Quantitative analysis of the cellular composition of rodent, primate, insectivore, and afrotherian brains has shown that non-neuronal scaling rules are similar across these mammalian orders that diverged about 95 million years ago, and therefore appear to be conserved in evolution, while neuronal scaling rules appear to be free to vary in a clade-specific manner. Here we analyze the cellular scaling rules that apply to the brain of artiodactyls, a group within the order Cetartiodactyla, believed to be a relatively recent radiation from the common Eutherian ancestor. We find that artiodactyls share non-neuronal scaling rules with all groups analyzed previously. Artiodactyls share with afrotherians and rodents, but not with primates, the neuronal scaling rules that apply to the cerebral cortex and cerebellum. The neuronal scaling rules that apply to the remaining brain areas are, however, distinct in artiodactyls. Importantly, we show that the folding index of the cerebral cortex scales with the number of neurons in the cerebral cortex in distinct fashions across artiodactyls, afrotherians, rodents, and primates, such that the artiodactyl cerebral cortex is more convoluted than primate cortices of similar numbers of neurons. Our findings suggest that the scaling rules found to be shared across modern afrotherians, glires, and artiodactyls applied to the common Eutherian ancestor, such as the relationship between the mass of the cerebral cortex as a whole and its number of neurons. In turn, the distribution of neurons along the surface of the cerebral cortex, which is related to its degree of gyrification, appears to be a clade-specific characteristic. If the neuronal scaling rules for artiodactyls extend to all cetartiodactyls, we predict that the large cerebral cortex of cetaceans will still have fewer neurons than the human cerebral cortex.
evolution; cortical expansion; numbers of neurons; gyrification; brain size
How does the size of the glial and neuronal cells that compose brain tissue vary across brain structures and species? Our previous studies indicate that average neuronal size is highly variable, while average glial cell size is more constant. Measuring whole cell sizes in vivo, however, is a daunting task. Here we use chi-square minimization of the relationship between measured neuronal and glial cell densities in the cerebral cortex, cerebellum, and rest of brain in 27 mammalian species to model neuronal and glial cell mass, as well as the neuronal mass fraction of the tissue (the fraction of tissue mass composed by neurons). Our model shows that while average neuronal cell mass varies by over 500-fold across brain structures and species, average glial cell mass varies only 1.4-fold. Neuronal mass fraction varies typically between 0.6 and 0.8 in all structures. Remarkably, we show that two fundamental, universal relationships apply across all brain structures and species: (1) the glia/neuron ratio varies with the total neuronal mass in the tissue (which in turn depends on variations in average neuronal cell mass), and (2) the neuronal mass per glial cell, and with it the neuronal mass fraction and neuron/glia mass ratio, varies with average glial cell mass in the tissue. We propose that there is a fundamental building block of brain tissue: the glial mass that accompanies a unit of neuronal mass. We argue that the scaling of this glial mass is a consequence of a universal mechanism whereby numbers of glial cells are added to the neuronal parenchyma during development, irrespective of whether the neurons composing it are large or small, but depending on the average mass of the glial cells being added. We also show how evolutionary variations in neuronal cell mass, glial cell mass and number of neurons suffice to determine the most basic characteristics of brain structures, such as mass, glia/neuron ratio, neuron/glia mass ratio, and cell densities.
allometry; glia/neuron ratio; number of neurons; number of glial cells; cell size; brain size
Expansion of the cortical gray matter in evolution has been accompanied by an even faster expansion of the subcortical white matter volume and by folding of the gray matter surface, events traditionally considered to occur homogeneously across mammalian species. Here we investigate how white matter expansion and cortical folding scale across species of rodents and primates as the gray matter gains neurons. We find very different scaling rules of white matter expansion across the two orders, favoring volume conservation and smaller propagation times in primates. For a similar number of cortical neurons, primates have a smaller connectivity fraction and less white matter volume than rodents; moreover, as the cortex gains neurons, there is a much faster increase in white matter volume and in its ratio to gray matter volume in rodents than in primates. Order-specific scaling of the white matter can be attributed to different scaling of average fiber caliber and neuronal connectivity in rodents and primates. Finally, cortical folding increases as different functions of the number of cortical neurons in rodents and primates, scaling faster in the latter than in the former. While the neuronal rules that govern gray and white matter scaling are different across rodents and primates, we find that they can be explained by the same unifying model, with order-specific exponents. The different scaling of the white matter has implications for the scaling of propagation time and computational capacity in evolution, and calls for a reappraisal of developmental models of cortical expansion in evolution.
white matter; number of neurons; allometry; brain size; cortical expansion; gyrification
The human prefrontal cortex has been considered different in several aspects and relatively enlarged compared to the rest of the cortical areas. Here we determine whether the white and gray matter of the prefrontal portion of the human cerebral cortex have similar or different cellular compositions relative to the rest of the cortical regions by applying the Isotropic Fractionator to analyze the distribution of neurons along the entire anteroposterior axis of the cortex, and its relationship with the degree of gyrification, number of neurons under the cortical surface, and other parameters. The prefrontal region shares with the remainder of the cerebral cortex (except for occipital cortex) the same relationship between cortical volume and number of neurons. In contrast, both occipital and prefrontal areas vary from other cortical areas in their connectivity through the white matter, with a systematic reduction of cortical connectivity through the white matter and an increase of the mean axon caliber along the anteroposterior axis. These two parameters explain local differences in the distribution of neurons underneath the cortical surface. We also show that local variations in cortical folding are neither a function of local numbers of neurons nor of cortical thickness, but correlate with properties of the white matter, and are best explained by the folding of the white matter surface. Our results suggest that the human cerebral cortex is divided in two zones (occipital and non-occipital) that differ in how neurons are distributed across their gray matter volume and in three zones (prefrontal, occipital, and non-occipital) that differ in how neurons are connected through the white matter. Thus, the human prefrontal cortex has the largest fraction of neuronal connectivity through the white matter and the smallest average axonal caliber in the white matter within the cortex, although its neuronal composition fits the pattern found for other, non-occipital areas.
human; prefrontal cortex; occipital cortex; evolution; cortical expansion
Larger mammalian cerebral cortices tend to have increasingly folded surfaces, often considered to result from the lateral expansion of the gray matter (GM), which, in a volume constrained by the cranium, causes mechanical compression that is relieved by inward folding of the white matter (WM), or to result from differential expansion of cortical layers. Across species, thinner cortices, presumably more pliable, would offer less resistance and hence become more folded than thicker cortices of a same size. However, such models do not acknowledge evidence in favor of a tension-based pull onto the GM from the inside, holding it in place even when the constraint imposed by the cranium is removed. Here we propose a testable, quantitative model of cortical folding driven by tension along the length of axons in the WM that assumes that connections through the WM are formed early in development, at the same time as the GM becomes folded, and considers that axonal connections through the WM generate tension that leads to inward folding of the WM surface, which pulls the GM surface inward. As an important necessary simplifying hypothesis, we assume that axons leaving or entering the WM do so approximately perpendicularly to the WM–GM interface. Cortical folding is thus driven by WM connectivity, and is a function of the fraction of cortical neurons connected through the WM, the average length, and the average cross-sectional area of the axons in the WM. Our model predicts that the different scaling of cortical folding across mammalian orders corresponds to different combinations of scaling of connectivity, axonal cross-sectional area, and tension along WM axons, instead of being a simple function of the number of GM neurons. Our model also explains variations in average cortical thickness as a result of the factors that lead to cortical folding, rather than as a determinant of folding; predicts that for a same tension, folding increases with connectivity through the WM and increased axonal cross-section; and that, for a same number of neurons, higher connectivity through the WM leads to a higher degree of folding as well as an on average thinner GM across species.
allometry; brain size; evolution; white matter; cortical folding; connectivity; axon caliber; cortical thickness
In 2010, the WHO celebrated the 30th anniversary of the smallpox eradication. Ironically, infections caused by viruses related to smallpox are being increasingly reported worldwide, including Monkeypox, Cowpox, and Vaccinia virus (VACV). Little is known about the human immunological responses elicited during acute infections caused by orthopoxviruses. We have followed VACV zoonotic outbreaks taking place in Brazil and analyzed cellular immune responses in patients acutely infected by VACV. Results indicated that these patients show a biased immune modulation when compared to noninfected controls. Amounts of B cells are low and less activated in infected patients. Although present, T CD4+ cells are also less activated when compared to noninfected individuals, and so are monocytes/macrophages. Similar results were obtained when Balb/C mice were experimentally infected with a VACV sample isolated during the zoonotic outbreaks. Taking together, the data suggest that zoonotic VACVs modulate specific immune cell compartments during an acute infection in humans.
Adverse events upon smallpox vaccination with fully-replicative strains of Vaccinia virus (VACV) comprise an array of clinical manifestations that occur primarily in immunocompromised patients leading to significant host morbidity/mortality. The expansion of immune-suppressed populations and the possible release of Variola virus as a bioterrorist act have given rise to concerns over vaccination complications should more widespread vaccination be reinitiated. Our goal was to evaluate the components of the host immune system that are sufficient to prevent morbidity/mortality in a murine model of tail scarification, which mimics immunological and clinical features of smallpox vaccination in humans. Infection of C57BL/6 wild-type mice led to a strictly localized infection, with complete viral clearance by day 28 p.i. On the other hand, infection of T and B-cell deficient mice (Rag1−/−) produced a severe disease, with uncontrolled viral replication at the inoculation site and dissemination to internal organs. Infection of B-cell deficient animals (µMT) produced no mortality. However, viral clearance in µMT animals was delayed compared to WT animals, with detectable viral titers in tail and internal organs late in infection. Treatment of Rag1−/− with rabbit hyperimmune anti-vaccinia serum had a subtle effect on the morbidity/mortality of this strain, but it was effective in reduce viral titers in ovaries. Finally, NUDE athymic mice showed a similar outcome of infection as Rag1−/−, and passive transfer of WT T cells to Rag1−/− animals proved fully effective in preventing morbidity/mortality. These results strongly suggest that both T and B cells are important in the immune response to primary VACV infection in mice, and that T-cells are required to control the infection at the inoculation site and providing help for B-cells to produce antibodies, which help to prevent viral dissemination. These insights might prove helpful to better identify individuals with higher risk of complications after infection with poxvirus.
Oropouche fever; arbovirus; vector-borne infections; letter
Despite the fact that smallpox eradication was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1980, other poxviruses have emerged and re-emerged, with significant public health and economic impacts. Vaccinia virus (VACV), a poxvirus used during the WHO smallpox vaccination campaign, has been involved in zoonotic infections in Brazilian rural areas (Bovine Vaccinia outbreaks – BV), affecting dairy cattle and milkers. Little is known about VACV's natural hosts and its epidemiological and ecological characteristics. Although VACV was isolated and/or serologically detected in Brazilian wild animals, the link between wildlife and farms has not yet been elucidated.
In this study, we describe for the first time, to our knowledge, the isolation of a VACV (Mariana virus - MARV) from a mouse during a BV outbreak. Genetic data, in association with biological assays, showed that this isolate was the same etiological agent causing exanthematic lesions observed in the cattle and human inhabitants of a particular BV-affected area. Phylogenetic analysis grouped MARV with other VACV isolated during BV outbreaks.
These data provide new biological and epidemiological information on VACV and lead to an interesting question: could peridomestic rodents be the link between wildlife and BV outbreaks?
Virus-host biological interaction is a continuous coevolutionary process involving both host immune system and viral escape mechanisms. Flaviviridae family is composed of fast evolving RNA viruses that infects vertebrate (mammals and birds) and/or invertebrate (ticks and mosquitoes) organisms. These host groups are very distinct life forms separated by a long evolutionary time, so lineage-specific anti-viral mechanisms are likely to have evolved. Flaviviridae viruses which infect a single host lineage would be subjected to specific host-induced pressures and, therefore, selected by them. In this work we compare the genomic evolutionary patterns of Flaviviridae viruses and their hosts in an attempt to uncover coevolutionary processes inducing common features in such disparate groups. Especially, we have analyzed dinucleotide and codon usage patterns in the coding regions of vertebrate and invertebrate organisms as well as in Flaviviridae viruses which specifically infect one or both host types. The two host groups possess very distinctive dinucleotide and codon usage patterns. A pronounced CpG under-representation was found in the vertebrate group, possibly induced by the methylation-deamination process, as well as a prominent TpA decrease. The invertebrate group displayed only a TpA frequency reduction bias. Flaviviridae viruses mimicked host nucleotide motif usage in a host-specific manner. Vertebrate-infecting viruses possessed under-representation of CpG and TpA, and insect-only viruses displayed only a TpA under-representation bias. Single-host Flaviviridae members which persistently infect mammals or insect hosts (Hepacivirus and insect-only Flavivirus, respectively) were found to posses a codon usage profile more similar to that of their hosts than to related Flaviviridae. We demonstrated that vertebrates and mosquitoes genomes are under very distinct lineage-specific constraints, and Flaviviridae viruses which specifically infect these lineages appear to be subject to the same evolutionary pressures that shaped their host coding regions, evidencing the lineage-specific coevolutionary processes between the viral and host groups.
Brazilian Vaccinia virus had been isolated from sentinel mice, rodents and recently from humans, cows and calves during outbreaks on dairy farms in several rural areas in Brazil, leading to high economic and social impact. Some phylogenetic studies have demonstrated the existence of two different populations of Brazilian Vaccinia virus strains circulating in nature, but little is known about their biological characteristics. Therefore, our goal was to study the virulence pattern of seven Brazilian Vaccinia virus strains. Infected BALB/c mice were monitored for morbidity, mortality and viral replication in organs as trachea, lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, brain and spleen. Based on the virulence potential, the Brazilian Vaccinia virus strains were grouped into two groups. One group contained GP1V, VBH, SAV and BAV which caused disease and death in infected mice and the second one included ARAV, GP2V and PSTV which did not cause any clinical signals or death in infected BALB/c mice. The subdivision of Brazilian Vaccinia virus strains into two groups is in agreement with previous genetic studies. Those data reinforce the existence of different populations circulating in Brazil regarding the genetic and virulence characteristics.
Bovine vaccinia virus outbreaks have been occurring in different regions of Brazil. We report here the time course of natural human infection by vaccinia virus and describe important clinical and epidemiological aspects of this zoonotic infection. The diagnosis of vaccinia virus infection was based on clinical, serological, and molecular procedures.