Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Acid


Recent epidemics of Zika virus (ZIKV) have been associated with congenital malformation during pregnancy and Guillain-Barré syndrome. There are two ZIKV lineages (African and Asian) that share >95% amino acid identity. Little is known regarding the ability of neutralizing antibodies elicited against one lineage to protect against the other. We investigated the breadth of the neutralizing antibody response following ZIKV infection by measuring the sensitivity of six ZIKV strains to neutralization by ZIKV-confirmed convalescent human serum or plasma samples. Contemporary Asian and early African ZIKV strains were similarly sensitive to neutralization regardless of the cellular source of virus. Furthermore, mouse immune serum generated after infection with African or Asian ZIKV strains was capable of neutralizing homologous and heterologous ZIKV strains equivalently. Because our study only defines a single ZIKV serotype, vaccine candidates eliciting robust neutralizing antibody responses should inhibit infection of both ZIKV lineages, including strains circulating in the Americas.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Protein, Neutralizing antibody, Bacteria, Acid, Antibodies, Congenital disorder


Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are utilized widely for the fermentation of foods. In the current post-genomic era, tools have been developed that explore genetic diversity among LAB strains aiming to link these variations to differential phenotypes observed in the strains investigated. However, these genotype-phenotype matching approaches fail to assess the role of conserved genes in the determination of physiological characteristics of cultures by environmental conditions. This manuscript describes a complementary approach in which Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1 was fermented under a variety of conditions that differ in temperature, pH, as well as NaCl, amino acid, and O(2) levels. Samples derived from these fermentations were analyzed by full-genome transcriptomics, paralleled by the assessment of physiological characteristics, e.g., maximum growth rate, yield, and organic acid profiles. A data-storage and -mining suite designated FermDB was constructed and exploited to identify correlations between fermentation conditions and industrially relevant physiological characteristics of L. plantarum, as well as the associated transcriptome signatures. Finally, integration of the specific fermentation variables with the transcriptomes enabled the reconstruction of the gene-regulatory networks involved. The fermentation-genomics platform presented here is a valuable complementary approach to earlier described genotype-phenotype matching strategies which allows the identification of transcriptome signatures underlying physiological variations imposed by different fermentation conditions.

Concepts: Gene, Bacteria, Acid, Microbiology, Lactic acid, Lactobacillus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Sauerkraut


Porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) is considered to be the primary causative agent of postweaning multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS), which has become a serious economic problem for the swine industry worldwide. The major genotypes, PCV2a and PCV2b, are highly prevalent in the pig population and are present worldwide. However, another newly emerging PCV2b genotype mutant, which has a mutation in its ORF2-encoded capsid protein, has been sporadically present in China, as well as in other countries. It is therefore important to determine the relative virulence of the newly emerging PCV2b genotype mutant, compared with the existing PCV2a and PCV2b genotypes, and to investigate whether the newly emerging mutant virus induces more severe illness.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Evolution, Amino acid, Acid, Microbiology, Porcine circovirus, Virology


The vast majority of membrane proteins are anchored to biological membranes through hydrophobic α-helices. Sequence analysis of high-resolution membrane protein structures show that ionizable amino acid residues are present in transmembrane ™ helices, often with a functional and/or structural role. Here, using as scaffold the hydrophobic TM domain of the model membrane protein glycophorin A (GpA), we address the consequences of replacing specific residues by ionizable amino acids on TM helix insertion and packing, both in detergent micelles and in biological membranes. Our findings demonstrate that ionizable residues are stably inserted in hydrophobic environments, and tolerated in the dimerization process when oriented toward the lipid face, emphasizing the complexity of protein-lipid interactions in biological membranes.

Concepts: Protein, Protein structure, Amino acid, Acid, Cell membrane, Membrane protein, Lipid bilayer, Integral membrane protein


Limited uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation could be beneficial for cells by preventing excessive generation of reactive oxygen species. Typical uncouplers are weak organic acids capable of permeating across membranes with a narrow gap between efficacy and toxicity. Aimed at designing a nontoxic uncoupler, the protonatable amino acid residue Glu was substituted for Val at the N-terminus of the pentadecapeptide gramicidin A (gA). The modified peptide [Glu1]gA exhibited high uncoupling activity in isolated mitochondria, in particular, abolishing membrane potential at the inner mitochondrial membrane with the same or even larger efficacy as gA. With mitochondria in cell culture, the depolarizing activity of [Glu1]gA was observed at concentrations by an order of magnitude lower than those of gA. On the contrary, [Glu1]gA was much less potent in forming proton channels in planar lipid bilayers than gA. Remarkably, at uncoupling concentrations, [Glu1]gA did not alter cell morphology and was nontoxic in MTT test, in contrast to gA showing high toxicity. The difference in the behavior of [Glu1]gA and gA in natural and artificial membranes could be ascribed to increased capability of [Glu1]gA to permeate through membranes and/or redistribute between different membranes. Based on the protective role of mild uncoupling, [Glu1]gA and some other proton-conducting gA analogues may be considered as prototypes of prospective therapeutic agents.

Concepts: Protein, Oxygen, Acid, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Mitochondrion, Oxidative phosphorylation, Reactive oxygen species


Carotenoids are protective pigments present in many aquatic organisms that reduce the photooxidative stress induced by short-wavelenght solar radiation, yet increase their susceptibility to predators. Arctodiaptomus spinosus, a calanoid copepod typically found in many fishless shallow soda lakes, shows large between-lake differences in pigmentation. Here, we attribute these differences to the environmental state of these ecosystems, namely, ‘dark water’ lakes with submersed vegetation and turbid ‘white’ lakes lacking macrophytes. Copepod carotenoid concentration in the turbid ‘white’ lakes was significantly (about 20-fold) higher than in the ‘dark water’ ones, although the latter systems were characterized by higher transparency. In addition, males had on a dry weight basis around three times higher carotenoid concentrations than females. Mycosporine-like amino acids (direct UV screening substances) were found in all cases, but in low concentration. The environmental conditions in these ecosystems were largely shaped by the presence/absence of submersed macrophytes Thus, in the turbid lakes, the strong wind-driven mixis allows for copepods to be brought to the surface and being exposed to solar radiation, whereas in ‘dark water’ ones, macrophytes reduce water turbulence and additionally provide shelter. Our results explain the counter-intuitive notion of strong red pigmentation in copepods from a turbid ecosystem and suggest that factors other than high UV transparency favor carotenoid accumulation in zooplankton.

Concepts: Ultraviolet, Acid, Concentration, Water pollution, Sunlight, Pigment, Pigments, Calanoida


The comparison of volumes of cells and subcellular structures with the pH values reported for them leads to a conflict with the definition of the pH scale. The pH scale is based on the ionic product of water, K(w) = [H(+)]×[OH(-)].We used K(w) [in a reversed way] to calculate the number of undissociated H(2)O molecules required by this equilibrium constant to yield at least one of its daughter ions, H(+) or OH(-) at a given pH. In this way we obtained a formula that relates pH to the minimal volume V(pH) required to provide a physical meaning to K(w), [Formula: see text] (where N(A) is Avogadro’s number). For example, at pH 7 (neutral at 25°C) V(pH) = 16.6 aL. Any deviation from neutral pH results in a larger V(pH) value. Our results indicate that many subcellular structures, including coated vesicles and lysosomes, are too small to contain free H(+) ions at equilibrium, thus the definition of pH based on K(w) is no longer valid. Larger subcellular structures, such as mitochondria, apparently contain only a few free H(+) ions. These results indicate that pH fails to describe intracellular conditions, and that water appears to be dissociated too weakly to provide free H(+) ions as a general source for biochemical reactions. Consequences of this finding are discussed.

Concepts: Acid, Chemistry, Atom, Acid dissociation constant, PH, Activity, PH indicator, Equilibrium constant


HIV-1 integrase (IN) is an important target for contemporary antiretroviral drug design research. Historically, efforts at inactivating the enzyme have focused upon blocking its active site. However, it has become apparent that new classes of allosteric inhibitors will be necessary to advance the antiretroviral field in light of the emergence of viral strains resistant to contemporary clinically used IN drugs. In this study we have characterized the importance of a close network of IN residues, distant from the active site, as important for the obligatory multimerization of the enzyme and viral replication as a whole. Specifically, we have determined that the configuration of six residues within a highly symmetrical region at the IN dimerization interface, composed of a four-tiered aromatic interaction flanked by two salt bridges, significantly contributes to proper HIV-1 replication. Additionally, we have utilized a quantitative luminescence assay to examine IN oligomerization and have determined that there is a very low tolerance for amino acid substitutions along this region. Even conservative residue substitutions negatively impacted IN multimerization, resulting in an inactive viral enzyme and a non-replicative virus. We have shown that there is a very low tolerance for amino acid variation at the symmetrical dimeric interface region characterized in this study, and therefore drugs designed to target the amino acid network detailed here could be expected to yield a significantly reduced number of drug-resistant escape mutations compared to contemporary clinically-evaluated antiretrovirals.

Concepts: Antiretroviral drug, HIV, AIDS, Protein, Acid, Amine, Enzyme inhibitor, Integrase inhibitor


Lactic acidosis is a frequent cause of poor outcome in the intensive care settings. We set up an experimental model of lactic acid infusion in normoxic and normotensive rats to investigate the systemic effects of lactic acidemia per se without the confounding factor of an underlying organic cause of acidosis.

Concepts: Acid, PH, Sepsis, Metabolic acidosis, Bicarbonate, Acidosis, Sodium bicarbonate, Lactic acidosis


In this study, zinc oxide (ZnO) nanorod arrays were synthesized using a simple hydrothermal reaction on ZnO seeds/n-silicon substrate. Several parameters were studied, including the heat-treatment temperature to produce ZnO seeds, zinc nitrate concentration, pH of hydrothermal reaction solution, and hydrothermal reaction time. The optimum heat-treatment temperature to produce uniform nanosized ZnO seeds was 400°C. The nanorod dimensions depended on the hydrothermal reaction parameters. The optimum hydrothermal reaction parameters to produce blunt tip-like nanorods (770 nm long and 80 nm in top diameter) were 0.1 M zinc nitrate, pH 7, and 4 h of growth duration. Phase analysis studies showed that all ZnO nanorods exhibited a strong (002) peak. Thus, the ZnO nanorods grew in a c-axis preferred orientation. A strong ultraviolet (UV) emission peak was observed for ZnO nanorods grown under optimized parameters with a low, deep-level emission peak, which indicated high optical property and crystallinity of the nanorods. The produced ZnO nanorods were also tested for their UV-sensing properties. All samples responded to UV light but with different sensing characteristics. Such different responses could be attributed to the high surface-to-volume ratio of the nanorods that correlated with the final ZnO nanorods morphology formed at different synthesis parameters. The sample grown using optimum synthesis parameters showed the highest responsivity of 0.024 A/W for UV light at 375 nm under a 3 V bias.

Concepts: Ultraviolet, Acid, Sunlight, Zinc, Titanium dioxide, Zinc oxide, Sunscreen, Brass