Childhood obesity is a growing health concern known to adversely affect quality of life in children and adolescents. The Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) pediatric measures were developed to capture child self-reports across a variety of health conditions experienced by children and adolescents. The purpose of this study is to begin the process of validation of the PROMIS pediatric measures in children and adolescents affected by obesity.
The pediatric PROMIS instruments were administered to 138 children and adolescents in a cross-sectional study of patient reported outcomes in children aged 8–17 years with age-adjusted body mass index (BMI) greater than the 85th percentile in a design to establish known-group validity. The children completed the depressive symptoms, anxiety, anger, peer relationships, pain interference, fatigue, upper extremity, and mobility PROMIS domains utilizing a computer interface. PROMIS domains and individual items were administered in random order and included a total of 95 items. Patient responses were compared between patients with BMI 85 to < 99th percentile versus ≥ 99th percentile.
136 participants were recruited and had all necessary clinical data for analysis. Of the 136 participants, 5% ended the survey early resulting in missing domain scores at the end of survey administration. In multivariate analysis, patients with BMI ≥ 99th percentile had worse scores for depressive symptoms, anger, fatigue, and mobility (p < 0.05). Parent-reported exercise was associated with better scores for depressive symptoms, anxiety, and fatigue (p < 0.05).
Children and adolescents ranging from overweight to severely obese can complete multiple PROMIS pediatric measures using a computer interface in the outpatient setting. In the 5% with missing domain scores, the missing scores were consistently found in the domains administered last, suggesting the length of the assessment is important. The differences in domain scores found in this study are consistent with previous reports investigating the quality of life in children and adolescents with obesity. We show that the PROMIS instrument represents a feasible and potentially valuable instrument for the future study of the effect of pediatric obesity on quality of life.
Quality of life; Obesity; Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS); Child; Depression
We perform the first multidisciplinary study of parasites from an extinct megafaunal clade using coprolites from the New Zealand moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes). Ancient DNA and microscopic analyses of 84 coprolites deposited by four moa species (South Island giant moa, Dinornis robustus; little bush moa, Anomalopteryx didiformis; heavy-footed moa, Pachyornis elephantopus; and upland moa, Megalapteryx didinus) reveal an array of gastrointestinal parasites including coccidians (Cryptosporidium and members of the suborder Eimeriorina), nematodes (Heterakoidea, Trichostrongylidae, Trichinellidae) and a trematode (Echinostomida). Parasite eggs were most prevalent and diverse in coprolites from lowland sites, where multiple sympatric moa species occurred and host density was therefore probably higher. Morphological and phylogenetic evidence supports a possible vicariant Gondwanan origin for some of the moa parasites. The discovery of apparently host-specific parasite taxa suggests paleoparasitological studies of megafauna coprolites may provide useful case-studies of coextinction.
The genus Equus is richly represented in the fossil record, yet our understanding of taxonomic relationships within this genus remains limited. To estimate the phylogenetic relationships among modern horses, zebras, asses and donkeys, we generated the first data set including complete mitochondrial sequences from all seven extant lineages within the genus Equus. Bayesian and Maximum Likelihood phylogenetic inference confirms that zebras are monophyletic within the genus, and the Plains and Grevy’s zebras form a well-supported monophyletic group. Using ancient DNA techniques, we further characterize the complete mitochondrial genomes of three extinct equid lineages (the New World stilt-legged horses, NWSLH; the subgenus Sussemionus; and the Quagga, Equus quagga quagga). Comparisons with extant taxa confirm the NWSLH as being part of the caballines, and the Quagga and Plains zebras as being conspecific. However, the evolutionary relationships among the non-caballine lineages, including the now-extinct subgenus Sussemionus, remain unresolved, most likely due to extremely rapid radiation within this group. The closest living outgroups (rhinos and tapirs) were found to be too phylogenetically distant to calibrate reliable molecular clocks. Additional mitochondrial genome sequence data, including radiocarbon dated ancient equids, will be required before revisiting the exact timing of the lineage radiation leading up to modern equids, which for now were found to have possibly shared a common ancestor as far as up to 4 Million years ago (Mya).
North East Europe harbors a high diversity of cultures and languages, suggesting a complex genetic history. Archaeological, anthropological, and genetic research has revealed a series of influences from Western and Eastern Eurasia in the past. While genetic data from modern-day populations is commonly used to make inferences about their origins and past migrations, ancient DNA provides a powerful test of such hypotheses by giving a snapshot of the past genetic diversity. In order to better understand the dynamics that have shaped the gene pool of North East Europeans, we generated and analyzed 34 mitochondrial genotypes from the skeletal remains of three archaeological sites in northwest Russia. These sites were dated to the Mesolithic and the Early Metal Age (7,500 and 3,500 uncalibrated years Before Present). We applied a suite of population genetic analyses (principal component analysis, genetic distance mapping, haplotype sharing analyses) and compared past demographic models through coalescent simulations using Bayesian Serial SimCoal and Approximate Bayesian Computation. Comparisons of genetic data from ancient and modern-day populations revealed significant changes in the mitochondrial makeup of North East Europeans through time. Mesolithic foragers showed high frequencies and diversity of haplogroups U (U2e, U4, U5a), a pattern observed previously in European hunter-gatherers from Iberia to Scandinavia. In contrast, the presence of mitochondrial DNA haplogroups C, D, and Z in Early Metal Age individuals suggested discontinuity with Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and genetic influx from central/eastern Siberia. We identified remarkable genetic dissimilarities between prehistoric and modern-day North East Europeans/Saami, which suggests an important role of post-Mesolithic migrations from Western Europe and subsequent population replacement/extinctions. This work demonstrates how ancient DNA can improve our understanding of human population movements across Eurasia. It contributes to the description of the spatio-temporal distribution of mitochondrial diversity and will be of significance for future reconstructions of the history of Europeans.
The history of human populations can be retraced by studying the archaeological and anthropological record, but also by examining the current distribution of genetic markers, such as the maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA. Ancient DNA research allows the retrieval of DNA from ancient skeletal remains and contributes to the reconstruction of the human population history through the comparison of ancient and present-day genetic data. Here, we analysed the mitochondrial DNA of prehistoric remains from archaeological sites dated to 7,500 and 3,500 years Before Present. These sites are located in North East Europe, a region that displays a significant cultural and linguistic diversity today but for which no ancient human DNA was available before. We show that prehistoric hunter-gatherers of North East Europe were genetically similar to other European foragers. We also detected a prehistoric genetic input from Siberia, followed by migrations from Western Europe into North East Europe. Our research contributes to the understanding of the origins and past dynamics of human population in Europe.
Starting from the premise that a wealth of potentially biologically active peptides may lurk within proteins, we describe here a methodology to identify putative antimicrobial peptides encrypted in protein sequences. Candidate peptides were identified using a new screening procedure based on physicochemical criteria to reveal matching peptides within protein databases. Fifteen such peptides, along with a range of natural antimicrobial peptides, were examined using DSC and CD to characterize their interaction with phospholipid membranes. Principal component analysis of DSC data shows that the investigated peptides group according to their effects on the main phase transition of phospholipid vesicles, and that these effects correlate both to antimicrobial activity and to the changes in peptide secondary structure. Consequently, we have been able to identify novel antimicrobial peptides from larger proteins not hitherto associated with such activity, mimicking endogenous and/or exogenous microorganism enzymatic processing of parent proteins to smaller bioactive molecules. A biotechnological application for this methodology is explored. Soybean (Glycine max) plants, transformed to include a putative antimicrobial protein fragment encoded in its own genome were tested for tolerance against Phakopsora pachyrhizi, the causative agent of the Asian soybean rust. This procedure may represent an inventive alternative to the transgenic technology, since the genetic material to be used belongs to the host organism and not to exogenous sources.
This study is aimed at investigating the molecular basis of environmental adaptation of woolly mammoth hemoglobin (Hb) to the harsh thermal conditions of the Pleistocene Ice-ages. To this end, we have carried out a comparative biochemical-biophysical characterization of the structural and functional properties of recombinant hemoglobins (rHb) from woolly mammoth (rHb WM) and Asian elephant (rHb AE) in relation to human hemoglobins Hb A and Hb A2 (a minor component of human Hb). We have obtained oxygen equilibrium curves and calculated O2 affinities, Bohr effects, and the apparent heat of oxygenation (ΔH) in the presence and absence of allosteric effectors [inorganic phosphate and inositol hexaphosphate (IHP)]. Here, we show that the four Hbs exhibit distinct structural properties and respond differently to allosteric effectors. In addition, the apparent heat of oxygenation (ΔH) for rHb WM is less negative than that of rHb AE, especially in phosphate buffer and the presence of IHP, suggesting that the oxygen affinity of mammoth blood was also less sensitive to temperature change. Finally, 1H-NMR spectroscopy data indicates that both α1(β/δ)1 and α1(β/δ)2 interfaces in rHb WM and rHb AE are perturbed, whereas only the α1δ1 interface in Hb A2 is perturbed compared to that in Hb A. The distinct structural and functional features of rHb WM presumably facilitated woolly mammoth survival in the Arctic environment.
As-p18, an unusual fatty-acid-binding protein from a parasitic nematode, was expressed in bacteria, purified and crystallized. The use of a microfocus beamline was essential for data collection.
As-p18 is a fatty-acid-binding protein from the parasitic nematode Ascaris suum. Although it exhibits sequence similarity to mammalian intracellular fatty-acid-binding proteins, it contains features that are unique to nematodes. Crystals were obtained, but initial diffraction data analysis revealed that they were composed of a number of ‘microdomains’. Interpretable data could only be collected using a microfocus beamline with a beam size of 12 × 8 µm.
fatty-acid-binding proteins; parasitic nematodes; Ascaris suum; microfocus beamlines
Knowledge about the diet and ecology of extinct herbivores has important implications for understanding the evolution of plant defence structures, establishing the influences of herbivory on past plant community structure and composition, and identifying pollination and seed dispersal syndromes. The flightless ratite moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes) were New Zealand’s largest herbivores prior to their extinction soon after initial human settlement. Here we contribute to the knowledge of moa diet and ecology by reporting the results of a multidisciplinary study of 35 coprolites from a subalpine cave (Euphrates Cave) on the South Island of New Zealand. Ancient DNA analysis and radiocarbon dating revealed the coprolites were deposited by the extinct upland moa (Megalapteryx didinus), and span from at least 6,368±31 until 694±30 14C years BP; the approximate time of their extinction. Using pollen, plant macrofossil, and ancient DNA analyses, we identified at least 67 plant taxa from the coprolites, including the first evidence that moa fed on the nectar-rich flowers of New Zealand flax (Phormium) and tree fuchsia (Fuchsia excorticata). The plant assemblage from the coprolites reflects a highly-generalist feeding ecology for upland moa, including browsing and grazing across the full range of locally available habitats (spanning southern beech (Nothofagus) forest to tussock (Chionochloa) grassland). Intact seeds in the coprolites indicate that upland moa may have been important dispersal agents for several plant taxa. Plant taxa with putative anti-browse adaptations were also identified in the coprolites. Clusters of coprolites (based on pollen assemblages, moa haplotypes, and radiocarbon dates), probably reflect specimens deposited at the same time by individual birds, and reveal the necessity of suitably large sample sizes in coprolite studies to overcome potential biases in diet interpretation.
Na-FAR-1, a fatty acid- and retinol-binding protein, was expressed in bacteria, purified and crystallized. Crystals grew in two different morphologies under the same conditions.
Na-FAR-1 is an unusual α-helix-rich fatty acid- and retinol-binding protein from Necator americanus, a blood-feeding intestinal parasitic nematode of humans. It belongs to the FAR protein family, which is unique to nematodes; no structural information is available to date for FAR proteins from parasites. Crystals were obtained with two different morphologies that corresponded to different space groups. Crystal form 1 exhibited space group P432 (unit-cell parameters a = b = c = 120.80 Å, α = β = γ = 90°) and diffracted to 2.5 Å resolution, whereas crystal form 2 exhibited space group F23 (unit-cell parameters a = b = c = 240.38 Å, α = β = γ = 90°) and diffracted to 3.2 Å resolution. Crystal form 2 showed signs of significant twinning.
fatty acid- and retinol-binding proteins; parasitic nematodes; Necator americanus; Na-FAR-1
DNA mimic proteins have evolved to control DNA-binding proteins by competing with the target DNA for binding to the protein. The Ocr protein of bacteriophage T7 is the most studied DNA mimic and functions to block the DNA-binding groove of Type I DNA restriction/modification enzymes. This binding prevents the enzyme from cleaving invading phage DNA. Each 116 amino acid monomer of the Ocr dimer has an unusual amino acid composition with 34 negatively charged side chains but only 6 positively charged side chains. Extensive mutagenesis of the charges of Ocr revealed a regression of Ocr activity from wild-type activity to partial activity then to variants inactive in antirestriction but deleterious for cell viability and lastly to totally inactive variants with no deleterious effect on cell viability. Throughout the mutagenesis the Ocr mutant proteins retained their folding. Our results show that the extreme bias in charged amino acids is not necessary for antirestriction activity but that less charged variants can affect cell viability by leading to restriction proficient but modification deficient cell phenotypes.
Ranasmurfin is an unusual blue protein isolated from the nests of a Malaysian tree frog, Polypedates leucomystax, showing the rich chemical diversity displayed by biomolecular foams. Many species of tropical frogs use foams to protect delicate eggs and developing embryos against environmental challenges. These nests act as miniature ecosystems containing a spectrum of novel proteins and other macromolecules with functions related to foam stabilization and adhesion, resistance to microbial degradation, predation, or dehydration, providing a biocompatible environment for embryonic development.Thisworkformspartofourwiderstudyofthe intriguing physical and chemical properties of biofoams as unusual examples of biological soft matter.
Epigenetic changes to gene expression can result in heritable phenotypic characteristics that are not encoded in the DNA itself, but rather by biochemical modifications to the DNA or associated chromatin proteins. Interposed between genes and environment, these epigenetic modifications can be influenced by environmental factors to affect phenotype for multiple generations. This raises the possibility that epigenetic states provide a substrate for natural selection, with the potential to participate in the rapid adaptation of species to changes in environment. Any direct test of this hypothesis would require the ability to measure epigenetic states over evolutionary timescales. Here we describe the first single-base resolution of cytosine methylation patterns in an ancient mammalian genome, by bisulphite allelic sequencing of loci from late Pleistocene Bison priscus remains. Retrotransposons and the differentially methylated regions of imprinted loci displayed methylation patterns identical to those derived from fresh bovine tissue, indicating that methylation patterns are preserved in the ancient DNA. Our findings establish the biochemical stability of methylated cytosines over extensive time frames, and provide the first direct evidence that cytosine methylation patterns are retained in DNA from ancient specimens. The ability to resolve cytosine methylation in ancient DNA provides a powerful means to study the role of epigenetics in evolution.
Breast cancer is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in women worldwide. In Sudan, it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer. This study assesses the prevalence of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations among female students with a family history of breast cancer, in secondary schools of Marawi Locality, Northern State, Sudan.
From a survey of 2370 students, 67 cases (47 with family history and 20 controls) were analyzed for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations with a single-stranded conformation polymorphism (SSCP) mutation detection method applied to peripheral blood. Eighteen subjects knew of first degree female relatives with breast cancer, 23 with second degree female family members affected and 6 with related male sufferers. Twenty randomly selected girls from the remainder of the survey population with no known family history were also tested.
The breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 accounted, respectively, for 1.21% of responders or 51% of those claiming a family history. Mutations were found in 20% of the group selected with no family history. Only 2 BRCA 2 mutations were found, both in girls with no known afflicted relatives. Six girls knew of male relatives with breast cancer; five of these girls carried mutant BRCA 1. Most of the BRCA1- mutations located to exon 11 fragments 11.9 and 11.1.
The study indicates a high prevalence of genetically associated breast cancer in the Marawi locality suggesting a need to focus on the two mutation sites in developing screening protocols for at least this area of Sudan.
Breast cancer; BRCA 1; BRCA 2; Sudan; Schoolgirls
The Black Rat (Rattus rattus) spread out of Asia to become one of the world's worst agricultural and urban pests, and a reservoir or vector of numerous zoonotic diseases, including the devastating plague. Despite the global scale and inestimable cost of their impacts on both human livelihoods and natural ecosystems, little is known of the global genetic diversity of Black Rats, the timing and directions of their historical dispersals, and the risks associated with contemporary movements. We surveyed mitochondrial DNA of Black Rats collected across their global range as a first step towards obtaining an historical genetic perspective on this socioeconomically important group of rodents. We found a strong phylogeographic pattern with well-differentiated lineages of Black Rats native to South Asia, the Himalayan region, southern Indochina, and northern Indochina to East Asia, and a diversification that probably commenced in the early Middle Pleistocene. We also identified two other currently recognised species of Rattus as potential derivatives of a paraphyletic R. rattus. Three of the four phylogenetic lineage units within R. rattus show clear genetic signatures of major population expansion in prehistoric times, and the distribution of particular haplogroups mirrors archaeologically and historically documented patterns of human dispersal and trade. Commensalism clearly arose multiple times in R. rattus and in widely separated geographic regions, and this may account for apparent regionalism in their associated pathogens. Our findings represent an important step towards deeper understanding the complex and influential relationship that has developed between Black Rats and humans, and invite a thorough re-examination of host-pathogen associations among Black Rats.
The C-terminal domain (CTD) of HIV-1 capsid (CA), like full-length CA, forms dimers in solution and CTD dimerization is a major driving force in Gag assembly and maturation. Mutations of the residues at the CTD dimer interface impair virus assembly and render the virus non-infectious. Therefore, the CTD represents a potential target for designing anti-HIV-1 drugs.
Due to the pivotal role of the dimer interface, we reasoned that peptides from the α-helical region of the dimer interface might be effective as decoys to prevent CTD dimer formation. However, these small peptides do not have any structure in solution and they do not penetrate cells. Therefore, we used the hydrocarbon stapling technique to stabilize the α-helical structure and confirmed by confocal microscopy that this modification also made these peptides cell-penetrating. We also confirmed by using isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC), sedimentation equilibrium and NMR that these peptides indeed disrupt dimer formation. In in vitro assembly assays, the peptides inhibited mature-like virus particle formation and specifically inhibited HIV-1 production in cell-based assays. These peptides also showed potent antiviral activity against a large panel of laboratory-adapted and primary isolates, including viral strains resistant to inhibitors of reverse transcriptase and protease.
These preliminary data serve as the foundation for designing small, stable, α-helical peptides and small-molecule inhibitors targeted against the CTD dimer interface. The observation that relatively weak CA binders, such as NYAD-201 and NYAD-202, showed specificity and are able to disrupt the CTD dimer is encouraging for further exploration of a much broader class of antiviral compounds targeting CA. We cannot exclude the possibility that the CA-based peptides described here could elicit additional effects on virus replication not directly linked to their ability to bind CA-CTD.
Nematode polyprotein allergens (NPAs) are an unusual class of lipid-binding proteins found only in nematodes. They are synthesized as large, tandemly repetitive polyproteins that are post-translationally cleaved into multiple copies of small lipid binding proteins with virtually identical fatty acid and retinol (Vitamin A)-binding characteristics. They are probably central to transport and distribution of small hydrophobic compounds between the tissues of nematodes, and may play key roles in nutrient scavenging, immunomodulation, and IgE antibody-based responses in infection. In some species the repeating units are diverse in amino acid sequence, but, in ascarid and filarial nematodes, many of the units are identical or near-identical. ABA-1A is the most common repeating unit of the NPA of Ascaris suum, and is closely similar to that of Ascaris lumbricoides, the large intestinal roundworm of humans. Immune responses to NPAs have been associated with naturally-acquired resistance to infection in humans, and the immune repertoire to them is under strict genetic control.
The solution structure of ABA-1A was determined by protein nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The protein adopts a novel seven-helical fold comprising a long central helix that participates in two hollow four-helical bundles on either side. Discrete hydrophobic ligand-binding pockets are found in the N-terminal and C-terminal bundles, and the amino acid sidechains affected by ligand (fatty acid) binding were identified. Recombinant ABA-1A contains tightly-bound ligand(s) of bacterial culture origin in one of its binding sites.
This is the first mature, post-translationally processed, unit of a naturally-occurring tandemly-repetitive polyprotein to be structurally characterized from any source, and it belongs to a new structural class. NPAs have no counterparts in vertebrates, so represent potential targets for drug or immunological intervention. The nature of the (as yet) unidentified bacterial ligand(s) may be pertinent to this, as will our characterization of the unusual binding sites.
Parasitic nematode worms cause serious health problems in humans and other animals. They can induce allergic-type immune responses, which can be harmful but may at the same time protect against the infections. Allergens are proteins that trigger allergic reactions and these parasites produce a type that is confined to nematodes, the nematode polyprotein allergens (NPAs). These are synthesized as large precursor proteins comprising repeating units of similar amino acid sequence that are subsequently cleaved into multiple copies of the allergen protein. NPAs bind small lipids such as fatty acids and retinol (Vitamin A) and probably transport these sensitive and insoluble compounds between the tissues of the worms. Nematodes cannot synthesize these lipids, so NPAs may also be crucial for extracting nutrients from their hosts. They may also be involved in altering immune responses by controlling the lipids by which the immune and inflammatory cells communicate. We describe the molecular structure of one unit of an NPA, the well-known ABA-1 allergen of Ascaris, and find its structure to be of a type not previously found for lipid-binding proteins, and we describe the unusual sites where lipids bind within this structure.
Bos primigenius, the aurochs, is the wild ancestor of modern cattle breeds and was formerly widespread across Eurasia and northern Africa. After a progressive decline, the species became extinct in 1627. The origin of modern taurine breeds in Europe is debated. Archaeological and early genetic evidence point to a single Near Eastern origin and a subsequent spread during the diffusion of herding and farming. More recent genetic data are instead compatible with local domestication events or at least some level of local introgression from the aurochs. Here we present the analysis of the complete mitochondrial genome of a pre-Neolithic Italian aurochs.
In this study, we applied a combined strategy employing both multiplex PCR amplifications and 454 pyrosequencing technology to sequence the complete mitochondrial genome of an 11,450-year-old aurochs specimen from Central Italy. Phylogenetic analysis of the aurochs mtDNA genome supports the conclusions from previous studies of short mtDNA fragments - namely that Italian aurochsen were genetically very similar to modern cattle breeds, but highly divergent from the North-Central European aurochsen.
Complete mitochondrial genome sequences are now available for several modern cattle and two pre-Neolithic mtDNA genomes from very different geographic areas. These data suggest that previously identified sub-groups within the widespread modern cattle mitochondrial T clade are polyphyletic, and they support the hypothesis that modern European breeds have multiple geographic origins.
The first farmers from Central Europe reveal a genetic affinity to modern-day populations from the Near East and Anatolia, which suggests a significant demographic input from this area during the early Neolithic.
In Europe, the Neolithic transition (8,000–4,000 b.c.) from hunting and gathering to agricultural communities was one of the most important demographic events since the initial peopling of Europe by anatomically modern humans in the Upper Paleolithic (40,000 b.c.). However, the nature and speed of this transition is a matter of continuing scientific debate in archaeology, anthropology, and human population genetics. To date, inferences about the genetic make up of past populations have mostly been drawn from studies of modern-day Eurasian populations, but increasingly ancient DNA studies offer a direct view of the genetic past. We genetically characterized a population of the earliest farming culture in Central Europe, the Linear Pottery Culture (LBK; 5,500–4,900 calibrated b.c.) and used comprehensive phylogeographic and population genetic analyses to locate its origins within the broader Eurasian region, and to trace potential dispersal routes into Europe. We cloned and sequenced the mitochondrial hypervariable segment I and designed two powerful SNP multiplex PCR systems to generate new mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal data from 21 individuals from a complete LBK graveyard at Derenburg Meerenstieg II in Germany. These results considerably extend the available genetic dataset for the LBK (n = 42) and permit the first detailed genetic analysis of the earliest Neolithic culture in Central Europe (5,500–4,900 calibrated b.c.). We characterized the Neolithic mitochondrial DNA sequence diversity and geographical affinities of the early farmers using a large database of extant Western Eurasian populations (n = 23,394) and a wide range of population genetic analyses including shared haplotype analyses, principal component analyses, multidimensional scaling, geographic mapping of genetic distances, and Bayesian Serial Simcoal analyses. The results reveal that the LBK population shared an affinity with the modern-day Near East and Anatolia, supporting a major genetic input from this area during the advent of farming in Europe. However, the LBK population also showed unique genetic features including a clearly distinct distribution of mitochondrial haplogroup frequencies, confirming that major demographic events continued to take place in Europe after the early Neolithic.
The transition from a hunter–gatherer existence to a sedentary farming-based lifestyle has had key consequences for human groups around the world and has profoundly shaped human societies. Originating in the Near East around 11,000 y ago, an agricultural lifestyle subsequently spread across Europe during the New Stone Age (Neolithic). Whether it was mediated by incoming farmers or driven by the transmission of innovative ideas and techniques remains a subject of continuing debate in archaeology, anthropology, and human population genetics. Ancient DNA from the earliest farmers can provide a direct view of the genetic diversity of these populations in the earliest Neolithic. Here, we compare Neolithic haplogroups and their diversity to a large database of extant European and Eurasian populations. We identified Neolithic haplotypes that left clear traces in modern populations, and the data suggest a route for the migrating farmers that extends from the Near East and Anatolia into Central Europe. When compared to indigenous hunter–gatherer populations, the unique and characteristic genetic signature of the early farmers suggests a significant demographic input from the Near East during the onset of farming in Europe.
Feathers are known to contain amplifiable DNA at their base (calamus) and have provided an important genetic source from museum specimens. However, feathers in subfossil deposits generally only preserve the upper shaft and feather ‘vane’ which are thought to be unsuitable for DNA analysis. We analyse subfossil moa feathers from Holocene New Zealand rockshelter sites and demonstrate that both ancient DNA and plumage information can be recovered from their upper portion, allowing species identification and a means to reconstruct the appearance of extinct taxa. These ancient DNA sequences indicate that the distal portions of feathers are an untapped resource for studies of museum, palaeontological and modern specimens. We investigate the potential to reconstruct the plumage of pre-historically extinct avian taxa using subfossil remains, rather than assuming morphological uniformity with closely related extant taxa. To test the notion of colour persistence in subfossil feathers, we perform digital comparisons of feathers of the red-crowned parakeet (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae novaezelandiae) excavated from the same horizons as the moa feathers, with modern samples. The results suggest that the coloration of the moa feathers is authentic, and computer software is used to perform plumage reconstructions of moa based on subfossil remains.
ancient DNA; feathers; moa; phenotype; plumage reconstruction
Naturally occurring foam constituent and surfactant proteins with intriguing structures and functions are now being identified from a variety of biological sources. The ranaspumins from tropical frog foam nests comprise a range of proteins with a mixture of surfactant, carbohydrate binding and antimicrobial activities that together provide a stable, biocompatible, protective foam environment for developing eggs and embryos. Ranasmurfin, a blue protein from a different species of frog, displays a novel structure with a unique chromophoric crosslink. Latherin, primarily from horse sweat, but with similarities to salivary, oral and upper respiratory tract proteins, illustrates several potential roles for surfactant proteins in mammalian systems. These proteins, together with the previously discovered hydrophobins of fungi, throw new light on biomolecular processes at air–water and other interfaces. This review provides a perspective on these recent findings, focussing on structure and biophysical properties.
Foam; Frog; Nest; Latherin; Ranaspumin; Ranasmurfin
To study baseline and stimulated tissue factor (TF) production from a normal, albeit immortalised, human kidney proximal tubular cell line (HKC‐5), in order to establish a model for investigating the role of inflammatory mediators in the increased urinary TF (uTF) seen in inflammatory and neoplastic disease.
TF procoagulant activity, expression and secretion in HKC‐5 cells were investigated using TF activity and antigen assays, fluorescence confocal microscopy and immunocytochemistry. TF expression in the HKC‐5 cells was also studied using reverse transcription (RT)‐PCR and its synthesis was suppressed using antisense oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN), directed against human TF mRNA. Cells were stimulated, after serum deprivation, with bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS), an agonist known to enhance TF expression in monocytes. They were also subject to serum starvation.
Analysis by RT‐PCR showed TF production by stimulated and actively metabolising HKC‐5 cells. Antisense ODN treatment resulted in approximately 50% suppression of TF synthesis compared to a mismatch ODN. The amount of TF produced by the HKC‐5 cells was time dependent and coincides with a decrease in the intracellular TF levels. LPS up‐regulated TF production in HKC‐5 cells. Reducing fetal calf serum concentrations in the culture medium decreased TF production and secretion.
Stimulated TF synthesis and secretion in vitro by HKC‐5 cells is consistent with the hypothesis that uTF is produced by tubular cells influenced by mediators of disease states and provides a model for further mechanistic investigations.
tissue factor; human kidney; proximal tubules; HKC‐5 cell lines; immunostaining; antisense oligodeoxynucleotides; RT‐PCR
Recent human expansion into the Pacific initiated a dramatic avian extinction crisis, and surviving taxa are typically interpreted as declining remnants of previously abundant populations. As a case in point, New Zealand's endangered yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) is widely considered to have been more abundant and widespread in the past. By contrast, our genetic and morphological analyses of prehistoric, historic and modern penguin samples reveal that this species expanded its range to the New Zealand mainland only in the last few hundred years. This range expansion was apparently facilitated by the extinction of M. antipodes' previously unrecognized sister species following Polynesian settlement in New Zealand. Based on combined genetic and morphological data, we describe this new penguin species, the first known to have suffered human-mediated extinction. The range expansion of M. antipodes so soon after the extinction of its sister species supports a historic paradigmatic shift in New Zealand Polynesian culture. Additionally, such a dynamic biological response to human predation reveals a surprising and less recognized potential for species to have benefited from the extinction of their ecologically similar sister taxa and highlights the complexity of large-scale extinction events.
Megadyptes antipodes; ancient DNA; New Zealand; palaeontology; Polynesian; extinction
The analysis of targeted genetic loci from ancient, forensic and clinical samples is usually built upon polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-generated sequence data. However, many studies have shown that PCR amplification from poor-quality DNA templates can create sequence artefacts at significant levels. With hominin (human and other hominid) samples, the pervasive presence of highly PCR-amplifiable human DNA contaminants in the vast majority of samples can lead to the creation of recombinant hybrids and other non-authentic artefacts. The resulting PCR-generated sequences can then be difficult, if not impossible, to authenticate. In contrast, single primer extension (SPEX)-based approaches can genotype single nucleotide polymorphisms from ancient fragments of DNA as accurately as modern DNA. A single SPEX-type assay can amplify just one of the duplex DNA strands at target loci and generate a multi-fold depth-of-coverage, with non-authentic recombinant hybrids reduced to undetectable levels. Crucially, SPEX-type approaches can preferentially access genetic information from damaged and degraded endogenous ancient DNA templates over modern human DNA contaminants. The development of SPEX-type assays offers the potential for highly accurate, quantitative genotyping from ancient hominin samples.
The homodimeric Ocr (overcome classical restriction) protein of bacteriophage T7 is a molecular mimic of double-stranded DNA and a highly effective competitive inhibitor of the bacterial type I restriction/modification system. The surface of Ocr is replete with acidic residues that mimic the phosphate backbone of DNA. In addition, Ocr also mimics the overall dimensions of a bent 24-bp DNA molecule. In this study, we attempted to delineate these two mechanisms of DNA mimicry by chemically modifying the negative charges on the Ocr surface. Our analysis reveals that removal of about 46% of the carboxylate groups per Ocr monomer results in an ∼ 50-fold reduction in binding affinity for a methyltransferase from a model type I restriction/modification system. The reduced affinity between Ocr with this degree of modification and the methyltransferase is comparable with the affinity of DNA for the methyltransferase. Additional modification to remove ∼ 86% of the carboxylate groups further reduces its binding affinity, although the modified Ocr still binds to the methyltransferase via a mechanism attributable to the shape mimicry of a bent DNA molecule. Our results show that the electrostatic mimicry of Ocr increases the binding affinity for its target enzyme by up to ∼ 800-fold.
Ocr, overcome classical restriction; R/M, restriction/modification; EDC, 1-ethyl-3-(3-dimethylaminopropyl) carbodiimide hydrochloride; HOBt, hydroxybenzotriazole; MS, mass spectrometry; MALDI-TOF, matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time of flight; FT-ICR, Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance; GdmCl, guanidinium hydrochloride; SAM, S-adenosyl-L-methionine; ITC, isothermal titration calorimetry; WT, wild type; DNA mimic; chemical modification; restriction/modification system
Progress in the field of human ancient DNA studies has been severely restricted due to the myriad sources of potential contamination, and because of the pronounced difficulty in identifying authentic results. Improving the robustness of human aDNA results is a necessary pre-requisite to vigorously testing hypotheses about human evolution in Europe, including possible admixture with Neanderthals. This study approaches the problem of distinguishing between authentic and contaminating sequences from common European mtDNA haplogroups by applying a multiplexed Single-Base-Extension assay, containing both control and coding region sites, to DNA extracted from the Tyrolean Iceman.
The multiplex assay developed for this study was able to confirm that the Iceman's mtDNA belongs to a new European mtDNA clade with a very limited distribution amongst modern data sets. Controlled contamination experiments show that the correct results are returned by the multiplex assay even in the presence of substantial amounts of exogenous DNA. The overall level of discrimination achieved by targeting both control and coding region polymorphisms in a single reaction provides a methodology capable of dealing with most cases of homoplasy prevalent in European haplogroups.
The new genotyping results for the Iceman confirm the extreme fallibility of human aDNA studies in general, even when authenticated by independent replication. The sensitivity and accuracy of the multiplex Single-Base-Extension methodology forms part of an emerging suite of alternative techniques for the accurate retrieval of ancient DNA sequences from both anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals. The contamination of laboratories remains a pressing concern in aDNA studies, both in the pre and post-PCR environments, and the adoption of a forensic style assessment of a priori risks would significantly improve the credibility of results.