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

Concept: Nitrogen


The permanent ice cover of Lake Vida (Antarctica) encapsulates an extreme cryogenic brine ecosystem (-13 °C; salinity, 200). This aphotic ecosystem is anoxic and consists of a slightly acidic (pH 6.2) sodium chloride-dominated brine. Expeditions in 2005 and 2010 were conducted to investigate the biogeochemistry of Lake Vida’s brine system. A phylogenetically diverse and metabolically active Bacteria dominated microbial assemblage was observed in the brine. These bacteria live under very high levels of reduced metals, ammonia, molecular hydrogen (H(2)), and dissolved organic carbon, as well as high concentrations of oxidized species of nitrogen (i.e., supersaturated nitrous oxide and ∼1 mmol⋅L(-1) nitrate) and sulfur (as sulfate). The existence of this system, with active biota, and a suite of reduced as well as oxidized compounds, is unusual given the millennial scale of its isolation from external sources of energy. The geochemistry of the brine suggests that abiotic brine-rock reactions may occur in this system and that the rich sources of dissolved electron acceptors prevent sulfate reduction and methanogenesis from being energetically favorable. The discovery of this ecosystem and the in situ biotic and abiotic processes occurring at low temperature provides a tractable system to study habitability of isolated terrestrial cryoenvironments (e.g., permafrost cryopegs and subglacial ecosystems), and is a potential analog for habitats on other icy worlds where water-rock reactions may cooccur with saline deposits and subsurface oceans.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Water, Hydrogen, Redox, Oxidizing agent, Nitrogen, Carbon


Dark chocolate (DC) is abundant in flavanols which have been reported to increase the bioavailability and bioactivity of nitric oxide (NO). Increasing NO bioavailability has often demonstrated reduced oxygen cost and performance enhancement during submaximal exercise.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Nitrogen, Nitric oxide


The extraordinary properties of graphene and carbon nanotubes motivate the development of methods for their use in producing continuous, strong, tough fibres. Previous work has shown that the toughness of the carbon nanotube-reinforced polymer fibres exceeds that of previously known materials. Here we show that further increased toughness results from combining carbon nanotubes and reduced graphene oxide flakes in solution-spun polymer fibres. The gravimetric toughness approaches 1,000 J g(-1), far exceeding spider dragline silk (165 J g(-1)) and Kevlar (78 J g(-1)). This toughness enhancement is consistent with the observed formation of an interconnected network of partially aligned reduced graphene oxide flakes and carbon nanotubes during solution spinning, which act to deflect cracks and allow energy-consuming polymer deformation. Toughness is sensitive to the volume ratio of the reduced graphene oxide flakes to the carbon nanotubes in the spinning solution and the degree of graphene oxidation. The hybrid fibres were sewable and weavable, and could be shaped into high-modulus helical springs.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Redox, Nitrogen, Carbon, Carbon nanotube, Graphene, Tensile strength, Spider silk


Selenium (Se) is an essential human micronutrient with critical roles in immune functioning and antioxidant defence. Estimates of dietary Se intakes and status are scarce for Africa although crop surveys indicate deficiency is probably widespread in Malawi. Here we show that Se deficiency is likely endemic in Malawi based on the Se status of adults consuming food from contrasting soil types. These data are consistent with food balance sheets and composition tables revealing that >80% of the Malawi population is at risk of dietary Se inadequacy. Risk of dietary Se inadequacy is >60% in seven other countries in Southern Africa, and 22% across Africa as a whole. Given that most Malawi soils cannot supply sufficient Se to crops for adequate human nutrition, the cost and benefits of interventions to alleviate Se deficiency should be determined; for example, Se-enriched nitrogen fertilisers could be adopted as in Finland.

Concepts: Human, Agriculture, Nutrition, Africa, Dietary mineral, Nitrogen, Selenium, Madagascar


BACKGROUND: In ancient times, plants were recognized for their medicinal properties. Later, the arrival of synthetic drugs pushed it to the backstage. However, from being merely used for food, plants are now been widely explored for their therapeutic value. The current study explores the potential of skin and flesh extracts from a hard-necked Rocambole variety of purple garlic in preventing cardiomyocyte hypertrophy and cell death. METHODS: Norepinephrine (NE) was used to induce hypertrophy in adult rat cardiomyocytes pretreated with garlic skin and flesh extracts. Cell death was measured as ratio of rod to round shaped cardiomyocytes. Fluorescent probes were used to measure apoptosis and oxidative stress in cardiomyocytes treated with and without extracts and NE. Pharmacological blockade of nitric oxide (NO) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) were used to elucidate the mechanism of action of garlic extracts. Garlic extract samples were also tested for alliin and allicin concentrations. RESULTS: Exposure of cardiomyocytes to NE induced an increase in cell size and cell death; this increase was significantly prevented upon treatment with garlic skin and flesh extracts. Norepinephrine increased apoptosis and oxidative stress in cardiomyocytes which was prevented upon pretreatment with skin and flesh extracts; NO, and H2S blockers significantly inhibited this beneficial effect. Allicin and alliin concentration were significantly higher in garlic flesh extract when compared to the skin extract. CONCLUSION: These results suggest that both skin and flesh garlic extracts are effective in preventing NE induced cardiomyocyte hypertrophy and cell death. Reduction in oxidative stress may also play an important role in the anti-hypertrophic and anti-apoptotic properties of garlic extracts. These beneficial effects may in part be mediated by NO and H2S.

Concepts: Nitrogen, Radical, Zinc, Sulfur, Garlic, Hydrogen sulfide, PReVENT, Allicin


Agricultural soils represent the main source of anthropogenic N2O emissions. Recently, interactions of black carbon with the nitrogen cycle have been recognized and the use of biochar is being investigated as a means to reduce N2O emissions. However, the mechanisms of reduction remain unclear. Here we demonstrate the significant impact of biochar on denitrification, with a consistent decrease in N2O emissions by 10-90% in 14 different agricultural soils. Using the (15)N gas-flux method we observed a consistent reduction of the N2O/(N2 + N2O) ratio, which demonstrates that biochar facilitates the last step of denitrification. Biochar acid buffer capacity was identified as an important aspect for mitigation that was not primarily caused by a pH shift in soil. We propose the function of biochar as an “electron shuttle” that facilitates the transfer of electrons to soil denitrifying microorganisms, which together with its liming effect would promote the reduction of N2O to N2.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Metabolism, Nitrogen, PH, Buffer solution, Bioremediation, Denitrification, Nitrogen cycle


Cytochrome P450 oxidoreductase (POR) is known as the sole electron donor in the metabolism of drugs by cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes in human. However, little is known about the effect of polymorphic variants of POR on drug metabolic activities of CYP3A4 and CYP2B6. In order to better understand the mechanism of the activity of CYPs affected by polymorphic variants of POR, six full-length mutants of POR (e.g., Y181D, A287P, K49N, A115V, S244C and G413S) were designed and then co-expressed with CYP3A4 and CYP2B6 in the baculovirus-Sf9 insect cells to determine their kinetic parameters. Surprisingly, both mutants, Y181D and A287P in POR completely inhibited the CYP3A4 activity with testosterone, while the catalytic activity of CYP2B6 with bupropion was reduced to approximately ~70% of wild-type activity by Y181D and A287P mutations. In addition, the mutant K49N of POR increased the CLint (Vmax/Km) of CYP3A4 up to more than 31% of wild-type, while it reduced the catalytic efficiency of CYP2B6 to 74% of wild-type. Moreover, CLint values of CYP3A4-POR (A115V, G413S) were increased up to 36% and 65% of wild-type respectively. However, there were no appreciable effects observed by the remaining two mutants of POR (i.e., A115V and G413S) on activities of CYP2B6. In conclusion, the extent to which the catalytic activities of CYP were altered did not only depend on the specific POR mutations but also on the isoforms of different CYP redox partners. Thereby, we proposed that the POR-mutant patients should be carefully monitored for the activity of CYP3A4 and CYP2B6 on the prescribed medication.

Concepts: Metabolism, Enzyme, Electrochemistry, Catalysis, Nitrogen, Cytochrome P450, P450-containing systems, Cytochrome P450 reductase


Macrophyte decomposition is important for carbon and nutrient cycling in lake ecosystems. Currently, little is known about how this process responds to detritus quality and water nutrient conditions in eutrophic shallow lakes in which incomplete decomposition of detritus accelerates the lake terrestrialization process. In this study, we investigated the effects of detritus quality and water nutrient concentrations on macrophyte decomposition in Lake Baiyangdian, China, by analyzing the decomposition of three major aquatic plants at three sites with different pollution intensities (low, medium, and high pollution sites). Detritus quality refers to detritus nutrient contents as well as C:N, C:P, and N:P mass ratios in this study. Effects of detritus mixtures were tested by combining pairs of representative macrophytes at ratios of 75:25, 50:50 and 25:75 (mass basis). The results indicate that the influence of species types on decomposition was stronger than that of site conditions. Correlation analysis showed that mass losses at the end of the experimental period were significantly controlled by initial detritus chemistry, especially by the initial phosphorus (P) content, carbon to nitrogen (C:N), and carbon to phosphorus (C:P) mass ratios in the detritus. The decomposition processes were also influenced by water chemistry. The NO(3)-N and NH(4)-N concentrations in the lake water retarded detritus mass loss at the low and high pollution sites, respectively. Net P mineralization in detritus was observed at all sites and detritus P release at the high pollution site was slower than at the other two sites. Nonadditive effects of mixtures tended to be species specific due to the different nutrient contents in each species. Results suggest that the nonadditive effects varied significantly among different sites, indicating that interactions between the detritus quality in species mixtures and site water chemistry may be another driver controlling decomposition in eutrophic shallow lakes.

Concepts: Oxygen, Plant, Lake, Eutrophication, Hydrogen, Water pollution, Nitrogen, Lakes


A major challenge for the bioremediation of toxic metals is the co-occurrence of nitrate, as it can inhibit metal transformation. Geobacter metallireducens, Desulfovibrio desulfuricans, and Sulfurospirillum barnesii are three soil bacteria that can reduce chromate [Cr(VI)] and nitrate, and may be beneficial for developing bioremediation strategies. All three organisms respire through dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonia (DNRA), employing different nitrate reductases but similar nitrite reductase (Nrf). G. metallireducens reduces nitrate to nitrite via the membrane bound nitrate reductase (Nar), while S. barnesii and D. desulfuricans strain 27774 have slightly different forms of periplasmic nitrate reductase (Nap). We investigated the effect of DNRA growth in the presence of Cr(VI) in these three organisms and the ability of each to reduce Cr(VI) to Cr(III), and found that each organisms responded differently. Growth of G. metallireducens on nitrate was completely inhibited by Cr(VI). Cultures of D. desulfuricans on nitrate media was initially delayed (48 h) in the presence of Cr(VI), but ultimately reached comparable cell yields to the non-treated control. This prolonged lag phase accompanied the transformation of Cr(VI) to Cr(III). Viable G. metallireducens cells could reduce Cr(VI), whereas Cr(VI) reduction by D. desulfuricans during growth, was mediated by a filterable and heat stable extracellular metabolite. S. barnesii growth on nitrate was not affected by Cr(VI), and Cr(VI) was reduced to Cr(III). However, Cr(VI) reduction activity in S. barnesii, was detected in both the cell free spent medium and cells, indicating both extracellular and cell associated mechanisms. Taken together, these results have demonstrated that Cr(VI) affects DNRA in the three organisms differently, and that each have a unique mechanism for Cr(VI) reduction.

Concepts: Bacteria, Metabolism, Redox, Nitrogen, Bioremediation, Denitrification, Nitrate, Nitrate reductase


Escherichia coli is most widely used prokaryotic expression system for the production of recombinant proteins. Several strategies have been employed for expressing recombinant proteins in E.coli. This includes the development of novel host systems, expression vectors and cost effective media. In this study, we exploit tender coconut water (TCW) as a natural and cheaper growth medium for E.coli and Pichia pastoris.Result: E.coli and P.pastoris were cultivated in TCW and the growth rate was monitored by measuring optical density at 600nm (OD600nm), where 1.55 for E.coli and 8.7 for P.pastoris was obtained after 12 and 60 hours, respectively. However, variation in growth rate was observed among TCW when collected from different localities (0.15-2.5 at OD600nm), which is attributed to the varying chemical profile among samples. In this regard, we attempted the supplementation of TCW with different carbon and nitrogen sources to attain consistency in growth rate. Here, supplementation of TCW with 25mM ammonium sulphate (TCW-S) was noted efficient for the normalization of inconsistency, which further increased the biomass of E.coli by 2 to 10 folds, and 1.5 to 2 fold in P.pastoris. These results indicate that nitrogen source is the major limiting factor for growth. This was supported by total nitrogen and carbon estimation where, nitrogen varies from 20 to 60mg/100ml while carbohydrates showed no considerable variation (2.32 to 3.96 g/100 ml). In this study, we also employed TCW as an expression media for recombinant proteins by demonstrating successful expression of maltose binding protein (MBP), MBP-TEV protease fusion and a photo switchable fluorescent protein (mEos2) using TCW and the expression level was found to be equivalent to Luria Broth (LB).

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Oxygen, Bacteria, Recombinant DNA, Escherichia coli, Nitrogen, Coconut