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Concept: Physiology


A new wave of portable biosensors allows frequent measurement of health-related physiology. We investigated the use of these devices to monitor human physiological changes during various activities and their role in managing health and diagnosing and analyzing disease. By recording over 250,000 daily measurements for up to 43 individuals, we found personalized circadian differences in physiological parameters, replicating previous physiological findings. Interestingly, we found striking changes in particular environments, such as airline flights (decreased peripheral capillary oxygen saturation [SpO2] and increased radiation exposure). These events are associated with physiological macro-phenotypes such as fatigue, providing a strong association between reduced pressure/oxygen and fatigue on high-altitude flights. Importantly, we combined biosensor information with frequent medical measurements and made two important observations: First, wearable devices were useful in identification of early signs of Lyme disease and inflammatory responses; we used this information to develop a personalized, activity-based normalization framework to identify abnormal physiological signals from longitudinal data for facile disease detection. Second, wearables distinguish physiological differences between insulin-sensitive and -resistant individuals. Overall, these results indicate that portable biosensors provide useful information for monitoring personal activities and physiology and are likely to play an important role in managing health and enabling affordable health care access to groups traditionally limited by socioeconomic class or remote geography.

Concepts: Health care, Medicine, Epidemiology, Cancer, Physiology, Sociology, Arthritis, Ibn al-Nafis


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.

Concepts: Cell, Sample size, Physiology, Mammal, Human behavior, Pheromone, Androstadienone, Estratetraenol


It has long been suspected that sleep is important for regulating body temperature and metabolic-rate. Hibernation, a state of acute hypothermia and reduced metabolic-rate, offers a promising system for investigating those relationships. Prior studies in hibernating ground squirrels report that, although sleep occurs during hibernation, it manifests only as non-REM sleep, and only at relatively high temperatures. In our study, we report data on sleep during hibernation in a lemuriform primate, Cheirogaleus medius. As the only primate known to experience prolonged periods of hibernation and as an inhabitant of more temperate climates than ground squirrels, this animal serves as an alternative model for exploring sleep temperature/metabolism relationships that may be uniquely relevant to understanding human physiology.

Concepts: Energy, Physiology, Climate, Temperature, Heat transfer, Cryobiology, Hibernation, Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemur


BACKGROUND: Hypohydration and hyperthermia are factors that may contribute to fatigue and impairment of endurance performance. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of combining glycerol hyperhydration and an established precooling technique on cycling time trial performance in hot environmental conditions. METHODS: Twelve well-trained male cyclists performed three 46.4-km laboratory-based cycling trials that included two climbs, under hot and humid environmental conditions (33.3 +/- 1.1[degree sign]C; 50 +/- 6% r.h.). Subjects were required to hyperhydrate with 25 body mass (BM) of a 4[degree sign]C beverage containing 6% carbohydrate (CON) 2.5 h prior to the time trial. On two occasions, subjects were also exposed to an established precooling technique (PC) 60 min prior to the time trial, involving 14 BM ice slurry ingestion and applied iced towels over 30 min. During one PC trial, 1.2 BM glycerol was added to the hyperhydration beverage in a double-blind fashion (PC+G). Statistics used in this study involve the combination of traditional probability statistics and a magnitude-based inference approach. RESULTS: Hyperhydration resulted in large reductions (-0.6 to -0.7[degree sign]C) in rectal temperature. The addition of glycerol to this solution also lowered urine output (330 ml, 10%). Precooling induced further small (-0.3[degree sign]C) to moderate (-0.4[degree sign]C) reductions in rectal temperature with PC and PC+G treatments, respectively, when compared with CON (0.0[degree sign]C, P<0.05). Overall, PC+G failed to achieve a clear change in cycling performance over CON, but PC showed a possible 2% (30 s, P=0.02) improvement in performance time on climb 2 compared to CON. This improvement was attributed to subjects' lower perception of effort reported over the first 10 km of the trial, despite no clear performance change during this time. No differences were detected in any other physiological measurements throughout the time trial. CONCLUSIONS: Despite increasing fluid intake and reducing core temperature, performance and thermoregulatory benefits of a hyperhydration strategy with and without the addition of glycerol, plus practical precooling, were not superior to hyperhydration alone. Further research is warranted to further refine preparation strategies for athletes competing in thermally stressful events to optimize health and maximize performance outcomes.

Concepts: Physiology, Thermoregulation, Temperature, Hyperthermia, Humidity, The Trial, Normal human body temperature, Individual time trial


Cysteine peptidases in the two-spotted spider mite Tetranychus urticae are involved in essential physiological processes, including proteolytic digestion. Cystatins and thyropins are inhibitors of cysteine peptidases that modulate their activity, although their function in this species has yet to be investigated. Comparative genomic analyses are powerful tools to obtain advanced knowledge into the presence and evolution of both, peptidases and their inhibitors, and could aid to elucidate issues concerning the function of these proteins.

Concepts: Gene, Metabolism, Biology, Physiology, Tetranychus urticae, Spider mite, Tetranychus, Acariformes


In spaceflight human circadian rhythms and sleep patterns are likely subject to change, which consequently disturbs human physiology, cognitive abilities and performance efficiency. However, the influence of microgravity on sleep and circadian clock as well as the underlying mechanisms remain largely unknown. Placing volunteers in a prone position, whereby their heads rest at an angle of -6° below horizontal, mimics the microgravity environment in orbital flight. Such positioning is termed head-down bed rest (HDBR). In this work, we analysed the influence of a 45-day HDBR on physiological diurnal rhythms. We examined urinary electrolyte and hormone excretion, and the results show a dramatic elevation of cortisol levels during HDBR and recovery. Increased diuresis, melatonin and testosterone were observed at certain periods during HDBR. In addition, we investigated the changes in urination and defecation frequencies and found that the rhythmicity of urinary frequency during lights-off during and after HDBR was higher than control. The grouped defecation frequency data exhibits rhythmicity before and during HDBR but not after HDBR. Together, these data demonstrate that HDBR can alter a number of physiological processes associated with diurnal rhythms.

Concepts: Physiology, Sleep, Circadian rhythm, Circadian rhythms, Delayed sleep phase syndrome, Chronotype, Diurnality, Melatonin


Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) is a zinc-dependent peptidase responsible for converting angiotensin I into the vasoconstrictor angiotensin II. However, ACE is a relatively nonspecific peptidase that is capable of cleaving a wide range of substrates. Because of this, ACE and its peptide substrates and products affect many physiologic processes, including blood pressure control, hematopoiesis, reproduction, renal development, renal function, and the immune response. The defining feature of ACE is that it is composed of two homologous and independently catalytic domains, the result of an ancient gene duplication, and ACE-like genes are widely distributed in nature. The two ACE catalytic domains contribute to the wide substrate diversity of ACE and, by extension, the physiologic impact of the enzyme. Several studies suggest that the two catalytic domains have different biologic functions. Recently, the X-ray crystal structure of ACE has elucidated some of the structural differences between the two ACE domains. This is important now that ACE domain-specific inhibitors have been synthesized and characterized. Once widely available, these reagents will undoubtedly be powerful tools for probing the physiologic actions of each ACE domain. In turn, this knowledge should allow clinicians to envision new therapies for diseases not currently treated with ACE inhibitors.

Concepts: DNA, Evolution, Enzyme, Physiology, Blood pressure, Angiotensin, Renin-angiotensin system, Angiotensin-converting enzyme


Imbalances of energy homeostasis are often associated with cardiovascular complications. Previous work has shown that Gnasxl deficient mice have a lean and hypermetabolic phenotype with increased sympathetic stimulation of adipose tissue. The Gnasxl transcript from the imprinted Gnas locus encodes the trimeric G-protein subunit XLαs, which is expressed in brain regions that regulate energy homeostasis and sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity. To determine whether Gnasxl knock-out (KO) mice display additional SNS related phenotypes, we have now investigated the cardiovascular system. Gnasxl KO mice were ≈20 mmHg hypertensive compared to wild-type (WT) littermates (p≤0.05) and hypersensitive to the sympatholytic drug reserpine. Using telemetry, we detected an increased waking heart rate (HR) in conscious KOs (630±10 vs 584±12 bpm, KO vs WT, p≤0.05). Body temperature was also elevated (38.1±0.3 vs 36.9±0.4 °C, KO vs WT, p≤0.05). To investigate autonomic nervous system influences, we used heart rate variability (HRV) analyses. We empirically defined frequency power bands using atropine and reserpine and verified high frequency (HF) power and low frequency (LF) LF/HF power ratio to be indicators of parasympathetic and sympathetic activity, respectively. LF/HF power ratio was greater in KOs and more sensitive to reserpine than in WTs, consistent with elevated SNS activity. By contrast, atropine and exendin-4 (Ex-4), a centrally acting agonist of the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor, which influences cardiovascular physiology and metabolism, reduced HF power equally in both genotypes. This was associated with a stronger increase in HR in KOs. Mild stress had a blunted effect on LF/HF ratio in KOs consistent with elevated basic sympathetic activity. We conclude that XLαs is required for the inhibition of sympathetic outflow towards cardiovascular and metabolically relevant tissues.

Concepts: Gene, Blood, Physiology, Acetylcholine, Autonomic nervous system, Sympathetic nervous system, Parasympathetic nervous system, Enteric nervous system


Background and AimsCold is a major constraint for cereal cultivation under temperate climates. Winter-hardy plants interpret seasonal changes and can acquire the ability to resist sub-zero temperatures. This cold acclimation process is associated with physiological, biochemical and molecular alterations in cereals. Brachypodium distachyon is considered a powerful model system to study the response of temperate cereals to adverse environmental conditions. To date, little is known about the cold acclimation and freezing tolerance capacities of Brachypodium. The main objective of this study was to evaluate the cold hardiness of seven diploid Brachypodium accessions.MethodsAn integrated approach, involving monitoring of phenological indicators along with expression profiling of the major vernalization regulator VRN1 orthologue, was followed. In parallel, soluble sugars and proline contents were determined along with expression profiles of two COR genes in plants exposed to low temperatures. Finally, whole-plant freezing tests were performed to evaluate the freezing tolerance capacity of Brachypodium.Key ResultsCold treatment accelerated the transition from the vegetative to the reproductive phase in all diploid Brachypodium accessions tested. In addition, low temperature exposure triggered the gradual accumulation of BradiVRN1 transcripts in all accessions tested. These accessions exhibited a clear cold acclimation response by progressively accumulating proline, sugars and COR gene transcripts. However, whole-plant freezing tests revealed that these seven diploid accessions only have a limited capacity to develop freezing tolerance when compared with winter varieties of temperate cereals such as wheat and barley. Furthermore, little difference in terms of survival was observed among the accessions tested despite their previous classification as either spring or winter genotypes.ConclusionsThis study is the first to characterize the freezing tolerance capacities of B. distachyon and provides strong evidence that some diploid accessions such as Bd21 have a facultative growth habit.

Concepts: Physiology, Climate, Temperature, Poaceae, Cereal, Season, Carbohydrate, Temperateness


Presenilins (PSs) are the catalytic core of gamma-secretase complex. However, the mechanism of FAD-associated PS mutations in AD pathogenesis still remains elusive. Here we review the general biology and mechanism of gamma-secretase and focus on the catalytic components – presenilins and their biological functions and contributions to the AD pathogenesis. The functions of presenilins are divided into gamma-secretase dependent and gamma-secretase independent ones. The gamma-secretase dependent functions of presenilins are exemplified by the sequential cleavages in the processing of APP and Notch; the gamma-secretase independent functions of presenilins include stabilizing beta-catenin in Wnt signaling pathway, regulating calcium homeostasis and their interaction with synaptic transmission.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, DNA, Biology, Organism, Physiology, Amyloid precursor protein, Presenilin, Real analysis