space. Significantly different projected range change responses were found between 1) oceanic montane bryophytes and vascular plants; 2) species belonging to different montane plant communities; 3) species categorised according to different biomes and eastern limit classifications. The inclusion of topographical variables in addition to climate, significantly improved the statistical and spatial performance of models. The current protected area network is projected to become less effective, especially for specialised arctic-montane species, posing a challenge to conserving oceanic montane plant communities. Conservation management plans need significantly greater focus on potential climate change impacts, including models with higher-resolution species distribution and environmental data, to aid these communities' long-term survival.
PMCID: PMC3994024  PMID: 24752011
8.  Altitudinal changes in temperature responses of net photosynthesis and dark respiration in tropical bryophytes 
Annals of Botany  2012;111(3):455-465.
Background and Aims
There is a conspicuous increase of poikilohydric organisms (mosses, liverworts and macrolichens) with altitude in the tropics. This study addresses the hypothesis that the lack of bryophytes in the lowlands is due to high-temperature effects on the carbon balance. In particular, it is tested experimentally whether temperature responses of CO2-exchange rates would lead to higher respiratory carbon losses at night, relative to potential daily gains, in lowland compared with lower montane forests.
Gas-exchange measurements were used to determine water-, light-, CO2- and temperature-response curves of net photosynthesis and dark respiration of 18 tropical bryophyte species from three altitudes (sea level, 500 m and 1200 m) in Panama.
Key Results
Optimum temperatures of net photosynthesis were closely related to mean temperatures in the habitats in which the species grew at the different altitudes. The ratio of dark respiration to net photosynthesis at mean ambient night and day temperatures did not, as expected, decrease with altitude. Water-, light- and CO2-responses varied between species but not systematically with altitude.
Drivers other than temperature-dependent metabolic rates must be more important in explaining the altitudinal gradient in bryophyte abundance. This does not discard near-zero carbon balances as a major problem for lowland species, but the main effect of temperature probably lies in increasing evaporation rates, thus restricting the time available for photosynthetic carbon gain, rather than in increasing nightly respiration rates. Since optimum temperatures for photosynthesis were so fine tuned to habitat temperatures we analysed published temperature responses of bryophyte species worldwide and found the same pattern on the large scale as we found along the tropical mountain slope we studied.
PMCID: PMC3579435  PMID: 23258418
Altitudinal gradient; bryophytes; carbon balance; dark respiration; gas-exchange measurements; hepatics; liverworts; mosses; net photosynthesis; photosynthesis-response curves; temperature; tropical rain forest
9.  Slipping through the Cracks: Rubber Plantation Is Unsuitable Breeding Habitat for Frogs in Xishuangbanna, China 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73688.
Conversion of tropical forests into agriculture may present a serious risk to amphibian diversity if amphibians are not able to use agricultural areas as habitat. Recently, in Xishuangbanna Prefecture, Yunnan Province – a hotspot of frog diversity within China – two-thirds of the native tropical rainforests have been converted into rubber plantation agriculture. We conducted surveys and experiments to quantify habitat use for breeding and non-breeding life history activities of the native frog species in rainforest, rubber plantation and other human impacted sites. Rubber plantation sites had the lowest species richness in our non-breeding habitat surveys and no species used rubber plantation sites as breeding habitat. The absence of breeding was likely not due to intrinsic properties of the rubber plantation pools, as our experiments indicated that rubber plantation pools were suitable for tadpole growth and development. Rather, the absence of breeding in the rubber plantation was likely due to a misalignment of breeding and non-breeding habitat preferences. Analyses of our breeding surveys showed that percent canopy cover over pools was the strongest environmental variable influencing breeding site selection, with species exhibiting preferences for pools under both high and low canopy cover. Although rubber plantation pools had high canopy cover, the only species that bred in high canopy cover sites used the rainforest for both non-breeding and breeding activities, completing their entire life cycle in the rainforest. Conversely, the species that did use the rubber plantation for non-breeding habitat preferred to breed in low canopy sites, also avoiding breeding in the rubber plantation. Rubber plantations are likely an intermediate habitat type that ‘slips through the cracks’ of species habitat preferences and is thus avoided for breeding. In summary, unlike the rainforests they replaced, rubber plantations alone may not be able to support frog populations.
PMCID: PMC3769397  PMID: 24040026
10.  Reproductive and Competitive Interactions Among Gametophytes of the Allotetraploid Fern Dryopteris corleyi and its Two Diploid Parents 
Annals of Botany  2008;102(3):353-359.
Background and Aims
Several models predict that the establishment of polyploids within diploid populations is enhanced by non-random mating (i.e. selfing and assortative mating) of cytotypes and by a higher relative fitness of polyploids. This report assesses the role that antheridiogens (i.e. maleness-inducing pheromones) and intercytotype differences in growth rate have on polyploid performance.
Three buckler-fern species were studied: the allotetraploid Dryopteris corleyi and its diploid parents, D. aemula and D. oreades. In one experiment, gametophytes of these species were cultured under rich growth conditions to compare the timing of gametangia production. The substrata on which these gametophytes had grown were used as antheridiogen sources in a second experiment. The three species were combined as source and target of antheridiogen (i.e. nine species pairs). Timing of antheridia production and gametophyte size were determined after those antheridiogen treatments.
Key Results
Under rich growth conditions the allotetraploid produced archegonia earlier than those of diploid parents. Female gametophytes of the three species produced antheridiogens that inhibited growth and favoured maleness both within and among species. Gametophyte size was similar in the three species but antheridia formed earlier in the allotetraploid.
Unisexuality, promoted by non-specific antheridiogens, enhances random mating both within and among species. The resulting hybridization can favour the reproductive exclusion of the allopolyploid in sites where it is outnumbered by diploids. However, the earlier production of gametangia in the allotetraploid favours assortative mating and may thus counterbalance reproductive exclusion.
PMCID: PMC2701796  PMID: 18567915
Allopolyploidy; antheridiogen; assortative mating; Dryopteris aemula; Dryopteris corleyi; Dryopteris oreades; gametophytes; gender expression; minority cytotype exclusion
11.  Widespread Presence of Human BOULE Homologs among Animals and Conservation of Their Ancient Reproductive Function 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(7):e1001022.
Sex-specific traits that lead to the production of dimorphic gametes, sperm in males and eggs in females, are fundamental for sexual reproduction and accordingly widespread among animals. Yet the sex-biased genes that underlie these sex-specific traits are under strong selective pressure, and as a result of adaptive evolution they often become divergent. Indeed out of hundreds of male or female fertility genes identified in diverse organisms, only a very small number of them are implicated specifically in reproduction in more than one lineage. Few genes have exhibited a sex-biased, reproductive-specific requirement beyond a given phylum, raising the question of whether any sex-specific gametogenesis factors could be conserved and whether gametogenesis might have evolved multiple times. Here we describe a metazoan origin of a conserved human reproductive protein, BOULE, and its prevalence from primitive basal metazoans to chordates. We found that BOULE homologs are present in the genomes of representative species of each of the major lineages of metazoans and exhibit reproductive-specific expression in all species examined, with a preponderance of male-biased expression. Examination of Boule evolution within insect and mammalian lineages revealed little evidence for accelerated evolution, unlike most reproductive genes. Instead, purifying selection was the major force behind Boule evolution. Furthermore, loss of function of mammalian Boule resulted in male-specific infertility and a global arrest of sperm development remarkably similar to the phenotype in an insect boule mutation. This work demonstrates the conservation of a reproductive protein throughout eumetazoa, its predominant testis-biased expression in diverse bilaterian species, and conservation of a male gametogenic requirement in mice. This shows an ancient gametogenesis requirement for Boule among Bilateria and supports a model of a common origin of spermatogenesis.
Author Summary
While sexual reproduction is widespread among animals, it remains enigmatic to what extent sexual reproduction is conserved and when sex-specific gametogenesis (spermatogenesis and oogenesis) originated in animals. Here we demonstrate the presence of the reproductive-specific protein Boule throughout bilaterally-symmetric animals (Bilateria) and the conservation of its male reproductive function in mice. Examination of Boule evolution in insect and mammalian lineages, representing the Protostome and Deuterostome clades of bilateral animals, failed to detect any evidence for accelerated evolution. Instead, purifying selection is the major force behind Boule evolution. Further investigation of Boule homologs among Deuterostome species revealed reproduction-specific expression, with a strong prevalence of testis-biased expression. We further determined the function of a deuterostomian Boule homolog by inactivating Boule in mice (a representative mammal, a class of Deuterostomes). Like its counterpart in Drosophila (a representative of the opposing Protostome clade), mouse Boule is also required only for male reproduction. Loss of mouse Boule prevents sperm production, resulting in a global arrest of spermatogenesis in remarkable similarity to that of Drosophila boule mutants. Our findings are consistent with a common origin for male gametogenesis among metazoans and reveal the high conservation of a reproduction-specific protein among bilaterian animals.
PMCID: PMC2904765  PMID: 20657660
12.  Ploidy manipulation of the gametophyte, endosperm and sporophyte in nature and for crop improvement: a tribute to Professor Stanley J. Peloquin (1921–2008) 
Annals of Botany  2009;104(5):795-807.
Emeritus Campbell-Bascom Professor Stanley J. Peloquin was an internationally renowned plant geneticist and breeder who made exceptional contributions to the quantity, quality and sustainable supply of food for the world from his innovative and extensive scientific contributions. For five decades, Dr Peloquin merged basic research in plant reproduction, cytology, cytogenetics, genetics, potato (Solanum tuberosum) improvement and education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Successive advances across these five decades redefined scientific comprehension of reproductive variation, its genetic control, genetic effects, evolutionary impact and utility for breeding. In concert with the International Potato Center (CIP), he and others translated the advances into application, resulting in large benefits on food production worldwide, exemplifying the importance of integrated innovative university research and graduate education to meet domestic and international needs.
Dr Peloquin is known to plant breeders, geneticists, international agricultural economists and potato researchers for his enthusiastic and incisive contributions to genetic enhancement of potato using haploids, 2n gametes and wild Solanum species; for his pioneering work on potato cultivation through true seed; and as mentor of a new generation of plant breeders worldwide. The genetic enhancement of potato, the fourth most important food crop worldwide, benefited significantly from expanded germplasm utilization and advanced reproductive genetic knowledge, which he and co-workers, including many former students, systematically transformed into applied breeding methods. His research on plant sexual reproduction included subjects such as haploidization and polyploidization, self- and cross-incompatibility, cytoplasmic male sterility and restorer genes, gametophytic/sporophytic heterozygosity and male fertility, as well as endosperm dosages and seed development. By defining methods of half-tetrad analysis and new cytological techniques, he elucidated modes, mechanisms and genetic controls and effects of 2n gametes in Solanum. Ramifications extend to many other crops and plants, in both basic and applied sciences.
Based upon a foundation of genetics, cytogenetics and plant reproductive biology, Dr Peloquin and co-workers developed methods to use 2n gametes and haploids for breeding, and used them to move genes for important horticultural traits from wild tuber-bearing Solanum species to cultivated potato for the betterment of agriculture. The resulting potato germplasm included combinations of yield, adaptation, quality and disease resistance traits that were previously unavailable. This elite plant germplasm was utilized and distributed to 85 countries by the CIP, because it not only increased potato yields and quality, it also broadened the adaptation of potato to lowland tropical regions, where humanity has benefited from this addition to their food supply.
PMCID: PMC2749530  PMID: 19689972
2n gametes; endosperm balance number; haploid; Solanum; true potato seed
13.  Bryophyte Species Richness and Composition along an Altitudinal Gradient in Gongga Mountain, China 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58131.
An investigation of terrestrial bryophyte species diversity and community structure along an altitudinal gradient from 2,001 to 4,221 m a.s.l. in Gongga Mountain in Sichuan, China was carried out in June 2010. Factors which might affect bryophyte species composition and diversity, including climate, elevation, slope, depth of litter, vegetation type, soil pH and soil Eh, were examined to understand the altitudinal feature of bryophyte distribution. A total of 14 representative elevations were chosen along an altitudinal gradient, with study sites at each elevation chosen according to habitat type (forests, grasslands) and accessibility. At each elevation, three 100 m × 2 m transects that are 50 m apart were set along the contour line, and three 50 cm × 50 cm quadrats were set along each transect at an interval of 30 m. Species diversity, cover, biomass, and thickness of terrestrial bryophytes were examined. A total of 165 species, including 42 liverworts and 123 mosses, are recorded in Gongga mountain. Ground bryophyte species richness does not show any clear elevation trend. The terrestrial bryophyte cover increases with elevation. The terrestrial bryophyte biomass and thickness display a clear humped relationship with the elevation, with the maximum around 3,758 m. At this altitude, biomass is 700.3 g m−2 and the maximum thickness is 8 cm. Bryophyte distribution is primarily associated with the depth of litter, the air temperature and the precipitation. Further studies are necessary to include other epiphytes types and vascular vegetation in a larger altitudinal range.
PMCID: PMC3589371  PMID: 23472146
14.  Plant-Associated Methylobacteria as Co-Evolved Phytosymbionts 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2007;2(2):74-78.
Due to their wall-associated pectin metabolism, growing plant cells emit significant amounts of the one-carbon alcohol methanol. Pink-pigmented microbes of the genus Methylobacterium that colonize the surfaces of leaves (epiphytes) are capable of growth on this volatile C1-compound as sole source of carbon and energy. In this article the results of experiments with germ-free (gnotobiotic) sporophytes of angiosperms (sunflower, maize) and gametophytes of bryophytes (a moss and two liverwort species) are summarized. The data show that methylobacteria do not stimulate the growth of these angiosperms, but organ development in moss protonemata and in thalli of liverworts is considerably enhanced. Since methylobacteria produce and secrete cytokinins and auxin, a model of plant-microbe-interaction (symbiosis) is proposed in which the methanol-consuming bacteria are viewed as coevolved partners of the gametophyte that determine its growth, survival and reproduction (fitness). This symbiosis is restricted to the haploid cells of moisture-dependent “living fossil” plants; it does not apply to the diploid sporophytes of higher embryophytes, which are fully adapted to life on land and apparently produce sufficient amounts of endogenous phytohormones.
PMCID: PMC2633902  PMID: 19516971
epiphytes; coevolution; symbiosis; methylobacteria; phytohormones; phyllosphere; plant-microbe interaction
15.  Long-lived sperm in the geothermal bryophyte Pohlia nutans 
Biology Letters  2009;5(6):857-860.
Non-vascular plants rely on sperm to cross the distance between male and female reproductive organs for fertilization and sexual reproduction to occur. The majority of non-vascular plants have separate sexes, and thus, this distance may be a few millimetres to many metres. Because sperm need water for transport, it has been assumed that sperm lifespans are short and that this type of sexual reproduction limits the expansion of non-vascular plants in terrestrial environments. However, little data is available on the lifespan of sperm in non-vascular plants, and none is available for bryophytes, the group thought to have first colonized terrestrial habitats. Here, we documented the lifespan of sperm of Pohlia nutans, collected from a geothermal spring's area, and tested the effects of variation under environmental conditions on this lifespan. Surprisingly, 20 per cent of the sperm were still motile after 100 h, and sperm lifespan was not significantly affected by temperature variation between 22 and 60°C. Lifespan was significantly affected by sperm dilution and temperatures above 75°C. These results suggest the need to reconsider the importance of sperm motility in bryophyte fertilization.
PMCID: PMC2827980  PMID: 19640871
geothermal; bryophyte; plant; reproduction; sperm
16.  Bryophyte Species Richness on Retention Aspens Recovers in Time but Community Structure Does Not 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93786.
Green-tree retention is a forest management method in which some living trees are left on a logged area. The aim is to offer ‘lifeboats’ to support species immediately after logging and to provide microhabitats during and after forest re-establishment. Several studies have shown immediate decline in bryophyte diversity after retention logging and thus questioned the effectiveness of this method, but longer term studies are lacking. Here we studied the epiphytic bryophytes on European aspen (Populus tremula L.) retention trees along a 30-year chronosequence. We compared the bryophyte flora of 102 ‘retention aspens’ on 14 differently aged retention sites with 102 ‘conservation aspens’ on 14 differently aged conservation sites. We used a Bayesian community-level modelling approach to estimate the changes in bryophyte species richness, abundance (area covered) and community structure during 30 years after logging. Using the fitted model, we estimated that two years after logging both species richness and abundance of bryophytes declined, but during the following 20–30 years both recovered to the level of conservation aspens. However, logging-induced changes in bryophyte community structure did not fully recover over the same time period. Liverwort species showed some or low potential to benefit from lifeboating and high potential to re-colonise as time since logging increases. Most moss species responded similarly, but two cushion-forming mosses benefited from the logging disturbance while several weft- or mat-forming mosses declined and did not re-colonise in 20–30 years. We conclude that retention trees do not function as equally effective lifeboats for all bryophyte species but are successful in providing suitable habitats for many species in the long-term. To be most effective, retention cuts should be located adjacent to conservation sites, which may function as sources of re-colonisation and support the populations of species that require old-growth forests.
PMCID: PMC3978069  PMID: 24710329
17.  Alteration of Sexual Reproduction and Genetic Diversity in the Kelp Species Laminaria digitata at the Southern Limit of Its Range 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102518.
Adaptation to marginal habitats at species range-limits has often been associated with parthenogenetic reproduction in terrestrial animals and plants. Laboratory observations have shown that brown algae exhibit a high propensity for parthenogenesis by various mechanisms. The kelp Laminaria digitata is an important component of the ecosystem in Northern European rocky intertidal habitats. We studied four L. digitata populations for the effects of marginality on genetic diversity and sexual reproduction. Two populations were marginal: One (Locquirec, in Northern Brittany) was well within the geographic range, but was genetically isolated from other populations by large stretches of sandy beaches. Another population was at the range limits of the species (Quiberon, in Southern Brittany) and was exposed to much higher seasonal temperature changes. Microsatellite analyses confirmed that these populations showed decreased genetic and allelic diversity, consistent with marginality and genetic isolation. Sporophytes from both marginal populations showed greatly diminished spore-production compared to central populations, but only the southern-limit population (Quiberon) showed a high propensity for producing unreduced (2N) spores. Unreduced 2N spores formed phenotypically normal gametophytes with nuclear area consistent with ≥2N DNA contents, and microsatellite studies suggested these were produced at least in part by automixis. However, despite this being the dominant path of spore production in Quiberon sporophyte individuals, the genetic evidence indicated the population was maintained mostly by sexual reproduction. Thus, although spore production and development showed the expected tendency of geographical parthenogenesis in marginal populations, this appeared to be a consequence of maladaptation, rather than an adaptation to, life in a marginal habitat.
PMCID: PMC4096927  PMID: 25019953
18.  The origin of the sporophyte shoot in land plants: a bryological perspective 
Annals of Botany  2012;110(5):935-941.
Land plants (embryophytes) are monophyletic and encompass four major clades: liverworts, mosses, hornworts and polysporangiophytes. The liverworts are resolved as the earliest divergent lineage and the mosses as sister to a crown clade formed by the hornworts and polysporangiophytes (lycophytes, monilophytes and seed plants). Alternative topologies resolving the hornworts as sister to mosses plus polysporangiophytes are less well supported. Sporophyte development in liverworts depends only on embryonic formative cell divisions. A transient basal meristem contributes part of the sporophyte in mosses. The sporophyte body in hornworts and polysporangiophytes develops predominantly by post-embryonic meristematic activity.
This paper explores the origin of the sporophyte shoot in terms of changes in embryo organization. Pressure towards amplification of the sporangium-associated photosynthetic apparatus was a major driver of sporophyte evolution. Starting from a putative ancestral condition in which a transient basal meristem produced a sporangium-supporting seta, we postulate that in the hornwort–polysporangiophyte lineage the basal meristem acquired indeterminate meristematic activity and ectopically expressed the sporangium morphogenetic programme. The resulting sporophyte body plan remained substantially unaltered in hornworts, whereas in polysporangiophytes the persistent meristem shifted from a mid-embryo to a superficial position and was converted into an ancestral shoot apical meristem with the evolution of sequential vegetative and reproductive growth.
The sporophyte shoot is interpreted as a sterilized sporangial axis interpolated between the embryo and the fertile sporangium. With reference to the putatively ancestral condition found in mosses, the sporophyte body plans in hornworts and polysporangiophytes are viewed as the product of opposite heterochronic events, i.e. an anticipation and a delay, respectively, in the development of the sporangium. In either case the result was a pedomorphic sporophyte permanently retaining juvenile characters.
PMCID: PMC3448429  PMID: 22875816
bryophytes; embryo; development; meristems; plant evolution; sporophyte shoot; stomata
19.  Discovery of a Modified Tetrapolar Sexual Cycle in Cryptococcus amylolentus and the Evolution of MAT in the Cryptococcus Species Complex 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(2):e1002528.
Sexual reproduction in fungi is governed by a specialized genomic region called the mating-type locus (MAT). The human fungal pathogenic and basidiomycetous yeast Cryptococcus neoformans has evolved a bipolar mating system (a, α) in which the MAT locus is unusually large (>100 kb) and encodes >20 genes including homeodomain (HD) and pheromone/receptor (P/R) genes. To understand how this unique bipolar mating system evolved, we investigated MAT in the closely related species Tsuchiyaea wingfieldii and Cryptococcus amylolentus and discovered two physically unlinked loci encoding the HD and P/R genes. Interestingly, the HD (B) locus sex-specific region is restricted (∼2 kb) and encodes two linked and divergently oriented homeodomain genes in contrast to the solo HD genes (SXI1α, SXI2a) of C. neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii. The P/R (A) locus contains the pheromone and pheromone receptor genes but has expanded considerably compared to other outgroup species (Cryptococcus heveanensis) and is linked to many of the genes also found in the MAT locus of the pathogenic Cryptococcus species. Our discovery of a heterothallic sexual cycle for C. amylolentus allowed us to establish the biological roles of the sex-determining regions. Matings between two strains of opposite mating-types (A1B1×A2B2) produced dikaryotic hyphae with fused clamp connections, basidia, and basidiospores. Genotyping progeny using markers linked and unlinked to MAT revealed that meiosis and uniparental mitochondrial inheritance occur during the sexual cycle of C. amylolentus. The sexual cycle is tetrapolar and produces fertile progeny of four mating-types (A1B1, A1B2, A2B1, and A2B2), but a high proportion of progeny are infertile, and fertility is biased towards one parental mating-type (A1B1). Our studies reveal insights into the plasticity and transitions in both mechanisms of sex determination (bipolar versus tetrapolar) and sexual reproduction (outcrossing versus inbreeding) with implications for similar evolutionary transitions and processes in fungi, plants, and animals.
Author Summary
Fungal gene clusters mediate sex determination, natural product synthesis, and metabolic functions. Eukaryotic organisms share features of gene cluster formation including translocations, inversions, gene conversion, and suppressed recombination. The C. neoformans/C. gattii mating-type (MAT) locus spans a single >100 kb gene cluster encoding >20 genes, many involved in sex. We examined MAT gene cluster evolution in model and pathogenic Cryptococcus species. MAT was characterized from two closely related species, T. wingfieldii and C. amylolentus, and is organized into two unlinked gene clusters on different chromosomes. MAT organization in these species provides insight into evolutionary transitions from tetrapolar to bipolar mating systems involving fusion of physically unlinked sex-determinants into one contiguous region. These sex determination transitions occurred concomitantly with the origin of the pathogenic species complex from the last common ancestor shared with tetrapolar non-pathogenic species. We discovered a tetrapolar sexual cycle in C. amylolentus that generates recombinant meiotic progeny, many of which are infertile. Fertile progeny are biased towards one parental mating-type (A1B1) and may be an evolutionary precursor to unisexual mating of the closely related pathogenic species. This study reveals factors orchestrating gene cluster formation and sex chromosome evolution in fungi, including features shared with animals and plants.
PMCID: PMC3280970  PMID: 22359516
20.  Tracking Official Development Assistance for Reproductive Health in Conflict-Affected Countries 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(6):e1000090.
Preeti Patel and colleagues report inequity in the disbursement of official development assistance for reproductive health between countries affected by conflict and those unaffected.
Reproductive health needs are particularly acute in countries affected by armed conflict. Reliable information on aid investment for reproductive health in these countries is essential for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of aid. The purpose of this study was to analyse official development assistance (ODA) for reproductive health activities in conflict-affected countries from 2003 to 2006.
Methods and Findings
The Creditor Reporting System and the Financial Tracking System databases were the chosen data sources for the study. ODA disbursement for reproductive health activities to 18 conflict-affected countries was analysed for 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. An average of US$20.8 billion in total ODA was disbursed annually to the 18 conflict-affected countries between 2003 and 2006, of which US$509.3 million (2.4%) was allocated to reproductive health. This represents an annual average of US$1.30 disbursed per capita in the 18 sampled countries for reproductive health activities. Non-conflict-affected least-developed countries received 53.3% more ODA for reproductive health activities than conflict-affected least-developed countries, despite the latter generally having greater reproductive health needs. ODA disbursed for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment increased by 119.4% from 2003 to 2006. The ODA disbursed for other direct reproductive health activities declined by 35.9% over the same period.
This study provides evidence of inequity in disbursement of reproductive health ODA between conflict-affected countries and non-conflict-affected countries, and between different reproductive health activities. These findings and the study's recommendations seek to support initiatives to make aid financing more responsive to need in the context of armed conflict.
Editors' Summary
Reproductive health concerns the bodily functions and systems that are involved in conceiving and bearing offspring. A reproductively healthy person is able to have a responsible, satisfying and safe sex life and to reproduce if and when they chose to do so. More specifically, to ensure their reproductive health, both men and women need access to safe and effective birth control methods, they need to know how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV/AIDS), and they need access to treatment should they become infected. Women also need access to appropriate health-care services to safeguard their own health and their offspring's health during pregnancy and childbirth. Reproductive health is essential for the wellbeing of individuals and families and for the social and economic development of nations. Consequently, some of the official development assistance (ODA) given to developing countries by wealthier nations and by international agencies is being used to improve reproductive health. Indeed, several of the Millennium Development Goals (internationally agreed targets designed to eradicate global poverty by 2015) are directly related to reproductive health, including the improvement of maternal health and the control of HIV/AIDS.
Why Was This Study Done?
Many developing countries, such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, and Sudan, are experiencing violent conflicts. Such conflicts tend to slow down the development of low-income countries, and can also cause harm to reproductive health by damaging the health-service infrastructure and by increasing exposure to sexual violence. Although conflict-affected low-income countries rely heavily on international and humanitarian aid for basic health-care provision, there is little reliable information about how much of this aid is invested in reproductive health in such countries. This information is needed to ensure that development aid is used effectively. In this study, therefore, the researchers analyze the amount of ODA disbursed (the amount of official development money paid to recipient countries) for reproductive health activities in conflict-affected countries between 2003 and 2006.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified eighteen countries (mostly “least-developed” countries as defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; OEDC) that had been at war at sometime during the study period. They obtained information on ODA disbursements for reproductive health activities mainly from the Creditor Reporting System (CRS) database, which is maintained by the OECD, but also from the Financial Tracking System (FTS) database, which is maintained by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. An average of US$20.8 billion in ODA was disbursed annually to the 18 conflict-affected countries between 2003 and 2006. Only US$509.3 million (2.4%) of this was allocated to reproductive health. Put another way, each person living in these conflict-affected countries received US$1.30 per year for their reproductive health needs. By contrast, people in non-conflict-affected least-developed countries each received 50% more ODA for reproductive health activities, even though these countries often had better reproductive health indicators than the conflict-affected countries. The researchers also found that nearly half of ODA disbursed for reproductive health was used for HIV/AIDS-related activities. This portion of ODA increased slightly during the study period in the conflict-affected countries whereas ODA disbursed for other reproductive health activities fell by a third.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although these findings do not take into account money provided to conflict-affected developing countries for reproductive health activities by large philanthropic organizations, they nevertheless reveal an inequality between conflict-affected and non-conflict affected countries in terms of the development money provided for reproductive health. This is a worrying finding given that reproductive health tends to suffer in countries affected by war and poor reproductive health can slow down development. The findings of this study also suggest that funding for non-HIV reproductive health activities is declining in conflict-affected countries. Importantly, they also highlight additional research that is needed to ensure that donors of development aid can be more responsive in future to the reproductive health needs of conflict-affected countries.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Paul Spiegel and colleagues
The World Health organization provides information about reproductive health, including information on its 2004 global strategy for reproductive health (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on reproductive health (in English and Spanish)
Wikipedia has a page on reproductive health (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages
The United Nations provides information on the Millennium Development Goals
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development provides information on ODA through its Creditor Reporting System database; the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs provides similar information for other donors through its Financial Tracking System database
The Reproductive Health Response in Conflict Consortium promotes access to reproductive health programs in emergencies and advocates for policies that support reproductive health of persons affected by armed conflict
PMCID: PMC2682761  PMID: 19513098
21.  Inter-and intraspecific variation in fern mating systems after long-distance colonization: the importance of selfing 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:3.
Previous studies on the reproductive biology of ferns showed that mating strategies vary among species, and that polyploid species often show higher capacity for self-fertilization than diploid species. However, the amount of intraspecific variation in mating strategy and selfing capacity has only been assessed for a few species. Yet, such variation may have important consequences during colonization, as the establishment of any selfing genotypes may be favoured after long-distance dispersal (an idea known as Baker's law).
We examined intra-and interspecific variation in potential for self-fertilization among four rare fern species, of which two were diploids and two were tetraploids: Asplenium scolopendrium (2n), Asplenium trichomanes subsp. quadrivalens (4n), Polystichum setiferum (2n) and Polystichum aculeatum (4n). Sporophyte production was tested at different levels of inbreeding, by culturing gametophytes in isolation, as well as in paired cultures with a genetically different gametophyte. We tested gametophytes derived from various genetically different sporophytes from populations in a recently planted forest colonized through long-distance dispersal (Kuinderbos, the Netherlands), as well as from older, less disjunct populations.
Sporophyte production in isolation was high for Kuinderbos genotypes of all four species. Selfing capacity did not differ significantly between diploids and polyploids, nor between species in general. Rather selfing capacity differed between genotypes within species. Intraspecific variation in mating system was found in all four species. In two species one genotype from the Kuinderbos showed enhanced sporophyte production in paired cultures. For the other species, including a renowned out crosser, selfing capacity was consistently high.
Our results for four different species suggest that intraspecific variation in mating system may be common, at least among temperate calcicole ferns, and that genotypes with high selfing capacity may be present among polyploid as well as diploid ferns. The surprisingly high selfing capacity of all genotypes obtained from the Kuinderbos populations might be due to the isolated position of these populations. These populations may have established through single-spore colonization, which is only possible for genotypes capable of self-fertilization. Our results therewith support the idea that selection for selfing genotypes may occur during long-distance colonization, even in normally outcrossing, diploid ferns.
PMCID: PMC3305374  PMID: 22217252
22.  An experimental method to facilitate the identification of hybrid sporophytes in the moss Physcomitrella patens using fluorescent tagged lines 
The New phytologist  2011;191(1):301-306.
The sequencing of the Physcomitrella patens genome, combined with the high frequency of gene targeting in this species, makes it ideal for reverse genetic studies. For forward genetic studies, experimental crosses and genetic analysis of progeny are essential.Since P. patens is monoicous, producing both male and female gametes on the same gametophore, and undergoing self-fertilization at a high frequency, the identification of crossed sporophytes is difficult. Usually spores from many sporophytes from a mixed culture must be testsed for the production of recombinant progeny.Here, we describe the use of transgenic lines that express a fluorescent transgene constitutively, to provide a direct visual screen for hybrid sporophytes.We show that segregations in crosses obtained with this technique are as expected, and demonstrate its utility for the study of the rate of outcrossing between three isolates of P. patens.
PMCID: PMC3445409  PMID: 21366596
forward genetics; hybridization; mutants; reverse genetics; self-fertilization
23.  Bryophyte-Cyanobacteria Associations during Primary Succession in Recently Deglaciated Areas of Tierra del Fuego (Chile) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e96081.
Bryophyte establishment represents a positive feedback process that enhances soil development in newly exposed terrain. Further, biological nitrogen (N) fixation by cyanobacteria in association with mosses can be an important supply of N to terrestrial ecosystems, however the role of these associations during post-glacial primary succession is not yet fully understood. Here, we analyzed chronosequences in front of two receding glaciers with contrasting climatic conditions (wetter vs drier) at Cordillera Darwin (Tierra del Fuego) and found that most mosses had the capacity to support an epiphytic flora of cyanobacteria and exhibited high rates of N2 fixation. Pioneer moss-cyanobacteria associations showed the highest N2 fixation rates (4.60 and 4.96 µg N g−1 bryo. d−1) very early after glacier retreat (4 and 7 years) which may help accelerate soil development under wetter conditions. In drier climate, N2 fixation on bryophyte-cyanobacteria associations was also high (0.94 and 1.42 µg N g−1 bryo. d−1) but peaked at intermediate-aged sites (26 and 66 years). N2 fixation capacity on bryophytes was primarily driven by epiphytic cyanobacteria abundance rather than community composition. Most liverworts showed low colonization and N2 fixation rates, and mosses did not exhibit consistent differences across life forms and habitat (saxicolous vs terricolous). We also found a clear relationship between cyanobacteria genera and the stages of ecological succession, but no relationship was found with host species identity. Glacier forelands in Tierra del Fuego show fast rates of soil transformation which imply large quantities of N inputs. Our results highlight the potential contribution of bryophyte-cyanobacteria associations to N accumulation during post-glacial primary succession and further describe the factors that drive N2-fixation rates in post-glacial areas with very low N deposition.
PMCID: PMC4018330  PMID: 24819926
24.  Childhood Conditions Influence Adult Progesterone Levels 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(5):e167.
Average profiles of salivary progesterone in women vary significantly at the inter- and intrapopulation level as a function of age and acute energetic conditions related to energy intake, energy expenditure, or a combination of both. In addition to acute stressors, baseline progesterone levels differ among populations. The causes of such chronic differences are not well understood, but it has been hypothesised that they may result from varying tempos of growth and maturation and, by implication, from diverse environmental conditions encountered during childhood and adolescence.
Methods and Findings
To test this hypothesis, we conducted a migrant study among first- and second-generation Bangladeshi women aged 19–39 who migrated to London, UK at different points in the life-course, women still resident in Bangladesh, and women of European descent living in neighbourhoods similar to those of the migrants in London (total n = 227). Data collected included saliva samples for radioimmunoassay of progesterone, anthropometrics, and information from questionnaires on diet, lifestyle, and health. Results from multiple linear regression, controlled for anthropometric and reproductive variables, show that women who spend their childhood in conditions of low energy expenditure, stable energy intake, good sanitation, low immune challenges, and good health care in the UK have up to 103% higher levels of salivary progesterone and an earlier maturation than women who develop in less optimal conditions in Sylhet, Bangladesh (F9,178 = 5.05, p < 0.001, standard error of the mean = 0.32; adjusted R2 = 0.16). Our results point to the period prior to puberty as a sensitive phase when changes in environmental conditions positively impact developmental tempos such as menarcheal age (F2,81 = 3.21, p = 0.03) and patterns of ovarian function as measured using salivary progesterone (F2,81 = 3.14, p = 0.04).
This research demonstrates that human females use an extended period of the life cycle prior to reproductive maturation to monitor their environment and to modulate reproductive steroid levels in accordance with projected conditions they might encounter as adults. Given the prolonged investment of human pregnancy and lactation, such plasticity (extending beyond any intrauterine programming) enables a more flexible and finely tuned adjustment to the potential constraints or opportunities of the later adult environment. This research is the first, to our knowledge, to demonstrate a postuterine developmental component to variation in reproductive steroid levels in women.
Alejandra Núñez-de la Mora and colleagues found that women of Bangladeshi origin who had spent their childhood in the UK had higher progesterone levels and matured earlier than those who had been children in Bangladesh.
Editors' Summary
Women's reproductive biology—which includes levels of sex hormones at different stages of the menstrual cycle—is known to vary greatly depending on the environment. This variation can be measured by looking at the levels of certain reproductive hormones in the saliva, for example, progesterone and estradiol. The levels of these hormones differ greatly from individual to individual. Women who live in environments where less food is available or infections are more common, or who do more physical work seem to have lower levels of these hormones compared to other women. Because these differences seem to persist over the long term, some researchers have suggested that various factors relating to an individual's environment early in life have a strong influence on later fertility. This theory is based on ideas drawn from evolutionary biology and ecology. Theoretically, a woman who limits her future fertility as a biological response to poor environments would eventually have greater evolutionary success than an individual who remains fertile in harsh conditions. Although the logical basis for this idea is attractive, there is not very much evidence that it is true.
Why Was This Study Done?
In this study, the researchers wanted to collect experimental evidence from human populations that would help them test the hypothesis outlined above. The study performed here made use of a “natural experiment” resulting from widespread migration of people from Bangladesh to the UK. 95% of these individuals come from one particular region of Bangladesh, Sylhet. People would experience extensive differences between the environments before and after migration, including economic factors, access to health services, exposure to infectious diseases, and so on. Therefore, a comparison of hormone levels between individuals who had migrated at different periods during their life might help to test the theory that early environmental factors affect later fertility.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Five groups of women were selected and compared in this study. The groups included women who had grown up in Bangladesh but moved to the UK as adults; women who were born in Bangladesh but moved to the UK as children; women whose parents were from Bangladesh but who were born and raised in the UK; Bangladeshi women who were born and raised in Bangladesh; and finally a comparison group of women of European descent who were born and raised in the UK. Each woman in each of the five groups was asked to collect a sample of her own saliva each day for one menstrual cycle. The researchers tested the saliva samples to find out the levels of progesterone. The average progesterone level for the last 14 days of each woman's menstrual cycle (when progesterone levels are generally high) was then calculated and these values compared across the five groups. In particular, the researchers looked at the relationship between the age at which an individual arrived in the UK, the time spent in the UK, and the progesterone levels in saliva.
The researchers found statistically significant differences in progesterone levels between individuals who had migrated as children, second-generation migrants, and women of European descent, as compared to the levels for Bangladeshi women who had never migrated and women who migrated as adults. Progesterone levels for the first three groups were higher than those for the Bangladeshi women who had not migrated or who had migrated as adults. The age at which women migrated also seemed to be linked to their progesterone levels. Amongst women who migrated before the start of menstruation, those who migrated at a younger age had higher average progesterone levels. However, this relationship did not seem to hold true for women who had migrated after they started menstruating.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study suggests that certain indicators of reproductive biology, such as progesterone levels, may be linked to environmental factors that an individual experiences early in life. The findings support the idea that harsh environments early in development are associated with lower fertility later in life. However, it is not clear from this study which precise environmental factors are involved; it is possible that exposure to infectious disease is important, but this possibility was not specifically tested in this research study. Finally, it is not certain whether the lower average progesterone levels of the particular groups studied would actually translate into lower fertility. It is possible that although certain individuals and groups had lower levels of this hormone, they may in fact have been as fertile as individuals with higher levels of the hormone.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Information from the US National Institutes of Health on fertility and infertility
Wikipedia entry on progesterone (Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia anyone can edit)
Resources from the World Health Organization about sexual and reproductive health, including links to resources on family planning, infertility, and other related topics
World Health Organization country site for Bangladesh, providing key statistics and health resources
Moving Here: stories and experiences told of individuals' emigration to the UK
PMCID: PMC1868040  PMID: 17503960
25.  A systemic gene silencing method suitable for high throughput, reverse genetic analyses of gene function in fern gametophytes 
BMC Plant Biology  2004;4:6.
Ceratopteris richardii is a useful experimental system for studying gametophyte development and sexual reproduction in plants. However, few tools for cloning mutant genes or disrupting gene function exist for this species. The feasibility of systemic gene silencing as a reverse genetics tool was examined in this study.
Several DNA constructs targeting a Ceratopteris protoporphyrin IX magnesium chelatase (CrChlI) gene that is required for chlorophyll biosynthesis were each introduced into young gametophytes by biolistic delivery. Their transient expression in individual cells resulted in a colorless cell phenotype that affected most cells of the mature gametophyte, including the meristem and gametangia. The colorless phenotype was associated with a 7-fold decrease in the abundance of the endogenous transcript. While a construct designed to promote the transient expression of a CrChlI double stranded, potentially hairpin-forming RNA was found to be the most efficient in systemically silencing the endogenous gene, a plasmid containing the CrChlI cDNA insert alone was sufficient to induce silencing. Bombarded, colorless hermaphroditic gametophytes produced colorless embryos following self-fertilization, demonstrating that the silencing signal could be transmitted through gametogenesis and fertilization. Bombardment of young gametophytes with constructs targeting the Ceratopteris filamentous temperature sensitive (CrFtsZ) and uroporphyrin dehydrogenase (CrUrod) genes also produced the expected mutant phenotypes.
A method that induces the systemic silencing of target genes in the Ceratopteris gametophyte is described. It provides a simple, inexpensive and rapid means to test the functions of genes involved in gametophyte development, especially those involved in cellular processes common to all plants.
PMCID: PMC419348  PMID: 15090074

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