SciCombinator

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Each person expresses a potentially unique subset of ∼400 different olfactory receptor subtypes. Given that the receptors we express partially determine the odors we smell, it follows that each person may have a unique nose; to capture this, we devised a sensitive test of olfactory perception we termed the “olfactory fingerprint.” Olfactory fingerprints relied on matrices of perceived odorant similarity derived from descriptors applied to the odorants. We initially fingerprinted 89 individuals using 28 odors and 54 descriptors. We found that each person had a unique olfactory fingerprint (P < 10(-10)), which was odor specific but descriptor independent. We could identify individuals from this pool using randomly selected sets of 7 odors and 11 descriptors alone. Extrapolating from this data, we determined that using 34 odors and 35 descriptors we could individually identify each of the 7 billion people on earth. Olfactory perception, however, fluctuates over time, calling into question our proposed perceptual readout of presumably stable genetic makeup. To test whether fingerprints remain informative despite this temporal fluctuation, building on the linkage between olfactory receptors and HLA, we hypothesized that olfactory perception may relate to HLA. We obtained olfactory fingerprints and HLA typing for 130 individuals, and found that olfactory fingerprint matching using only four odorants was significantly related to HLA matching (P < 10(-4)), such that olfactory fingerprints can save 32% of HLA tests in a population screen (P < 10(-6)). In conclusion, a precise measure of olfactory perception reveals meaningful nonolfactory genetic information.

37

Coevolutionary interactions are thought to have spurred the evolution of key innovations and driven the diversification of much of life on Earth. However, the genetic and evolutionary basis of the innovations that facilitate such interactions remains poorly understood. We examined the coevolutionary interactions between plants (Brassicales) and butterflies (Pieridae), and uncovered evidence for an escalating evolutionary arms-race. Although gradual changes in trait complexity appear to have been facilitated by allelic turnover, key innovations are associated with gene and genome duplications. Furthermore, we show that the origins of both chemical defenses and of molecular counter adaptations were associated with shifts in diversification rates during the arms-race. These findings provide an important connection between the origins of biodiversity, coevolution, and the role of gene and genome duplications as a substrate for novel traits.

27

Sustained and coordinated vaccination efforts have brought polio eradication within reach. Anticipating the eradication of wild poliovirus (WPV) and the subsequent challenges in preventing its re-emergence, we look to the past to identify why polio rose to epidemic levels in the mid-20th century, and how WPV persisted over large geographic scales. We analyzed an extensive epidemiological dataset, spanning the 1930s to the 1950s and spatially replicated across each state in the United States, to glean insight into the drivers of polio’s historical expansion and the ecological mode of its persistence prior to vaccine introduction. We document a latitudinal gradient in polio’s seasonality. Additionally, we fitted and validated mechanistic transmission models to data from each US state independently. The fitted models revealed that: (1) polio persistence was the product of a dynamic mosaic of source and sink populations; (2) geographic heterogeneity of seasonal transmission conditions account for the latitudinal structure of polio epidemics; (3) contrary to the prevailing “disease of development” hypothesis, our analyses demonstrate that polio’s historical expansion was straightforwardly explained by demographic trends rather than improvements in sanitation and hygiene; and (4) the absence of clinical disease is not a reliable indicator of polio transmission, because widespread polio transmission was likely in the multiyear absence of clinical disease. As the world edges closer to global polio eradication and continues the strategic withdrawal of the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV), the regular identification of, and rapid response to, these silent chains of transmission is of the utmost importance.

26

In the mammalian brain, sensory cortices exhibit plasticity during task learning, but how this alters information transferred between connected cortical areas remains unknown. We found that divergent subpopulations of cortico-cortical neurons in mouse whisker primary somatosensory cortex (S1) undergo functional changes reflecting learned behavior. We chronically imaged activity of S1 neurons projecting to secondary somatosensory (S2) or primary motor (M1) cortex in mice learning a texture discrimination task. Mice adopted an active whisking strategy that enhanced texture-related whisker kinematics, correlating with task performance. M1-projecting neurons reliably encoded basic kinematics features, and an additional subset of touch-related neurons was recruited that persisted past training. The number of S2-projecting touch neurons remained constant, but improved their discrimination of trial types through reorganization while developing activity patterns capable of discriminating the animal’s decision. We propose that learning-related changes in S1 enhance sensory representations in a pathway-specific manner, providing downstream areas with task-relevant information for behavior.

26

The 2013-2015 Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic is caused by the Makona variant of Ebola virus (EBOV). Early in the epidemic, genome sequencing provided insights into virus evolution and transmission and offered important information for outbreak response. Here, we analyze sequences from 232 patients sampled over 7 months in Sierra Leone, along with 86 previously released genomes from earlier in the epidemic. We confirm sustained human-to-human transmission within Sierra Leone and find no evidence for import or export of EBOV across national borders after its initial introduction. Using high-depth replicate sequencing, we observe both host-to-host transmission and recurrent emergence of intrahost genetic variants. We trace the increasing impact of purifying selection in suppressing the accumulation of nonsynonymous mutations over time. Finally, we note changes in the mucin-like domain of EBOV glycoprotein that merit further investigation. These findings clarify the movement of EBOV within the region and describe viral evolution during prolonged human-to-human transmission.

25

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and nitric oxide (NO) are important signaling molecules that regulate several physiological functions. Understanding the chemistry behind their interplay is important for explaining these functions. The reaction of H2S with S-nitrosothiols to form the smallest S-nitrosothiol, thionitrous acid (HSNO), is one example of physiologically relevant cross-talk between H2S and nitrogen species. Perthionitrite (SSNO(-)) has recently been considered as an important biological source of NO that is far more stable and longer living than HSNO. In order to experimentally address this issue here, we prepared SSNO(-) by two different approaches, which lead to two distinct species: SSNO(-) and dithionitric acid [HON(S)S/HSN(O)S]. (H)S2NO species and their reactivity were studied by (15)N NMR, IR, electron paramagnetic resonance and high-resolution electrospray ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry, as well as by X-ray structure analysis and cyclic voltammetry. The obtained results pointed toward the inherent instability of SSNO(-) in water solutions. SSNO(-) decomposed readily in the presence of light, water, or acid, with concomitant formation of elemental sulfur and HNO. Furthermore, SSNO(-) reacted with H2S to generate HSNO. Computational studies on (H)SSNO provided additional explanations for its instability. Thus, on the basis of our data, it seems to be less probable that SSNO(-) can serve as a signaling molecule and biological source of NO. SSNO(-) salts could, however, be used as fast generators of HNO in water solutions.

25

Motor skill learning induces long-lasting reorganization of dendritic spines, principal sites of excitatory synapses, in the motor cortex. However, mechanisms that regulate these excitatory synaptic changes remain poorly understood. Here, using in vivo two-photon imaging in awake mice, we found that learning-induced spine reorganization of layer (L) 2/3 excitatory neurons occurs in the distal branches of their apical dendrites in L1 but not in the perisomatic dendrites. This compartment-specific spine reorganization coincided with subtype-specific plasticity of local inhibitory circuits. Somatostatin-expressing inhibitory neurons (SOM-INs), which mainly inhibit distal dendrites of excitatory neurons, showed a decrease in axonal boutons immediately after the training began, whereas parvalbumin-expressing inhibitory neurons (PV-INs), which mainly inhibit perisomatic regions of excitatory neurons, exhibited a gradual increase in axonal boutons during training. Optogenetic enhancement and suppression of SOM-IN activity during training destabilized and hyperstabilized spines, respectively, and both manipulations impaired the learning of stereotyped movements. Our results identify SOM inhibition of distal dendrites as a key regulator of learning-related changes in excitatory synapses and the acquisition of motor skills.

25

It is unknown if splanchnic venous thrombosis is a marker of occult cancer and a prognostic factor for cancer survival. Using Danish medical registries, we conducted a nationwide cohort study including all patients with first-time splanchnic venous thrombosis (n=1,191) between 1994 and 2011. We followed the patients for subsequent cancer diagnoses and calculated absolute risks and standardized incidence ratios (SIRs). We formed a matched comparison cohort of cancer patients without splanchnic venous thrombosis, and assessed the prognostic impact of splanchnic venous thrombosis on cancer survival by applying the Kaplan-Meier methods and Cox regression. We followed the patients for a median of 1.6 years, and found that splanchnic venous thrombosis was marker of occult cancer. The three-month cancer risk was 8.0% and the SIR was 33 (95% confidence interval: 27-40), compared to the general population. Increased risk was mainly found for liver cancer (risk=3.5%; SIR=1805), pancreatic cancer (risk=1.5%; SIR=256), and myeloproliferative neoplasms (risk=0.7%; SIR=764). The overall SIR remained twofold increased after one or more years of follow-up. Splanchnic venous thrombosis was also a prognostic factor for survival in patients with liver and pancreatic cancer. The clinical impact may be more thorough diagnostic work-up in patients presenting with splanchnic venous thrombosis.

24

Preventable medical errors continue to be a major cause of death in the USA and throughout the world. Many patients have written about their experiences on websites and in published books.

23

Recent studies have demonstrated the importance of accounting for human mobility networks when modeling epidemics in order to accurately predict spatial dynamics. However, little is known about the impact these movement networks have on the genetic structure of pathogen populations and whether these effects are scale-dependent. We investigated how human movement along the aviation and commuter networks contributed to intra-seasonal genetic structure of influenza A epidemics in the continental United States using spatially-referenced hemagglutinin nucleotide sequences collected from 2003-2013 for both the H3N2 and H1N1 subtypes. Comparative analysis of these transportation networks revealed that the commuter network is highly spatially-organized and more heavily traveled than the aviation network, which instead is characterized by high connectivity between all state pairs. We found that genetic distance between sequences often correlated with distance based on interstate commuter network connectivity for the H1N1 subtype, and that this correlation was not as prevalent when geographic distance or aviation network connectivity distance was assessed against genetic distance. However, these patterns were not as apparent for the H3N2 subtype at the scale of the continental United States. Finally, although sequences were spatially referenced at the level of the US state of collection, a community analysis based on county to county commuter connections revealed that commuting communities did not consistently align with state geographic boundaries, emphasizing the need for the greater availability of more specific sequence location data. Our results highlight the importance of utilizing host movement data in characterizing the underlying genetic structure of pathogen populations and demonstrate a need for a greater understanding of the differential effects of host movement networks on pathogen transmission at various spatial scales.