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1.  Muscular Arrangement and Muscle Attachment Sites in the Cervical Region of the American Barn Owl (Tyto furcata pratincola) 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0134272.
Owls have the largest head rotation capability amongst vertebrates. Anatomical knowledge of the cervical region is needed to understand the mechanics of these extreme head movements. While data on the morphology of the cervical vertebrae of the barn owl have been provided, this study is aimed to provide an extensive description of the muscle arrangement and the attachment sites of the muscles on the owl’s head-neck region. The major cervical muscles were identified by gross dissection of cadavers of the American barn owl (Tyto furcata pratincola), and their origin, courses, and insertion were traced. In the head-neck region nine superficial larger cervical muscles of the craniocervical, dorsal and ventral subsystems were selected for analysis, and the muscle attachment sites were illustrated in digital models of the skull and cervical vertebrae of the same species as well as visualised in a two-dimensional sketch. In addition, fibre orientation and lengths of the muscles and the nature (fleshy or tendinous) of the attachment sites were determined. Myological data from this study were combined with osteological data of the same species. This improved the anatomical description of the cervical region of this species. The myological description provided in this study is to our best knowledge the most detailed documentation of the cervical muscles in a strigiform species presented so far. Our results show useful information for researchers in the field of functional anatomy, biomechanical modelling and for evolutionary and comparative studies.
PMCID: PMC4519302  PMID: 26222908
2.  A Single Naturally Occurring 2’-O-Methylation Converts a TLR7- and TLR8-Activating RNA into a TLR8-Specific Ligand 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0120498.
TLR7 and TLR8 recognize RNA from pathogens and lead to subsequent immune stimulation. Here we demonstrate that a single naturally occurring 2’-O-methylation within a synthetic 18s rRNA derived RNA sequence prevents IFN-α production, however secretion of proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-6 is not impaired. By analysing TLR-deficient plasmacytoid dendritic cells and performing HEK293 genetic complementation assays we could demonstrate that the single 2’-O-methylation containing RNA still activated TLR8 but not TLR7. Therefore this specific 2’-O-ribose methylation in rRNA converts a TLR7 / TLR8 ligand to an exclusively TLR8-specific ligand. Interestingly, other modifications at this position such as 2’-O-deoxy or 2’-fluoro had no strong modulating effect on TLR7 or TLR8 activation suggesting an important role of 2’-O-methylation for shaping differential TLR7 or TLR8 activation.
PMCID: PMC4364935  PMID: 25785446
3.  Guanine-Modified Inhibitory Oligonucleotides Efficiently Impair TLR7- and TLR9-Mediated Immune Responses of Human Immune Cells 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0116703.
Activation of TLR7 and TLR9 by endogenous RNA- or DNA-containing ligands, respectively, is thought to contribute to the complicated pathophysiology of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). These ligands induce the release of type-I interferons by plasmacytoid dendritic cells and autoreactive antibodies by B-cells, both responses being key events in perpetuating SLE. We recently described the development of inhibitory oligonucleotides (INH-ODN), which are characterized by a phosphorothioate backbone, a CC(T)XXX3–5GGG motif and a chemical modification of the G-quartet to avoid the formation of higher order structures via intermolecular G-tetrads. These INH-ODNs were equally or significantly more efficient to impair TLR7- and TLR9-stimulated murine B-cells, macrophages, conventional and plasmacytoid dendritic cells than the parent INH-ODN 2088, which lacks G-modification. Here, we evaluate the inhibitory/therapeutic potential of our set of G-modified INH-ODN on human immune cells. We report the novel finding that G-modified INH-ODNs efficiently inhibited the release of IFN-α by PBMC stimulated either with the TLR7-ligand oligoribonucleotide (ORN) 22075 or the TLR9-ligand CpG-ODN 2216. G-modification of INH-ODNs significantly improved inhibition of IL-6 release by PBMCs and purified human B-cells stimulated with the TLR7-ligand imiquimod or the TLR9-ligand CpG-ODN 2006. Furthermore, inhibition of B-cell activation analyzed by expression of activation markers and intracellular ATP content was significantly improved by G-modification. As observed with murine B-cells, high concentrations of INH-ODN 2088 but not of G-modified INH-ODNs stimulated IL-6 secretion by PBMCs in the absence of TLR-ligands thus limiting its blocking efficacy. In summary, G-modification of INH-ODNs improved their ability to impair TLR7- and TLR9-mediated signaling in those human immune cells which are considered as crucial in the pathophysiology of SLE.
PMCID: PMC4335036  PMID: 25695778
4.  Visual-auditory integration for visual search: a behavioral study in barn owls 
Barn owls are nocturnal predators that rely on both vision and hearing for survival. The optic tectum of barn owls, a midbrain structure involved in selective attention, has been used as a model for studying visual-auditory integration at the neuronal level. However, behavioral data on visual-auditory integration in barn owls are lacking. The goal of this study was to examine if the integration of visual and auditory signals contributes to the process of guiding attention toward salient stimuli. We attached miniature wireless video cameras on barn owls’ heads (OwlCam) to track their target of gaze. We first provide evidence that the area centralis (a retinal area with a maximal density of photoreceptors) is used as a functional fovea in barn owls. Thus, by mapping the projection of the area centralis on the OwlCam’s video frame, it is possible to extract the target of gaze. For the experiment, owls were positioned on a high perch and four food items were scattered in a large arena on the floor. In addition, a hidden loudspeaker was positioned in the arena. The positions of the food items and speaker were changed every session. Video sequences from the OwlCam were saved for offline analysis while the owls spontaneously scanned the room and the food items with abrupt gaze shifts (head saccades). From time to time during the experiment, a brief sound was emitted from the speaker. The fixation points immediately following the sounds were extracted and the distances between the gaze position and the nearest items and loudspeaker were measured. The head saccades were rarely toward the location of the sound source but to salient visual features in the room, such as the door knob or the food items. However, among the food items, the one closest to the loudspeaker had the highest probability of attracting a gaze shift. This result supports the notion that auditory signals are integrated with visual information for the selection of the next visual search target.
PMCID: PMC4327738  PMID: 25762905
saliency; saccades; multisensory; visual search; barn owls; selective attention; sound localization
5.  Inhibitory properties underlying non-monotonic input-output relationship in low-frequency spherical bushy neurons of the gerbil 
Spherical bushy cells (SBCs) of the anteroventral cochlear nucleus (AVCN) receive input from large excitatory auditory nerve (AN) terminals, the endbulbs of Held, and mixed glycinergic/GABAergic inhibitory inputs. The latter have sufficient potency to block action potential firing in vivo and in slice recordings. However, it is not clear how well the data from slice recordings match the inhibition in the intact brain and how it contributes to complex phenomena such as non-monotonic rate-level functions (RLF). Therefore, we determined the input-output relationship of a model SBC with simulated endbulb inputs and a dynamic inhibitory conductance constrained by recordings in brain slice preparations of hearing gerbils. Event arrival times from in vivo single-unit recordings in gerbils, where 70% of SBC showed non-monotonic RLF, were used as input for the model. Model output RLFs systematically changed from monotonic to non-monotonic shape with increasing strength of tonic inhibition. A limited range of inhibitory synaptic properties consistent with the slice data generated a good match between the model and recorded RLF. Moreover, tonic inhibition elevated the action potentials (AP) threshold and improved the temporal precision of output functions in a SBC model with phase-dependent input conductance. We conclude that activity-dependent, summating inhibition contributes to high temporal precision of SBC spiking by filtering out weak and poorly timed EPSP. Moreover, inhibitory parameters determined in slice recordings provide a good estimate of inhibitory mechanisms apparently active in vivo.
PMCID: PMC4379913  PMID: 25873864
spherical bushy cells; gerbil; inhibition; rate-level function; temporal precision
6.  Classification of current anticancer immunotherapies 
Galluzzi, Lorenzo | Vacchelli, Erika | Pedro, José-Manuel Bravo-San | Buqué, Aitziber | Senovilla, Laura | Baracco, Elisa Elena | Bloy, Norma | Castoldi, Francesca | Abastado, Jean-Pierre | Agostinis, Patrizia | Apte, Ron N. | Aranda, Fernando | Ayyoub, Maha | Beckhove, Philipp | Blay, Jean-Yves | Bracci, Laura | Caignard, Anne | Castelli, Chiara | Cavallo, Federica | Celis, Estaban | Cerundolo, Vincenzo | Clayton, Aled | Colombo, Mario P. | Coussens, Lisa | Dhodapkar, Madhav V. | Eggermont, Alexander M. | Fearon, Douglas T. | Fridman, Wolf H. | Fučíková, Jitka | Gabrilovich, Dmitry I. | Galon, Jérôme | Garg, Abhishek | Ghiringhelli, François | Giaccone, Giuseppe | Gilboa, Eli | Gnjatic, Sacha | Hoos, Axel | Hosmalin, Anne | Jäger, Dirk | Kalinski, Pawel | Kärre, Klas | Kepp, Oliver | Kiessling, Rolf | Kirkwood, John M. | Klein, Eva | Knuth, Alexander | Lewis, Claire E. | Liblau, Roland | Lotze, Michael T. | Lugli, Enrico | Mach, Jean-Pierre | Mattei, Fabrizio | Mavilio, Domenico | Melero, Ignacio | Melief, Cornelis J. | Mittendorf, Elizabeth A. | Moretta, Lorenzo | Odunsi, Adekunke | Okada, Hideho | Palucka, Anna Karolina | Peter, Marcus E. | Pienta, Kenneth J. | Porgador, Angel | Prendergast, George C. | Rabinovich, Gabriel A. | Restifo, Nicholas P. | Rizvi, Naiyer | Sautès-Fridman, Catherine | Schreiber, Hans | Seliger, Barbara | Shiku, Hiroshi | Silva-Santos, Bruno | Smyth, Mark J. | Speiser, Daniel E. | Spisek, Radek | Srivastava, Pramod K. | Talmadge, James E. | Tartour, Eric | Van Der Burg, Sjoerd H. | Van Den Eynde, Benoît J. | Vile, Richard | Wagner, Hermann | Weber, Jeffrey S. | Whiteside, Theresa L. | Wolchok, Jedd D. | Zitvogel, Laurence | Zou, Weiping | Kroemer, Guido
Oncotarget  2014;5(24):12472-12508.
During the past decades, anticancer immunotherapy has evolved from a promising therapeutic option to a robust clinical reality. Many immunotherapeutic regimens are now approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency for use in cancer patients, and many others are being investigated as standalone therapeutic interventions or combined with conventional treatments in clinical studies. Immunotherapies may be subdivided into “passive” and “active” based on their ability to engage the host immune system against cancer. Since the anticancer activity of most passive immunotherapeutics (including tumor-targeting monoclonal antibodies) also relies on the host immune system, this classification does not properly reflect the complexity of the drug-host-tumor interaction. Alternatively, anticancer immunotherapeutics can be classified according to their antigen specificity. While some immunotherapies specifically target one (or a few) defined tumor-associated antigen(s), others operate in a relatively non-specific manner and boost natural or therapy-elicited anticancer immune responses of unknown and often broad specificity. Here, we propose a critical, integrated classification of anticancer immunotherapies and discuss the clinical relevance of these approaches.
PMCID: PMC4350348  PMID: 25537519
adoptive cell transfer; checkpoint blockers; dendritic cell-based interventions; DNA-based vaccines; immunostimulatory cytokines; peptide-based vaccines; oncolytic viruses; Toll-like receptor agonists
7.  The Cervical Spine of the American Barn Owl (Tyto furcata pratincola): I. Anatomy of the Vertebrae and Regionalization in Their S-Shaped Arrangement 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91653.
Owls possess an extraordinary neck and head mobility. To understand this mobility it is necessary to have an anatomical description of cervical vertebrae with an emphasis on those criteria that are relevant for head positioning. No functional description specific to owls is available.
Methodology/Principal findings
X-ray films and micro-CT scans were recorded from American barn owls (Tyto furcata pratincola) and used to obtain three-dimensional head movements and three-dimensional models of the 14 cervical vertebrae (C1−C14). The diameter of the vertebral canal, the zygapophyseal protrusion, the distance between joint centers, and the pitching angle were quantified. Whereas the first two variables are purely osteological characteristics of single vertebrae, the latter two take into account interactions between vertebrae. These variables change in characteristic ways from cranial to caudal. The vertebral canal is wide in the cranial and caudal neck regions, but narrow in the middle, where both the zygapophyseal protrusion and the distance between joint centers are large. Pitching angles are more negative in the cranial and caudal neck regions than in the middle region. Cluster analysis suggested a complex regionalization. Whereas the borders (C1 and C13/C14) formed stable clusters, the other cervical vertebrae were sorted into 4 or 5 additional clusters. The borders of the clusters were influenced by the variables analyzed.
A statistical analysis was used to evaluate the regionalization of the cervical spine in the barn owl. While earlier measurements have shown that there appear to be three regions of flexibility of the neck, our indicators suggest 3–7 regions. These many regions allow a high degree of flexibility, potentially facilitating the large head turns that barn owls are able to make. The cervical vertebral series of other species should also be investigated using statistical criteria to further characterize morphology and the potential movements associated with it.
PMCID: PMC3961260  PMID: 24651767
8.  Responses of Tectal Neurons to Contrasting Stimuli: An Electrophysiological Study in the Barn Owl 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39559.
The saliency of visual objects is based on the center to background contrast. Particularly objects differing in one feature from the background may be perceived as more salient. It is not clear to what extent this so called “pop-out” effect observed in humans and primates governs saliency perception in non-primates as well. In this study we searched for neural-correlates of pop-out perception in neurons located in the optic tectum of the barn owl. We measured the responses of tectal neurons to stimuli appearing within the visual receptive field, embedded in a large array of additional stimuli (the background). Responses were compared between contrasting and uniform conditions. In a contrasting condition the center was different from the background while in the uniform condition it was identical to the background. Most tectal neurons responded better to stimuli in the contrsating condition compared to the uniform condition when the contrast between center and background was the direction of motion but not when it was the orientation of a bar. Tectal neurons also preferred contrasting over uniform stimuli when the center was looming and the background receding but not when the center was receding and the background looming. Therefore, our results do not support the hypothesis that tectal neurons are sensitive to pop-out per-se. The specific sensitivity to the motion contrasting stimulus is consistent with the idea that object motion and not large field motion (e.g., self-induced motion) is coded in the neural responses of tectal neurons.
PMCID: PMC3380014  PMID: 22745787
9.  Microsecond Precision of Phase Delay in the Auditory System of the Barn Owl 
Journal of Neurophysiology  2005;94(2):1655-1658.
The auditory system encodes time with sub-millisecond accuracy. To shed new light on the basic mechanism underlying this precise temporal neuronal coding, we analyzed the neurophonic potential, a characteristic multiunit response, in the barn owl’s nucleus laminaris. We report here that the relative time measure of phase delay is robust against changes in sound level, with a precision sharper than 20 µs. Absolute measures of delay, such as group delay or signal-front delay, had much greater temporal jitter, for example due to their strong dependence on sound level. Our findings support the hypothesis that phase delay underlies the sub-millisecond precision of the representation of interaural time difference needed for sound localization.
PMCID: PMC3268176  PMID: 15843477
10.  The representation of sound localization cues in the barn owl's inferior colliculus 
The barn owl is a well-known model system for studying auditory processing and sound localization. This article reviews the morphological and functional organization, as well as the role of the underlying microcircuits, of the barn owl's inferior colliculus (IC). We focus on the processing of frequency and interaural time (ITD) and level differences (ILD). We first summarize the morphology of the sub-nuclei belonging to the IC and their differentiation by antero- and retrograde labeling and by staining with various antibodies. We then focus on the response properties of neurons in the three major sub-nuclei of IC [core of the central nucleus of the IC (ICCc), lateral shell of the central nucleus of the IC (ICCls), and the external nucleus of the IC (ICX)]. ICCc projects to ICCls, which in turn sends its information to ICX. The responses of neurons in ICCc are sensitive to changes in ITD but not to changes in ILD. The distribution of ITD sensitivity with frequency in ICCc can only partly be explained by optimal coding. We continue with the tuning properties of ICCls neurons, the first station in the midbrain where the ITD and ILD pathways merge after they have split at the level of the cochlear nucleus. The ICCc and ICCls share similar ITD and frequency tuning. By contrast, ICCls shows sigmoidal ILD tuning which is absent in ICCc. Both ICCc and ICCls project to the forebrain, and ICCls also projects to ICX, where space-specific neurons are found. Space-specific neurons exhibit side peak suppression in ITD tuning, bell-shaped ILD tuning, and are broadly tuned to frequency. These neurons respond only to restricted positions of auditory space and form a map of two-dimensional auditory space. Finally, we briefly review major IC features, including multiplication-like computations, correlates of echo suppression, plasticity, and adaptation.
PMCID: PMC3394089  PMID: 22798945
sound localization; central nucleus of the inferior colliculus; auditory; plasticity; adaptation; interaural time difference; interaural level difference; frequency tuning
11.  Toll-Like Receptors 2 and 4 Regulate the Frequency of IFNγ-Producing CD4+ T-Cells during Pulmonary Infection with Chlamydia pneumoniae 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e26101.
TLR2 and TLR4 are crucial for recognition of Chlamydia pneumoniae in vivo, since infected TLR2/4 double-deficient mice are unable to control the infection as evidenced by severe loss of body weight and progressive lethal pneumonia. Unexpectedly, these mice display higher pulmonary levels of the protective cytokine IFNγ than wild type mice. We show here, that antigen-specific CD4+ T-cells are responsible for the observed IFNγ-secretion in vivo and their frequency is higher in TLR2/4 double-deficient than in wild type mice. The capacity of TLR2/4 double-deficient dendritic cells to re-stimulate CD4+ T-cells did not differ from wild type dendritic cells. However, the frequency of CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ T-cells was considerably higher in wild type compared to TLR2/4 double-deficient mice and was inversely related to the number of IFNγ-secreting CD4+ effector T-cells. Despite increased IFNγ-levels, at least one IFNγ-mediated response, protective NO-secretion, could not be induced in the absence of TLR2 and 4. In summary, CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ regulatory T-cells fail to expand in the absence of TLR2 and TLR4 during pulmonary infection with C. pneumoniae, which in turn enhances the frequency of CD4+IFNγ+ effector T-cells. Failure of IFNγ to induce NO in TLR2/4 double-deficient cells represents one possible mechanism why TLR2/4 double-deficient mice are unable to control pneumonia caused by C. pneumoniae and succumb to the infection.
PMCID: PMC3212512  PMID: 22096480
13.  Chemokines: A New Dendritic Cell Signal for T Cell Activation 
Dendritic cells (DCs) are the main inducers and regulators of cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses against viruses and tumors. One checkpoint to avoid misguided CTL activation, which might damage healthy cells of the body, is the necessity for multiple activation signals, involving both antigenic as well as additional signals that reflect the presence of pathogens. DCs provide both signals when activated by ligands of pattern recognition receptors and “licensed” by helper lymphocytes. Recently, it has been established that such T cell licensing can be facilitated by CD4+ T helper cells (“classical licensing”) or by natural killer T cells (“alternative licensing”). Licensing regulates the DC/CTL cross-talk at multiple layers. Direct recruitment of CTLs through chemokines released by licensed DCs has recently emerged as a common theme and has a crucial impact on the efficiency of CTL responses. Here, we discuss recent advances in our understanding of DC licensing for cross-priming and implications for the temporal and spatial regulation underlying this process. Future vaccination strategies will benefit from a deeper insight into the mechanisms that govern CTL activation.
PMCID: PMC3342358  PMID: 22566821
chemokines; dendritic cells; T cell activation; NKT cells; costimulation; antigen presentation
14.  Grand Challenges in Molecular Antigen-Presenting Cell-Biology 
PMCID: PMC3342386  PMID: 22566799
15.  Maternal TLR signaling is required for prenatal asthma protection by the nonpathogenic microbe Acinetobacter lwoffii F78 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2009;206(13):2869-2877.
The pre- and postnatal environment may represent a window of opportunity for allergy and asthma prevention, and the hygiene hypothesis implies that microbial agents may play an important role in this regard. Using the cowshed-derived bacterium Acinetobacter lwoffii F78 together with a mouse model of experimental allergic airway inflammation, this study investigated the hygiene hypothesis, maternal (prenatal) microbial exposure, and the involvement of Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling in prenatal protection from asthma. Maternal intranasal exposure to A. lwoffii F78 protected against the development of experimental asthma in the progeny. Maternally, A. lwoffii F78 exposure resulted in a transient increase in lung and serum proinflammatory cytokine production and up-regulation of lung TLR messenger RNA. Conversely, suppression of TLRs was observed in placental tissue. To investigate further, the functional relevance of maternal TLR signaling was tested in TLR2/3/4/7/9−/− knockout mice. The asthma-preventive effect was completely abolished in heterozygous offspring from A. lwoffii F78–treated TLR2/3/4/7/9−/− homozygous mother mice. Furthermore, the mild local and systemic inflammatory response was also absent in these A. lwoffii F78–exposed mothers. These data establish a direct relationship between maternal bacterial exposures, functional maternal TLR signaling, and asthma protection in the progeny.
PMCID: PMC2806458  PMID: 19995952
16.  Generation of anti-TLR2 intrabody mediating inhibition of macrophage surface TLR2 expression and TLR2-driven cell activation 
BMC Biotechnology  2010;10:31.
Toll-like receptor (TLR) 2 is a component of the innate immune system and senses specific pathogen associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) of both microbial and viral origin. Cell activation via TLR2 and other pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) contributes to sepsis pathology and chronic inflammation both relying on overamplification of an immune response. Intracellular antibodies expressed and retained inside the endoplasmatic reticulum (ER-intrabodies) are applied to block translocation of secreted and cell surface molecules from the ER to the cell surface resulting in functional inhibition of the target protein. Here we describe generation and application of a functional anti-TLR2 ER intrabody (αT2ib) which was generated from an antagonistic monoclonal antibody (mAb) towards human and murine TLR2 (T2.5) to inhibit the function of TLR2. αT2ib is a scFv fragment comprising the variable domain of the heavy chain and the variable domain of the light chain of mAb T2.5 linked together by a synthetic (Gly4Ser)3 amino acid sequence.
Coexpression of αT2ib and mouse TLR2 in HEK293 cells led to efficient retention and accumulation of TLR2 inside the ER compartment. Co-immunoprecipitation of human TLR2 with αT2ib indicated interaction of αT2ib with its cognate antigen within cells. αT2ib inhibited NF-κB driven reporter gene activation via TLR2 but not through TLR3, TLR4, or TLR9 if coexpressed in HEK293 cells. Co-transfection of human TLR2 with increasing amounts of the expression plasmid encoding αT2ib into HEK293 cells demonstrated high efficiency of the TLR2-αT2ib interaction. The αT2ib open reading frame was integrated into an adenoviral cosmid vector for production of recombinant adenovirus (AdV)-αT2ib. Transduction with AdVαT2ib specifically inhibited TLR2 surface expression of murine RAW264.7 and primary macrophages derived from bone marrow (BMM). Furthermore, TLR2 activation dependent TNFα mRNA accumulation, as well as TNFα translation and release by macrophages were largely abrogated upon transduction of αT2ib. αT2ib was expressed in BMM and splenocytes over 6 days upon systemic infection with AdVαT2ib. Systemic transduction applying AdVαT2ib rendered immune cells largely non-responsive to tripalmitoyl-peptide challenge. Our results show persistent paralysis of TLR2 activity and thus inhibition of immune activation.
The generated anti-TLR2 scFv intrabody inhibits specifically and very efficiently TLR2 ligand-driven cell activation in vitro and ex vivo. This indicates a therapeutic potential of αT2ib in microbial or viral infections.
PMCID: PMC2873280  PMID: 20388199
17.  Improvements of Sound Localization Abilities by the Facial Ruff of the Barn Owl (Tyto alba) as Demonstrated by Virtual Ruff Removal 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(11):e7721.
When sound arrives at the eardrum it has already been filtered by the body, head, and outer ear. This process is mathematically described by the head-related transfer functions (HRTFs), which are characteristic for the spatial position of a sound source and for the individual ear. HRTFs in the barn owl (Tyto alba) are also shaped by the facial ruff, a specialization that alters interaural time differences (ITD), interaural intensity differences (ILD), and the frequency spectrum of the incoming sound to improve sound localization. Here we created novel stimuli to simulate the removal of the barn owl's ruff in a virtual acoustic environment, thus creating a situation similar to passive listening in other animals, and used these stimuli in behavioral tests.
Methodology/Principal Findings
HRTFs were recorded from an owl before and after removal of the ruff feathers. Normal and ruff-removed conditions were created by filtering broadband noise with the HRTFs. Under normal virtual conditions, no differences in azimuthal head-turning behavior between individualized and non-individualized HRTFs were observed. The owls were able to respond differently to stimuli from the back than to stimuli from the front having the same ITD. By contrast, such a discrimination was not possible after the virtual removal of the ruff. Elevational head-turn angles were (slightly) smaller with non-individualized than with individualized HRTFs. The removal of the ruff resulted in a large decrease in elevational head-turning amplitudes.
The facial ruff a) improves azimuthal sound localization by increasing the ITD range and b) improves elevational sound localization in the frontal field by introducing a shift of iso–ILD lines out of the midsagittal plane, which causes ILDs to increase with increasing stimulus elevation. The changes at the behavioral level could be related to the changes in the binaural physical parameters that occurred after the virtual removal of the ruff. These data provide new insights into the function of external hearing structures and open up the possibility to apply the results on autonomous agents, creation of virtual auditory environments for humans, or in hearing aids.
PMCID: PMC2766829  PMID: 19890389
18.  Adjuvanticity of a synthetic cord factor analogue for subunit Mycobacterium tuberculosis vaccination requires FcRγ–Syk–Card9–dependent innate immune activation 
Novel vaccination strategies against Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) are urgently needed. The use of recombinant MTB antigens as subunit vaccines is a promising approach, but requires adjuvants that activate antigen-presenting cells (APCs) for elicitation of protective immunity. The mycobacterial cord factor Trehalose-6,6-dimycolate (TDM) and its synthetic analogue Trehalose-6,6-dibehenate (TDB) are effective adjuvants in combination with MTB subunit vaccine candidates in mice. However, it is unknown which signaling pathways they engage in APCs and how these pathways are coupled to the adaptive immune response. Here, we demonstrate that these glycolipids activate macrophages and dendritic cells (DCs) via Syk–Card9–Bcl10–Malt1 signaling to induce a specific innate activation program distinct from the response to Toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands. APC activation by TDB and TDM was independent of the C-type lectin receptor Dectin-1, but required the immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motif–bearing adaptor protein Fc receptor γ chain (FcRγ). In vivo, TDB and TDM adjuvant activity induced robust combined T helper (Th)-1 and Th-17 T cell responses to a MTB subunit vaccine and partial protection against MTB challenge in a Card9-dependent manner. These data provide a molecular basis for the immunostimulatory activity of TDB and TDM and identify the Syk–Card9 pathway as a rational target for vaccine development against tuberculosis.
PMCID: PMC2626670  PMID: 19139169
19.  Induction of inflammatory and immune responses by HMGB1–nucleosome complexes: implications for the pathogenesis of SLE 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2008;205(13):3007-3018.
Autoantibodies against double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) and nucleosomes represent a hallmark of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). However, the mechanisms involved in breaking the immunological tolerance against these poorly immunogenic nuclear components are not fully understood. Impaired phagocytosis of apoptotic cells with consecutive release of nuclear antigens may contribute to the immune pathogenesis. The architectural chromosomal protein and proinflammatory mediator high mobility group box protein 1 (HMGB1) is tightly attached to the chromatin of apoptotic cells. We demonstrate that HMGB1 remains bound to nucleosomes released from late apoptotic cells in vitro. HMGB1–nucleosome complexes were also detected in plasma from SLE patients. HMGB1-containing nucleosomes from apoptotic cells induced secretion of interleukin (IL) 1β, IL-6, IL-10, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) α and expression of costimulatory molecules in macrophages and dendritic cells (DC), respectively. Neither HMGB1-free nucleosomes from viable cells nor nucleosomes from apoptotic cells lacking HMGB1 induced cytokine production or DC activation. HMGB1-containing nucleosomes from apoptotic cells induced anti-dsDNA and antihistone IgG responses in a Toll-like receptor (TLR) 2–dependent manner, whereas nucleosomes from living cells did not. In conclusion, HMGB1–nucleosome complexes activate antigen presenting cells and, thereby, may crucially contribute to the pathogenesis of SLE via breaking the immunological tolerance against nucleosomes/dsDNA.
PMCID: PMC2605236  PMID: 19064698
21.  TLR4-induced IFN-γ production increases TLR2 sensitivity and drives Gram-negative sepsis in mice 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2008;205(8):1747-1754.
Gram-negative bacterial infection is a major cause of sepsis and septic shock. An important inducer of inflammation underlying both syndromes is the cellular recognition of bacterial products through pattern recognition receptors (PRRs), including Toll-like receptors (TLRs). We identified a novel antagonistic mAb (named 1A6) that recognizes the extracellular portion of the TLR4–MD-2 complex. If applied to mice before infection with clinical isolates of Salmonella enterica or Escherichia coli and subsequent antibiotic therapy, 1A6 prevented otherwise fatal shock, whereas application of 1A6 after infection was ineffective. In contrast, coapplication of 1A6 and an anti-TLR2 mAb up to 4 h after infection with Gram-negative bacteria, in combination with the start of antibiotic therapy (mimicking clinical conditions), provided robust protection. Consistent with our findings in mice, dual blockade of TLR2 and TLR4 inhibited TNF-α release from human peripheral blood mononuclear cells upon Gram-negative bacterial infection/antibiotic therapy. Both murine splenocytes and human PBMCs released IFN-γ in a TLR4-dependent manner, leading to enhanced surface TLR2 expression and sensitivity for TLR2 ligands. Our results implicate TLR2 as an important, TLR4-driven sensor of Gram-negative bacterial infection and provide a rationale for blockade of both TLRs, in addition to antibiotic therapy for the treatment of Gram-negative bacterial infection.
PMCID: PMC2525587  PMID: 18644971
22.  Group A Streptococcus Activates Type I Interferon Production and MyD88-dependent Signaling without Involvement of TLR2, TLR4, and TLR9*S⃞ 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2008;283(29):19879-19887.
Bacterial pathogens are recognized by the innate immune system through pattern recognition receptors, such as Toll-like receptors (TLRs). Engagement of TLRs triggers signaling cascades that launch innate immune responses. Activation of MAPKs and NF-κB, elements of the major signaling pathways induced by TLRs, depends in most cases on the adaptor molecule MyD88. In addition, Gram-negative or intracellular bacteria elicit MyD88-independent signaling that results in production of type I interferon (IFN). Here we show that in mouse macrophages, the activation of MyD88-dependent signaling by the extracellular Gram-positive human pathogen group A streptococcus (GAS; Streptococcus pyogenes) does not require TLR2, a receptor implicated in sensing of Gram-positive bacteria, or TLR4 and TLR9. Redundant engagement of either of these TLR molecules was excluded by using TLR2/4/9 triple-deficient macrophages. We further demonstrate that infection of macrophages by GAS causes IRF3 (interferon-regulatory factor 3)-dependent, MyD88-independent production of IFN. Surprisingly, IFN is induced also by GAS lacking slo and sagA, the genes encoding cytolysins that were shown to be required for IFN production in response to other Gram-positive bacteria. Our data indicate that (i) GAS is recognized by a MyD88-dependent receptor other than any of those typically used by bacteria, and (ii) GAS as well as GAS mutants lacking cytolysin genes induce type I IFN production by similar mechanisms as bacteria requiring cytoplasmic escape and the function of cytolysins.
PMCID: PMC2459277  PMID: 18480050
23.  Survival of lethal poxvirus infection in mice depends on TLR9, and therapeutic vaccination provides protection 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2008;118(5):1776-1784.
Poxviruses such as the causative agent of smallpox have developed multiple strategies to suppress immune responses, including the suppression of DC activation. Since poxviruses are large DNA viruses, we hypothesized that their detection by DCs may involve the endosomal DNA recognition receptor TLR9. Indeed, we have shown here that DC recognition of ectromelia virus (ECTV), the causative agent of mousepox, completely depended on TLR9. The importance of TLR9 was highlighted by the fact that mice lacking TLR9 showed drastically increased susceptibility to infection with ECTV. In contrast, we found that the strongly attenuated poxvirus modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) activated DCs by both TLR9-dependent and -independent pathways. We therefore tested whether we could use the broader induction of immune responses by MVA to protect mice from a lethal infection with ECTV. Indeed, MVA given at the same time as a lethal dose of ECTV protected mice from death. Importantly, MVA also rescued TLR9-deficient mice if administered 2 full days after an otherwise lethal infection with ECTV. Therefore, these data suggest an essential role for TLR9 in the defense against poxviruses. In addition, postexposure application of MVA may protect against lethal poxvirus infection.
PMCID: PMC2289795  PMID: 18398511
24.  BimS-induced apoptosis requires mitochondrial localization but not interaction with anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2007;177(4):625-636.
Release of apoptogenic proteins such as cytochrome c from mitochondria is regulated by pro- and anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins, with pro-apoptotic BH3-only proteins activating Bax and Bak. Current models assume that apoptosis induction occurs via the binding and inactivation of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins by BH3-only proteins or by direct binding to Bax. Here, we analyze apoptosis induction by the BH3-only protein BimS. Regulated expression of BimS in epithelial cells was followed by its rapid mitochondrial translocation and mitochondrial membrane insertion in the absence of detectable binding to anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins. This caused mitochondrial recruitment and activation of Bax and apoptosis. Mutational analysis of BimS showed that mitochondrial targeting, but not binding to Bcl-2 or Mcl-1, was required for apoptosis induction. In yeast, BimS enhanced the killing activity of Bax in the absence of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins. Thus, cell death induction by a BH3-only protein can occur through a process that is independent of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins but requires mitochondrial targeting.
PMCID: PMC2064208  PMID: 17517961
25.  Morphometric characterisation of wing feathers of the barn owl Tyto alba pratincola and the pigeon Columba livia 
Frontiers in Zoology  2007;4:23.
Owls are known for their silent flight. Even though there is some information available on the mechanisms that lead to a reduction of noise emission, neither the morphological basis, nor the biological mechanisms of the owl's silent flight are known. Therefore, we have initiated a systematic analysis of wing morphology in both a specialist, the barn owl, and a generalist, the pigeon. This report presents a comparison between the feathers of the barn owl and the pigeon and emphasise the specific characteristics of the owl's feathers on macroscopic and microscopic level. An understanding of the features and mechanisms underlying this silent flight might eventually be employed for aerodynamic purposes and lead to a new wing design in modern aircrafts.
A variety of different feathers (six remiges and six coverts), taken from several specimen in either species, were investigated. Quantitative analysis of digital images and scanning electron microscopy were used for a morphometric characterisation. Although both species have comparable body weights, barn owl feathers were in general larger than pigeon feathers. For both species, the depth and the area of the outer vanes of the remiges were typically smaller than those of the inner vanes. This difference was more pronounced in the barn owl than in the pigeon. Owl feathers also had lesser radiates, longer pennula, and were more translucent than pigeon feathers. The two species achieved smooth edges and regular surfaces of the vanes by different construction principles: while the angles of attachment to the rachis and the length of the barbs was nearly constant for the barn owl, these parameters varied in the pigeon. We also present a quantitative description of several characteristic features of barn owl feathers, e.g., the serrations at the leading edge of the wing, the fringes at the edges of each feather, and the velvet-like dorsal surface.
The quantitative description of the feathers and the specific structures of owl feathers can be used as a model for the construction of a biomimetic airplane wing or, in general, as a source for noise-reducing applications on any surfaces subjected to flow fields.
PMCID: PMC2211483  PMID: 18031576

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