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Concept: Amino acid


Poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) is one of the most abundantly produced synthetic polymers and is accumulating in the environment at a staggering rate as discarded packaging and textiles. The properties that make PET so useful also endow it with an alarming resistance to biodegradation, likely lasting centuries in the environment. Our collective reliance on PET and other plastics means that this buildup will continue unless solutions are found. Recently, a newly discovered bacterium, Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, was shown to exhibit the rare ability to grow on PET as a major carbon and energy source. Central to its PET biodegradation capability is a secreted PETase (PET-digesting enzyme). Here, we present a 0.92 Å resolution X-ray crystal structure of PETase, which reveals features common to both cutinases and lipases. PETase retains the ancestral α/β-hydrolase fold but exhibits a more open active-site cleft than homologous cutinases. By narrowing the binding cleft via mutation of two active-site residues to conserved amino acids in cutinases, we surprisingly observe improved PET degradation, suggesting that PETase is not fully optimized for crystalline PET degradation, despite presumably evolving in a PET-rich environment. Additionally, we show that PETase degrades another semiaromatic polyester, polyethylene-2,5-furandicarboxylate (PEF), which is an emerging, bioderived PET replacement with improved barrier properties. In contrast, PETase does not degrade aliphatic polyesters, suggesting that it is generally an aromatic polyesterase. These findings suggest that additional protein engineering to increase PETase performance is realistic and highlight the need for further developments of structure/activity relationships for biodegradation of synthetic polyesters.

Concepts: Evolution, Polyester, Materials science, Crystal, DNA, Amino acid, Protein, Polymer


Clinical chemistry tests for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are currently unavailable. The aim of this study was to explore the diagnostic utility of proteotoxic biomarkers in plasma and urine, plasma protein glycation, oxidation, and nitration adducts, and related glycated, oxidized, and nitrated amino acids (free adducts), for the clinical diagnosis of ASD.

Concepts: Asperger syndrome, Glycation, Autism, Acid, Ammonia, Nitrogen, Autism spectrum, Amino acid


Controversy exists about the maximum amount of protein that can be utilized for lean tissue-building purposes in a single meal for those involved in regimented resistance training. It has been proposed that muscle protein synthesis is maximized in young adults with an intake of ~ 20-25 g of a high-quality protein; anything above this amount is believed to be oxidized for energy or transaminated to form urea and other organic acids. However, these findings are specific to the provision of fast-digesting proteins without the addition of other macronutrients. Consumption of slower-acting protein sources, particularly when consumed in combination with other macronutrients, would delay absorption and thus conceivably enhance the utilization of the constituent amino acids. The purpose of this paper was twofold: 1) to objectively review the literature in an effort to determine an upper anabolic threshold for per-meal protein intake; 2) draw relevant conclusions based on the current data so as to elucidate guidelines for per-meal daily protein distribution to optimize lean tissue accretion. Both acute and long-term studies on the topic were evaluated and their findings placed into context with respect to per-meal utilization of protein and the associated implications to distribution of protein feedings across the course of a day. The preponderance of data indicate that while consumption of higher protein doses (> 20 g) results in greater AA oxidation, this is not the fate for all the additional ingested AAs as some are utilized for tissue-building purposes. Based on the current evidence, we conclude that to maximize anabolism one should consume protein at a target intake of 0.4 g/kg/meal across a minimum of four meals in order to reach aminimumof 1.6 g/kg/day. Using the upper daily intake of 2.2 g/kg/day reported in the literature spread out over the same four meals would necessitate a maximum of 0.55 g/kg/meal.

Concepts: Peptide synthesis, Nutrition, Maxima and minima, Amino acid, Acid, Nitrogen, Protein, Metabolism


The purpose of this review was to determine whether past research provides conclusive evidence about the effects of type and timing of ingestion of specific sources of protein by those engaged in resistance weight training. Two essential, nutrition-related, tenets need to be followed by weightlifters to maximize muscle hypertrophy: the consumption of 1.2-2.0 g -1 of body weight, and >=44-50 of body weight. Researchers have tested the effects of timing of protein supplement ingestion on various physical changes in weightlifters. In general, protein supplementation pre- and post-workout increases physical performance, training session recovery, lean body mass, muscle hypertrophy, and strength. Specific gains, differ however based on protein type and amounts. Studies on timing of consumption of milk have indicated that fat-free milk post-workout was effective in promoting increases in lean body mass, strength, muscle hypertrophy and decreases in body fat. The leucine content of a protein source has an impact on protein synthesis, and affects muscle hypertrophy. Consumption of 3–4 g of leucine is needed to promote maximum protein synthesis. An ideal supplement following resistance exercise should contain whey protein that provides at least 3 g of leucine per serving. A combination of a fast-acting carbohydrate source such as maltodextrin or glucose should be consumed with the protein source, as leucine cannot modulate protein synthesis as effectively without the presence of insulin. Such a supplement post-workout would be most effective in increasing muscle protein synthesis, resulting in greater muscle hypertrophy and strength. In contrast, the consumption of essential amino acids and dextrose appears to be most effective at evoking protein synthesis prior to rather than following resistance exercise. To further enhance muscle hypertrophy and strength, a resistance weight- training program of at least 10–12 weeks with compound movements for both upper and lower body exercises should be followed.

Concepts: Muscle, Protein, Physical exercise, Glucose, Exercise physiology, Bodybuilding, Amino acid, Strength training


More than 2 million people in the United States have myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). We performed targeted, broad-spectrum metabolomics to gain insights into the biology of CFS. We studied a total of 84 subjects using these methods. Forty-five subjects (n = 22 men and 23 women) met diagnostic criteria for ME/CFS by Institute of Medicine, Canadian, and Fukuda criteria. Thirty-nine subjects (n = 18 men and 21 women) were age- and sex-matched normal controls. Males with CFS were 53 (±2.8) y old (mean ± SEM; range, 21-67 y). Females were 52 (±2.5) y old (range, 20-67 y). The Karnofsky performance scores were 62 (±3.2) for males and 54 (±3.3) for females. We targeted 612 metabolites in plasma from 63 biochemical pathways by hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography, electrospray ionization, and tandem mass spectrometry in a single-injection method. Patients with CFS showed abnormalities in 20 metabolic pathways. Eighty percent of the diagnostic metabolites were decreased, consistent with a hypometabolic syndrome. Pathway abnormalities included sphingolipid, phospholipid, purine, cholesterol, microbiome, pyrroline-5-carboxylate, riboflavin, branch chain amino acid, peroxisomal, and mitochondrial metabolism. Area under the receiver operator characteristic curve analysis showed diagnostic accuracies of 94% [95% confidence interval (CI), 84-100%] in males using eight metabolites and 96% (95% CI, 86-100%) in females using 13 metabolites. Our data show that despite the heterogeneity of factors leading to CFS, the cellular metabolic response in patients was homogeneous, statistically robust, and chemically similar to the evolutionarily conserved persistence response to environmental stress known as dauer.

Concepts: Metabolic pathway, Protein, Adenosine triphosphate, Amino acid, Biochemistry, Chronic fatigue syndrome, Mass spectrometry, Metabolism


Insect pheromones offer potential for managing pests of crop plants. Volatility and instability are problems for deployment in agriculture but could be solved by expressing genes for the biosynthesis of pheromones in the crop plants. This has now been achieved by genetically engineering a hexaploid variety of wheat to release (E)-β-farnesene (Eβf), the alarm pheromone for many pest aphids, using a synthetic gene based on a sequence from peppermint with a plastid targeting amino acid sequence, with or without a gene for biosynthesis of the precursor farnesyl diphosphate. Pure Eβf was produced in stably transformed wheat lines with no other detectable phenotype but requiring targeting of the gene produced to the plastid. In laboratory behavioural assays, three species of cereal aphids were repelled and foraging was increased for a parasitic natural enemy. Although these studies show considerable potential for aphid control, field trials employing the single and double constructs showed no reduction in aphids or increase in parasitism. Insect numbers were low and climatic conditions erratic suggesting the need for further trials or a closer imitation, in the plant, of alarm pheromone release.

Concepts: Evolution, Protein, DNA, Gene, Amino acid, Bacteria, Ant, Insect


As a major contributor to agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it has been suggested that reducing animal agriculture or consumption of animal-derived foods may reduce GHGs and enhance food security. Because the total removal of animals provides the extreme boundary to potential mitigation options and requires the fewest assumptions to model, the yearly nutritional and GHG impacts of eliminating animals from US agriculture were quantified. Animal-derived foods currently provide energy (24% of total), protein (48%), essential fatty acids (23-100%), and essential amino acids (34-67%) available for human consumption in the United States. The US livestock industry employs 1.6 × 10(6) people and accounts for $31.8 billion in exports. Livestock recycle more than 43.2 × 10(9) kg of human-inedible food and fiber processing byproducts, converting them into human-edible food, pet food, industrial products, and 4 × 10(9) kg of N fertilizer. Although modeled plants-only agriculture produced 23% more food, it met fewer of the US population’s requirements for essential nutrients. When nutritional adequacy was evaluated by using least-cost diets produced from foods available, more nutrient deficiencies, a greater excess of energy, and a need to consume a greater amount of food solids were encountered in plants-only diets. In the simulated system with no animals, estimated agricultural GHG decreased (28%), but did not fully counterbalance the animal contribution of GHG (49% in this model). This assessment suggests that removing animals from US agriculture would reduce agricultural GHG emissions, but would also create a food supply incapable of supporting the US population’s nutritional requirements.

Concepts: Greenhouse gas, Essential fatty acid, Food security, Agriculture, Amino acid, Essential amino acid, Essential nutrient, Nutrition


Gastrointestinal disturbances are among symptoms commonly reported by individuals diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). However, whether ME/CFS is associated with an altered microbiome has remained uncertain. Here, we profiled gut microbial diversity by sequencing 16S ribosomal ribonucleic acid (rRNA) genes from stool as well as inflammatory markers from serum for cases (n = 48) and controls (n = 39). We also examined a set of inflammatory markers in blood: C-reactive protein (CRP), intestinal fatty acid-binding protein (I-FABP), lipopolysaccharide (LPS), LPS-binding protein (LBP), and soluble CD14 (sCD14).

Concepts: Ribosomal RNA, Amino acid, C-reactive protein, Bacteria, Gene, Ribosome, Protein, RNA


Choosing the right nutrients to consume is essential to health and wellbeing across species. However, the factors that influence these decisions are poorly understood. This is particularly true for dietary proteins, which are important determinants of lifespan and reproduction. We show that in Drosophila melanogaster, essential amino acids (eAAs) and the concerted action of the commensal bacteria Acetobacter pomorum and Lactobacilli are critical modulators of food choice. Using a chemically defined diet, we show that the absence of any single eAA from the diet is sufficient to elicit specific appetites for amino acid (AA)-rich food. Furthermore, commensal bacteria buffer the animal from the lack of dietary eAAs: both increased yeast appetite and decreased reproduction induced by eAA deprivation are rescued by the presence of commensals. Surprisingly, these effects do not seem to be due to changes in AA titers, suggesting that gut bacteria act through a different mechanism to change behavior and reproduction. Thus, eAAs and commensal bacteria are potent modulators of feeding decisions and reproductive output. This demonstrates how the interaction of specific nutrients with the microbiome can shape behavioral decisions and life history traits.

Concepts: Amine, Ecology, Essential amino acid, Acid, Gut flora, Protein, Amino acid, Nutrition


Polypeptides from animal venoms have found important uses as drugs, pharmacological tools, and within biotechnological and agricultural applications. We here report a novel family of cystine knot peptides from nemertean worms, with potent activity on voltage-gated sodium channels. These toxins, named the α-nemertides, were discovered in the epidermal mucus of Lineus longissimus, the ‘bootlace worm’ known as the longest animal on earth. The most abundant peptide, the 31-residue long α-1, was isolated, synthesized, and its 3D NMR structure determined. Transcriptome analysis including 17 species revealed eight α-nemertides, mainly distributed in the genus Lineus. α-1 caused paralysis and death in green crabs (Carcinus maenas) at 1 µg/kg (~300 pmol/kg). It showed profound effect on invertebrate voltage-gated sodium channels (e.g. Blattella germanica Nav1) at low nanomolar concentrations. Strong selectivity for insect over human sodium channels indicates that α-nemertides can be promising candidates for development of bioinsecticidal agents.

Concepts: Portunidae, Nemerteans, Worm, Amino acid, Carcinus maenas, Lineus longissimus, Protein, Nemertea