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1.  A comparison of the reparative and angiogenic properties of mesenchymal stem cells derived from the bone marrow of BALB/c and C57/BL6 mice in a model of limb ischemia 
BALB/c mice and C57/BL6 mice have different abilities to recover from ischemia. C57/BL6 mice display increased vessel collateralization and vascular endothelial growth factor expression with a consequent rapid recovery from ischemia compared with BALB/c mice. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are one of the main cell types that contribute to the recovery from ischemia because, among their biological activities, they produce several proangiogenic paracrine factors and differentiate into endothelial cells. The objective of this study was to evaluate whether the MSCs of these two mouse strains have different inductive capacities for recovering ischemic limbs.
MSCs from these two strains were obtained from the bone marrow, purified and characterized before being used for in vivo experiments. Limb ischemia was surgically induced in BALB/c mice, and MSCs were injected on the fifth day. The evolution of limb necrosis was evaluated over the subsequent month. Muscle strength was assessed on the 30th day after the injection, and then the animals were sacrificed to determine the muscle mass and perform histological analyses to detect cellular infiltration, capillary and microvessel densities, fibrosis, necrosis and tissue regeneration.
The MSCs from both strains promoted high level of angiogenesis similarly, resulting in good recovery from ischemia. However, BALB/c MSCs promoted more muscle regeneration (57%) than C57/BL6 MSCs (44%), which was reflected in the increased muscle strength (0.79 N versus 0.45 N).
The different genetic background of MSCs from BALB/c mice and C57/BL6 mice was not a relevant factor in promoting angiogenesis of limb ischemia, because both cells showed a similar angiogenic activity. These cells also showed a potential myogenic effect, but the stronger effect promoted by BALB/c MSCs indicates that the different genetic background of MSCs was more relevant in myogenesis than angiogesis.
PMCID: PMC3856613  PMID: 23890057
Angiogenesis; Cell therapy; Hind-limb ischemia; Mesenchymal stem cells
2.  Proving universal common ancestry with similar sequences 
Douglas Theobald recently developed an interesting test putatively capable of quantifying the evidence for a Universal Common Ancestry uniting the three domains of life (Eukarya, Archaea and Bacteria) against hypotheses of Independent Origins for some of these domains.
We review here his model, in particular in relation to the treatment of Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT) and to the quality of sequence alignment.
PMCID: PMC3694314  PMID: 23814665
tree of life; model selection; common ancestry
3.  Codon pairs of the HIV-1 vif gene correlate with CD4+ T cell count 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:173.
The human APOBEC3G (A3G) protein activity is associated with innate immunity against HIV-1 by inducing high rates of guanosines to adenosines (G-to-A) mutations (viz., hypermutation) in the viral DNA. If hypermutation is not enough to disrupt the reading frames of viral genes, it may likely increase the HIV-1 diversity. To counteract host innate immunity HIV-1 encodes the Vif protein that binds A3G protein and form complexes to be degraded by cellular proteolysis.
Here we studied the pattern of substitutions in the vif gene and its association with clinical status of HIV-1 infected individuals. To perform the study, unique vif gene sequences were generated from 400 antiretroviral-naïve individuals.
The codon pairs: 78–154, 85–154, 101–157, 105–157, and 105–176 of vif gene were associated with CD4+ T cell count lower than 500 cells per mm3. Some of these codons were located in the 81LGQGVSIEW89 region and within the BC-Box. We also identified codons under positive selection clustered in the N-terminal region of Vif protein, between 21WKSLVK26 and 40YRHHY44 regions (i.e., 31, 33, 37, 39), within the BC-Box (i.e., 155, 159) and the Cullin5-Box (i.e., 168) of vif gene. All these regions are involved in the Vif-induced degradation of A3G/F complexes and the N-terminal of Vif protein binds to viral and cellular RNA.
Adaptive evolution of vif gene was mostly to optimize viral RNA binding and A3G/F recognition. Additionally, since there is not a fully resolved structure of the Vif protein, codon pairs associated with CD4+ T cell count may elucidate key regions that interact with host cell factors. Here we identified and discriminated codons under positive selection and codons under functional constraint in the vif gene of HIV-1.
PMCID: PMC3637627  PMID: 23578255
HIV-1; Epistasis; APOBEC; Vif; Hypermutation; Positive selection; Co-evolution
8.  Evolutionary Process of Deep-Sea Bathymodiolus Mussels 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10363.
Since the discovery of deep-sea chemosynthesis-based communities, much work has been done to clarify their organismal and environmental aspects. However, major topics remain to be resolved, including when and how organisms invade and adapt to deep-sea environments; whether strategies for invasion and adaptation are shared by different taxa or unique to each taxon; how organisms extend their distribution and diversity; and how they become isolated to speciate in continuous waters. Deep-sea mussels are one of the dominant organisms in chemosynthesis-based communities, thus investigations of their origin and evolution contribute to resolving questions about life in those communities.
Methodology/Principal Finding
We investigated worldwide phylogenetic relationships of deep-sea Bathymodiolus mussels and their mytilid relatives by analyzing nucleotide sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 4 (ND4) genes. Phylogenetic analysis of the concatenated sequence data showed that mussels of the subfamily Bathymodiolinae from vents and seeps were divided into four groups, and that mussels of the subfamily Modiolinae from sunken wood and whale carcasses assumed the outgroup position and shallow-water modioline mussels were positioned more distantly to the bathymodioline mussels. We provisionally hypothesized the evolutionary history of Bathymodilolus mussels by estimating evolutionary time under a relaxed molecular clock model. Diversification of bathymodioline mussels was initiated in the early Miocene, and subsequently diversification of the groups occurred in the early to middle Miocene.
The phylogenetic relationships support the “Evolutionary stepping stone hypothesis,” in which mytilid ancestors exploited sunken wood and whale carcasses in their progressive adaptation to deep-sea environments. This hypothesis is also supported by the evolutionary transition of symbiosis in that nutritional adaptation to the deep sea proceeded from extracellular to intracellular symbiotic states in whale carcasses. The estimated evolutionary time suggests that the mytilid ancestors were able to exploit whales during adaptation to the deep sea.
PMCID: PMC2860499  PMID: 20436906
9.  Lineage-specific positive selection at the merozoite surface protein 1 (msp1) locus of Plasmodium vivax and related simian malaria parasites 
The 200 kDa merozoite surface protein 1 (MSP-1) of malaria parasites, a strong vaccine candidate, plays a key role during erythrocyte invasion and is a target of host protective immune response. Plasmodium vivax, the most widespread human malaria parasite, is closely related to parasites that infect Asian Old World monkeys, and has been considered to have become a parasite of man by host switch from a macaque malaria parasite. Several Asian monkey parasites have a range of natural hosts. The same parasite species shows different disease manifestations among host species. This suggests that host immune responses to P. vivax-related malaria parasites greatly differ among host species (albeit other factors). It is thus tempting to invoke that a major immune target parasite protein such as MSP-1 underwent unique evolution, depending on parasite species that exhibit difference in host range and host specificity.
We performed comparative phylogenetic and population genetic analyses of the gene encoding MSP-1 (msp1) from P. vivax and nine P. vivax-related simian malaria parasites. The inferred phylogenetic tree of msp1 significantly differed from that of the mitochondrial genome, with a striking displacement of P. vivax from a position close to P. cynomolgi in the mitochondrial genome tree to an outlier of Asian monkey parasites. Importantly, positive selection was inferred for two ancestral branches, one leading to P. inui and P. hylobati and the other leading to P. vivax, P. fieldi and P. cynomolgi. This ancestral positive selection was estimated to have occurred three to six million years ago, coinciding with the period of radiation of Asian macaques. Comparisons of msp1 polymorphisms between P. vivax, P. inui and P. cynomolgi revealed that while some positively selected amino acid sites or regions are shared by these parasites, amino acid changes greatly differ, suggesting that diversifying selection is acting species-specifically on msp1.
The present results indicate that the msp1 locus of P. vivax and related parasite species has lineage-specific unique evolutionary history with positive selection. P. vivax and related simian malaria parasites offer an interesting system toward understanding host species-dependent adaptive evolution of immune-target surface antigen genes such as msp1.
PMCID: PMC2832629  PMID: 20167126
10.  Phylogenetic Detection of Recombination with a Bayesian Prior on the Distance between Trees 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(7):e2651.
Genomic regions participating in recombination events may support distinct topologies, and phylogenetic analyses should incorporate this heterogeneity. Existing phylogenetic methods for recombination detection are challenged by the enormous number of possible topologies, even for a moderate number of taxa. If, however, the detection analysis is conducted independently between each putative recombinant sequence and a set of reference parentals, potential recombinations between the recombinants are neglected. In this context, a recombination hotspot can be inferred in phylogenetic analyses if we observe several consecutive breakpoints. We developed a distance measure between unrooted topologies that closely resembles the number of recombinations. By introducing a prior distribution on these recombination distances, a Bayesian hierarchical model was devised to detect phylogenetic inconsistencies occurring due to recombinations. This model relaxes the assumption of known parental sequences, still common in HIV analysis, allowing the entire dataset to be analyzed at once. On simulated datasets with up to 16 taxa, our method correctly detected recombination breakpoints and the number of recombination events for each breakpoint. The procedure is robust to rate and transition∶transversion heterogeneities for simulations with and without recombination. This recombination distance is related to recombination hotspots. Applying this procedure to a genomic HIV-1 dataset, we found evidence for hotspots and de novo recombination.
PMCID: PMC2440540  PMID: 18612422

Results 1-10 (10)