Crystal (Cry) proteins are made by the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Cry proteins are pore-forming proteins and are the most widely used biological insecticides in the world. Our laboratory found some Cry proteins are highly effective against a broad range of nematodes (roundworms). Here, we discuss our results of Cry protein activity against intestinal roundworms. Both Cry5B and Cry21A have therapeutic activities against infections of the roundworm Heligmosomoides polygyrus bakeri in mice. Cry5B also shows highly therapeutic activity against Ancylostoma ceylanicum infection in hamsters. A. ceylanicum is a minor hookworm parasite of humans, and it is closely related to the more prevalent Ancylostoma duodenale. In addition, Cry proteins show excellent combinatorial therapeutic properties with nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) agonists, one of the two classes of compounds approved by the World Health Organization for the treatment for intestinal roundworms in humans. Given their non-toxicity to humans and their broad spectrum of nematicidal action, Cry proteins show great potential as next-generation anthelmintics.
Bacillus thuringiensis; Crystal proteins; Anthelmintic; Cry5B; Soil-transmitted helminths; Pore-forming proteins
Cephalopods have been utilised in neuroscience research for more than 100 years particularly because of their phenotypic plasticity, complex and centralised nervous system, tractability for studies of learning and cellular mechanisms of memory (e.g. long-term potentiation) and anatomical features facilitating physiological studies (e.g. squid giant axon and synapse). On 1 January 2013, research using any of the about 700 extant species of “live cephalopods” became regulated within the European Union by Directive 2010/63/EU on the “Protection of Animals used for Scientific Purposes”, giving cephalopods the same EU legal protection as previously afforded only to vertebrates. The Directive has a number of implications, particularly for neuroscience research. These include: (1) projects will need justification, authorisation from local competent authorities, and be subject to review including a harm-benefit assessment and adherence to the 3Rs principles (Replacement, Refinement and Reduction). (2) To support project evaluation and compliance with the new EU law, guidelines specific to cephalopods will need to be developed, covering capture, transport, handling, housing, care, maintenance, health monitoring, humane anaesthesia, analgesia and euthanasia. (3) Objective criteria need to be developed to identify signs of pain, suffering, distress and lasting harm particularly in the context of their induction by an experimental procedure. Despite diversity of views existing on some of these topics, this paper reviews the above topics and describes the approaches being taken by the cephalopod research community (represented by the authorship) to produce “guidelines” and the potential contribution of neuroscience research to cephalopod welfare.
Cephalopods; Directive2010/63/EU; Animal welfare; 3Rs; Neuroscience
The decline of honeybees and other pollinating insects is a current cause for concern. A major factor implicated in their decline is exposure to agricultural chemicals, in particular the neonicotinoid insecticides such as imidacloprid. Honeybees are also subjected to additional chemical exposure when beekeepers treat hives with acaricides to combat the mite Varroa destructor. Here, we assess the effects of acute sublethal doses of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, and the organophosphate acaricide coumaphos, on honey bee learning and memory. Imidacloprid had little effect on performance in a six-trial olfactory conditioning assay, while coumaphos caused a modest impairment. We report a surprising lack of additive adverse effects when both compounds were administered simultaneously, which instead produced a modest improvement in learning and memory.
Apis mellifera; Olfactory learning; Imidacloprid; Coumaphos; Pesticide
Whilst many classes of insecticides target the insect central nervous system (CNS), their effects in the CNS of pest aphids have not been demonstrated. In this report, we describe an electrophysiological method for recording spontaneous neuronal activity from the giant willow aphid (Tuberolachnus salignus). Using extracellular recording electrodes and two analysis methods (threshold and template search), spontaneous spike activity was shown to exhibit sensitivity to the neuroexcitatory insecticide imidacloprid. This method allows changes in the frequency of action-potentials to be monitored during direct bath exposure to chemical agents, enabling a means of assessing and comparing neurotoxic effects of insecticides in a previously inaccessible superfamily of pest insects.
Aphids; Electrophysiology; Extracellular recording; Imidacloprid; Tuberolachnus salignus
Fear, a reaction to a threatening situation, is a broadly adaptive feature crucial to the survival and reproductive fitness of individual organisms. By contrast, anxiety is an inappropriate behavioral response often to a perceived, not real, threat. Functional imaging, biochemical analysis, and lesion studies with humans have identified the HPA axis and the amygdala as key neuroanatomical regions driving both fear and anxiety. Abnormalities in these biological systems lead to misregulated fear and anxiety behaviors such as panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorders. These behaviors are often treated by increasing serotonin levels at synapses, suggesting a role for serotonin signaling in ameliorating both fear and anxiety. Interestingly, serotonin signaling is highly conserved between mammals and invertebrates. We propose that genetically tractable invertebrate models organisms, such as Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans, are ideally suited to unravel the complexity of the serotonin signaling pathways. These model systems possess well-defined neuroanatomies and robust serotonin-mediated behavior and should reveal insights into how serotonin can modulate human cognitive functions.
Serotonin; Fear; Anxiety disorder; D. melanogaster; C. elegans
Acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) are pentameric ligand-gated ion channels involved in the neurotransmission of both vertebrates and invertebrates. A number of anthelmintic compounds like levamisole and pyrantel target the AChRs of nematodes producing spastic paralysis of the worms. The muscle AChRs of nematode parasites fall into three pharmacological classes that are preferentially activated by the cholinergic agonists levamisole (L-type), nicotine (N-type) and bephenium (B-type), respectively. Despite a number of studies of the B-type AChR in parasitic species, this receptor remains to be characterized at the molecular level. Recently, we have reconstituted and functionally characterized two distinct L-AChR subtypes of the gastro-intestinal parasitic nematode Haemonchus contortus in the Xenopus laevis oocyte expression system by providing the cRNAs encoding the receptor subunits and three ancillary proteins (Boulin et al. in Br J Pharmacol 164(5):1421–1432, 2011). In the present study, the effect of the bephenium drug on Hco-L-AChR1 and Hco-L-AChR2 subtypes was examined using the two microelectrode voltage-clamp technique. We demonstrate that bephenium selectively activates the Hco-L-AChR1 subtype made of Hco-UNC-29.1, Hco-UNC-38, Hco-UNC-63, Hco-ACR-8 subunits that is more sensitive to levamisole than acetylcholine. Removing the Hco-ACR-8 subunit produced the Hco-L-AChR2 subtype that is more sensitive to pyrantel than acetylcholine and partially activated by levamisole, but which was bephenium-insensitive indicating that the bephenium-binding site involves Hco-ACR-8. Attempts were made to modify the subunit stoichiometry of the Hco-L-AChR1 subtype by injecting five fold more cRNA of individual subunits. Increased Hco-unc-29.1 cRNA produced no functional receptor. Increasing Hco-unc-63, Hco-unc-38 or Hco-acr-8 cRNAs did not affect the pharmacological characteristics of Hco-L-AChR1 but reduced the currents elicited by acetylcholine and the other agonists. Here, we provide the first description of the molecular composition and functional characteristics of any invertebrate bephenium-sensitive receptor.
Bephenium; Levamisole-sensitive acetylcholine receptor; Oocyte expression system; Electrophysiology; Haemonchus contortus
The cyclo-octapdepsipeptide anthelmintic emodepside exerts a profound paralysis on parasitic and free-living nematodes. The neuromuscular junction is a significant determinant of this effect. Pharmacological and electrophysiological analyses in the parasitic nematode Ascaris suum have resolved that emodepside elicits a hyperpolarisation of body wall muscle, which is dependent on extracellular calcium and the efflux of potassium ions. The molecular basis for emodepside’s action has been investigated in forward genetic screens in the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Two screens for emodepside resistance, totalling 20,000 genomes, identified several mutants of slo-1, which encodes a calcium-activated potassium channel homologous to mammalian BK channels. Slo-1 null mutants are more than 1000-fold less sensitive to emodepside than wild-type C. elegans and tissue-specific expression studies show emodepside acts on SLO-1 in neurons regulating feeding and motility as well as acting on SLO-1 in body wall muscle. These genetic data, combined with physiological measurements in C. elegans and the earlier physiological analyses on A. suum, define a pivotal role for SLO-1 in the mode of action of emodepside. Additional signalling pathways have emerged as determinants of emodepside’s mode of action through biochemical and hypothesis-driven approaches. Mutant analyses of these pathways suggest a modulatory role for each of them in emodepside’s mode of action; however, they impart much more modest changes in the sensitivity to emodepside than mutations in slo-1. Taken together these studies identify SLO-1 as the major determinant of emodepside’s anthelmintic activity. Structural information on the BK channels has advanced significantly in the last 2 years. Therefore, we rationalise this possibility by suggesting a model that speculates on the nature of the emodepside pharmacophore within the calcium-activated potassium channels.
Cyclo-octadepsipeptide; C. elegans; Ascaris suum; Anthelmintic; BK channel
Opiates modulate nociception in vertebrates. This has also been demonstrated in a number of invertebrate models. Herein, the effect of the opiate morphine and opioid neuropeptides Endomorphin 1 and 2 on the thermal avoidance (Tav) behavior of Caenorhabditis elegans is explored. Adult wild-type C. elegans N2 were collected from NGM plates using M9 buffer and exposed to morphine and endomorphine 1 and 2 in concentrations between 10−8 and 10−4 M (2.5 pmol/mg to 25 nmol/mg) for 30 min and tested for Tav. The opioid receptor antagonists Naloxone and CTOP were tested in combination with the drugs. Forty-seven percentage of the morphine exposed worms exhibited a class I response versus 76% of the control group (P < 0.001). Endomorphin 1 and 2 also caused a statistically significant reduction in class I responses, 36 and 39%, respectively. These effects were reversed with Naloxone and CTOP. Thermonocifensive behavior in C. elegans is modulated by opioids.
Opioid; Nematode; Nociception
Voltage-gated sodium channels are essential for the generation and propagation of action potentials (i.e., electrical impulses) in excitable cells. Although most of our knowledge about sodium channels is derived from decades of studies of mammalian isoforms, research on insect sodium channels is revealing both common and unique aspects of sodium channel biology. In particular, our understanding of the molecular dynamics and pharmacology of insect sodium channels has advanced greatly in recent years, thanks to successful functional expression of insect sodium channels in Xenopus oocytes and intensive efforts to elucidate the molecular basis of insect resistance to insecticides that target sodium channels. In this review, I discuss recent literature on insect sodium channels with emphases on the prominent role of alternative splicing and RNA editing in the generation of functionally diverse sodium channels in insects and the current understanding of the interactions between insect sodium channels and insecticides.
Para; DSC1; Sodium channel; Knockdown resistance; Alternative splicing; RNA editing
The simple nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, possesses the most extensive known gene family of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR)-like subunits. Whilst all show greatest similarity with nAChR subunits of both invertebrates and vertebrates, phylogenetic analysis suggests that just over half of these (32) may represent other members of the cys-loop ligand-gated ion channel superfamily. We have introduced a novel nomenclature system for these ‘Orphan’ subunits, designating them as lgc genes (ligand-gated ion channels of the cys-loop superfamily), which can also be applied in future to unnamed and uncharacterised members of the cys-loop ligand-gated ion channel superfamily. We present here the resulting updated version of the C. elegans nAChR gene family and related ligand-gated ion channel (lgc) genes.
Caenorhabditis elegans; gene family; ion channel; nematode; nicotinic acetylcholine receptor
Infection of man and animals with parasitic nematodes is recognized as a significant global problem (McLeod in Int J Parasitol 25(11):1363–1367, 1994; Hotez et al. in N Engl J Med 357(10):1018–1027, 2007). At present control of these infections relies primarily on chemotherapy. There are a limited number of classes of anthelmintic compounds and the majority of these act on ion-channels of the parasite (Martin et al. in Parasitology 113:S137–S156, 1996). In this report, we describe electrophysiological recording techniques as applied to parasitic nematodes. The aim of this report is: (1) to promote the study of ion channels in nematodes to help further the understanding of antinematodal drug action; (2) to describe our recording equipment and experimental protocols; and (3) provide some examples of the information to be gleaned from this approach and how it can increase our understanding of these important pathogens.
Anthelmintic; Ion-channel; Patch-clamp; Current-clamp; Voltage-clamp; Electrophysiology
We have studied the thermal inactivation at 37°C of wild type and mutant ChE2 (C310A, F312I, C466A, C310A/F312I, and C310A/C466A) from amphioxus (Branchiostoma floridae) expressed in vitro in COS-7 monkey cells under three sets of conditions: 30°C for 48 h, 30°for 24 h and C37°C for 24 h, and 37°C for 48 h. We found biphasic denaturation curves for all enzymes and conditions, except wild type and C310A ChE2 expressed at 30°C for 48 h. Generally, single mutants are more unstable than wild type, and the double mutants are even more unstable. We propose a model involving stable and unstable conformations of the enzymes to explain these results, and we discuss the implications of the model. We also found a correlation between the melting temperature of the ChEs and the rates at which they denature at 37°C, with the denaturation of the unstable conformation dominating the relationship. Reversible cholinergic inhibitors protect the ChEs from thermal denaturation, and in some cases produce monophasic denaturation curves; we also propose a model to explain this stabilization.
Acetylcholinesterase; thermal denaturation; ligand stabilization; amphioxus
Engrailed (En) has an important role in neuronal development in vertebrates and invertebrates. In adult Drosophila, although En expression persists throughout adulthood, a detailed description of its expression in sensory neurons has not been made. In this study, en-GAL4 was used to drive UAS-CD8::GFP expression and the projections of sensory neurons were examined with confocal microscopy. En protein expression was confirmed using immunocytochemistry. In the antenna, En is present in subsets of Johnston’s organ neurons and of olfactory neurons. En-driven GFP is expressed in axons projecting to 18 identifed olfactory glomeruli, originating from basiconic, trichoid and coeloconic sensilla. In most cases both neurons of a sensillum express En. En expression overlaps with that of Acj6, another transcription factor. En-driven GFP is also expressed in a subset of maxillary palp olfactory neurons and in all mechanosensory and gustatory sensilla in the posterior compartment of the labial palps. In the legs and halteres, en-driven GFP is expressed in only a subset of the sensory neurons of different modalities that arise in the posterior compartment. Finally, en-driven GFP is expressed in a single multidendritic sensory neuron in each abdominal segment.
Transcription factor; homeodomain; Drosophila melanogaster; sense organs
Neonicotinoid insecticides, which act on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in a variety of ways, have extremely low mammalian toxicity, yet the molecular basis of such actions is poorly understood. To elucidate the molecular basis for nAChR–neonicotinoid interactions, a surrogate protein, acetylcholine binding protein from Lymnaea stagnalis (Ls-AChBP) was crystallized in complex with neonicotinoid insecticides imidacloprid (IMI) or clothianidin (CTD). The crystal structures suggested that the guanidine moiety of IMI and CTD stacks with Tyr185, while the nitro group of IMI but not of CTD makes a hydrogen bond with Gln55. IMI showed higher binding affinity for Ls-AChBP than that of CTD, consistent with weaker CH–π interactions in the Ls-AChBP–CTD complex than in the Ls-AChBP–IMI complex and the lack of the nitro group-Gln55 hydrogen bond in CTD. Yet, the NH at position 1 of CTD makes a hydrogen bond with the backbone carbonyl of Trp143, offering an explanation for the diverse actions of neonicotinoids on nAChRs.
Acetylcholine binding protein (Lymnaea stagnalis); Crystal structures; Neonicotinoids; Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors; Ion channels
The nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, possesses the most extensive known superfamily of cys-loop ligand-gated ion channels (cys-loop LGICs) consisting of 102 subunit-encoding genes. Less than half of these genes have been functionally characterised which include cation-permeable channels gated by acetylcholine (ACh) and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) as well as anion-selective channels gated by ACh, GABA, glutamate and serotonin. Following the guidelines set for genetic nomenclature for C. elegans, we have designated unnamed subunits as lgc genes (ligand-gated ion channels of the cys-loop superfamily). Phylogenetic analysis shows that several of these lgc subunits form distinct groups which may represent novel cys-loop LGIC subtypes.
Caenorhabditis elegans; Ion channel; Acetylcholine; GABA; Glutamate; Serotonin