N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3), have been reported to play roles in preventing cardiovascular diseases. The major source of DHA is fish oils but a recent increase in the global demand of DHA and decrease in fish stocks require a substitute. Thraustochytrids, unicellular marine protists belonging to the Chromista kingdom, can synthesize large amounts of DHA, and, thus, are expected to be an alternative to fish oils. DHA is found in the acyl chain(s) of phospholipids as well as triacylglycerols in thraustochytrids; however, how thraustochytrids incorporate DHA into phospholipids remains unknown. We report here a novel lysophospholipid acyltransferase (PLAT1), which is responsible for the generation of DHA-containing phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylethanolamine in thraustochytrids. The PLAT1 gene, which was isolated from the genomic DNA of Aurantiochytrium limacinum F26-b, was expressed in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and the FLAG-tagged recombinant enzyme was characterized after purification with anti-FLAG affinity gel. PLAT1 shows wide specificity for donor substrates as well as acceptor substrates in vitro, i.e, the enzyme can adopt lysophosphatidylcholine, lysophosphatidylethanolamine, lysophosphatidylserine and lysophosphatidylinositol as acceptor substrates, and 15:0/16:0-CoA and DHA-CoA as donor substrates. In contrast to the in vitro experiment, only lysophosphatidylcholine acyltransferase and lysophosphatidylethanolamine acyltransferase activities were decreased in plat1-knockout mutants, resulting in a decrease of 16:0-DHA-phosphatidylcholine (PC) [PC(38∶6)] and 16:0-DHA-phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) [PE(38∶6)], which are two major DHA-containing phospholipids in A. limacinum F26-b. However, the amounts of other phospholipid species including DHA-DHA-PC [PC(44∶12)] and DHA-DHA-PE [PE(44∶12)] were almost the same in plat-knockout mutants and the wild-type. These results indicate that PLAT1 is the enzyme responsible for the generation of 16:0-DHA-PC and 16:0-DHA-PE in the thraustochytrid.
Tabtoxinine-β-lactam (TβL), a non-specific bacterial toxin, is produced by Pseudomonas syringae pv. tabaci, the causal agent of tobacco wildfire disease. TβL causes the plant cell death by the inhibiting glutamine synthetase, which leads to an abnormal accumulation of ammonium ions. To better understand the molecular mechanisms involved in TβL-induced cell death and necrotic wildfire lesions, we focused on adenylyl cyclase in Nicotiana benthamiana. We isolated the gene designated as NbAC (Nicotiana benthamiana adenylyl cyclase). Recombinant NbAC protein showed adenylyl cyclase activity in vitro. TβL-induced necrotic lesions were significantly suppressed in NbAC-silenced leaves compared with control plant leaves. However, the amount of ammonium ions was scarcely affected by NbAC-silencing. Furthermore, the silencing of NbAC also suppressed l-methionine sulfoximine-induced cell death without any changes in the amount of ammonium accumulated. When inoculated directly with P. syringae pv tabaci, NbAC-silenced plants showed reduced symptoms. These results suggest that NbAC might play an essential role in intracellular signal transduction during TβL-induced cell death and necrotic wildfire disease development.
Nicotiana benthamiana; Adenylyl cyclase; cell death; tabtoxinine-β-lactam; virus-induced gene silencing
Protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B) is a negative regulator of leptin signaling as well as insulin signaling. JTT-551 is a new PTP1B inhibitor, which is reported to improve glucose metabolism by enhancement of insulin signaling. We have evaluated an antiobesity effect of JTT-551 using diet-induced obesity (DIO) mice. A single administration of JTT-551 was provided to DIO mice with or without leptin, and DIO mice were given food containing JTT-551 for six weeks. A single administration of JTT-551 with leptin treatment enhanced the food inhibition and the signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) phosphorylation in hypothalamus. Moreover, chronic administration of JTT-551 showed an antiobesity effect and an improvement of glucose and lipid metabolism in DIO mice. JTT-551 shows an antiobesity effect possibly by enhancement of leptin signaling and could be useful in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and obesity.
We investigated the effects of JTT-130 on glucose and lipid metabolism independent of the suppression of feeding by comparing with pair-fed animals. Male Zucker diabetic fatty (ZDF) rats were divided into control, JTT-130 treatment, and pair-fed groups. The rats were fed with a regular powdered diet with or without JTT-130 as a food admixture for 6 weeks. We compared the effects on glucose and lipid metabolism in JTT-130 treatment group with those in pair-fed group. Results. Hyperglycemia in ZDF rats was prevented in both JTT-130 treatment and pair-fed groups, but the prevention in pair-fed group became poor with time. Moreover, reduction in plasma cholesterol levels was observed only in JTT-130 treatment group. JTT-130 treatment group showed improved glucose tolerance at 5 weeks after treatment and significant elevation of portal glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) levels. The hepatic lipid content in JTT-130 treatment group was decreased as compared with pair-fed group. Furthermore, pancreatic protection effects, such as an increase in pancreatic weight and an elevation of insulin-positive area in islets, were observed after JTT-130 treatment. Conclusions. JTT-130 improves hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia via a mechanism independent of suppression of food intake, which is ascribed to an enhancement of GLP-1 secretion and a reduction of lipotoxicity.
Ceramide is important for water retention and permeability barrier functions in the stratum corneum, and plays a key role in the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis (AD). A Pseudomonas aeruginosa-derived neutral ceramidase (PaCDase) isolated from a patient with AD was shown to effectively degrade ceramide in the presence of Staphylococcus aureus-derived lipids or neutral detergents. However, the effect of ceramide metabolites on the functions of differentiating keratinocytes is poorly understood. We found that the ceramide metabolite sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) stimulated the production of inflammatory mediators such as TNF-α and IL-8 from three-dimensionally cultured human primary keratinocytes (termed “3D keratinocytes”), which form a stratum corneum. PaCDase alone did not affect TNF-α gene expression in 3D keratinocytes. In the presence of the detergent Triton X-100, which damages stratum corneum structure, PaCDase, but not heat-inactivated PaCDase or PaCDase-inactive mutant, induced the production of TNF-α, endothelin-1, and IL-8, indicating that this production was dependent on ceramidase activity. Among various ceramide metabolites, sphingosine and S1P enhanced the gene expression of TNF-α, endothelin-1, and IL-8. The PaCDase-enhanced expression of these genes was inhibited by a sphingosine kinase inhibitor and by an S1P receptor antagonist VPC 23019. The TNF-α-binding antibody infliximab suppressed the PaCDase-induced upregulation of IL-8, but not TNF-α, mRNA. PaCDase induced NF-κB p65 phosphorylation. The NF-κB inhibitor curcumin significantly inhibited PaCDase-induced expression of IL-8 and endothelin-1. VPC 23019 and infliximab inhibited PaCDase-induced NF-κB p65 phosphorylation and reduction in the protein level of the NF-κB inhibitor IκBα. Collectively, these findings suggest that (i) 3D keratinocytes produce S1P from sphingosine, which is produced through the hydrolysis of ceramide by PaCDase, (ii) S1P induces the production of TNF-α via S1P receptors, and (iii) released TNF-α stimulates the production of inflammatory mediators such as IL-8.
Transposable elements (TEs) are DNA fragments that have the ability to move from one chromosomal location to another. The insertion of TEs into gene-rich regions often affects changes in the expression of neighboring genes. Miniature Ping (mPing) is an active miniature inverted-repeat TE discovered in the rice genome. It has been found to show exceptionally active transposition in a few japonica rice varieties, including Gimbozu, where mPing insertion rendered adjacent genes stress-inducible. In the Gimbozu population, it is highly possible that several genes with modified expression profiles are segregating due to the de novo mPing insertions. In our study, we utilized a screening system for detecting de novo mPing insertions in the upstream region of target genes and evaluated the effect of mPing on the stress response of the target genes. Screening for 17 targeted genes revealed five genes with the mPing insertion in their promoters. In most cases, the alteration of gene expression was observed under stress conditions, and there was no change in the expression levels of those five genes under normal conditions. These results indicate that the mPing insertion can be used as a genetic tool to modify an expression pattern of a target gene under stress conditions without changing the expression profiles of those under natural conditions.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11032-013-9885-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Rice; Transposable element; Transposition; mPing; Gene expression; Reverse genetics
A versatile transformation system for thraustochytrids, a promising producer for polyunsaturated fatty acids and fatty acid-derived fuels, was established. G418, hygromycin B, blasticidin, and zeocin inhibited the growth of thraustochytrids, indicating that multiple selectable marker genes could be used in the transformation system. A neomycin resistance gene (neor), driven with an ubiquitin or an EF-1α promoter-terminator from Thraustochytrium aureum ATCC 34304, was introduced into representatives of two thraustochytrid genera, Aurantiochytrium and Thraustochytrium. The neor marker was integrated into the chromosomal DNA by random recombination and then functionally translated into neor mRNA. Additionally, we confirmed that another two genera, Parietichytrium and Schizochytrium, could be transformed by the same method. By this method, the enhanced green fluorescent protein was functionally expressed in thraustochytrids. Meanwhile, T. aureum ATCC 34304 could be transformed by two 18S ribosomal DNA-targeting vectors, designed to cause single- or double-crossover homologous recombination. Finally, the fatty acid Δ5 desaturase gene was disrupted by double-crossover homologous recombination in T. aureum ATCC 34304, resulting in an increase of dihomo-γ-linolenic acid (C20:3n-6) and eicosatetraenoic acid (C20:4n-3), substrates for Δ5 desaturase, and a decrease of arachidonic acid (C20:4n-6) and eicosapentaenoic acid (C20:5n-3), products for the enzyme. These results clearly indicate that a versatile transformation system which could be applicable to both multiple transgene expression and gene targeting was established for thraustochytrids.
Electrogram-based catheter ablation, targeting complex fractionated atrial electrograms (CFAEs), is empirically known to be effective in halting persistent/permanent atrial fibrillation (AF). However, the mechanisms underlying CFAEs and electrogram-based ablation remain unclear.
Because atrial fibrosis is associated with persistent/permanent AF, we hypothesized that electrotonic interactions between atrial myocytes and fibroblasts play an important role in CFAE genesis and electrogram-based catheter ablation.
Methods and Results
We used a human atrial tissue model in heart failure and simulated propagation and spiral wave reentry with and without regionally proliferated fibroblasts. Coupling of fibroblasts to atrial myocytes resulted in shorter action potential duration, slower conduction velocity, and lower excitability. Consequently, heterogeneous fibroblast proliferation in the myocardial sheet resulted in frequent spiral wave breakups, and the bipolar electrograms recorded at the fibroblast proliferation area exhibited CFAEs. The simulations demonstrated that ablation targeting such fibroblast-derived CFAEs terminated AF, resulting from the ablation site transiently pinning the spiral wave and then pushing it out of the fibroblast proliferation area. CFAEs could not be attributed to collagen accumulation alone.
Fibroblast proliferation in atria might be responsible for the genesis of CFAEs during persistent/ permanent AF. Our findings could contribute to better understanding of the mechanisms underlying CFAE-targeted AF ablation.
atrial fibrillation; complex fractionated atrial electrograms; catheter ablation; spiral wave reentry; fibroblasts
Thraustochytrids, marine protists known to accumulate polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in lipid droplets, are considered an alternative to fish oils as a source of PUFAs. The major fatty acids produced in thraustochytrids are palmitic acid (C16:0), n − 6 docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) (C22:5n − 6), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (C22:6n − 3), with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) (C20:5n − 3) and arachidonic acid (AA) (C20:4n − 6) as minor constituents. We attempted here to alter the fatty acid composition of thraustochytrids through the expression of a fatty acid Δ5 desaturase gene driven by the thraustochytrid ubiquitin promoter. The gene was functionally expressed in Aurantiochytrium limacinum mh0186, increasing the amount of EPA converted from eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA) (C20:4n − 3) by the Δ5 desaturase. The levels of EPA and AA were also increased by 4.6- and 13.2-fold in the transgenic thraustochytrids compared to levels in the mock transfectants when ETA and dihomo-γ-linolenic acid (DGLA) (C20:3n − 6) were added to the culture at 0.1 mM. Interestingly, the amount of EPA in the transgenic thraustochytrids increased in proportion to the amount of ETA added to the culture up to 0.4 mM. The rates of conversion and accumulation of EPA were much higher in the thraustochytrids than in baker's yeasts when the desaturase gene was expressed with the respective promoters. This report describes for the first time the finding that an increase of EPA could be accomplished by introducing the Δ5 desaturase gene into thraustochytrids and indicates that molecular breeding of thraustochytrids is a promising strategy for generating beneficial PUFAs.
Lipid rafts enriched in glycosphingolipids (GSLs), cholesterol and signaling molecules play an essential role not only for signal transduction started by ligand binding, but for intracellular events such as organization of actin, intracellular traffic and cell polarity, but their functions in cleavage division of preimplantation embryos are not well known.
Here we show that monosialylGb5Cer (MSGb5Cer)-enriched raft domains are involved in development during the cleavage stage of mouse preimplantation embryos. MSGb5Cer preferentially localizes at the interfaces between blastomeres in mouse preimplantation embryos. Live-imaging analysis revealed that MSGb5Cer localizes in cleavage furrows during cytokinesis, and that by accumulating at the interfaces, it thickens them. Depletion of cholesterol from the cell membrane with methyl-beta-cyclodextrin (MbCD) reduced the expression of MSGb5Cer and stopped cleavage. Extensive accumulation of MSGb5Cer at the interfaces by cross-linking with anti-MSGb5Cer Mab (6E2) caused F-actin to aggregate at the interfaces and suppressed the localization of E-cadherin at the interfaces, which resulted in the cessation of cleavage. In addition, suppression of actin polymerization with cytochalasin D (CCD) decreased the accumulation of MSGb5Cer at the interfaces. In E-cadherin-targeted embryos, the MSGb5Cer-enriched raft membrane domains accumulated heterotopically.
These results indicate that MSGb5Cer-enriched raft membrane domains participate in cytokinesis in a close cooperation with the cortical actin network and the distribution of E-cadherin.
Sarcolipin (SLN) has emerged as an important regulator of the atrial sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca2+ transport. The inhibitory effect of SLN on cardiac SR Ca2+ ATPase (SERCA) pump can be relieved by β-adrenergic stimulation, which indicates that SLN is a reversible inhibitor. However, the mechanism of this reversible regulation of SERCA pump by SLN is yet to be determined. In the current study using adult rat ventricular myocytes we provide evidence that the threonine 5 (T5) residue at the N-terminus of SLN which is conserved among various species, critically regulates the SLN function. Point mutation of T5→alanine exerts an inhibitory effect on myocyte contractility and calcium transients similar to that of wild-type SLN, whereas mutation of T5→glutamic acid which mimics the phosphorylation abolished the inhibitory function of SLN. Our results showed that T5 can be phosphorylated in vitro by calcium–calmodulin dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII). Blocking the CaMKII activity in WT-SLN overexpressing myocytes using autocamtide inhibitory peptide completely abolished the β-adrenergic response. Taken together, our data suggest that T5 is the key amino acid which modulates SLN function via phosphorylation/dephosphorylation mechanisms through CaMKII pathway.
SLN; Sarcolipin; SERCA; Ca2+ ATPase; Phosphorylation; Calcium calmodulin dependent protein kinase II; PLB; Phospholamban
Spontaneously Diabetic Torii-fa/fa (SDT fatty) rat is a new model of obese type 2 diabetes. SDT fatty rat exhibits obesity associated with hyperphagia. In this study, SDT fatty rats were subjected to pair-feeding with SDT-+/+ (SDT) rats from 6 to 22 weeks of age. The ratio of visceral fat weight to subcutaneous fat weight (V/S) decreased at 12 weeks of age in the pair-feeding rats. The intraperitoneal fat weight such as epididymal and retroperitoneal fat weight decreased, whereas mesenteric fat weight had no change. Cell size of the epididymal fat in the pair-feeding rats tended to decrease. Glucose oxidation level in epididymal fat in the pair-feeding rats at 12 weeks of age was recovered to a similar level with that in SDT rats. These results indicated that SDT fatty rat is a useful model to evaluate the functional or the morphological features in adipose tissue and develop a novel drug for antiobesity.
Primary colorectal signet ring cell carcinoma (SRCC) is a rare but distinctive type of mucin-producing adenocarcinoma of the large intestine with still controversial clinicopathological features and prognosis. We encountered primary colonic SRCC in a 51-year-old Japanese man with extensive bone metastasis ultimately leading to carcinocythemia before the initiation of chemotherapy and surgical intervention. Three days before death, besides progressive disseminated intravascular coagulation that had been present on admission, hematological examination showed sudden leukocytosis with nonhematopoietic cells that subsequently turned out to be signet ring cells (SRCs). Carcinocythemia, the presence of circulating cancer cells in peripheral blood, is considered to be a rare but an ominous phenomenon occurring in the advanced stage of certain types of cancers, particularly mammary lobular carcinoma. It can be assumed that carcinoma cells lacking intercellular cohesiveness and polarized cell membrane organization, including SRCs as well as lobular carcinoma cells, can readily get access to the peripheral circulation; however, to our knowledge, this is the first report of primary colorectal SRCC that presented carcinocythemia. Extensive bone metastatic sites, in the present case, may have functioned as a reservoir of circulating SRCs.
Signet ring cell carcinoma; Colon; Carcinocythemia; Disseminated intravascular coagulation
The mammalian Pax6 paired domain has been cocrystallizaed with a 25 bp DNA fragment of the Pax6 gene enhancer.
Pax6 is a member of the Pax family of transcription factors and is essential for eye development. Pax6 has two DNA-binding domains: the paired domain and the homeodomain. The Pax6 paired domain is involved in Pax6 gene autoregulation by binding to its enhancer. In this study, crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction analysis of the mammalian Pax6 paired domain in complex with the Pax6 gene enhancer was attempted. The Pax6 paired domain complexed with an optimized 25 bp DNA fragment was crystallized by the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion method. The crystal diffracted synchrotron radiation to 3.0/3.7 Å resolution and belongs to the monoclinic space group P21, with unit-cell parameters a = 62.21, b = 70.69, c = 176.03 Å, β = 90.54°. Diffraction data were collected to 3.7 Å resolution.
Pax6 paired domain; Pax6 gene enhancer; Pax-family proteins
Crystallization of the α2,6-sialyltransferase from Photobacterium.
Sialyltransferases transfer sialic acid from cytidine-5-monophospho-N-acetylneuraminic acid (CMP-NeuAc) to the nonreducing termini of the oligosaccharyl structures of various glycoproteins and glycolipids. The newly cloned α2,6-sialyltransferase from Photobacterium sp. JT-ISH-224 (from the Vibrionaceae family) is composed of two domains: an unknown N-terminal domain and a catalytic C-terminal domain which shares significant homology with the Pasteurella multocida multifunctional sialyltransferase. The putative mature form of JT-ISH-224 α2,6-sialyltransferase was overproduced in Escherichia coli, purified and crystallized using the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion method at 293 K. The crystal belonged to space group P3121 or P3221, with unit-cell parameters a = b = 90.29, c = 204.33 Å. X-ray diffraction data were collected to 2.5 Å resolution.
α2,6-sialyltransferase; Photobacterium sp. JT-ISH-224
The present case report describes a 72-year-old woman with drug-resistant heart failure. Cardiac resynchronization therapy was performed. Cardiac function was evaluated using a quantitative gated single-photon emission computed tomography (QGS) program with technetium-99m tetrofosmin. During atrial-right ventricular pacing, the left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) was 28%, end diastolic volume (EDV) was 141 mL and end systolic volume (ESV) was 101 mL. LVEF was 31%, EDV was 142 mL and ESV was 98 mL during dual chamber pacing. During atrial-left ventricular pacing, LVEF, EDV and ESV were 32%, 18 mL and 100 mL, respectively. Diastolic function was evaluated using Vcdiff software (Daiichi Radioisotope Laboratories Ltd, Japan). Cardiac resynchronization therapy may improve cardiac function, which was evaluated accurately and non-invasively by electrocardiography-gated single-photon emission computed tomography.
Cardiac function; Cardiac resynchronization therapy; Quantitative gated SPECT
Gangliosides, sialic acid-containing glycosphingolipids, are membrane constituents of vertebrates and are known to have important roles in cellular differentiation, adhesion, and recognition. We report here the isolation of a bacterium capable of degrading gangliotetraose-series gangliosides and a new method for the production of glucosylceramide with this bacterium. GM1a ganglioside was found to be sequentially degraded by Paenibacillus sp. strain TS12, which was isolated from soil, as follows: GM1a → asialo GM1 → asialo GM2 → lactosylceramide → glucosylceramide. TS12 was found to produce a series of ganglioside-degrading enzymes, such as sialidases, β-galactosidases, and β-hexosaminidases. TS12 also produced β-glucosidases, but glucosylceramide was somewhat resistant to the bacterial enzyme under the conditions used. Taking advantage of the specificity, we developed a new method for the production of glucosylceramide using TS12 as a biocatalyst. The method involves the conversion of crude bovine brain gangliosides to glucosylceramide by coculture with TS12 and purification of the product by chromatography with Wakogel C-300 HG.
We report here the molecular cloning and expression of a hemolytic sphingomyelinase from an aquatic bacterium, Pseudomonas sp. strain TK4. The sphingomyelinase gene was found to consist of 1,548 nucleotides encoding 516 amino acid residues. The recombinant 57.7-kDa enzyme hydrolyzed sphingomyelin but not phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylglycerol, phosphatidic acid, or phosphatidylethanolamine, indicating that the enzyme is a sphingomyelin-specific sphingomyelinase C. The hydrolysis of sphingomyelin by the enzyme was found to be most efficient at pH 8.0 and activated by Mn2+. The enzyme shows quite a broad specificity, i.e., it hydrolyzed 4-nitrobenz-2-oxa-1,3-diazole (NBD)-sphingomyelin with short-chain fatty acids and NBD-sphingosylphosphorylcholine, the latter being completely resistant to hydrolysis by any sphingomyelinase reported so far. Significant sequence similarities were found in sphingomyelinases from Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria ivanovii, and Leptospira interrogans, as well as a hypothetical protein encoded in Chromobacterium violaceum, although the first three lacked one-third of the sequence corresponding to that from the C terminus of the TK4 enzyme. Interestingly, the deletion mutant of strain TK4 lacking 186 amino acids at the C-terminal end hydrolyzed sphingomyelin, whereas it lost all hemolytic activity, indicating that the C-terminal region of the TK4 enzyme is indispensable for the hemolytic activity.
A marked decrease in the content of ceramide has been reported in the horny layer of the epidermis in atopic dermatitis (AD). This decrease impairs the permeability barrier of the epidermis, resulting in the characteristic dry and easily antigen-permeable skin of AD, since ceramide serves as the major water-holding molecule in the extracellular space of the horny layer. On the other hand, the skin of such patients is frequently colonized by bacteria, most typically by Staphylococcus aureus, possessing genes such as those for sphingomyelinase, which are related to sphingolipid metabolism. We therefore tried to identify a possible correlation between the ceramide content and the bacterial flora obtained from the skin of 25 patients with AD versus that of 24 healthy subjects, using a thin-layer chromatographic assay of the sphingomyelin-associated enzyme activities secreted from the bacteria. The findings of the assay demonstrated that ceramidase, which breaks ceramide down into sphingosine and fatty acid, was secreted significantly more from the bacterial flora obtained from both the lesional and the nonlesional skin of patients with AD than from the skin of healthy subjects; sphingomyelinase, which breaks sphingomyelin down into ceramide and phosphorylcholine, was secreted from the bacterial flora obtained from all types of skin at similar levels for the patients with AD and the healthy controls. The finding that the skin of patients with AD is colonized by ceramidase-secreting bacteria thus suggests that microorganisms are related to the deficiency of ceramide in the horny layer of the epidermis, which increases the hypersensitivity of skin in AD patients by impairing the permeability barrier.
The estimation of reward outcomes for action candidates is essential for decision making. In this study, we examined whether and how the uncertainty in reward outcome estimation affects the action choice and learning rate. We designed a choice task in which rats selected either the left-poking or right-poking hole and received a reward of a food pellet stochastically. The reward probabilities of the left and right holes were chosen from six settings (high, 100% vs. 66%; mid, 66% vs. 33%; low, 33% vs. 0% for the left vs. right holes, and the opposites) in every 20–549 trials. We used Bayesian Q-learning models to estimate the time course of the probability distribution of action values and tested if they better explain the behaviors of rats than standard Q-learning models that estimate only the mean of action values. Model comparison by cross-validation revealed that a Bayesian Q-learning model with an asymmetric update for reward and non-reward outcomes fit the choice time course of the rats best. In the action-choice equation of the Bayesian Q-learning model, the estimated coefficient for the variance of action value was positive, meaning that rats were uncertainty seeking. Further analysis of the Bayesian Q-learning model suggested that the uncertainty facilitated the effective learning rate. These results suggest that the rats consider uncertainty in action-value estimation and that they have an uncertainty-seeking action policy and uncertainty-dependent modulation of the effective learning rate.
ambiguity; Bayesian inference; Bayesian Q-learning; neuroeconomics; reinforcement learning