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1.  The distribution and evolution of Arabidopsis thaliana cis natural antisense transcripts 
BMC Genomics  2015;16(1):444.
Natural antisense transcripts (NATs) are regulatory RNAs that contain sequence complementary to other RNAs, these other RNAs usually being messenger RNAs. In eukaryotic genomes, cis-NATs overlap the gene they complement.
Here, our goal is to analyze the distribution and evolutionary conservation of cis-NATs for a variety of available data sets for Arabidopsis thaliana, to gain insights into cis-NAT functional mechanisms and their significance. Cis-NATs derived from traditional sequencing are largely validated by other data sets, although different cis-NAT data sets have different prevalent cis-NAT topologies with respect to overlapping protein-coding genes. A. thaliana cis-NATs have substantial conservation (28-35% in the three substantive data sets analyzed) of expression in A. lyrata. We examined evolutionary sequence conservation at cis-NAT loci in Arabidopsis thaliana across nine sequenced Brassicaceae species (picked for optimal discernment of purifying selection), focussing on the parts of their sequences not overlapping protein-coding transcripts (dubbed ‘NOLPs’). We found significant NOLP sequence conservation for 28-34% NATs across different cis-NAT sets. This NAT NOLP sequence conservation versus A. lyrata is generally significantly correlated with conservation of expression. We discover a significant enrichment of transcription factor binding sites (as evidenced by CHIP-seq data) in NOLPs compared to randomly sampled near-gene NOLP-like DNA , that is linked to significant sequence conservation. Conversely, there is no such evidence for a general significant link between NOLPs and formation of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), with the substantial majority of unique siRNAs arising from the overlapping portions of the cis-NATs.
In aggregate, our results suggest that many cis-NAT NOLPs function in the regulation of conserved promoter/regulatory elements that they ‘over-hang’.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-015-1587-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4467840  PMID: 26054753
2.  Effects of cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia on the mental health of university students: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2015;16:236.
Insomnia, defined as repeated difficulties getting or staying asleep, is common in the general population. Such sleep difficulties are a problem in their own right, but increasingly it is being recognised that they may also be a contributory factor in the development of a wide range of mental health problems. Our focus is upon the relationship between insomnia and psychotic experiences, such as paranoia and hallucinations. Psychotic experiences commonly occur in mild forms in the general population and have been linked to disrupted sleep. These psychotic-like experiences raise the risk of development of a clinical disorder. Our aim is to reduce insomnia in a large general population group, and examine the effect on paranoia and hallucinations at the age when mental health problems typically emerge. The primary hypotheses are that cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) for insomnia will reduce insomnia and also levels of paranoia and hallucinations. The theoretical links will be substantiated by a planned mediation analysis. Improvements in a number of other mental health outcomes are also predicted.
We will carry out a parallel group, randomised controlled trial of 2,614 students with insomnia in universities across the UK. In the Oxford Access for Students Improving Sleep (OASIS) trial, participants will be randomised to digital CBT for insomnia (in addition to treatment as usual) or treatment as usual. Online assessments will take place at zero, three, 10 (post-treatment), and 22 (follow-up) weeks. Primary outcomes are insomnia and psychotic-like experiences (paranoia or hallucinatory experiences) at 10 weeks. Secondary outcomes are levels of mania, depression, anxiety, nightmares, psychological wellbeing, and the development of mental health disorders. All main analyses will be carried out at the end of the last follow-up assessment and will be based on the intention-to-treat principle. The trial is funded by the Wellcome Trust.
This study will be the first large-scale causal test of the relationship between sleep disturbance and psychotic experiences. It will provide evidence concerning the clinical effects of treating insomnia in young adults.
Trial registration
This trial was registered with Current Controlled Trials (identifier: ISRCTN61272251) on 29 January 2015.
PMCID: PMC4448545  PMID: 26016697
Insomnia; Sleep; CBT; Delusions; Hallucinations; Schizophrenia
3.  Deletion of Metabotropic Glutamate Receptors 2 and 3 (mGlu2 & mGlu3) in Mice Disrupts Sleep and Wheel-Running Activity, and Increases the Sensitivity of the Circadian System to Light 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(5):e0125523.
Sleep and/or circadian rhythm disruption (SCRD) is seen in up to 80% of schizophrenia patients. The co-morbidity of schizophrenia and SCRD may in part stem from dysfunction in common brain mechanisms, which include the glutamate system, and in particular, the group II metabotropic glutamate receptors mGlu2 and mGlu3 (encoded by the genes Grm2 and Grm3). These receptors are relevant to the pathophysiology and potential treatment of schizophrenia, and have also been implicated in sleep and circadian function. In the present study, we characterised the sleep and circadian rhythms of Grm2/3 double knockout (Grm2/3-/-) mice, to provide further evidence for the involvement of group II metabotropic glutamate receptors in the regulation of sleep and circadian rhythms. We report several novel findings. Firstly, Grm2/3-/- mice demonstrated a decrease in immobility-determined sleep time and an increase in immobility-determined sleep fragmentation. Secondly, Grm2/3-/- mice showed heightened sensitivity to the circadian effects of light, manifested as increased period lengthening in constant light, and greater phase delays in response to nocturnal light pulses. Greater light-induced phase delays were also exhibited by wildtype C57Bl/6J mice following administration of the mGlu2/3 negative allosteric modulator RO4432717. These results confirm the involvement of group II metabotropic glutamate receptors in photic entrainment and sleep regulation pathways. Finally, the diurnal wheel-running rhythms of Grm2/3-/- mice were perturbed under a standard light/dark cycle, but their diurnal rest-activity rhythms were unaltered in cages lacking running wheels, as determined with passive infrared motion detectors. Hence, when assessing the diurnal rest-activity rhythms of mice, the choice of assay can have a major bearing on the results obtained.
PMCID: PMC4423919  PMID: 25950516
4.  Recent genetic findings in schizophrenia and their therapeutic relevance 
Over 100 loci are now associated with schizophrenia risk as identified by single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genome-wide association studies. These findings mean that ‘genes for schizophrenia’ have unquestionably been found. However, many questions remain unanswered, including several which affect their therapeutic significance. The SNPs individually have minor effects, and even cumulatively explain only a modest fraction of the genetic predisposition. The remainder likely results from many more loci, from rare variants, and from gene–gene and gene–environment interactions. The risk SNPs are almost all non-coding, meaning that their biological significance is unclear; probably their effects are mediated via an influence on gene regulation, and emerging evidence suggests that some key molecular events occur during early brain development. The loci include novel genes of unknown function as well as genes and pathways previously implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, e.g. NMDA receptor signalling. Genes in the latter category have the clearer therapeutic potential, although even this will be a challenging process because of the many complexities concerning the genetic architecture and mediating mechanisms. This review summarises recent schizophrenia genetic findings and some key issues they raise, particularly with regard to their implications for identifying and validating novel drug targets.
PMCID: PMC4361495  PMID: 25315827
Genomics; GWAS; psychosis; target identification; target validation; ZNF804A
5.  Extracellular vesicles, tissue factor, cancer and thrombosis – discussion themes of the ISEV 2014 Educational Day 
Journal of Extracellular Vesicles  2015;4:10.3402/jev.v4.26901.
Although the association between cancer and venous thromboembolism (VTE) has long been known, the mechanisms are poorly understood. Circulating tissue factor–bearing extracellular vesicles have been proposed as a possible explanation for the increased risk of VTE observed in some types of cancer. The International Society for Extracellular Vesicles (ISEV) and International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH) held a joint Educational Day in April 2014 to discuss the latest developments in this field. This review discusses the themes of that event and the ISEV 2014 meeting that followed.
PMCID: PMC4359985  PMID: 25773446
extracellular vesicles; thrombosis; cancer; tissue factor
6.  Genetic Neuropathology of Schizophrenia: New Approaches to an Old Question, and New Uses for Postmortem Human Brains 
Biological psychiatry  2011;69(2):140-145.
Human postmortem brain studies are critical for elucidating the pathophysiology and etiology of schizophrenia and other major mental illnesses. The traditional approach compares patients and controls, but is potentially confounded by a number of artifacts including medication, substance misuse and other secondary effects of illness. Now, genetic advances make possible a novel approach that focuses on how allelic variation in risk-associated genes impacts on expression and function of transcripts and proteins. These questions can be addressed in normal brain, overcoming to some extent the confounding effects of studying brains from subjects with schizophrenia; equally, extension of the studies to include cases also has advantages. Conceptually, the approach may be seen as the neuropathologic counterpart of genetic neuroimaging, representing a potentially powerful intermediate phenotype. For several schizophrenia susceptibility genes, the data show that risk-associated polymorphisms do affect gene expression or the function of the encoded protein; in some instances expression of downstream or interacting partners of the gene are also altered. A further striking finding is that the implicated transcripts often appear to be enriched in, or specific to, human brain. Some also show enhanced expression in fetal brain. These considerations give a unique importance to postmortem human brain tissue in elucidating the genetic mechanisms underlying schizophrenia, and probably other neurodevelopmental disorders too. Studies of this kind can provide clues as to the biologic mechanisms of genetic association, especially when carried out in conjunction with experimental studies. Moreover, the data, interpreted judiciously, can strengthen the plausibility of the association itself.
PMCID: PMC4351748  PMID: 21183009
Schizophrenia; neuropathology; genetics; gene expression; human brain; alternative splicing
7.  ­Classifying prion and prion-like phenomena 
Prion  2014;8(2):161-165.
The universe of prion and prion-like phenomena has expanded significantly in the past several years. Here, we overview the challenges in classifying this data informatically, given that terms such as “prion-like”, “prion-related” or “prion-forming” do not have a stable meaning in the scientific literature. We examine the spectrum of proteins that have been described in the literature as forming prions, and discuss how “prion” can have a range of meaning, with a strict definition being for demonstration of infection with in vitro-derived recombinant prions. We suggest that although prion/prion-like phenomena can largely be apportioned into a small number of broad groups dependent on the type of transmissibility evidence for them, as new phenomena are discovered in the coming years, a detailed ontological approach might be necessary that allows for subtle definition of different “flavors” of prion / prion-like phenomena.
PMCID: PMC4189883  PMID: 24549098
bioinformatics; database; classification; prion-like; prionoid; quasi-prion
8.  The role of group II metabotropic glutamate receptors in cognition and anxiety: Comparative studies in GRM2−/−, GRM3−/− and GRM2/3−/− knockout mice 
Neuropharmacology  2015;89:19-32.
Group II metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGlu2 and mGlu3, encoded by GRM2 and GRM3) have been implicated in both cognitive and emotional processes, although their precise role remains to be established. Studies with knockout (KO) mice provide an important approach for investigating the role of specific receptor genes in behaviour. In the present series of experiments we extended our prior characterisation of GRM2/3−/− double KO mice and, in complementary experiments, investigated the behavioural phenotype of single GRM2−/− and GRM3−/− mice. We found no consistent effect on anxiety in either the double or single KO mice. The lack of an anxiety phenotype in any of the lines contrasts with the clear anxiolytic effects of mGlu2/3 ligands. Motor co-ordination was impaired in GRM2/3−/− mice, but spared in single GRM2−/− and GRM3−/− mice. Spatial working memory (rewarded alternation) testing on the elevated T-maze revealed a deficit in GRM2−/− mice throughout testing, whereas GRM3−/− mice exhibited a biphasic effect (initially impaired, but performing better than controls by the end of training). A biphasic effect on activity levels was seen for the GRM2−/− mice. Overall, the phenotype in both GRM2−/− and GRM3−/− mice was less pronounced – if present at all – compared to GRM2/3−/− mice, across the range of task domains. This is consistent with possible redundancy of function and/or compensation in the single KO lines. Results are discussed with reference to a possible role for group II metabotropic glutamate receptors at the interface between arousal and behavioural performance, according to an inverted U-shaped function.
•GRM2−/− mice exhibited impaired spatial short-term memory (rewarded alternation).•GRM3−/− mice displayed bi-directional effects on this spatial short-term memory task.•GRM2−/− mice displayed bi-directional effects on activity levels.•There was no consistent anxiety effect in either double or single knockout mice.•Behavioural phenotypes were weaker (or absent) in single than in double knockout mice.
PMCID: PMC4259517  PMID: 25158312
Hippocampus; Spatial memory; Anxiety; Arousal
9.  No effect of schizophrenia risk genes MIR137, TCF4, and ZNF804A on macroscopic brain structure 
Schizophrenia Research  2014;159(2-3):329-332.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the MIR137, TCF4, and ZNF804A genes show genome-wide association to schizophrenia. However, the biological basis for the associations is unknown. Here, we tested the effects of these genes on brain structure in 1300 healthy adults. Using volumetry and voxel-based morphometry, neither gene-wide effects—including the combined effect of the genes—nor single SNP effects—including specific psychosis risk SNPs—were found on total brain volume, grey matter, white matter, or hippocampal volume. These results suggest that the associations between these risk genes and schizophrenia are unlikely to be mediated via effects on macroscopic brain structure.
PMCID: PMC4245712  PMID: 25217366
miR-137; TCF4; ZNF804A; Genetic neuroimaging; Brain volume
10.  Levels of procoagulant microvesicles are elevated after traumatic injury and platelet microvesicles are negatively correlated with mortality 
Journal of Extracellular Vesicles  2014;3:10.3402/jev.v3.25625.
Microvesicles (MV) have been implicated in the development of thrombotic disease, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and multiple organ failure (MOF). Trauma patients are at increased risk of late thrombotic events, particularly those who receive a major transfusion. The aims of this study were: (a) to determine whether there were increased numbers of pro-coagulant MV following injury; (b) to determine their cellular origin; and (c) to explore the effects of MV with clinical outcomes; in particular red cell transfusion requirements and death.
Trauma patients were recruited at a Level 1 trauma centre. The presence of MV procoagulant phospholipid (PPL) was assessed using 2 activity assays (PPL and thrombin generation). Enumeration and MV cellular origin was assessed using 2 colour flow cytometry.
Fifty consecutive patients were recruited; median age 38 (IQR: 24–55), median ISS 18 (IQR: 9–27). Circulating procoagulant MV, rich in phospholipid, were significantly elevated following traumatic injury relative to controls and remained elevated at 72 h post-injury. Red cell/AnnV+ and platelet/AnnV+ MV numbers were 6-fold and 2-fold higher than controls, respectively. Patients who died (n=9, 18%) had significantly fewer CD41/AnnV+ MV and lower endogenous thrombin potential relative to patients who survived.
MV are elevated following traumatic injury and may be implicated in the increased risk of trauma patients to pro-thrombotic states such as MOF and ARDS. Lower levels of procoagulant MV are associated with mortality and further investigation of this association is warranted.
PMCID: PMC4216813  PMID: 26077419
trauma; microvesicles; thrombin generation; flow cytometry
11.  Procoagulant and platelet-derived microvesicle absolute counts determined by flow cytometry correlates with a measurement of their functional capacity 
Journal of Extracellular Vesicles  2014;3:10.3402/jev.v3.25348.
Flow cytometry is the most commonly used technology to measure microvesicles (MVs). Despite reported limitations of this technique, MV levels obtained using conventional flow cytometry have yielded many clinically relevant findings, such as associations with disease severity and ability to predict clinical outcomes. This study aims to determine if MV enumeration by flow cytometry correlates with a measurement of their functional capacity, as this may explain how flow cytometry generates clinically relevant results.
One hundred samples from healthy individuals and patients with obstructive sleep apnoea were analysed by conventional flow cytometry (FACSCalibur) and by three functional MV assays: Zymuphen MP-activity in which data were given as phosphatidylserine equivalent, STA® Phospholipid Procoag Assay expressed as clotting time and Endogenous Thrombin Potential (ETP) reflecting in vitro thrombin generation. Correlations were determined by Spearman correlation.
Absolute counts of lactadherin+ procoagulant MVs generated by flow cytometry weakly correlated with the results obtained from the Zymuphen MP-activity (r=0.5370, p<0.0001); correlated with ETP (r=0.7444, p<0.0001); negatively correlated with STA® Phospholipid Procoag Assay clotting time (−0.7872, p<0.0001), reflecting a positive correlation between clotting activity and flow cytometry. Levels of Annexin V+ procoagulant and platelet-derived MVs were also associated with functional assays. Absolute counts of MVs derived from other cell types were not correlated with the functional results.
Quantitative results of procoagulant and platelet-derived MVs from conventional flow cytometry are associated with the functional capability of the MVs, as defined by three functional MV assays. Flow cytometry is a valuable technique for the quantification of MVs from different cellular origins; however, a combination of several analytical techniques may give the most comprehensive information on the role of MVs in health and disease.
PMCID: PMC4185095  PMID: 25317277
microvesicles; conventional flow cytometry; functional assays; thrombin generation; clotting assays
12.  CCR1 Plays a Critical Role in Modulating Pain through Hematopoietic and Non-Hematopoietic Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e105883.
Inflammation is associated with immune cells infiltrating into the inflammatory site and pain. CC chemokine receptor 1 (CCR1) mediates trafficking of leukocytes to sites of inflammation. However, the contribution of CCR1 to pain is incompletely understood. Here we report an unexpected discovery that CCR1-mediated trafficking of neutrophils and CCR1 activity on non-hematopoietic cells both modulate pain. Using a genetic approach (CCR1−/− animals) and pharmacological inhibition of CCR1 with selective inhibitors, we show significant reductions in pain responses using the acetic acid-induced writhing and complete Freund's adjuvant-induced mechanical hyperalgesia models. Reductions in writhing correlated with reduced trafficking of myeloid cells into the peritoneal cavity. We show that CCR1 is highly expressed on circulating neutrophils and their depletion decreases acetic acid-induced writhing. However, administration of neutrophils into the peritoneal cavity did not enhance acetic acid-induced writhing in wild-type (WT) or CCR1−/− mice. Additionally, selective knockout of CCR1 in either the hematopoietic or non-hematopoietic compartments also reduced writhing. Together these data suggest that CCR1 functions to significantly modulate pain by controlling neutrophil trafficking to the inflammatory site and having an unexpected role on non-hematopoietic cells. As inflammatory diseases are often accompanied with infiltrating immune cells at the inflammatory site and pain, CCR1 antagonism may provide a dual benefit by restricting leukocyte trafficking and reducing pain.
PMCID: PMC4149507  PMID: 25170619
13.  Response of Bacterial Metabolic Activity to Riverine Dissolved Organic Carbon and Exogenous Viruses in Estuarine and Coastal Waters: Implications for CO2 Emission 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102490.
A cross-transplant experiment between estuarine water and seawater was conducted to examine the response of bacterial metabolic activity to riverine dissolved organic carbon (DOC) input under virus-rich and virus-free conditions, as well as to exogenous viruses. Riverine DOC input increased bacterial production significantly, but not bacterial respiration (BR) because of its high lability. The bioavailable riverine DOC influenced bulk bacterial respiration in two contrasting ways; it enhanced the bulk BR by stimulating bacterial growth, but simultaneously reduced the cell-specific BR due to its high lability. As a result, there was little stimulation of the bulk BR by riverine DOC. This might be partly responsible for lower CO2 degassing fluxes in estuaries receiving high sewage-DOC that is highly labile. Viruses restricted microbial decomposition of riverine DOC dramatically by repressing the growth of metabolically active bacteria. Bacterial carbon demand in the presence of viruses only accounted for 7–12% of that in the absence of viruses. Consequently, a large fraction of riverine DOC was likely transported offshore to the shelf. In addition, marine bacteria and estuarine bacteria responded distinctly to exogenous viruses. Marine viruses were able to infect estuarine bacteria, but not as efficiently as estuarine viruses, while estuarine viruses infected marine bacteria as efficiently as marine viruses. We speculate that the rapid changes in the viral community due to freshwater input destroyed the existing bacteria-virus relationship, which would change the bacterial community composition and affect the bacterial metabolic activity and carbon cycling in this estuary.
PMCID: PMC4103809  PMID: 25036641
14.  How Cannabis Causes Paranoia: Using the Intravenous Administration of ∆9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to Identify Key Cognitive Mechanisms Leading to Paranoia 
Schizophrenia Bulletin  2014;41(2):391-399.
Paranoia is receiving increasing attention in its own right, since it is a central experience of psychotic disorders and a marker of the health of a society. Paranoia is associated with use of the most commonly taken illicit drug, cannabis. The objective was to determine whether the principal psychoactive ingredient of cannabis—∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—causes paranoia and to use the drug as a probe to identify key cognitive mechanisms underlying paranoia. A randomized, placebo-controlled, between-groups test of the effects of intravenous THC was conducted. A total of 121 individuals with paranoid ideation were randomized to receive placebo, THC, or THC preceded by a cognitive awareness condition. Paranoia was assessed extensively via a real social situation, an immersive virtual reality experiment, and standard self-report and interviewer measures. Putative causal factors were assessed. Principal components analysis was used to create a composite paranoia score and composite causal variables to be tested in a mediation analysis. THC significantly increased paranoia, negative affect (anxiety, worry, depression, negative thoughts about the self), and a range of anomalous experiences, and reduced working memory capacity. The increase in negative affect and in anomalous experiences fully accounted for the increase in paranoia. Working memory changes did not lead to paranoia. Making participants aware of the effects of THC had little impact. In this largest study of intravenous THC, it was definitively demonstrated that the drug triggers paranoid thoughts in vulnerable individuals. The most likely mechanism of action causing paranoia was the generation of negative affect and anomalous experiences.
PMCID: PMC4332941  PMID: 25031222
paranoia; delusions; cannabis; THC; cognitive
15.  Interaction Networks of Prion, Prionogenic and Prion-Like Proteins in Budding Yeast, and Their Role in Gene Regulation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e100615.
Prions are transmissible, propagating alternative states of proteins. Prions in budding yeast propagate heritable phenotypes and can function in large-scale gene regulation, or in some cases occur as diseases of yeast. Other ‘prionogenic’ proteins are likely prions that have been determined experimentally to form amyloid in vivo, and to have prion-like domains that are able to propagate heritable states. Furthermore, there are over 300 additional ‘prion-like’ yeast proteins that have similar amino-acid composition to prions (primarily a bias for asparagines and glutamines). Here, we examine the protein functional and interaction networks that involve prion, prionogenic and prion-like proteins. Set against a marked overall preference for N/Q-rich prion-like proteins not to interact with each other, we observe a significant tendency of prion/prionogenic proteins to interact with other, N/Q-rich prion-like proteins. This tendency is mostly due to a small number of networks involving the proteins NUP100p, LSM4p and PUB1p. In general, different data analyses of functional and interaction networks converge to indicate a strong linkage of prionogenic and prion-like proteins, to stress-granule assembly and related biological processes. These results further elucidate how prions may impact gene regulation, and reveal a broader horizon for the functional relevance of N/Q-rich prion-like domains.
PMCID: PMC4074094  PMID: 24972093
16.  Inter- and intra-individual variability in alpha peak frequency 
Neuroimage  2014;92(100):46-55.
Converging electrophysiological evidence suggests that the alpha rhythm plays an important and active role in cognitive processing. Here, we systematically studied variability in posterior alpha peak frequency both between and within subjects. We recorded brain activity using MEG in 51 healthy human subjects under three experimental conditions — rest, passive visual stimulation and an N-back working memory paradigm, using source reconstruction methods to separate alpha activity from parietal and occipital sources. We asked how alpha peak frequency differed within subjects across cognitive conditions and regions of interest, and looked at the distribution of alpha peak frequency between subjects. In both regions we observed an increase of alpha peak frequency from resting state and passive visual stimulation conditions to the N-back paradigm, with a significantly higher alpha peak frequency in the 2-back compared to the 0-back condition. There was a trend for a greater increase in alpha peak frequency during the N-back task in the occipital vs. parietal cortex. The average alpha peak frequency across all subjects, conditions, and regions of interest was 10.3 Hz with a within-subject SD of 0.9 Hz and a between-subject SD of 2.8 Hz. We also measured beta peak frequencies, and except in the parietal cortex during rest, found no indication of a strictly harmonic relationship with alpha peak frequencies. We conclude that alpha peak frequency in posterior regions increases with increasing cognitive demands, and that the alpha rhythm operates across a wider frequency range than the 8–12 Hz band many studies tend to include in their analysis. Thus, using a fixed and limited alpha frequency band might bias results against certain subjects and conditions.
•Alpha peak frequency increases with cognitive demand.•No strict harmonic relationship between alpha and beta.•Using a limited and fixed band for alpha biases against certain subjects/conditions.
PMCID: PMC4013551  PMID: 24508648
Alpha; Beta; Oscillations; MEG
17.  Analysis of the Small RNA Transcriptional Response in Multidrug-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus after Antimicrobial Exposure 
The critical role of noncoding small RNAs (sRNAs) in the bacterial response to changing conditions is increasingly recognized. However, a specific role for sRNAs during antibiotic exposure has not been investigated in Staphylococcus aureus. Here, we used Illumina RNA-Seq to examine the sRNA response of multiresistant sequence type 239 (ST239) S. aureus after exposure to four antibiotics (vancomycin, linezolid, ceftobiprole, and tigecycline) representing the major classes of antimicrobials used to treat methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) infections. We identified 409 potential sRNAs and then compared global sRNA and mRNA expression profiles at 2 and 6 h, without antibiotic exposure and after exposure to each antibiotic, for a vancomycin-susceptible strain (JKD6009) and a vancomycin-intermediate strain (JKD6008). Exploration of this data set by multivariate analysis using a novel implementation of nonnegative matrix factorization (NMF) revealed very different responses for mRNA and sRNA. Where mRNA responses clustered with strain or growth phase conditions, the sRNA responses were predominantly linked to antibiotic exposure, including sRNA responses that were specific for particular antibiotics. A remarkable feature of the antimicrobial response was the prominence of antisense sRNAs to genes encoding proteins involved in protein synthesis and ribosomal function. This study has defined a large sRNA repertoire in epidemic ST239 MRSA and shown for the first time that a subset of sRNAs are part of a coordinated transcriptional response to specific antimicrobial exposures in S. aureus. These data provide a framework for interrogating the role of staphylococcal sRNAs in antimicrobial resistance and exploring new avenues for sRNA-based antimicrobial therapies.
PMCID: PMC3719707  PMID: 23733475
18.  Adaptive Change Inferred from Genomic Population Analysis of the ST93 Epidemic Clone of Community-Associated Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2014;6(2):366-378.
Community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) has emerged as a major public health problem around the world. In Australia, ST93-IV[2B] is the dominant CA-MRSA clone and displays significantly greater virulence than other S. aureus. Here, we have examined the evolution of ST93 via genomic analysis of 12 MSSA and 44 MRSA ST93 isolates, collected from around Australia over a 17-year period. Comparative analysis revealed a core genome of 2.6 Mb, sharing greater than 99.7% nucleotide identity. The accessory genome was 0.45 Mb and comprised additional mobile DNA elements, harboring resistance to erythromycin, trimethoprim, and tetracycline. Phylogenetic inference revealed a molecular clock and suggested that a single clone of methicillin susceptible, Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) positive, ST93 S. aureus likely spread from North Western Australia in the early 1970s, acquiring methicillin resistance at least twice in the mid 1990s. We also explored associations between genotype and important MRSA phenotypes including oxacillin MIC and production of exotoxins (α-hemolysin [Hla], δ-hemolysin [Hld], PSMα3, and PVL). High-level expression of Hla is a signature feature of ST93 and reduced expression in eight isolates was readily explained by mutations in the agr locus. However, subtle but significant decreases in Hld were also noted over time that coincided with decreasing oxacillin resistance and were independent of agr mutations. The evolution of ST93 S. aureus is thus associated with a reduction in both exotoxin expression and oxacillin MIC, suggesting MRSA ST93 isolates are under pressure for adaptive change.
PMCID: PMC3942038  PMID: 24482534
Staphylococcus aureus; community-acquired MRSA; comparative genomics; alpha-hemolysin
19.  The Use of High-Throughput DNA Sequencing in the Investigation of Antigenic Variation: Application to Neisseria Species 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86704.
Antigenic variation occurs in a broad range of species. This process resembles gene conversion in that variant DNA is unidirectionally transferred from partial gene copies (or silent loci) into an expression locus. Previous studies of antigenic variation have involved the amplification and sequencing of individual genes from hundreds of colonies. Using the pilE gene from Neisseria gonorrhoeae we have demonstrated that it is possible to use PCR amplification, followed by high-throughput DNA sequencing and a novel assembly process, to detect individual antigenic variation events. The ability to detect these events was much greater than has previously been possible. In N. gonorrhoeae most silent loci contain multiple partial gene copies. Here we show that there is a bias towards using the copy at the 3′ end of the silent loci (copy 1) as the donor sequence. The pilE gene of N. gonorrhoeae and some strains of Neisseria meningitidis encode class I pilin, but strains of N. meningitidis from clonal complexes 8 and 11 encode a class II pilin. We have confirmed that the class II pili of meningococcal strain FAM18 (clonal complex 11) are non-variable, and this is also true for the class II pili of strain NMB from clonal complex 8. In addition when a gene encoding class I pilin was moved into the meningococcal strain NMB background there was no evidence of antigenic variation. Finally we investigated several members of the opa gene family of N. gonorrhoeae, where it has been suggested that limited variation occurs. Variation was detected in the opaK gene that is located close to pilE, but not at the opaJ gene located elsewhere on the genome. The approach described here promises to dramatically improve studies of the extent and nature of antigenic variation systems in a variety of species.
PMCID: PMC3899283  PMID: 24466206
20.  D-amino acid oxidase is expressed in the ventral tegmental area and modulates cortical dopamine 
D-amino acid oxidase (DAO, DAAO) degrades the NMDA receptor co-agonist D-serine, modulating D-serine levels and thence NMDA receptor function. DAO inhibitors are under development as a therapy for schizophrenia, a disorder involving both NMDA receptor and dopaminergic dysfunction. However, a direct role for DAO in dopamine regulation has not been demonstrated. Here, we address this question in two ways. First, using in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, we show that DAO mRNA and immunoreactivity are present in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the rat, in tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-positive and -negative neurons, and in glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)-immunoreactive astrocytes. Second, we show that injection into the VTA of sodium benzoate, a DAO inhibitor, increases frontal cortex extracellular dopamine, as measured by in vivo microdialysis and high performance liquid chromatography. Combining sodium benzoate and D-serine did not enhance this effect, and injection of D-serine alone affected dopamine metabolites but not dopamine. These data show that DAO is expressed in the VTA, and suggest that it impacts on the mesocortical dopamine system. The mechanism by which the observed effects occur, and the implications of these findings for schizophrenia therapy, require further study.
PMCID: PMC4014674  PMID: 24822045
DAAO; DAO; D-serine; microdialysis; NMDA receptor; schizophrenia
21.  Decreased striatal dopamine in group II metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGlu2/mGlu3) double knockout mice 
BMC Neuroscience  2013;14:102.
Group II metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGlu2 and mGlu3, encoded by Grm2 and Grm3) have been the focus of attention as treatment targets for a number of psychiatric conditions. Double knockout mice lacking mGlu2 and mGlu3 (mGlu2/3−/−) show a subtle behavioural phenotype, being hypoactive under basal conditions and in response to amphetamine, and with a spatial memory deficit that depends on the arousal properties of the task. The neurochemical correlates of this profile are unknown. Here, we measured tissue levels of dopamine, 5-HT, noradrenaline and their metabolites in the striatum and frontal cortex of mGlu2/3−/− double knockout mice, using high performance liquid chromatography. We also measured the same parameters in mGlu2−/− and mGlu3−/− single knockout mice.
mGlu2/3−/−mice had reduced dopamine levels in the striatum but not in frontal cortex, compared to wild-types. In a separate cohort we replicated this deficit and, using tissue punches, found it was more prominent in the nucleus accumbens than in dorsolateral striatum. Noradrenaline, 5-HT and their metabolites were not altered in the striatum of mGlu2/3−/− mice, although the noradrenaline metabolite MHPG was increased in the cortex. In mGlu2−/− and mGlu3−/− single knockout mice we found no difference in any monoamine or metabolite, in either brain region, compared to their wild-type littermates.
Group II metabotropic glutamate receptors impact upon striatal dopamine. The effect may contribute to the behavioural phenotype of mGlu2/3−/− mice. The lack of dopaminergic alterations in mGlu2−/− and mGlu3−/− single knockout mice reveals a degree of redundancy between the two receptors. The findings support the possibility that interactions between mGlu2/3 and dopamine may be relevant to the pathophysiology and therapy of schizophrenia and other disorders.
PMCID: PMC3857325  PMID: 24053122
mGlu2; mGlu3; Grm2; Grm3; HPLC; Striatum; Nucleus accumbens
22.  Regulation of Sialidase Production in Clostridium perfringens by the Orphan Sensor Histidine Kinase ReeS 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73525.
Clostridium perfringens is ubiquitous in nature and is often found as a commensal of the human and animal gastrointestinal tract. It is the primary etiological agent of clostridial myonecrosis, or gas gangrene, a serious infection that results in extensive tissue necrosis due to the action of one or more potent extracellular toxins. α-toxin and perfringolysin O are the major extracellular toxins involved in the pathogenesis of gas gangrene, but histotoxic strains of C. perfringens, such as strain 13, also produce many degradative enzymes such as collagenases, hyaluronidases, sialidases and the cysteine protease, α-clostripain. The production of many of these toxins is regulated either directly or indirectly by the global VirSR two-component signal transduction system. By isolating a chromosomal mutant and carrying out microarray analysis we have identified an orphan sensor histidine kinase, which we have named ReeS (regulator of extracellular enzymes sensor). Expression of the sialidase genes nanI and nanJ was down-regulated in a reeS mutant. Since complementation with the wild-type reeS gene restored nanI and nanJ expression to wild-type levels, as shown by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR and sialidase assays we concluded that ReeS positively regulates the expression of these sialidase genes. However, mutation of the reeS gene had no significant effect on virulence in the mouse myonecrosis model. Sialidase production in C. perfringens has been previously shown to be regulated by both the VirSR system and RevR. In this report, we have analyzed a previously unknown sensor histidine kinase, ReeS, and have shown that it also is involved in controlling the expression of sialidase genes, adding further complexity to the regulatory network that controls sialidase production in C. perfringens.
PMCID: PMC3762733  PMID: 24023881
24.  Sexually Dimorphic Effects of Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT) Inhibition on Dopamine Metabolism in Multiple Brain Regions 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61839.
The catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) enzyme metabolises catecholamines. COMT inhibitors are licensed for the adjunctive treatment of Parkinson's disease and are attractive therapeutic candidates for other neuropsychiatric conditions. COMT regulates dopamine levels in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) but plays a lesser role in the striatum. However, its significance in other brain regions is largely unknown, despite its links with a broad range of behavioural phenotypes hinting at more widespread effects. Here, we investigated the effect of acute systemic administration of the brain-penetrant COMT inhibitor tolcapone on tissue levels of dopamine, noradrenaline, and the dopamine metabolites 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) and homovanillic acid (HVA). We examined PFC, striatum, hippocampus and cerebellum in the rat. We studied both males and females, given sexual dimorphisms in several aspects of COMT's function. Compared with vehicle, tolcapone significantly increased dopamine levels in the ventral hippocampus, but did not affect dopamine in other regions, nor noradrenaline in any region investigated. Tolcapone increased DOPAC and/or decreased HVA in all brain regions studied. Notably, several of the changes in DOPAC and HVA, particularly those in PFC, were more prominent in females than males. These data demonstrate that COMT alters ventral hippocampal dopamine levels, as well as regulating dopamine metabolism in all brain regions studied. They demonstrate that COMT is of significance beyond the PFC, consistent with its links with a broad range of behavioural phenotypes. Furthermore, they suggest that the impact of tolcapone may be greater in females than males, a finding which may be of clinical significance in terms of the efficacy and dosing of COMT inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3629045  PMID: 23613951
25.  Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) influences the connectivity of the prefrontal cortex at rest 
Neuroimage  2013;68(C):49-54.
Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) modulates dopamine in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and influences PFC dopamine-dependent cognitive task performance. A human COMT polymorphism (Val158Met) alters enzyme activity and is associated with both the activation and functional connectivity of the PFC during task performance, particularly working memory. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging and a data-driven, independent components analysis (ICA) approach to compare resting state functional connectivity within the executive control network (ECN) between young, male COMT Val158 (n = 27) and Met158 (n = 28) homozygotes. COMT genotype effects on grey matter were assessed using voxel-based morphometry. COMT genotype significantly modulated functional connectivity within the ECN, which included the head of the caudate, and anterior cingulate and frontal cortical regions. Val158 homozygotes showed greater functional connectivity between a cluster within the left ventrolateral PFC and the rest of the ECN (using a threshold of Z > 2.3 and a family-wise error cluster significance level of p < 0.05). This difference occurred in the absence of any alterations in grey matter. Our data show that COMT Val158Met affects the functional connectivity of the PFC at rest, complementing its prominent role in the activation and functional connectivity of this region during cognitive task performance. The results suggest that genotype-related differences in prefrontal dopaminergic tone result in neuroadaptive changes in basal functional connectivity, potentially including subtle COMT genotype-dependent differences in the relative coupling of task-positive and task-negative regions, which could in turn contribute to its effects on brain activation, connectivity, and behaviour.
► We studied the impact of COMT Val158Met genotype on resting state connectivity. ► We compared resting state functional connectivity in Val/Val vs. Met/Met men. ► We focussed on the predominantly prefrontal (PFC) executive control network (ECN). ► The ECN was identified using a group ICA approach. ► We found greater resting PFC functional connectivity in Val/Val vs. Met/Met men.
PMCID: PMC3566589  PMID: 23228511
Resting state network; Dopamine; Working memory; Prefrontal cortex; Polymorphism; fMRI

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