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Concept: Murinae


The microbiome of wild Mus musculus (house mouse), a globally distributed invasive pest that resides in close contact with humans in urban centers, is largely unexplored. Here, we report analysis of the fecal virome of house mice in residential buildings in New York City, NY. Mice were collected at seven sites in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx over a period of 1 year. Unbiased high-throughput sequencing of feces revealed 36 viruses from 18 families and 21 genera, including at least 6 novel viruses and 3 novel genera. A representative screen of 15 viruses by PCR confirmed the presence of 13 of these viruses in liver. We identified an uneven distribution of diversity, with several viruses being associated with specific locations. Higher mouse weight was associated with an increase in the number of viruses detected per mouse, after adjusting for site, sex, and length. We found neither genetic footprints to known human viral pathogens nor antibodies to lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus.IMPORTANCE Mice carry a wide range of infectious agents with zoonotic potential. Their proximity to humans in the built environment is therefore a concern for public health. Laboratory mice are also the most common experimental model for investigating the pathobiology of infectious diseases. In this survey of mice trapped in multiple locations within New York City over a period of 1 year, we found a diverse collection of viruses that includes some previously not associated with house mice and others that appear to be novel. Although we found no known human pathogens, our findings provide insights into viral ecology and may yield models that have utility for clinical microbiology.

Concepts: Manhattan, Microbiology, The Bronx, New York, Mouse, Murinae, New York City, House mouse


The mammalian magnetic sense is predominantly studied in species with reduced vision such as mole-rats and bats. Far less is known about surface-dwelling (epigeic) rodents with well-developed eyes. Here, we tested the wood mouse Apodemus sylvaticus for magnetoreception using a simple behavioural assay in which mice are allowed to build nests overnight in a visually symmetrical, circular arena. The tests were performed in the ambient magnetic field or in a field rotated by 90°. When plotted with respect to magnetic north, the nests were bimodally clustered in the northern and southern sectors, clearly indicating that the animals used magnetic cues. Additionally, mice were tested in the ambient magnetic field with a superimposed radio frequency magnetic field of the order of 100 nT. Wood mice exposed to a 0.9 to 5 MHz frequency sweep changed their preference from north-south to east-west. In contrast to birds, however, a constant frequency field tuned to the Larmor frequency (1.33 MHz) had no effect on mouse orientation. In sum, we demonstrated magnetoreception in wood mice and provide first evidence for a radical-pair mechanism in a mammal.

Concepts: Magnet, Magnetoception, Sound, Murinae, Mammal, Sense, Magnetism, Rodent


Mammals show a wide range of brain sizes, reflecting adaptation to diverse habitats. Comparing interareal cortical networks across brains of different sizes and mammalian orders provides robust information on evolutionarily preserved features and species-specific processing modalities. However, these networks are spatially embedded, directed, and weighted, making comparisons challenging. Using tract tracing data from macaque and mouse, we show the existence of a general organizational principle based on an exponential distance rule (EDR) and cortical geometry, enabling network comparisons within the same model framework. These comparisons reveal the existence of network invariants between mouse and macaque, exemplified in graph motif profiles and connection similarity indices, but also significant differences, such as fractionally smaller and much weaker long-distance connections in the macaque than in mouse. The latter lends credence to the prediction that long-distance cortico-cortical connections could be very weak in the much-expanded human cortex, implying an increased susceptibility to disconnection syndromes such as Alzheimer disease and schizophrenia. Finally, our data from tracer experiments involving only gray matter connections in the primary visual areas of both species show that an EDR holds at local scales as well (within 1.5 mm), supporting the hypothesis that it is a universally valid property across all scales and, possibly, across the mammalian class.

Concepts: Murinae, Bat, Cerebral cortex, Species, Brain, Rodent, Primate, Mammal


Syncytins are envelope genes from endogenous retroviruses, “captured” for a role in placentation. They mediate cell-cell fusion, resulting in the formation of a syncytium (the syncytiotrophoblast) at the fetomaternal interface. These genes have been found in all placental mammals in which they have been searched for. Cell-cell fusion is also pivotal for muscle fiber formation and repair, where the myotubes are formed from the fusion of mononucleated myoblasts into large multinucleated structures. Here we show, taking advantage of mice knocked out for syncytins, that these captured genes contribute to myoblast fusion, with a >20% reduction in muscle mass, mean muscle fiber area and number of nuclei per fiber in knocked out mice for one of the two murine syncytin genes. Remarkably, this reduction is only observed in males, which subsequently show muscle quantitative traits more similar to those of females. In addition, we show that syncytins also contribute to muscle repair after cardiotoxin-induced injury, with again a male-specific effect on the rate and extent of regeneration. Finally, ex vivo experiments carried out on murine myoblasts demonstrate the direct involvement of syncytins in fusion, with a >40% reduction in fusion index upon addition of siRNA against both syncytins. Importantly, similar effects are observed with primary myoblasts from sheep, dog and human, with a 20-40% reduction upon addition of siRNA against the corresponding syncytins. Altogether, these results show a direct contribution of the fusogenic syncytins to myogenesis, with a demonstrated male-dependence of the effect in mice, suggesting that these captured genes could be responsible for the muscle sexual dimorphism observed in placental mammals.

Concepts: Genetics, Murinae, Male, Sex, Eutheria, Retrovirus, Muscle, Mammal


The house mouse, Mus musculus, was established in the early 1900s as one of the first genetic model organisms owing to its short generation time, comparatively large litters, ease of husbandry, and visible phenotypic variants. For these reasons and because they are mammals, house mice are well suited to serve as models for human phenotypes and disease. House mice in the wild consist of at least three distinct subspecies and harbor extensive genetic and phenotypic variation both within and between these subspecies. Wild mice have been used to study a wide range of biological processes, including immunity, cancer, male sterility, adaptive evolution, and non-Mendelian inheritance. Despite the extensive variation that exists among wild mice, classical laboratory strains are derived from a limited set of founders and thus contain only a small subset of this variation. Continued efforts to study wild house mice and to create new inbred strains from wild populations have the potential to strengthen house mice as a model system.

Concepts: Natural selection, Evolution, Biology, Mouse, Murinae, Gene, Genetics, House mouse


Mammalian hair cells possess only a limited ability to repair damage after trauma. In contrast, sea anemones show a marked capability to repair damaged hair bundles by means of secreted repair proteins (RPs). Previously, it was found that recovery of traumatized hair cells in blind cavefish was enhanced by anemone-derived RPs; therefore, the ability of anemone RPs to assist recovery of damaged hair cells in mammals was tested here. After a 1 h incubation in RP-enriched culture media, uptake of FM1-43 by experimentally traumatized murine cochlear hair cells was restored to levels comparable to those exhibited by healthy controls. In addition, RP-treated explants had significantly more normally structured hair bundles than time-matched traumatized control explants. Collectively, these results indicate that anemone-derived RPs assist in restoring normal function and structure of experimentally traumatized hair cells of the mouse cochlea.

Concepts: Rodent, Mouse, Animal, Cochlea, Hair cell, Mammal, Murinae, Sea anemone


The mammalian gut is a dynamic community of symbiotic microbes that interact with the host to impact health, disease, and metabolism. We constructed engineered bacteria that survive in the mammalian gut and sense, remember, and report on their experiences. Based on previous genetic memory systems, we constructed a two-part system with a “trigger element” in which the lambda Cro gene is transcribed from a tetracycline-inducible promoter, and a “memory element” derived from the cI/Cro region of phage lambda. The memory element has an extremely stable cI state and a Cro state that is stable for many cell divisions. When Escherichia coli bearing the memory system are administered to mice treated with anhydrotetracycline, the recovered bacteria all have switched to the Cro state, whereas those administered to untreated mice remain in the cI state. The trigger and memory elements were transferred from E. coli K12 to a newly isolated murine E. coli strain; the stability and switching properties of the memory element were essentially identical in vitro and during passage through mice, but the engineered murine E. coli was more stably established in the mouse gut. This work lays a foundation for the use of synthetic genetic circuits as monitoring systems in complex, ill-defined environments, and may lead to the development of living diagnostics and therapeutics.

Concepts: Murinae, Evolution, Genetics, DNA, Mouse, Gene, Escherichia coli, Bacteria


5-Formylcytosine (5fC) is a rare base found in mammalian DNA and thought to be involved in active DNA demethylation. Here, we show that developmental dynamics of 5fC levels in mouse DNA differ from those of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC), and using stable isotope labeling in vivo, we show that 5fC can be a stable DNA modification. These results suggest that 5fC has functional roles in DNA that go beyond being a demethylation intermediate.

Concepts: Mammal, Gene, Human, Horse, Isotopes, Rodent, Murinae


Mouse chromosomes, with the exception of the Y chromosome, are telocentric. The telomere at the p-arm is separated from the centromere by the tL1 sequence and TLC tandem repeats. A previous report showed that the TLC array was also conserved in other strains of the subgenus Mus. These results suggest that the TLC arrays promote the stable evolutionary maintenance of a telocentric karyotype in the subgenus Mus. In this study, we investigated the degree of conservation of TLC arrays among a variety of wild-derived inbred strains, all of which are descendants of wild mice captured in several areas of the world. Genomic PCR analysis indicates that the sequential order of telomere-tL1 is highly conserved in all strains, whereas tL1-TLC is not. Next, Southern blot analysis of DNAs isolated from a panel of mouse subspecies showed both Mus musculus domesticus and Mus musculus castaneus subspecies possess TLC arrays. Unexpectedly, this repeat appears to be lost in almost all Mus musculus musculus and Mus musculus molossinus subspecies, which show a clear geographic divide. These results indicate that either other unknown sequences were replaced by the TLC repeat or almost all M. m. musculus and M. m. molossinus subspecies do not have any sequence between the telomere and minor satellites. Our observation suggests that the TLC array might be evolutionarily unstable and not essential for murine chromosomal conformation. This is the first example of the subspecies-specific large genome alterations in mice.

Concepts: Chromosome, DNA, Sequence, Y chromosome, House mouse, Murinae, Gene, Mouse


Globoid cell leukodystrophy (Krabbe’s disease) is an autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disorder that results from the deficiency of galactosylceramidase, a lysosomal enzyme involved in active myelination. Due to the progressive, lethal nature of this disease and the limited treatment options available, multiple laboratories are currently exploring novel therapies using the mouse model of globoid cell leukodystrophy. In order to establish a protocol for motor function assessment of the twitcher mouse, this study tested the capability of an automated system to detect phenotypic differences across mouse genotypes and/or treatment groups. The sensitivity of this system as a screening tool for the assessment of therapeutic interventions was determined by the administration of murine bone marrow-derived stem cells into twitcher mice via intraperitoneal injection. Animal behavior was analyzed using the Noldus EthoVision XT7 software. Novel biomarkers, including abnormal locomotion (e.g., velocity, moving duration, distance traveled, turn angle) and observed behaviors (e.g., rearing activity, number of defecation boli), were established for the twitcher mouse. These parameters were monitored across all mouse groups, and the automated system detected improved locomotion in the treated twitcher mice based on the correction of angular velocity, turn angle, moving duration, and exploratory behavior, such as thigmotaxis. Further supporting these findings, the treated mice showed improved lifespan, gait, wire hang ability, twitching severity and frequency, and sciatic nerve histopathology. Taken together, these data demonstrate the utility of computer-based neurophenotyping for motor function assessment of twitcher mice and support its utility for detecting the efficacy of stem cell-based therapy for neurodegenerative disorders.

Concepts: Cell division, Stem cells, Murinae, Krabbe disease, Cell, Neurodegenerative disorders, Gene, Stem cell