The search for human pheromones: the lost decades and the necessity of returning to first principles
- Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society
- Published over 3 years ago
As humans are mammals, it is possible, perhaps even probable, that we have pheromones. However, there is no robust bioassay-led evidence for the widely published claims that four steroid molecules are human pheromones: androstenone, androstenol, androstadienone and estratetraenol. In the absence of sound reasons to test the molecules, positive results in studies need to be treated with scepticism as these are highly likely to be false positives. Common problems include small sample sizes, an overestimate of effect size (as no effect can be expected), positive publication bias and lack of replication. Instead, if we are to find human pheromones, we need to treat ourselves as if we were a newly discovered mammal, and use the rigorous methods already proven successful in pheromone research on other species. Establishing a pheromone relies on demonstration of an odour-mediated behavioural or physiological response, identification and synthesis of the bioactive molecule(s), followed by bioassay confirmation of activity. Likely sources include our sebaceous glands. Comparison of secretions from adult and pre-pubertal humans may highlight potential molecules involved in sexual behaviour. One of the most promising human pheromone leads is a nipple secretion from the areola glands produced by all lactating mothers, which stimulates suckling by any baby not just their own.
Organ replacement regenerative therapy is purported to enable the replacement of organs damaged by disease, injury or aging in the foreseeable future. Here we demonstrate fully functional hair organ regeneration via the intracutaneous transplantation of a bioengineered pelage and vibrissa follicle germ. The pelage and vibrissae are reconstituted with embryonic skin-derived cells and adult vibrissa stem cell region-derived cells, respectively. The bioengineered hair follicle develops the correct structures and forms proper connections with surrounding host tissues such as the epidermis, arrector pili muscle and nerve fibres. The bioengineered follicles also show restored hair cycles and piloerection through the rearrangement of follicular stem cells and their niches. This study thus reveals the potential applications of adult tissue-derived follicular stem cells as a bioengineered organ replacement therapy.
Mobile phone microscopes are a natural platform for point-of-care imaging, but current solutions require an externally powered illumination source, thereby adding bulk and cost. We present a mobile phone microscope that uses the internal flash or sunlight as the illumination source, thereby reducing complexity whilst maintaining functionality and performance. The microscope is capable of both brightfield and darkfield imaging modes, enabling microscopic visualisation of samples ranging from plant to mammalian cells. We describe the microscope design principles, assembly process, and demonstrate its imaging capabilities through the visualisation of unlabelled cell nuclei to observing the motility of cattle sperm and zooplankton.
HIV-1 blocks apoptosis, programmed cell death, an innate defense of cells against viral invasion. However, apoptosis can be selectively reactivated in HIV-infected cells by chemical agents that interfere with HIV-1 gene expression. We studied two globally used medicines, the topical antifungal ciclopirox and the iron chelator deferiprone, for their effect on apoptosis in HIV-infected H9 cells and in peripheral blood mononuclear cells infected with clinical HIV-1 isolates. Both medicines activated apoptosis preferentially in HIV-infected cells, suggesting that the drugs mediate escape from the viral suppression of defensive apoptosis. In infected H9 cells, ciclopirox and deferiprone enhanced mitochondrial membrane depolarization, initiating the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis to execution, as evidenced by caspase-3 activation, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase proteolysis, DNA degradation, and apoptotic cell morphology. In isolate-infected peripheral blood mononuclear cells, ciclopirox collapsed HIV-1 production to the limit of viral protein and RNA detection. Despite prolonged monotherapy, ciclopirox did not elicit breakthrough. No viral re-emergence was observed even 12 weeks after drug cessation, suggesting elimination of the proviral reservoir. Tests in mice predictive for cytotoxicity to human epithelia did not detect tissue damage or activation of apoptosis at a ciclopirox concentration that exceeded by orders of magnitude the concentration causing death of infected cells. We infer that ciclopirox and deferiprone act via therapeutic reclamation of apoptotic proficiency (TRAP) in HIV-infected cells and trigger their preferential elimination. Perturbations in viral protein expression suggest that the antiretroviral activity of both drugs stems from their ability to inhibit hydroxylation of cellular proteins essential for apoptosis and for viral infection, exemplified by eIF5A. Our findings identify ciclopirox and deferiprone as prototypes of selectively cytocidal antivirals that eliminate viral infection by destroying infected cells. A drug-based drug discovery program, based on these compounds, is warranted to determine the potential of such agents in clinical trials of HIV-infected patients.
Considering the recent experimental discovery of Green et al that present-day non-Africans have 1 to [Formula: see text] of their nuclear DNA of Neanderthal origin, we propose here a model which is able to quantify the genetic interbreeding between two subpopulations with equal fitness, living in the same geographic region. The model consists of a solvable system of deterministic ordinary differential equations containing as a stochastic ingredient a realization of the neutral Wright-Fisher process. By simulating the stochastic part of the model we are able to apply it to the interbreeding ofthe African ancestors of Eurasians and Middle Eastern Neanderthal subpopulations and estimate the only parameter of the model, which is the number of individuals per generation exchanged between subpopulations. Our results indicate that the amount of Neanderthal DNA in living non-Africans can be explained with maximum probability by the exchange of a single pair of individuals between the subpopulations at each 77 generations, but larger exchange frequencies are also allowed with sizeable probability. The results are compatible with a long coexistence time of 130,000 years, a total interbreeding population of order [Formula: see text] individuals, and with all living humans being descendants of Africans both for mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome.
The hospital environment is a potential reservoir of bacteria with plasmids conferring carbapenem resistance. Our Hospital Epidemiology Service routinely performs extensive sampling of high-touch surfaces, sinks, and other locations in the hospital. Over a 2-year period, additional sampling was conducted at a broader range of locations, including housekeeping closets, wastewater from hospital internal pipes, and external manholes. We compared these data with previously collected information from 5 years of patient clinical and surveillance isolates. Whole-genome sequencing and analysis of 108 isolates provided comprehensive characterization of blaKPC/blaNDM-positive isolates, enabling an in-depth genetic comparison. Strikingly, despite a very low prevalence of patient infections with blaKPC-positive organisms, all samples from the intensive care unit pipe wastewater and external manholes contained carbapenemase-producing organisms (CPOs), suggesting a vast, resilient reservoir. We observed a diverse set of species and plasmids, and we noted species and susceptibility profile differences between environmental and patient populations of CPOs. However, there were plasmid backbones common to both populations, highlighting a potential environmental reservoir of mobile elements that may contribute to the spread of resistance genes. Clear associations between patient and environmental isolates were uncommon based on sequence analysis and epidemiology, suggesting reasonable infection control compliance at our institution. Nonetheless, a probable nosocomial transmission of Leclercia sp. from the housekeeping environment to a patient was detected by this extensive surveillance. These data and analyses further our understanding of CPOs in the hospital environment and are broadly relevant to the design of infection control strategies in many infrastructure settings.IMPORTANCE Carbapenemase-producing organisms (CPOs) are a global concern because of the morbidity and mortality associated with these resistant Gram-negative bacteria. Horizontal plasmid transfer spreads the resistance mechanism to new bacteria, and understanding the plasmid ecology of the hospital environment can assist in the design of control strategies to prevent nosocomial infections. A 5-year genomic and epidemiological survey was undertaken to study the CPOs in the patient-accessible environment, as well as in the plumbing system removed from the patient. This comprehensive survey revealed a vast, unappreciated reservoir of CPOs in wastewater, which was in contrast to the low positivity rate in both the patient population and the patient-accessible environment. While there were few patient-environmental isolate associations, there were plasmid backbones common to both populations. These results are relevant to all hospitals for which CPO colonization may not yet be defined through extensive surveillance.
Understanding aging is a grand challenge in biology. Exceptionally long-lived animals have mechanisms that underpin extreme longevity. Telomeres are protective nucleotide repeats on chromosome tips that shorten with cell division, potentially limiting life span. Bats are the longest-lived mammals for their size, but it is unknown whether their telomeres shorten. Using >60 years of cumulative mark-recapture field data, we show that telomeres shorten with age inRhinolophus ferrumequinumandMiniopterus schreibersii, but not in the bat genus with greatest longevity,Myotis. As in humans, telomerase is not expressed inMyotis myotisblood or fibroblasts. Selection tests on telomere maintenance genes show thatATMandSETX, which repair and prevent DNA damage, potentially mediate telomere dynamics inMyotisbats. Twenty-one telomere maintenance genes are differentially expressed inMyotis, of which 14 are enriched for DNA repair, and 5 for alternative telomere-lengthening mechanisms. We demonstrate how telomeres, telomerase, and DNA repair genes have contributed to the evolution of exceptional longevity inMyotisbats, advancing our understanding of healthy aging.
Biological macromolecules function in highly crowded cellular environments. The structure and dynamics of proteins and nucleic acids are well characterized in vitro, but in vivo crowding effects remain unclear. Using molecular dynamics simulations of a comprehensive atomistic model cytoplasm we found that protein-protein interactions may destabilize native protein structures, whereas metabolite interactions may induce more compact states due to electrostatic screening. Protein-protein interactions also resulted in significant variations in reduced macromolecular diffusion under crowded conditions, while metabolites exhibited significant two-dimensional surface diffusion and altered protein-ligand binding that may reduce the effective concentration of metabolites and ligands in vivo. Metabolic enzymes showed weak non-specific association in cellular environments attributed to solvation and entropic effects. These effects are expected to have broad implications for the in vivo functioning of biomolecules. This work is a first step towards physically realistic in silico whole-cell models that connect molecular with cellular biology.
Klebsiella pneumoniae is a Gram-negative pathogen responsible for a wide range of infections, including pneumonia and bacteremia, and is rapidly acquiring antibiotic resistance. K. pneumoniae requires secretion of siderophores, low-molecular-weight, high-affinity iron chelators, for bacterial replication and full virulence. The specific combination of siderophores secreted by K. pneumoniae during infection can impact tissue localization, systemic dissemination, and host survival. However, the effect of these potent iron chelators on the host during infection is unknown. In vitro, siderophores deplete epithelial cell iron, induce cytokine secretion, and activate the master transcription factor hypoxia inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) protein that controls vascular permeability and inflammatory gene expression. Therefore, we hypothesized that siderophore secretion by K. pneumoniae directly contributes to inflammation and bacterial dissemination during pneumonia. To examine the effects of siderophore secretion independently of bacterial growth, we performed infections with tonB mutants that persist in vivo but are deficient in siderophore import. Using a murine model of pneumonia, we found that siderophore secretion by K. pneumoniae induces the secretion of interleukin-6 (IL-6), CXCL1, and CXCL2, as well as bacterial dissemination to the spleen, compared to siderophore-negative mutants at an equivalent bacterial number. Furthermore, we determined that siderophore-secreting K. pneumoniae stabilized HIF-1α in vivo and that bacterial dissemination to the spleen required alveolar epithelial HIF-1α. Our results indicate that siderophores act directly on the host to induce inflammatory cytokines and bacterial dissemination and that HIF-1α is a susceptibility factor for bacterial invasion during pneumonia.
Plants are able to sense the magnitude and direction of gravity. This capacity is thought to reside in selected cell types within the plant body that are equipped with specialized organelles called statoliths. However, most plant cells do not possess statoliths, yet they respond to changes in gravitational acceleration. To understand the effect of gravity on the metabolism and cellular functioning of non-specialized plant cells, we investigated a rapidly growing plant cell devoid of known statoliths and without gravitropic behavior, the pollen tube. The effects of hyper-gravity and omnidirectional exposure to gravity on intracellular trafficking and on cell wall assembly were assessed in Camellia pollen tubes, a model system with highly reproducible growth behavior in vitro. Using an epi-fluorescence microscope mounted on the Large Diameter Centrifuge at the European Space Agency, we were able to demonstrate that vesicular trafficking is reduced under hyper-gravity conditions. Immuno-cytochemistry confirmed that both in hyper and omnidirectional gravity conditions, the characteristic spatial profiles of cellulose and callose distribution in the pollen tube wall were altered, in accordance with a dose-dependent effect on pollen tube diameter. Our findings suggest that in response to gravity induced stress, the pollen tube responds by modifying cell wall assembly to compensate for the altered mechanical load. The effect was reversible within few minutes demonstrating that the pollen tube is able to quickly adapt to changing stress conditions.