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1.  Temporal changes of soil physic-chemical properties at different soil depths during larch afforestation by multivariate analysis of covariance 
Ecology and Evolution  2014;4(7):1039-1048.
Soil physic-chemical properties differ at different depths; however, differences in afforestation-induced temporal changes at different soil depths are seldom reported. By examining 19 parameters, the temporal changes and their interactions with soil depth in a large chronosequence dataset (159 plots; 636 profiles; 2544 samples) of larch plantations were checked by multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA). No linear temporal changes were found in 9 parameters (N, K, N:P, available forms of N, P, K and ratios of N: available N, P: available P and K: available K), while marked linear changes were found in the rest 10 parameters. Four of them showed divergent temporal changes between surface and deep soils. At surface soils, changing rates were 262.1 g·kg−1·year−1 for SOM, 438.9 mg·g−1·year−1 for C:P, 5.3 mg·g−1·year−1 for C:K, and −3.23 mg·cm−3·year−1 for bulk density, while contrary tendencies were found in deeper soils. These divergences resulted in much moderated or no changes in the overall 80-cm soil profile. The other six parameters showed significant temporal changes for overall 0–80-cm soil profile (P: −4.10 mg·kg−1·year−1; pH: −0.0061 unit·year−1; C:N: 167.1 mg·g−1·year−1; K:P: 371.5 mg·g−1 year−1; N:K: −0.242 mg·g−1·year−1; EC: 0.169 μS·cm−1·year−1), but without significant differences at different soil depths (P > 0.05). Our findings highlight the importance of deep soils in studying physic-chemical changes of soil properties, and the temporal changes occurred in both surface and deep soils should be fully considered for forest management and soil nutrient balance.
PMCID: PMC3997320  PMID: 24772281
Divergent changes between surface and deep soil; plant–soil interactions; soil fertility; temporal changes evaluation; vertical changes
2.  Spatial Heterogeneity of Soil Chemical Properties in a Subtropical Karst Forest, Southwest China 
The Scientific World Journal  2014;2014:473651.
This study evaluates the spatial heterogeneity of the soil chemical properties of surface soils across a 1 ha old-growth subtropical karst forest in southwest China.
PMCID: PMC3943189  PMID: 24715813
3.  Single Nucleus Genome Sequencing Reveals High Similarity among Nuclei of an Endomycorrhizal Fungus 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(1):e1004078.
Nuclei of arbuscular endomycorrhizal fungi have been described as highly diverse due to their asexual nature and absence of a single cell stage with only one nucleus. This has raised fundamental questions concerning speciation, selection and transmission of the genetic make-up to next generations. Although this concept has become textbook knowledge, it is only based on studying a few loci, including 45S rDNA. To provide a more comprehensive insight into the genetic makeup of arbuscular endomycorrhizal fungi, we applied de novo genome sequencing of individual nuclei of Rhizophagus irregularis. This revealed a surprisingly low level of polymorphism between nuclei. In contrast, within a nucleus, the 45S rDNA repeat unit turned out to be highly diverged. This finding demystifies a long-lasting hypothesis on the complex genetic makeup of arbuscular endomycorrhizal fungi. Subsequent genome assembly resulted in the first draft reference genome sequence of an arbuscular endomycorrhizal fungus. Its length is 141 Mbps, representing over 27,000 protein-coding gene models. We used the genomic sequence to reinvestigate the phylogenetic relationships of Rhizophagus irregularis with other fungal phyla. This unambiguously demonstrated that Glomeromycota are more closely related to Mucoromycotina than to its postulated sister Dikarya.
Author Summary
Endomycorrhizal fungi are known for their symbiosis with the vast majority of land plants. The fungus penetrates the root and facilitates uptake of nutrients for the plant. For a long time it was hypothesized that endomycorrhizal fungi have a complex genetic makeup, as they are asexual organisms. Their hyphae do not consist of individual cells, but rather form a continuous compartment in which numerous nuclei migrate. Several studies indicated that these nuclei are genetically highly diverse, suggesting that endomycorrhizal fungi evolved a unique genome structure. By sequencing individual nuclei of a single individual of the reference fungus Rhizophagus, we demystify this hypothesis and show that the nuclei are highly similar. Furthermore, we created the first genome sequence of these ancient fungi that will serve as a valuable resource to further understand and exploit this agriculturally and ecologically vital symbiosis.
PMCID: PMC3886924  PMID: 24415955
4.  Construction of Reference Chromosome-Scale Pseudomolecules for Potato: Integrating the Potato Genome with Genetic and Physical Maps 
G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics  2013;3(11):2031-2047.
The genome of potato, a major global food crop, was recently sequenced. The work presented here details the integration of the potato reference genome (DM) with a new sequence-tagged site marker−based linkage map and other physical and genetic maps of potato and the closely related species tomato. Primary anchoring of the DM genome assembly was accomplished by the use of a diploid segregating population, which was genotyped with several types of molecular genetic markers to construct a new ~936 cM linkage map comprising 2469 marker loci. In silico anchoring approaches used genetic and physical maps from the diploid potato genotype RH89-039-16 (RH) and tomato. This combined approach has allowed 951 superscaffolds to be ordered into pseudomolecules corresponding to the 12 potato chromosomes. These pseudomolecules represent 674 Mb (~93%) of the 723 Mb genome assembly and 37,482 (~96%) of the 39,031 predicted genes. The superscaffold order and orientation within the pseudomolecules are closely collinear with independently constructed high density linkage maps. Comparisons between marker distribution and physical location reveal regions of greater and lesser recombination, as well as regions exhibiting significant segregation distortion. The work presented here has led to a greatly improved ordering of the potato reference genome superscaffolds into chromosomal “pseudomolecules”.
PMCID: PMC3815063  PMID: 24062527
Solanaceae; genome anchoring; scaffold orientation; sequence-tagged sites; pseudomolecules; potato; genetic map; physical map
5.  A high-resolution cucumber cytogenetic map integrated with the genome assembly 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:461.
High-resolution cytogenetic map can provide not only important biological information on genome organization but also solid foundation for genetic and genomic research. The progress in the molecular and cytogenetic studies has created the basis for developing the cytogenetic map in cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.).
Here, the cytogenetic maps of four cucumber chromosomes (chromosomes 1, 3–5) were constructed by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) analysis on cucumber pachytene chromosomes. Together with our previously constructed cytogenetic maps of three cucumber chromosomes (chromosomes 2, 6–7), cucumber has a complete cytogenetic map with 76 anchoring points between the genetic, the cytogenetic and the draft genome assembly maps. To compare our pachytene FISH map directly to the genetic linkage and draft genome assembly maps, we used a standardized map unit—relative map position (RMP) to produce the comparative map alignments. The alignments allowed a global view of the relationship of genetic and physical distances along each cucumber chromosome, and accuracy and coverage of the draft genome assembly map.
We demonstrated a good correlation between positions of the markers in the linkage and physical maps, and essentially complete coverage of chromosome arms by the draft genome assembly. Our study not only provides essential information for the improvement of sequence assembly but also offers molecular tools for cucumber genomics research, comparative genomics and evolutionary study.
PMCID: PMC3710503  PMID: 23834562
6.  Integration of High-Resolution Physical and Genetic Map Reveals Differential Recombination Frequency between Chromosomes and the Genome Assembling Quality in Cucumber 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e62676.
Cucumber is an important model crop and the first species sequenced in Cucurbitaceae family. Compared to the fast increasing genetic and genomics resources, the molecular cytogenetic researches in cucumber are still very limited, which results in directly the shortage of relation between plenty of physical sequences or genetic data and chromosome structure. We mapped twenty-three fosmids anchored by SSR markers from LG-3, the longest linkage group, and LG-4, the shortest linkage group on pachytene chromosomes 3 and 4, using uorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Integrated molecular cytogenetic maps of chromosomes 3 and 4 were constructed. Except for three SSR markers located on heterochromatin region, the cytological order of markers was concordant with those on the linkage maps. Distinct structural differences between chromosomes 3 and 4 were revealed by the high resolution pachytene chromosomes. The extreme difference of genetic length between LG-3 and LG-4 was mainly attributed to the difference of overall recombination frequency. The significant differentiation of heterochromatin contents in chromosomes 3 and 4 might have a direct correlation with recombination frequency. Meanwhile, the uneven distribution of recombination frequency along chromosome 4 was observed, and recombination frequency of the long arm was nearly 3.5 times higher than that of the short arm. The severe suppression of recombination was exhibited in centromeric and heterochromatin domains of chromosome 4. Whereas a close correlation between the gene density and recombination frequency was observed in chromosome 4, no significant correlation was observed between them along chromosome 3. The comparison between cytogenetic and sequence maps revealed a large gap on the pericentromeric heterochromatin region of sequence map of chromosome 4. These results showed that integrated molecular cytogenetic maps can provide important information for the study of genetic and genomics in cucumber.
PMCID: PMC3646037  PMID: 23671621
7.  Performance improvement of phase-change memory cell using AlSb3Te and atomic layer deposition TiO2 buffer layer 
A phase change memory (PCM) cell with atomic layer deposition titanium dioxide bottom heating layer is investigated. The crystalline titanium dioxide heating layer promotes the temperature rise in the AlSb3Te layer which causes the reduction in the reset voltage compared to a conventional phase change memory cell. The improvement in thermal efficiency of the PCM cell mainly originates from the low thermal conductivity of the crystalline titanium dioxide material. Among the various thicknesses of the TiO2 buffer layer, 4 nm was the most appropriate thickness that maximized the improvement with negligible sacrifice of the other device performances, such as the reset/set resistance ratio, voltage window, and endurance.
PMCID: PMC3673895  PMID: 23414571
phase change memory; atomic layer deposition; TiO2 buffer layer; reset voltage; AlSb3Te
8.  Differential Roles of Cysteine Residues in Cellular Trafficking, Dimerization, and Function of the HDL Receptor, SR-BI * 
Biochemistry  2011;50(50):10860-10875.
The scavenger receptor, class B, type I (SR-BI) binds high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and mediates selective delivery of cholesteryl esters (CEs) to the liver and steroidogenic cells of the adrenal and gonads. Although it is clear that the large extracellular domain (ECD) of SR-BI binds HDL, the role of ECD in the selective HDL-CE transport remains poorly understood. In this study, we used a combination of mutational and chemical approaches to systematically evaluate the contribution of cysteine residues, especially six cysteine residues of ECD, in SR-BI-mediated selective HDL-CE uptake, intracellular trafficking and SR-BI dimerization. Pretreatment of SR-BI overexpressing COS-7 cells with disulfide (S-S) bond reducing agent, β-mercaptoethanol (100 mM) or dithiothreitol (DTT) (10 mM) modestly, but significantly impaired the SR-BI mediated selective HDL-CE uptake. Treatment of SR-BI overexpressing COS-7 cells with the optimum doses of membrane permeant alkyl methanethiosulfonate (MTS) reagents, positively charged MTSEA or neutral MMTS that specifically react with the free sulfhydryl group of cysteine reduced the SR-BI-mediated selective HDL-CE uptake, indicating that certain intracellular free cysteine residues may also be critically involved in the selective cholesterol transport process. In contrast, use of membrane impermeant MTS reagent, positively charged MTSET and negatively charged MTSES showed no such effect. Next, the importance of eight cysteine residues in SR-BI expression, cell surface expression, dimer formation and selective HDL-derived CE transport was evaluated. These cysteine residues were replaced either singly or in pairs with serine and the mutant SR-BIs expressed in either COS-7 or CHO cells. Four mutations, C280S, C321S, C323S or C334S of the ECD, either singly or in various pair combinations, resulted in significant decreases in SR-BI (HDL) binding activity, selective-CE uptake, and trafficking to cell surface. Surprisingly, we found that mutation of the two remaining cysteine residues, C251 and C384 of the ECD, had no effect on either SR-BI expression or function. Other cysteine mutations and substitutions were also without any effect. Western blot data indicated that single and double mutants of C280, C321, C323 and C334 residues strongly favor dimer formation. However, they are rendered non-functional presumably due to mutation-induced formation of aberrant disulfide linkages resulting in inhibition of optimal HDL binding and, thus, selective HDL-CE uptake. These results provide novel insights about the functional role of four cysteine residues, C280, C321, C323 and C334 of SR-BI ECD domain in SR-BI expression and trafficking to cell surface, its dimerization, and associated selective CE transport function.
PMCID: PMC3262050  PMID: 22097902
9.  Genetic Diversity and Population Structure of Cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e46919.
Knowing the extent and structure of genetic variation in germplasm collections is essential for the conservation and utilization of biodiversity in cultivated plants. Cucumber is the fourth most important vegetable crop worldwide and is a model system for other Cucurbitaceae, a family that also includes melon, watermelon, pumpkin and squash. Previous isozyme studies revealed a low genetic diversity in cucumber, but detailed insights into the crop's genetic structure and diversity are largely missing. We have fingerprinted 3,342 accessions from the Chinese, Dutch and U.S. cucumber collections with 23 highly polymorphic Simple Sequence Repeat (SSR) markers evenly distributed in the genome. The data reveal three distinct populations, largely corresponding to three geographic regions. Population 1 corresponds to germplasm from China, except for the unique semi-wild landraces found in Xishuangbanna in Southwest China and East Asia; population 2 to Europe, America, and Central and West Asia; and population 3 to India and Xishuangbanna. Admixtures were also detected, reflecting hybridization and migration events between the populations. The genetic background of the Indian germplasm is heterogeneous, indicating that the Indian cucumbers maintain a large proportion of the genetic diversity and that only a small fraction was introduced to other parts of the world. Subsequently, we defined a core collection consisting of 115 accessions and capturing over 77% of the SSR alleles. Insight into the genetic structure of cucumber will help developing appropriate conservation strategies and provides a basis for population-level genome sequencing in cucumber.
PMCID: PMC3470563  PMID: 23071663
10.  Selective, α2β1 Integrin-Dependent Secretion of IL-6 by Connective Tissue Mast Cells 
Journal of Innate Immunity  2011;3(5):459-470.
Mast cells, critical mediators of inflammation and anaphylaxis, are poised as one of the first lines of defense against external assault. Mast cells release several classes of preformed and de novo synthesized mediators. Cross-linking of the high-affinity Fc∊RI results in degranulation and the release of preformed, proinflammatory mediators including histamine and serotonin. We previously demonstrated that mast cell activation by Listeria monocytogenes requires the α2β1 integrin for rapid IL-6 secretion both in vivo and in vitro. However, the mechanism of IL-6 release is unknown. Here, we demonstrate the Listeria- and α2β1 integrin-mediated mast cell release of preformed IL-6 without the concomitant release of histamine or β-hexosaminidase. α2β1 integrin-dependent mast cell activation and IL-6 release is calcium independent. In contrast, IgE cross-linking-mediated degranulation is calcium dependent and does not result in IL-6 release, demonstrating that distinct stimuli result in the release of specific mediator pools. These studies demonstrate that IL-6 is presynthesized and stored in connective tissue mast cells and can be released from mast cells in response to distinct, α2β1 integrin-dependent stimulation, providing the host with a specific innate immune response without stimulating an allergic reaction.
Copyright © 2011 S. Karger AG, Basel
PMCID: PMC3186713  PMID: 21502744
Adhesion molecules; Cytokines; Host defense; Integrin; Mast cell
11.  Diet-Induced Muscle Insulin Resistance Is Associated With Extracellular Matrix Remodeling and Interaction With Integrin α2β1 in Mice 
Diabetes  2011;60(2):416-426.
The hypothesis that high-fat (HF) feeding causes skeletal muscle extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling in C57BL/6J mice and that this remodeling contributes to diet-induced muscle insulin resistance (IR) through the collagen receptor integrin α2β1 was tested.
The association between IR and ECM remodeling was studied in mice fed chow or HF diet. Specific genetic and pharmacological murine models were used to study effects of HF feeding on ECM in the absence of IR. The role of ECM-integrin interaction in IR was studied using hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamps on integrin α2β1-null (itga2−/−), integrin α1β1-null (itga1−/−), and wild-type littermate mice fed chow or HF. Integrin α2β1 and integrin α1β1 signaling pathways have opposing actions.
HF-fed mice had IR and increased muscle collagen (Col) III and ColIV protein; the former was associated with increased transcript, whereas the latter was associated with reduced matrix metalloproteinase 9 activity. Rescue of muscle IR by genetic muscle-specific mitochondria-targeted catalase overexpression or by the phosphodiesterase 5a inhibitor, sildenafil, reversed HF feeding effects on ECM remodeling and increased muscle vascularity. Collagen remained elevated in HF-fed itga2−/− mice. Nevertheless, muscle insulin action and vascularity were increased. Muscle IR in HF-fed itga1−/− mice was unchanged. Insulin sensitivity in chow-fed itga1−/− and itga2−/− mice was not different from wild-type littermates.
ECM collagen expansion is tightly associated with muscle IR. Studies with itga2−/− mice provide mechanistic insight for this association by showing that the link between muscle IR and increased collagen can be uncoupled by the absence of collagen-integrin α2β1 interaction.
PMCID: PMC3028340  PMID: 21270253
12.  RNA-Seq improves annotation of protein-coding genes in the cucumber genome 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:540.
As more and more genomes are sequenced, genome annotation becomes increasingly important in bridging the gap between sequence and biology. Gene prediction, which is at the center of genome annotation, usually integrates various resources to compute consensus gene structures. However, many newly sequenced genomes have limited resources for gene predictions. In an effort to create high-quality gene models of the cucumber genome (Cucumis sativus var. sativus), based on the EVidenceModeler gene prediction pipeline, we incorporated the massively parallel complementary DNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) reads of 10 cucumber tissues into EVidenceModeler. We applied the new pipeline to the reassembled cucumber genome and included a comparison between our predicted protein-coding gene sets and a published set.
The reassembled cucumber genome, annotated with RNA-Seq reads from 10 tissues, has 23, 248 identified protein-coding genes. Compared with the published prediction in 2009, approximately 8, 700 genes reveal structural modifications and 5, 285 genes only appear in the reassembled cucumber genome. All the related results, including genome sequence and annotations, are available at
We conclude that RNA-Seq greatly improves the accuracy of prediction of protein-coding genes in the reassembled cucumber genome. The comparison between the two gene sets also suggests that it is feasible to use RNA-Seq reads to annotate newly sequenced or less-studied genomes.
PMCID: PMC3219749  PMID: 22047402
13.  An integrated molecular cytogenetic map of Cucumis sativus L. chromosome 2 
BMC Genetics  2011;12:18.
Integration of molecular, genetic and cytological maps is still a challenge for most plant species. Recent progress in molecular and cytogenetic studies created a basis for developing integrated maps in cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.).
In this study, eleven fosmid clones and three plasmids containing 45S rDNA, the centromeric satellite repeat Type III and the pericentriomeric repeat CsRP1 sequences respectively were hybridized to cucumber metaphase chromosomes to assign their cytological location on chromosome 2. Moreover, an integrated molecular cytogenetic map of cucumber chromosomes 2 was constructed by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) mapping of 11 fosmid clones together with the cucumber centromere-specific Type III sequence on meiotic pachytene chromosomes. The cytogenetic map was fully integrated with genetic linkage map since each fosmid clone was anchored by a genetically mapped simple sequence repeat marker (SSR). The relationship between the genetic and physical distances along chromosome was analyzed.
Recombination was not evenly distributed along the physical length of chromosome 2. Suppression of recombination was found in centromeric and pericentromeric regions. Our results also indicated that the molecular markers composing the linkage map for chromosome 2 provided excellent coverage of the chromosome.
PMCID: PMC3039625  PMID: 21272311
14.  The α2β1 integrin is a metastasis suppressor in mouse models and human cancer  
Integrins regulate cell-cell and cell-matrix adhesion and thereby play critical roles in tumor progression and metastasis. Although work in preclinical models suggests that β1 integrins may stimulate metastasis of a number of cancers, expression of the β1 subunit alone has not been shown to be a useful prognostic indicator in human cancer patients. Here we have demonstrated that the α2β1 integrin suppresses metastasis in a clinically relevant spontaneous mouse model of breast cancer. These data are consistent with previous studies indicating high expression of α2β1 integrin in normal breast epithelium and loss of α2β1 in poorly differentiated breast cancer. They are also consistent with our systematic analysis of microarray databases of human breast and prostate cancer, which revealed that decreased expression of the gene encoding α2 integrin, but not genes encoding α1, α3, or β1 integrin, was predictive of metastatic dissemination and decreased survival. The predictive value of α2 expression persisted within both good-risk and poor-risk cohorts defined by estrogen receptor and lymph node status. Thus, the α2β1 integrin functionally inhibits breast tumor metastasis, and α2 expression may serve as an important biomarker of metastatic potential and patient survival.
PMCID: PMC3007139  PMID: 21135504
15.  Preparation, characterization, and in vitro targeted delivery of folate-decorated paclitaxel-loaded bovine serum albumin nanoparticles 
Paclitaxel (Taxol®) is an important anticancer drug in clinical use for treatment of a variety of cancers. Because of its low solubility, it is formulated in high concentration in Cremophor EL® which induces hypersensitivity reactions. In this study, targeted delivery of paclitaxel-loaded nanoparticles was prepared by a desolvation procedure, crosslinked on the wall material of bovine serum albumin, and subsequently decorated by folic acid. The characteristics of the nanoparticles, such as amount of folate conjugation, surface morphology, drug entrapment efficiency, drug loading efficiency, and release kinetics were investigated in vitro. The targeting effect was investigated in vitro by cancer cell uptake of fluorescein isothiocyanate-labeled nanoparticles. The spherical nanoparticles obtained were negatively charged with a zeta potential of about −30 mV, and characterized around 210 nm with a narrow size distribution. Drug entrapment efficiency and drug loading efficiency were approximately 95.3% and 27.2%, respectively. The amount of folate conjugation was 9.22 μg/mg of bovine serum albumin. The folate-decorated nanoparticles targeted a human prostate cancer cell line effectively.
PMCID: PMC2948946  PMID: 20957218
paclitaxel; bovine serum albumin; folate; nanoparticles; target delivery
16.  Transcriptome sequencing and comparative analysis of cucumber flowers with different sex types 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:384.
Cucumber, Cucumis sativus L., is an economically and nutritionally important crop of the Cucurbitaceae family and has long served as a primary model system for sex determination studies. Recently, the sequencing of its whole genome has been completed. However, transcriptome information of this species is still scarce, with a total of around 8,000 Expressed Sequence Tag (EST) and mRNA sequences currently available in GenBank. In order to gain more insights into molecular mechanisms of plant sex determination and provide the community a functional genomics resource that will facilitate cucurbit research and breeding, we performed transcriptome sequencing of cucumber flower buds of two near-isogenic lines, WI1983G, a gynoecious plant which bears only pistillate flowers, and WI1983H, a hermaphroditic plant which bears only bisexual flowers.
Using Roche-454 massive parallel pyrosequencing technology, we generated a total of 353,941 high quality EST sequences with an average length of 175bp, among which 188,255 were from gynoecious flowers and 165,686 from hermaphroditic flowers. These EST sequences, together with ~5,600 high quality cucumber EST and mRNA sequences available in GenBank, were clustered and assembled into 81,401 unigenes, of which 28,452 were contigs and 52,949 were singletons. The unigenes and ESTs were further mapped to the cucumber genome and more than 500 alternative splicing events were identified in 443 cucumber genes. The unigenes were further functionally annotated by comparing their sequences to different protein and functional domain databases and assigned with Gene Ontology (GO) terms. A biochemical pathway database containing 343 predicted pathways was also created based on the annotations of the unigenes. Digital expression analysis identified ~200 differentially expressed genes between flowers of WI1983G and WI1983H and provided novel insights into molecular mechanisms of plant sex determination process. Furthermore, a set of SSR motifs and high confidence SNPs between WI1983G and WI1983H were identified from the ESTs, which provided the material basis for future genetic linkage and QTL analysis.
A large set of EST sequences were generated from cucumber flower buds of two different sex types. Differentially expressed genes between these two different sex-type flowers, as well as putative SSR and SNP markers, were identified. These EST sequences provide valuable information to further understand molecular mechanisms of plant sex determination process and forms a rich resource for future functional genomics analysis, marker development and cucumber breeding.
PMCID: PMC2897810  PMID: 20565788
17.  Cellular cholesterol delivery, intracellular processing and utilization for biosynthesis of steroid hormones 
Steroid hormones regulate diverse physiological functions such as reproduction, blood salt balance, maintenance of secondary sexual characteristics, response to stress, neuronal function and various metabolic processes. They are synthesized from cholesterol mainly in the adrenal gland and gonads in response to tissue-specific tropic hormones. These steroidogenic tissues are unique in that they require cholesterol not only for membrane biogenesis, maintenance of membrane fluidity and cell signaling, but also as the starting material for the biosynthesis of steroid hormones. It is not surprising, then, that cells of steroidogenic tissues have evolved with multiple pathways to assure the constant supply of cholesterol needed to maintain optimum steroid synthesis. The cholesterol utilized for steroidogenesis is derived from a combination of sources: 1) de novo synthesis in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER); 2) the mobilization of cholesteryl esters (CEs) stored in lipid droplets through cholesteryl ester hydrolase; 3) plasma lipoprotein-derived CEs obtained by either LDL receptor-mediated endocytic and/or SR-BI-mediated selective uptake; and 4) in some cultured cell systems from plasma membrane-associated free cholesterol. Here, we focus on recent insights into the molecules and cellular processes that mediate the uptake of plasma lipoprotein-derived cholesterol, events connected with the intracellular cholesterol processing and the role of crucial proteins that mediate cholesterol transport to mitochondria for its utilization for steroid hormone production. In particular, we discuss the structure and function of SR-BI, the importance of the selective cholesterol transport pathway in providing cholesterol substrate for steroid biosynthesis and the role of two key proteins, StAR and PBR/TSO in facilitating cholesterol delivery to inner mitochondrial membrane sites, where P450scc (CYP11A) is localized and where the conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone (the common steroid precursor) takes place.
PMCID: PMC2890697  PMID: 20515451
18.  Divergence in function and expression of the NOD26-like intrinsic proteins in plants 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:313.
NOD26-like intrinsic proteins (NIPs) that belong to the aquaporin superfamily are plant-specific and exhibit a similar three-dimensional structure. Experimental evidences however revealed that functional divergence should have extensively occurred among NIP genes. It is therefore intriguing to further investigate the evolutionary mechanisms being responsible for the functional diversification of the NIP genes. To better understand this process, a comprehensive analysis including the phylogenetic, positive selection, functional divergence, and transcriptional analysis was carried out.
The origination of NIPs could be dated back to the primitive land plants, and their diversification would be no younger than the emergence time of the moss P. patens. The rapid proliferation of NIPs in plants may be primarily attributed to the segmental chromosome duplication produced by polyploidy and tandem duplications. The maximum likelihood analysis revealed that NIPs should have experienced strong selective pressure for adaptive evolution after gene duplication and/or speciation, prompting the formation of distinct NIP groups. Functional divergence analysis at the amino acid level has provided strong statistical evidence for shifted evolutionary rate and/or radical change of the physiochemical properties of amino acids after gene duplication, and DIVERGE2 has identified the critical amino acid sites that are thought to be responsible for the divergence for further investigation. The expression of plant NIPs displays a distinct tissue-, cell-type-, and developmental specific pattern, and their responses to various stress treatments are quite different also. The differences in organization of cis-acting regulatory elements in the promoter regions may partially explain their distinction in expression.
A number of analyses both at the DNA and amino acid sequence levels have provided strong evidences that plant NIPs have suffered a high divergence in function and expression during evolution, which is primarily attributed to the strong positive selection or a rapid change of evolutionary rate and/or physiochemical properties of some critical amino acid sites.
PMCID: PMC2726226  PMID: 19604350
19.  An Integrated Genetic and Cytogenetic Map of the Cucumber Genome 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(6):e5795.
The Cucurbitaceae includes important crops such as cucumber, melon, watermelon, squash and pumpkin. However, few genetic and genomic resources are available for plant improvement. Some cucurbit species such as cucumber have a narrow genetic base, which impedes construction of saturated molecular linkage maps. We report herein the development of highly polymorphic simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers originated from whole genome shotgun sequencing and the subsequent construction of a high-density genetic linkage map. This map includes 995 SSRs in seven linkage groups which spans in total 573 cM, and defines ∼680 recombination breakpoints with an average of 0.58 cM between two markers. These linkage groups were then assigned to seven corresponding chromosomes using fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH). FISH assays also revealed a chromosomal inversion between Cucumis subspecies [C. sativus var. sativus L. and var. hardwickii (R.) Alef], which resulted in marker clustering on the genetic map. A quarter of the mapped markers showed relatively high polymorphism levels among 11 inbred lines of cucumber. Among the 995 markers, 49%, 26% and 22% were conserved in melon, watermelon and pumpkin, respectively. This map will facilitate whole genome sequencing, positional cloning, and molecular breeding in cucumber, and enable the integration of knowledge of gene and trait in cucurbits.
PMCID: PMC2685989  PMID: 19495411
20.  A Genome-wide Microsatellite Polymorphism Database for the Indica and Japonica Rice 
Microsatellite (MS) polymorphism is an important source of genetic diversity, providing support for map-based cloning and molecular breeding. We have developed a new database that contains 52 845 polymorphic MS loci between indica and japonica, composed of ample Class II MS markers, and integrated 18 828 MS loci from IRGSP and genetic markers from RGP. Based on genetic marker positions on the rice genome ( ), we determined the approximate genetic distances of these MS loci and validated 100 randomly selected markers experimentally with 90% success rate. In addition, we recorded polymorphic MS positions in indica cv. 9311 that is the most important paternal parent of the two-line hybrid rice in China. Our database will undoubtedly facilitate the application of MS markers in genetic researches and marker-assisted breeding. The data set is freely available from
PMCID: PMC2779893  PMID: 17452422
polymorphism; microsatellite or MS; database; whole-genome sequences; rice
21.  Posttranscriptional Regulation of Cyclooxygenase-2 in Rat Intestinal Epithelial Cells1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2000;2(6):523-530.
Modulation of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) mRNA stability plays an important role in the regulation of its expression by oncogenic Ras. Here, we evaluate COX-2 mRNA stability in response to treatment with two known endogenous promoters of gastrointestinal cancer, the bile acid (chenodeoxycholate; CD) and ceramide. Treatment with CD and ceramide resulted in a 10-fold increase in the level of COX-2 protein and a four-fold lengthening of the half-life of COX-2 mRNA. COX-2 mRNA stability was assessed by Northern blot analysis and by evaluating the AU-rich element located in the COX-2 3′-UTR. A known inhibitor of mitogen-activated protein (MAP)/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) kinase (MEK), PD98059, reversed the effects of CD or ceramide to stabilize COX-2 mRNA. Overexpression of a dominant-negative ERK-1 or ERK-2 protein also led to destabilization of COX-2 mRNA. Treatment with a p38 MAPK inhibitor, PD169316, or transfection with a dominant-negative p38 MAPK construct reversed the effect of CD or ceramide to stabilize COX-2 mRNA. Expression of a dominant-negative c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) had no effect on COX-2 mRNA stability in cells treated with CD or ceramide. We conclude that posttranscriptional mechanisms play an important role in the regulation of COX-2 expression during carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC1508084  PMID: 11228545
cyclooxygenase; gene regulation; stabilization; MAPK

Results 1-21 (21)