SciCombinator

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

Journal: Nature methods

225

SciPy is an open-source scientific computing library for the Python programming language. Since its initial release in 2001, SciPy has become a de facto standard for leveraging scientific algorithms in Python, with over 600 unique code contributors, thousands of dependent packages, over 100,000 dependent repositories and millions of downloads per year. In this work, we provide an overview of the capabilities and development practices of SciPy 1.0 and highlight some recent technical developments.

180

Current methods for studying central nervous system myelination necessitate permissive axonal substrates conducive to myelin wrapping by oligodendrocytes. We have developed a neuron-free culture system in which electron-spun nanofibers of varying sizes substitute for axons as a substrate for oligodendrocyte myelination, thereby allowing manipulation of the biophysical elements of axonal-oligodendroglial interactions. To investigate axonal regulation of myelination, this system effectively uncouples the role of molecular (inductive) cues from that of biophysical properties of the axon. We use this method to uncover the causation and sufficiency of fiber diameter in the initiation of concentric wrapping by rat oligodendrocytes. We also show that oligodendrocyte precursor cells display sensitivity to the biophysical properties of fiber diameter and initiate membrane ensheathment before differentiation. The use of nanofiber scaffolds will enable screening for potential therapeutic agents that promote oligodendrocyte differentiation and myelination and will also provide valuable insight into the processes involved in remyelination.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Action potential, Multiple sclerosis, Axon, Myelin, Oligodendrocyte, Saltatory conduction

84

Diverse microbial ecosystems underpin life in the sea. Among these microbes are many unicellular eukaryotes that span the diversity of the eukaryotic tree of life. However, genetic tractability has been limited to a few species, which do not represent eukaryotic diversity or environmentally relevant taxa. Here, we report on the development of genetic tools in a range of protists primarily from marine environments. We present evidence for foreign DNA delivery and expression in 13 species never before transformed and for advancement of tools for eight other species, as well as potential reasons for why transformation of yet another 17 species tested was not achieved. Our resource in genetic manipulation will provide insights into the ancestral eukaryotic lifeforms, general eukaryote cell biology, protein diversification and the evolution of cellular pathways.

77

We found that exposure of mice and rats to male but not female experimenters produces pain inhibition. Male-related stimuli induced a robust physiological stress response that results in stress-induced analgesia. This effect could be replicated with T-shirts worn by men, bedding material from gonadally intact and unfamiliar male mammals, and presentation of compounds secreted from the human axilla. Experimenter sex can thus affect apparent baseline responses in behavioral testing.

Concepts: Human, Male, Reproduction, Female, Gender, Sex, Rodent, Gamete

53

Investigating wild animals while minimizing human disturbance remains an important methodological challenge. When approached by a remote-operated vehicle (rover) which can be equipped to make radio-frequency identifications, wild penguins had significantly lower and shorter stress responses (determined by heart rate and behavior) than when approached by humans. Upon immobilization, the rover-unlike humans-did not disorganize colony structure, and stress rapidly ceased. Thus, rovers can reduce human disturbance of wild animals and the resulting scientific bias.

Concepts: Scientific method, Human, Natural environment, Science, Mammal, Transport

48

A density-modification procedure for improving maps from single-particle electron cryogenic microscopy (cryo-EM) is presented. The theoretical basis of the method is identical to that of maximum-likelihood density modification, previously used to improve maps from macromolecular X-ray crystallography. Key differences from applications in crystallography are that the errors in Fourier coefficients are largely in the phases in crystallography but in both phases and amplitudes in cryo-EM, and that half-maps with independent errors are available in cryo-EM. These differences lead to a distinct approach for combination of information from starting maps with information obtained in the density-modification process. The density-modification procedure was applied to a set of 104 datasets and improved map-model correlation and increased the visibility of details in many of the maps. The procedure requires two unmasked half-maps and a sequence file or other source of information on the volume of the macromolecule that has been imaged.

47

The behavior and microscale processes associated with freely suspended organisms, along with sinking particles underlie key ecological processes in the ocean. Mechanistically studying such multiscale processes in the laboratory presents a considerable challenge for microscopy: how to measure single cells at microscale resolution, while allowing them to freely move hundreds of meters in the vertical direction? Here we present a solution in the form of a scale-free, vertical tracking microscope, based on a ‘hydrodynamic treadmill’ with no bounds for motion along the axis of gravity. Using this method to bridge spatial scales, we assembled a multiscale behavioral dataset of nonadherent planktonic cells and organisms. Furthermore, we demonstrate a ‘virtual-reality system for single cells’, wherein cell behavior directly controls its ambient environmental parameters, enabling quantitative behavioral assays. Our method and results exemplify a new paradigm of multiscale measurement, wherein one can observe and probe macroscale and ecologically relevant phenomena at microscale resolution. Beyond the marine context, we foresee that our method will allow biological measurements of cells and organisms in a suspended state by freeing them from the confines of the coverslip.

39

High-speed, large-scale three-dimensional (3D) imaging of neuronal activity poses a major challenge in neuroscience. Here we demonstrate simultaneous functional imaging of neuronal activity at single-neuron resolution in an entire Caenorhabditis elegans and in larval zebrafish brain. Our technique captures the dynamics of spiking neurons in volumes of ∼700 μm × 700 μm × 200 μm at 20 Hz. Its simplicity makes it an attractive tool for high-speed volumetric calcium imaging.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Caenorhabditis elegans, Caenorhabditis, Model organism, Rhabditidae, Action potential, Retina

36

Brain function relies on communication between large populations of neurons across multiple brain areas, a full understanding of which would require knowledge of the time-varying activity of all neurons in the central nervous system. Here we use light-sheet microscopy to record activity, reported through the genetically encoded calcium indicator GCaMP5G, from the entire volume of the brain of the larval zebrafish in vivo at 0.8 Hz, capturing more than 80% of all neurons at single-cell resolution. Demonstrating how this technique can be used to reveal functionally defined circuits across the brain, we identify two populations of neurons with correlated activity patterns. One circuit consists of hindbrain neurons functionally coupled to spinal cord neuropil. The other consists of an anatomically symmetric population in the anterior hindbrain, with activity in the left and right halves oscillating in antiphase, on a timescale of 20 s, and coupled to equally slow oscillations in the inferior olive.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Biology, Cerebellum, Neural tube, Meninges

34

Bioconductor is an open-source, open-development software project for the analysis and comprehension of high-throughput data in genomics and molecular biology. The project aims to enable interdisciplinary research, collaboration and rapid development of scientific software. Based on the statistical programming language R, Bioconductor comprises 934 interoperable packages contributed by a large, diverse community of scientists. Packages cover a range of bioinformatic and statistical applications. They undergo formal initial review and continuous automated testing. We present an overview for prospective users and contributors.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Bioinformatics, Molecular biology, Computer program, Programming language, Computer software, Programmer