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Journal: Biology open


Natal dispersal of sea turtles is an energetically demanding activity that is fuelled primarily by aerobic metabolism. However, during intense exercise reptiles can use anaerobic metabolism to supplement their energy requirements. We assessed anaerobic metabolism in dispersing hatchling loggerhead and flatback turtles by measuring the concentrations of blood lactate during crawling and at different times during the first four hours of their frenzy swim. We also measured concentrations of blood glucose and corticosterone. Blood lactate (12.13 to 2.03 mmol/L), glucose (6.25 to 3.8 mmol/L) and corticosterone (8.13 to 2.01 ng/mL) concentrations decreased significantly over time in both loggerhead and flatback hatchlings and no significant differences were found between the species. These results indicate that anaerobic metabolism makes a significant contribution to the dispersal phase of hatchling sea turtles during the beach crawl and the first few hours of the frenzy swim.

Concepts: Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Cellular respiration, Lactic acid, Glycolysis, Sea turtle, Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Anaerobic respiration


Skin hyperpigmentation is characterized by increased melanin synthesis and deposition that can cause significant psychosocial and psychological distress. Although several cytokine-receptor signaling cascades contribute to the formation of ultraviolet B-induced cutaneous hyperpigmentation, their possible involvement in other types of skin hyperpigmentation has never been clearly addressed. Since our continuous studies using skin specimens from more than 30 subjects with ethnic skin diversity emphasized a consistent augmentation in the expression of endothelin-1 (ET-1) and its receptor (Endothelin B receptor, ET-B) in hyperpigmented lesions, including senile lentigos (SLs), the precise function of ET-1 signaling was investigated in the present study. In line with previous studies, ET-1 significantly induced melanogenesis followed by increases in melanosome transport in melanocytes and in its transfer to keratinocytes while inhibition of ET-B function substantially depressed melanogenic ability in tissue-cultured SLs. Additionally, in agreement with a previous report that the formation of autophagosomes rather than melanosomes is stimulated according to starvation or defective melanosome production, ET-1 was found to remarkably augment the expression of components necessary for early melanosome formation, indicating its counteraction against autophagy-targeting melanosome degradation in melanocytes. Despite the lack of substantial impact of ET-1 on keratinocyte melanogenic functions, the expression of ET-1 was enhanced following melanosome uptake by keratinocytes. Taken together, our data suggest that ET-1 plays a substantial role in the development and/or maintenance of skin hyperpigmentation in reciprocal cooperation with increased melanosome incorporation.

Concepts: Melanoma, Skin, Melanin, Epidermis, Human skin color, Skin anatomy, Melanocyte, Melanosome


We tested zebrafish shoals to examine whether groups exhibit collective spatial learning and whether this relates to the personality of group members. To do this we trained shoals to associate a collective spatial decision to a reward and tested whether shoals could reorient to the learned location from a new starting point. There were strong indications of collective learning and collective reorienting, most likely by memorising distal cues, but these processes were unrelated to personality differences within shoals. However, there was evidence that group decisions require agreement between differing personalities. Notably, shoals with more boldness variation were more likely to split during training trials and took longer to reach a collective decision. Thus cognitive tasks, such as learning and cue memorisation, may be exhibited collectively, but the ability to reach collective decisions is affected by the personality composition of the group. A likely outcome of the splitting of groups with very disparate personalities is the formation of groups with members more similar in their personality.


In contrast to most other primates, great apes have feet in which the heel supports body weight during standing, walking and running. One possible advantage of this plantigrade foot posture is that it may enhance fighting performance by increasing the ability to apply free moments (i.e. force couples) to the ground. We tested this possibility by measuring performance of human subjects when performing from plantigrade and digitigrade (standing on the ball of the foot and toes) postures. We found that plantigrade posture substantially increased the capacity to apply free moments to the ground and to perform a variety of behaviors that are likely to be important to fighting performance in great apes. As predicted, performance in maximal effort lateral striking and pushing was strongly correlated with free moment magnitude. All else being equal, these results suggest species that can adopt plantigrade posture will be able to apply larger free moments to the ground than species restricted to digitigrade or unguligrade foot posture. Additionally, these results are consistent with the suggestion that selection for physical competition may have been one of the factors that led to the evolution of the derived plantigrade foot posture of great apes.

Concepts: Human, Foot, Primate, Performance, Hominidae, Gorilla, Ape, Plantigrade


Familial forms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) caused by mutations in PINK1 are linked to mitochondrial impairment. Defective mitochondria are also found in Drosophila models of PD with pink1 mutations. The co-enzyme nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD(+)) is essential for both generating energy in mitochondria and nuclear DNA repair through NAD(+)-consuming poly(ADP-ribose) polymerases (PARPs). We found alterations in NAD(+) salvage metabolism in Drosophila pink1 mutants and showed that a diet supplemented with the NAD(+) precursor nicotinamide rescued mitochondrial defects and protected neurons from degeneration. Additionally, a mutation of Parp improved mitochondrial function and was neuroprotective in the pink1 mutants. We conclude that enhancing the availability of NAD(+) by either the use of a diet supplemented with NAD(+) precursors or the inhibition of NAD(+)-dependent enzymes, such as PARPs, which compete with mitochondria for NAD(+) is a viable approach to preventing neurotoxicity associated with mitochondrial defects.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Mitochondrion, DNA repair, Cellular respiration, Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide


The great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) exhibits viviparous and oophagous reproduction. A 4950 mm total length (TL) gravid female accidentally caught by fishermen in the Okinawa Prefecture, Southern Japan carried six embryos (543-624 mm TL, three in each uterus). Both uteri contained copious amounts of yellowish viscous uterine fluid (over 79.2 litres in the left uterus), nutrient eggs and broken egg cases. The embryos had yolk stomachs that had ruptured, the mean volume of which was approximately 197.9 ml. Embryos had about 20 rows of potentially functional teeth in the upper and lower jaws. Periodic acid Schiff (PAS)-positive substances were observed on the surface and in the cytoplasm of the epithelial cells, and large, secretory, OsO4-oxidized lipid droplets of various sizes were distributed on the surface of the villous string epithelium on the uterine wall. Histological examination of the uterine wall showed it to consist of villi, similar to the trophonemata of Dasyatidae rays, suggesting that the large amount of fluid found in the uterus of the white shark was likely required for embryo nutrition. We conclude that: (1) the lipid-rich fluid is secreted from the uterine epithelium only in early gestation before the onset of oophagy, (2) the embryos probably use the abundant uterine fluid and encased nutrient eggs for nutrition at this stage of their development, and (3) the uterine fluid is the major source of embryonic nutrition before oophagy onset. This is the first record of the lipid histotrophy of reproduction among all shark species.

Concepts: Great white shark, Shark, Lamniformes, Megalodon, Lamnidae


Demyelinating diseases consist of a variety of autoimmune conditions in which the myelin sheath is damaged due to genetic and/or environmental factors. During clinical treatment, some patients undergo partial remyelination, especially during the early disease stages. However, the mechanisms that regulate demyelination remain unclear. The myelin structure, myelin formation and myelin-related gene expression are highly conserved between mammals and zebrafish. Therefore, the zebrafish is an ideal model organism to study myelination. In this study, we generated a transgenic zebrafish Tg(mbp:nfsB-egfp) expressing a fusion protein composed of enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) and NTR from the myelin basic protein (mbp) promoter. Tg(mbp:nfsB-egfp) expressed NTR-EGFP reproducibly and hereditarily in oligodendrocytes along the spinal cord. Treatment of zebrafish larvae Tg(mbp:nfsB-egfp) with metronidazole (Mtz) resulted in the selective ablation of oligodendrocytes and led to demyelination, accompanied by behavioral changes, including decreased total movement distance, velocity, total movement time and fast movement time. After withdrawal of Mtz for a seven day recovery period, the expression of EGFP and MBP protein was observed again which indicates remyelination. Additionally, locomotor capacity was restored. Collectively, Tg(mbp:nfsB-egfp), a heritable and stable transgenic line, provides a novel, powerful tool to study the mechanisms of demyelination and remyelination.

Concepts: Protein, Gene, Gene expression, Green fluorescent protein, Multiple sclerosis, Myelin, Zebrafish, Myelin basic protein


The larval period of the Drosophila life cycle is characterized by immense growth. In nutrient rich conditions, larvae increase in mass approximately two hundred-fold in five days. However, upon nutrient deprivation, growth is arrested. The prevailing view is that dietary amino acids drive this larval growth by activating the conserved insulin/PI3 kinase and Target of rapamycin (TOR) pathways and promoting anabolic metabolism. One key anabolic process is protein synthesis. However, few studies have attempted to measure mRNA translation during larval development or examine the signaling requirements for nutrient-dependent regulation. Our work addresses this issue. Using polysome analyses, we observed that starvation rapidly (within thirty minutes) decreased larval mRNA translation, with a maximal decrease at 6-18 hours. By analyzing individual genes, we observed that nutrient-deprivation led to a general reduction in mRNA translation, regardless of any starvation-mediated changes (increase or decrease) in total transcript levels. Although sugars and amino acids are key regulators of translation in animal cells and are the major macronutrients in the larval diet, we found that they alone were not sufficient to maintain mRNA translation in larvae. The insulin/PI3 kinase and TOR pathways are widely proposed as the main link between nutrients and mRNA translation in animal cells. However, we found that genetic activation of PI3K and TOR signaling, or regulation of two effectors - 4EBP and S6K - could not prevent the starvation-mediated translation inhibition. Similarly, we showed that the nutrient stress-activated eIF2α kinases, GCN2 and PERK, were not required for starvation-induced inhibition of translation in larvae. These findings indicate that nutrient control of mRNA translation in larvae is more complex than simply amino acid activation of insulin and TOR signaling.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Metabolism, Nutrition, Enzyme, Ribosome, Genetic code


Our goal is to characterize the innate immune response against the early stage of tumor development. For this, animal models where genetic changes in specific cells and tissues can be performed in a controlled way have become increasingly important, including the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster. Many tumor mutants in Drosophila affect the germline and, as a consequence, also the immune system itself, making it difficult to ascribe their phenotype to a specific tissue. Only during the past decade, mutations have been induced systematically in somatic cells to study the control of tumorous growth by neighboring cells and by immune cells. Here we show that upon ectopic expression of a dominant-active form of the Ras oncogene (Ras(V12)), both imaginal discs and salivary glands are affected. Particularly, the glands increase in size, express metalloproteinases and display apoptotic markers. This leads to a strong cellular response, which has many hallmarks of the granuloma-like encapsulation reaction, usually mounted by the insect against larger foreign objects. RNA sequencing of the fat body reveals a characteristic humoral immune response. In addition we also identify genes that are specifically induced upon expression of Ras(V12). As a proof-of-principle, we show that one of the induced genes (santa-maria), which encodes a scavenger receptor, modulates damage to the salivary glands. The list of genes we have identified provides a rich source for further functional characterization. Our hope is that this will lead to a better understanding of the earliest stage of innate immune responses against tumors with implications for mammalian immunity.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Cancer, Innate immune system, Immunology, Humoral immunity, Immunity, Adaptive immune system


Nature has evolved a beautiful design for small-scale vibratory rate-gyro in the form of dipteran halteres that detect body rotations via Coriolis acceleration. In most Diptera, including soldier fly, Hermetia illucens, halteres are a pair of special organs, located in the space between the thorax and the abdomen. The halteres along with their connecting joint with the fly’s body constitute a mechanism that is used for muscle-actuated oscillations of the halteres along the actuation direction. These oscillations lead to bending vibrations in the sensing direction (out of the haltere’s actuation plane) upon any impressed rotation due to the resulting Coriolis force. This induced vibration is sensed by the sensory organs at the base of the haltere in order to determine the rate of rotation. In this study, we evaluate the boundary conditions and the stiffness of the anesthetized halteres along the actuation and the sensing direction. We take several cross-sectional SEM (scanning electron microscope) images of the soldier fly haltere and construct its three dimensional model to get the mass properties. Based on these measurements, we estimate the natural frequency along both actuation and sensing directions, propose a finite element model of the haltere’s joint mechanism, and discuss the significance of the haltere’s asymmetric cross-section. The estimated natural frequency along the actuation direction is within the range of the haltere’s flapping frequency. However, the natural frequency along the sensing direction is roughly double the haltere’s flapping frequency that provides a large bandwidth for sensing the rate of rotation to the soldier flies.

Concepts: Insect, Classical mechanics, Scanning electron microscope, Rotation, Flies, Coriolis effect, Fly, Stratiomyidae