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1.  PGBD5: a neural-specific intron-containing piggyBac transposase domesticated over 500 million years ago and conserved from cephalochordates to humans 
Mobile DNA  2013;4:23.
piggyBac domain (PGBD) transposons are found in organisms ranging from fungi to humans. Three domesticated piggyBac elements have been described. In the ciliates Paramecium tetraurelia and Tetrahymena thermophila, homologs known as piggyMacs excise internal eliminated sequences from germline micronuclear DNA during regeneration of the new somatic macronucleus. In primates, a PGBD3 element inserted into the Cockayne syndrome group B (CSB) gene over 43 Mya serves as an alternative 3′ terminal exon, enabling the CSB gene to generate both full length CSB and a conserved CSB-PGBD3 fusion protein that joins an N-terminal CSB domain to the C-terminal transposase domain.
We describe a fourth domesticated piggyBac element called PGBD5. We show that i) PGBD5 was first domesticated in the common ancestor of the cephalochordate Branchiostoma floridae (aka lancelet or amphioxus) and vertebrates, and is conserved in all vertebrates including lamprey but cannot be found in more basal urochordates, hemichordates, or echinoderms; ii) the lancelet, lamprey, and human PGBD5 genes are syntenic and orthologous; iii) no potentially mobile ancestral PGBD5 elements can be identified in other more deeply rooted organisms; iv) although derived from an IS4-related transposase of the RNase H clan, PGBD5 protein is unlikely to retain enzymatic activity because the catalytic DDD(D) motif is not conserved; v) PGBD5 is preferentially expressed in certain granule cell lineages of the brain and in the central nervous system based on available mouse and human in situ hybridization data, and the tissue-specificity of documented mammalian EST and mRNA clones; vi) the human PGBD5 promoter and gene region is rich in bound regulatory factors including the neuron-restrictive silencer factors NRSF/REST and CoREST, as well as SIN3, KAP1, STAT3, and CTCF; and vii) despite preferential localization within the nucleus, PGBD5 protein is unlikely to bind DNA or chromatin as neither DNase I digestion nor high salt extraction release PGBD5 from fractionated mouse brain nuclei.
We speculate that the neural-specific PGBD5 transposase was domesticated >500 My after cephalochordates and vertebrates split from urochordates, and that PGBD5 may have played a role in the evolution of a primitive deuterostome neural network into a centralized nervous system.
PMCID: PMC3902484  PMID: 24180413
Branchiostoma; Central nervous system; Cephalochordate; Domestication; Granule cells PGBD5; PiggyBac
2.  Silver Nanoparticles Alter Zebrafish Development and Larval Behavior: Distinct Roles for Particle Size, Coating and Composition 
Neurotoxicology and teratology  2011;33(6):708-714.
Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) act as antibacterials by releasing monovalent silver (Ag+) and are increasingly used in consumer products, thus elevating exposures in human and wildlife populations. In vitro models indicate that AgNPs are likely to be developmental neurotoxicants with actions distinct from those of Ag+. We exposed developing zebrafish (Danio rerio) to Ag+ or AgNPs on days 0–5 post-fertilization and evaluated hatching, morphology, survival and swim bladder inflation. Larval swimming behavior and responses to different lighting conditions were assessed 24 hr after the termination of exposure. Comparisons were made with AgNPs of different sizes and coatings: 10 nm citrate-coated AgNP (AgNP-C), and 10 or 50 nm polyvinylpyrrolidone-coated AgNPs (AgNP-PVP). Ag+ and AgNP-C delayed hatching to a similar extent but Ag+ was more effective in slowing swim bladder inflation, and elicited greater dysmorphology and mortality. In behavioral assessments, Ag+ exposed fish were hyperresponsive to light changes, whereas AgNP-C exposed fish showed normal responses. Neither of the AgNP-PVPs affected survival or morphology but both evoked significant changes in swimming responses to light in ways that were distinct from Ag+ and each other. The smaller AgNP-PVP caused overall hypoactivity whereas the larger caused hyperactivity. AgNPs are less potent than Ag+ with respect to dysmorphology and loss of viability, but nevertheless produce neurobehavioral effects that highly depend on particle coating and size, rather than just reflecting the release of Ag+. Different AgNP formulations are thus likely to produce distinct patterns of developmental neurotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC3112298  PMID: 21315816
Silver; Nanoparticles; Zebrafish
4.  Evaluation of Candidate Genes for Cholinesterase Activity in Farmworkers Exposed to Organophosphorus Pesticides: Association of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms in BCHE 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2010;118(10):1395-1399.
Organophosphate pesticides act as cholinesterase inhibitors. For those with agricultural exposure to these chemicals, risk of potential exposure-related health effects may be modified by genetic variability in cholinesterase metabolism. Cholinesterase activity is a useful, indirect measurement of pesticide exposure, especially in high-risk individuals such as farmworkers. To understand fully the links between pesticide exposure and potential human disease, analyses must be able to consider genetic variability in pesticide metabolism.
We studied participants in the Community Participatory Approach to Measuring Farmworker Pesticide Exposure (PACE3) study to determine whether cholinesterase levels are associated with single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) involved in pesticide metabolism.
Cholinesterase levels were measured from blood samples taken from 287 PACE3 participants at up to four time points during the 2007 growing season. We performed association tests of cholinesterase levels and 256 SNPs in 30 candidate genes potentially involved in pesticide metabolism. A false discovery rate (FDR) p-value was used to account for multiple testing.
Thirty-five SNPs were associated (unadjusted p < 0.05) based on at least one of the genetic models tested (general, additive, dominant, and recessive). The strongest evidence of association with cholinesterase levels was observed with two SNPs, rs2668207 and rs2048493, in the butyrylcholinesterase (BCHE) gene (FDR adjusted p = 0.15 for both; unadjusted p = 0.00098 and 0.00068, respectively). In participants with at least one minor allele, cholinesterase levels were lower by 4.3–9.5% at all time points, consistent with an effect that is independent of pesticide exposure.
Common genetic variation in the BCHE gene may contribute to subtle changes in cholinesterase levels.
PMCID: PMC2957918  PMID: 20529763
BCHE; butyrylcholinesterase; cholinesterase; farmworkers; genetics; organophosphate pesticides; SNPs
5.  Regulation of Fto/Ftm gene expression in mice and humans 
Two recent, large GWAS in European populations have associated a ∼47 Kb region that contains part of the FTO gene with high BMI. The functions of FTO and adjacent FTM in human biology are not clear. We examined expression of these genes in organs of mice segregating for monogenic obesity mutations, exposed to under/over feeding, and to 4 °C. Fto/Ftm expression was reduced in mesenteric adipose tissue of mice segregating for the Ay, Lepob, Leprdb, Cpefat or tub mutations and there was a similar trend in other tissues. These effects were not due to adiposity per se. Hypothalamic Fto and Ftm expression were decreased by fasting in lean and obese animals and by cold exposure in lean mice. The fact that responses of Fto and Ftm expression to these manipulations were almost indistinguishable suggested that the genes might be co-regulated. The putative overlapping regulatory region contains at least 2 canonical CUTL1 binding sites. One of these nominal CUTL1 sites includes rs8050136, a SNP associated with high body mass. The A allele of rs8050136 – associated with lower body mass than the C allele – preferentially bound CUTL1 in human fibroblast DNA. 70% knockdown of CUTL1 expression in human fibroblasts decreased FTO and FTM expression by 90 and 65 %, respectively. Animals and humans with various genetic interruptions of FTO or FTM have phenotypes reminiscent of aspects of the Bardet-Biedl obesity syndrome, a confirmed “ciliopathy”. FTM has recently been shown to be a ciliary basal body protein.
PMCID: PMC2808712  PMID: 18256137
obesity; hypothalamus; adipose tissue; CUTL1
6.  Developmental neurotoxicity of chlorpyrifos: what is the vulnerable period? 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2002;110(11):1097-1103.
Previously, we found that exposure of neonatal rats to chlorpyrifos (CPF) produced brain cell damage and loss, with resultant abnormalities of synaptic development. We used the same biomarkers to examine prenatal CPF treatment so as to define the critical period of vulnerability. One group of pregnant rats received CPF (subcutaneous injections in dimethyl sulfoxide vehicle) on gestational days (GD) 17-20, a peak period of neurogenesis; a second group was treated on GD9-12, the period of neural tube formation. In the GD17-20 group, the threshold for a reduction in maternal weight gain was 5 mg/kg/day; at or below that dose, there was no evidence (GD21) of general fetotoxicity as assessed by the number of fetuses or fetal body and tissue weights. Above the threshold, there was brain sparing (reduced body weight with an increase in brain/body weight ratio) and a targeting of the liver (reduced liver/body weight). Indices of cell packing density (DNA per gram of tissue) and cell number (DNA content) similarly showed effects only on the liver; however, there were significant changes in the protein/DNA ratio, an index of cell size, in fetal brain regions at doses as low as 1 mg/kg, below the threshold for inhibition of fetal brain cholinesterase (2 mg/kg). Indices of cholinergic synaptic development showed significant CPF-induced defects but only at doses above the threshold for cholinesterase inhibition. With earlier CPF treatment (GD9-12), there was no evidence of general fetotoxicity or alterations of brain cell development at doses up to the threshold for maternal toxicity (5 mg/kg), assessed on GD17 and GD21; however, augmentation of cholinergic synaptic markers was detected at doses as low as 1 mg/kg. Compared with previous work on postnatal CPF exposure, the effects seen here required doses closer to the threshold for fetal weight loss; this implies a lower vulnerability in the fetal compared with the neonatal brain. Although delayed neurotoxic effects of prenatal CPF may emerge subsequently in development, our results are consistent with the preferential targeting of late developmental events such as gliogenesis, axonogenesis, and synaptogenesis.
PMCID: PMC1241065  PMID: 12417480

Results 1-6 (6)