The mountains of data thrusting from the new landscape of modern high-throughput biology are irrevocably changing biomedical research and creating a near-insatiable demand for training in data management and manipulation and data mining and analysis. Among life scientists, from clinicians to environmental researchers, a common theme is the need not just to use, and gain familiarity with, bioinformatics tools and resources but also to understand their underlying fundamental theoretical and practical concepts. Providing bioinformatics training to empower life scientists to handle and analyse their data efficiently, and progress their research, is a challenge across the globe. Delivering good training goes beyond traditional lectures and resource-centric demos, using interactivity, problem-solving exercises and cooperative learning to substantially enhance training quality and learning outcomes. In this context, this article discusses various pragmatic criteria for identifying training needs and learning objectives, for selecting suitable trainees and trainers, for developing and maintaining training skills and evaluating training quality. Adherence to these criteria may help not only to guide course organizers and trainers on the path towards bioinformatics training excellence but, importantly, also to improve the training experience for life scientists.
bioinformatics; training; bioinformatics courses; training life scientists; train the trainers
Summary: We present iAnn, an open source community-driven platform for dissemination of life science events, such as courses, conferences and workshops. iAnn allows automatic visualisation and integration of customised event reports. A central repository lies at the core of the platform: curators add submitted events, and these are subsequently accessed via web services. Thus, once an iAnn widget is incorporated into a website, it permanently shows timely relevant information as if it were native to the remote site. At the same time, announcements submitted to the repository are automatically disseminated to all portals that query the system. To facilitate the visualization of announcements, iAnn provides powerful filtering options and views, integrated in Google Maps and Google Calendar. All iAnn widgets are freely available.
Carbohydrases find a wide application in industrial processes and products, mainly in the food industry. With these enzymes, it is possible to obtain different types of sugar syrups (viz. glucose, fructose and inverted sugar syrups), prebiotics (viz. galactooligossacharides and fructooligossacharides) and isomaltulose, which is an interesting sweetener substitute for sucrose to improve the sensory properties of juices and wines and to reduce lactose in milk. The most important carbohydrases to accomplish these goals are of microbial origin and include amylases (α-amylases and glucoamylases), invertases, inulinases, galactosidases, glucosidases, fructosyltransferases, pectinases and glucosyltransferases. Yet, for all these processes to be cost-effective for industrial application, a very efficient, simple and cheap immobilization technique is required. Immobilization techniques can involve adsorption, entrapment or covalent bonding of the enzyme into an insoluble support, or carrier-free methods, usually based on the formation of cross-linked enzyme aggregates (CLEAs). They include a broad variety of supports, such as magnetic materials, gums, gels, synthetic polymers and ionic resins. All these techniques present advantages and disadvantages and several parameters must be considered. In this work, the most recent and important studies on the immobilization of carbohydrases with potential application in the food industry are reviewed.
carbohydrases immobilization; amylases; invertases; inulinases; galactosidases; glucosidases; fructosyltransferases; pectinases; glucosyltransferases
Bioinformatics, for its very nature, is devoted to a set of targets that constantly evolve. Training is probably the best response to the constant need for the acquisition of bioinformatics skills. It is interesting to assess the effects of training in the different sets of researchers that make use of it. While training bench experimentalists in the life sciences, we have observed instances of changes in their attitudes in research that, if well exploited, can have beneficial impacts in the dialogue with professional bioinformaticians and influence the conduction of the research itself.
This roundtable will feature four international speakers who will discuss national and international collaborative initiatives and outreach efforts in which they participate. They will share how these efforts have facilitated access to cutting-edge technology, fostered new generations of scientists, and ultimately advanced the progression of global scientific research. Open discussion will follow the presentations!
Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms, National Centre for Biological Sciences, India: experiences in implementing a national high-end core facility organization with the goals of improving regional technology access and enhancing the quality of research for scientists in academia, biotechnology companies, and the biopharmaceutical industry.Monash University Technology Platforms and Broader Victorian and Australian Networks: Australian initiatives to build global research capabilities and identify means to internationally benchmark regional capabilities to ensure delivery of world class infrastructure. Within the context of the current Australian strategic framework, funding considerations will be discussed, along with expectations for partner facilities to collaborate and be fully accessible to academia and industry.Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia, Portugal and beyond: Multiple roles of networking in science and extending outreach while consolidating community integration. Discussion will include achievement of community building and integration using concepts of sharing, training, resource availability, and the value and empowerment gained using acquired skills. The role of networking and institutional visibility will also be discussed.PRIME-XS: This EU-funded consortium provides an infrastructure of proteomics technologies to the European research community. The core is formed by six access facilities through which the consortium provides access to their technologies. Twelve partners work together to develop new resources to aid the community including the development of bioinformatic tools to analyze large-scale proteomics data and novel technologies to analyze protein interaction networks, post-translational modifications and more sensitive ways to detect protein and peptide biomarkers in complex samples.
The Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC) is biomedical research institute that acts as a host institution for small research groups, in Portugal. Most of its activities reach out to the scientific community in several ways. The IGC organizes regular series of seminars with invited international speakers, workshops, courses and conferences, and an in-house PhD programme. Specific outreach needs had to be met in the two instances that are described here.
The Gulbenkian Training Programme in Bioinformatics (GTPB) started as a regular activity in 1999 in response to the demand of users seeking opportunities to acquire hands-on practical skills in Bioinformatics in an effective way. Training provision in Bioinformatics requires the conciliation of a variety of interests into a series of highly effective training events, in which scientists can acquire skills and a high degree of independence in their usage. The GTPB programme currently offers more than 30 themes, of which 15 to 20 are chosen for single events in each year. The GTPB has provided training to more than 2000 researchers and students, so far.
A dedicated outreach programme targets science education and public engagement in science, for different audience groups. The aim of the outreach programme is to promote scientific literacy, foster careers in science and empower citizens to engage in cutting-edge biomedical research. Activities include Open Days, seminars and laboratory workshops for teachers, development of online, multimedia and hard-copy resources and experimental protocols to be used in schools, visits to schools with hands-on experiments and career talks by researchers and facility staff. Less conventional outreach activities include direct participation in venues for the general public (such a a music festival, for example) have created unexpected opportunities for fundraising and direct financial support for students engaged in research projects.
Funding bodies are increasingly recognizing the need to provide graduates and researchers with access to short intensive courses in a variety of disciplines, in order both to improve the general skills base and to provide solid foundations on which researchers may build their careers. In response to the development of ‘high-throughput biology’, the need for training in the field of bioinformatics, in particular, is seeing a resurgence: it has been defined as a key priority by many Institutions and research programmes and is now an important component of many grant proposals. Nevertheless, when it comes to planning and preparing to meet such training needs, tension arises between the reward structures that predominate in the scientific community which compel individuals to publish or perish, and the time that must be devoted to the design, delivery and maintenance of high-quality training materials. Conversely, there is much relevant teaching material and training expertise available worldwide that, were it properly organized, could be exploited by anyone who needs to provide training or needs to set up a new course. To do this, however, the materials would have to be centralized in a database and clearly tagged in relation to target audiences, learning objectives, etc. Ideally, they would also be peer reviewed, and easily and efficiently accessible for downloading. Here, we present the Bioinformatics Training Network (BTN), a new enterprise that has been initiated to address these needs and review it, respectively, to similar initiatives and collections.
Bioinformatics; training; end users; bioinformatics courses; learning bioinformatics
A set of supports were screened for the immobilization of a partially purified extract of β-glucosidase from Aspergillus sp. These supports, namely, Eupergit, Amberlite, alginate, gelatin, polyvinyl alcohol- (PVA-) based matrices (Lentikats), and sol-gel, have proved effective for the implementation of some other enzyme-based processes. The initial criterion for selection of promising supports prior to further characterization relied on the retention of the catalytic activity following immobilization. Based on such criterion, where immobilization in sol-gel and in Lentikats outmatched the remaining approaches, those two systems were further characterized. Immobilization did not alter the pH/activity profile, whereas the temperature/activity profile was improved when sol-gel support was assayed. Both thermal and pH stability were improved as a result of immobilization. An increase in the apparent KM (Michaelis constant) was observed following immobilization, suggesting diffusion limitations.
The pineal gland, the gland that translates darkness into an endocrine signal by releasing melatonin at night, is now considered a key player in the mounting of an innate immune response. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF), the first pro-inflammatory cytokine to be released by an inflammatory response, suppresses the translation of the key enzyme of melatonin synthesis (arylalkylamine-N-acetyltransferase, Aanat). Here, we show that TNF receptors of the subtype 1 (TNF-R1) are expressed by astrocytes, microglia, and pinealocytes. We also show that the TNF signaling reduces the level of inhibitory nuclear factor kappa B protein subtype A (NFKBIA), leading to the nuclear translocation of two NFKB dimers, p50/p50, and p50/RelA. The lack of a transactivating domain in the p50/p50 dimer suggests that this dimer is responsible for the repression of Aanat transcription. Meanwhile, p50/RelA promotes the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and the production of nitric oxide, which inhibits adrenergically induced melatonin production. Together, these data provide a mechanistic basis for considering pinealocytes a target of TNF and reinforce the idea that the suppression of pineal melatonin is one of the mechanisms involved in mounting an innate immune response.
pineal gland; immune-pineal axis; melatonin; tumor necrosis factor; nuclear factor kappa B
Endothelial cells are of great interest for cell therapy and tissue engineering. Understanding the heterogeneity among cell lines originating from different sources and culture protocols may allow more standardized material to be obtained. In a recent paper, we showed that adrenalectomy interferes with the expression of membrane adhesion molecules on endothelial cells maintained in culture for 16 to 18 days. In addition, the pineal hormone, melatonin, reduces the adhesion of neutrophils to post-capillary veins in rats. Here, we evaluated whether the reactivity of cultured endothelial cells maintained for more than two weeks in culture is inversely correlated to plasma melatonin concentration.
The nocturnal levels of melatonin were manipulated by treating rats with LPS. Nocturnal plasma melatonin, significantly reduced two hours after LPS treatment, returned to control levels after six hours. Endothelial cells obtained from animals that had lower nocturnal melatonin levels significantly express enhanced adhesion molecules and iNOS, and have more leukocytes adhered than cells from animals that had normal nocturnal levels of melatonin (naïve or injected with vehicle). Endothelial cells from animals sacrificed two hours after a simultaneous injection of LPS and melatonin present similar phenotype and function than those obtained from control animals. Analyzing together all the data, taking into account the plasma melatonin concentration versus the expression of adhesion molecules or iNOS we detected a significant inverse correlation.
Our data strongly suggest that the plasma melatonin level primes endothelial cells “in vivo,” indicating that the state of the donor animal is translated to cells in culture and therefore, should be considered for establishing cell banks in ideal conditions.
Food and feed is possibly the area where processing anchored in biological agents has the deepest roots. Despite this, process improvement or design and implementation of novel approaches has been consistently performed, and more so in recent years, where significant advances in enzyme engineering and biocatalyst design have fastened the pace of such developments. This paper aims to provide an updated and succinct overview on the applications of enzymes in the food sector, and of progresses made, namely, within the scope of tapping for more efficient biocatalysts, through screening, structural modification, and immobilization of enzymes. Targeted improvements aim at enzymes with enhanced thermal and operational stability, improved specific activity, modification of pH-activity profiles, and increased product specificity, among others. This has been mostly achieved through protein engineering and enzyme immobilization, along with improvements in screening. The latter has been considerably improved due to the implementation of high-throughput techniques, and due to developments in protein expression and microbial cell culture. Expanding screening to relatively unexplored environments (marine, temperature extreme environments) has also contributed to the identification and development of more efficient biocatalysts. Technological aspects are considered, but economic aspects are also briefly addressed.
The Ponseti method is reportedly effective for treating clubfoot in children up to 9 years of age. However, whether age at the beginning of treatment influences the rate of successful correction and the rate of relapse is unknown. We therefore retrospectively reviewed 68 consecutive children with 102 idiopathic clubfeet treated by the Ponseti technique in four Portuguese hospitals. We followed patients a minimum of 30 months (mean, 41.4 months; range, 30–61 months). The patients were divided into two groups according to their age at the beginning of treatment; Group I was younger than 6 months and Group II was older than 6 months. All feet (100%) were initially corrected and no feet required extensive surgery regardless of age at the beginning of treatment. There were no differences between Groups I and II in the number of casts, tenotomies, success in terms of rate of initial correction, rate of recurrence, and rate of tibialis anterior transference. The rate of the Ponseti method in avoiding extensive surgery was 100% in Groups I and II; relapses occurred in 8% of the feet in younger and older children.
Level of Evidence: Level II, prognostic study. See the Guidelines for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.
Bacteria in marine environments are often under extreme conditions of e.g., pressure, temperature, salinity, and depletion of micronutrients, with survival and proliferation often depending on the ability to produce biologically active compounds. Some marine bacteria produce biosurfactants, which help to transport hydrophobic low water soluble substrates by increasing their bioavailability. However, other functions related to heavy metal binding, quorum sensing and biofilm formation have been described. In the case of metal ions, bacteria developed a strategy involving the release of binding agents to increase their bioavailability. In the particular case of the Fe3+ ion, which is almost insoluble in water, bacteria secrete siderophores that form soluble complexes with the ion, allowing the cells to uptake the iron required for cell functioning. Adaptive changes in the lipid composition of marine bacteria have been observed in response to environmental variations in pressure, temperature and salinity. Some fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acids, have only been reported in prokaryotes in deep-sea bacteria. Cell membrane permeability can also be adapted to extreme environmental conditions by the production of hopanoids, which are pentacyclic triterpenoids that have a function similar to cholesterol in eukaryotes. Bacteria can also produce molecules that prevent the attachment, growth and/or survival of challenging organisms in competitive environments. The production of these compounds is particularly important in surface attached strains and in those in biofilms. The wide array of compounds produced by marine bacteria as an adaptive response to demanding conditions makes them suitable candidates for screening of compounds with commercially interesting biological functions. Biosurfactants produced by marine bacteria may be helpful to increase mass transfer in different industrial processes and in the bioremediation of hydrocarbon-contaminated sites. Siderophores are necessary e.g., in the treatment of diseases with metal ion imbalance, while antifouling compounds could be used to treat man-made surfaces that are used in marine environments. New classes of antibiotics could efficiently combat bacteria resistant to the existing antibiotics. The present work aims to provide a comprehensive review of the metabolites produced by marine bacteria in order to cope with intrusive environments, and to illustrate how such metabolites can be advantageously used in several relevant areas, from bioremediation to health and pharmaceutical sectors.
biosurfactants; siderophores; fatty acids; exopolymeric substances; cellular adaptation
The use of biocatalysts for the production of both consumer goods and building blocks for chemical synthesis is consistently gaining relevance. A significant contribution for recent advances towards further implementation of enzymes and whole cells is related to the developments in miniature reactor technology and insights into flow behavior. Due to the high level of parallelization and reduced requirements of chemicals, intensive screening of biocatalysts and process variables has become more feasible and reproducibility of the bioconversion processes has been substantially improved. The present work aims to provide an overview of the applications of miniaturized reactors in bioconversion processes, considering multi-well plates and microfluidic devices, update information on the engineering characterization of the hardware used, and present perspective developments in this area of research.
multi-well plates; microreactors; enzyme immobilization; flow reactors; fluidic properties
Programmatic access to data and tools through the web using so-called web services has an important role to play in bioinformatics. In this article, we discuss the most popular approaches based on SOAP/WS-I and REST and describe our, a cross section of the community, experiences with providing and using web services in the context of biological sequence analysis. We briefly review main technological approaches as well as best practice hints that are useful for both users and developers. Finally, syntactic and semantic data integration issues with multiple web services are discussed.
web services; SOAP; REST; internet technologies; sequence analysis
Efflux pump activity has been associated with multidrug resistance phenotypes in bacteria, compromising the effectiveness of antimicrobial therapy. The development of methods for the early detection and quantification of drug transport across the bacterial cell wall is a tool essential to understand and overcome this type of drug resistance mechanism. This approach was developed to study the transport of the efflux pump substrate ethidium bromide (EtBr) across the cell envelope of Escherichia coli K-12 and derivatives, differing in the expression of their efflux systems.
EtBr transport across the cell envelope of E. coli K-12 and derivatives was analysed by a semi-automated fluorometric method. Accumulation and efflux of EtBr was studied under limiting energy supply (absence of glucose and low temperature) and in the presence and absence of the efflux pump inhibitor, chlorpromazine. The bulk fluorescence variations were also observed by single-cell flow cytometry analysis, revealing that once inside the cells, leakage of EtBr does not occur and that efflux is mediated by active transport. The importance of AcrAB-TolC, the main efflux system of E. coli, in the extrusion of EtBr was evidenced by comparing strains with different levels of AcrAB expression. An experimental model was developed to describe the transport kinetics in the three strains. The model integrates passive entry (influx) and active efflux of EtBr, and discriminates different degrees of efflux between the studied strains that vary in the activity of their efflux systems, as evident from the calculated efflux rates: = 0.0173 ± 0.0057 min-1; = 0.0106 ± 0.0033 min-1; and = 0.0230 ± 0.0075 min-1.
The combined use of a semi-automated fluorometric method and an experimental model allowed quantifying EtBr transport in E. coli strains that differ in their overall efflux activity. This methodology can be used for the early detection of differences in the drug efflux capacity in bacteria accounting for antibiotic resistance, as well as for expedite screening of new drug efflux inhibitors libraries and transport studies across the bacterial cell wall.
Because of the increased number of patients with neuromuscular scoliosis receiving intrathecal baclofen therapy, we report a clinical case of withdrawal. We hope to make physicians aware of this potentially serious complication where signs and symptoms may be difficult to interpret due to population characteristics.
The Aβ-binding alcohol dehydrogenase/17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 10 (ABAD/HSD10) is an enzyme involved in pivotal metabolic processes and in the mitochondrial dysfunction seen in the Alzheimer's disease. Here we use comparative genomic analyses to study the evolution of the HADH2 gene encoding ABAD/HSD10 across several eukaryotic species.
Both vertebrate and nematode HADH2 genes showed a six-exon/five-intron organization while those of the insects had a reduced and varied number of exons (two to three). Eutherian mammal HADH2 genes revealed some highly conserved noncoding regions, which may indicate the presence of functional elements, namely in the upstream region about 1 kb of the transcription start site and in the first part of intron 1. These regions were also conserved between Tetraodon and Fugu fishes. We identified a conserved alternative splicing event between human and dog, which have a nine amino acid deletion, causing the removal of the strand βF. This strand is one of the seven strands that compose the core β-sheet of the Rossman fold dinucleotide-binding motif characteristic of the short chain dehydrogenase/reductase (SDR) family members. However, the fact that the substrate binding cleft residues are retained and the existence of a shared variant between human and dog suggest that it might be functional. Molecular adaptation analyses across eutherian mammal orthologues revealed the existence of sites under positive selection, some of which being localized in the substrate-binding cleft and in the insertion 1 region on loop D (an important region for the Aβ-binding to the enzyme). Interestingly, a higher than expected number of nonsynonymous substitutions were observed between human/chimpanzee and orangutan, with six out of the seven amino acid replacements being under molecular adaptation (including three in loop D and one in the substrate binding loop).
Our study revealed that HADH2 genes maintained a reasonable conserved organization across a large evolutionary distance. The conserved noncoding regions identified among mammals and between pufferfishes, the evidence of an alternative splicing variant conserved between human and dog, and the detection of positive selection across eutherian mammals, may be of importance for further research on ABAD/HSD10 function and its implication in the Alzheimer's disease.
The cadherin superfamily is a diverse and multifunctional group of proteins with
extensive representation across genomes of phylogenetically distant species that is
involved in cell–cell communication and adhesion. The mosquito Anopheles gambiae
is an emerging model organism for the study of innate immunity and host–pathogen
interactions, where the malaria parasite induces a profound rearrangement of the
actin cytoskeleton at critical stages of infection. We have used bioinformatics tools
to retrieve present sequence knowledge about the complete repertoire of cadherins
in A. gambiae and compared it to that of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. In
A. gambiae, we have identified 43 genes coding for cadherin extracellular domains
that were re-annotated to 38 genes and represent an expansion of this gene family in
comparison to other invertebrate organisms. The majority of Drosophila cadherins
show a 1 : 1 Anopheles orthologue, but we have observed a remarkable expansion in
some groups in A. gambiae, such as N-cadherins, that were recently shown to have a
role in the olfactory system of the fruit fly. In vivo dsRNA silencing of overrepresented
genes in A. gambiae and other genes showing expression at critical tissues for parasite
infection will likely advance our understanding of the problems of host preference and
host–pathogen interactions in this mosquito species.