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2024, Volume 45,  Issue 1

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Changes in protein abundance and reversible protein phosphorylation (RPP) play important roles in regulating hypometabolism but have never been documented in overwintering frogs at high altitudes. To test the hypothesis that protein abundance and phosphorylation change in response to winter hibernation, we conducted a comprehensive and quantitative proteomic and phosphoproteomic analysis of the liver of the Xizang plateau frog, Nanorana parkeri, living on the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau. In total, 5170 proteins and 5695 phosphorylation sites in 1938 proteins were quantified. Based on proteomic analysis, 674 differentially expressed proteins (438 up-regulated, 236 down-regulated) were screened in hibernating N. parkeri versus summer individuals. Functional enrichment analysis revealed that higher expressed proteins in winter were significantly enriched in immune-related signaling pathways, whereas lower expressed proteins were mainly involved in metabolic processes. A total of 4251 modified sites (4147 up-regulated, 104 down-regulated) belonging to 1638 phosphoproteins (1555 up-regulated, 83 down-regulated) were significantly changed in the liver. During hibernation, RPP regulated a diverse array of proteins involved in multiple functions, including metabolic enzymatic activity, ion transport, protein turnover, signal transduction, and alternative splicing. These changes contribute to enhancing protection, suppressing energy-consuming processes, and inducing metabolic depression. Moreover, the activities of phosphofructokinase, glutamate dehydrogenase, and ATPase were all significantly lower in winter compared to summer. In conclusion, our results support the hypothesis and demonstrate the importance of RPP as a regulatory mechanism when animals transition into a hypometabolic state.
Mammalian T-cell responses require synergism between the first signal and co-stimulatory signal. However, whether and how dual signaling regulates the T-cell response in early vertebrates remains unknown. In the present study, we discovered that the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) encodes key components of the LAT signalosome, namely, LAT, ITK, GRB2, VAV1, SLP-76, GADS, and PLC-γ1. These components are evolutionarily conserved, and CD3ε mAb-induced T-cell activation markedly increased their expression. Additionally, at least ITK, GRB2, and VAV1 were found to interact with LAT for signalosome formation. Downstream of the first signal, the NF-κB, MAPK/ERK, and PI3K-AKT pathways were activated upon CD3ε mAb stimulation. Furthermore, treatment of lymphocytes with CD28 mAbs triggered the AKT-mTORC1 pathway downstream of the co-stimulatory signal. Combined CD3ε and CD28 mAb stimulation enhanced ERK1/2 and S6 phosphorylation and elevated NFAT1, c-Fos, IL-2, CD122, and CD44 expression, thereby signifying T-cell activation. Moreover, rather than relying on the first or co-stimulatory signal alone, both signals were required for T-cell proliferation. Full T-cell activation was accompanied by marked apoptosis and cytotoxic responses. These findings suggest that tilapia relies on dual signaling to maintain an optimal T-cell response, providing a novel perspective for understanding the evolution of the adaptive immune system.
Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) function as key modulators in mammalian immunity, particularly due to their involvement in lncRNA-mediated competitive endogenous RNA (ceRNA) crosstalk. Despite their recognized significance in mammals, research on lncRNAs in lower vertebrates remains limited. In the present study, we characterized the first immune-related lncRNA (pol-lnc78) in the teleost Japanese flounder (Paralichthys olivaceus). Results indicated that pol-lnc78 acted as a ceRNA for pol-miR-n199-3p to target the sterile alpha and armadillo motif-containing protein (SARM), the fifth discovered member of the Toll/interleukin 1 (IL-1) receptor (TIR) adaptor family. This ceRNA network regulated the antibacterial responses of flounder via the Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling pathway. Specifically, SARM acted as a negative regulator and exacerbated bacterial infection by inhibiting the expression of inflammatory cytokines IL-1β and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). Pol-miR-n199-3p reduced SARM expression by specifically interacting with the 3’ untranslated region (UTR), thereby promoting SARM-dependent inflammatory cytokine expression and protecting the host against bacterial dissemination. Furthermore, pol-lnc78 sponged pol-miR-n199-3p to ameliorate the inhibition of SARM expression. During infection, the negative regulators pol-lnc78 and SARM were significantly down-regulated, while pol-miR-n199-3p was significantly up-regulated, thus favoring host antibacterial defense. These findings provide novel insights into the mechanisms underlying fish immunity and open new horizons to better understand ceRNA crosstalk in lower vertebrates.
Letter to the editor
Article
The dynamics of animal social structures are heavily influenced by environmental patterns of competition and cooperation. In folivorous colobine primates, prevailing theories suggest that larger group sizes should be favored in rainforests with a year-round abundance of food, thereby reducing feeding competition. Yet, paradoxically, larger groups are frequently found in high-altitude or high-latitude montane ecosystems characterized by a seasonal scarcity of leaves. This contradiction is posited to arise from cooperative benefits in heterogeneous environments. To investigate this hypothesis, we carried out a six-year field study on two neighboring groups of golden snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana), a species representing the northernmost distribution of colobine primates. Results showed that the groups adjusted their movement and habitat selection in response to fluctuating climates and spatiotemporal variability of resources, indicative of a dynamic foraging strategy. Notably, during the cold, resource-scarce conditions in winter, the large group occupied food-rich habitats but did not exhibit significantly longer daily travel distances than the smaller neighboring group. Subsequently, we compiled an eco-behavioral dataset of 52 colobine species to explore their evolutionary trajectories. Analysis of this dataset suggested that the increase in group size may have evolved via home range expansion in response to the cold and heterogeneous climates found at higher altitudes or latitudes. Hence, we developed a multi-benefits framework to interpret the formation of larger groups by integrating environmental heterogeneity. In cold and diverse environments, even smaller groups require larger home ranges to meet their dynamic survival needs. The spatiotemporal distribution of high-quality resources within these expanded home ranges facilitates more frequent interactions between groups, thereby encouraging social aggregation into larger groups. This process enhances the benefits of collaborative actions and reproductive opportunities, while simultaneously optimizing travel costs through a dynamic foraging strategy.
The gastrointestinal tract is essential for food digestion, nutrient absorption, waste elimination, and microbial defense. Single-cell transcriptome profiling of the intestinal tract has greatly enriched our understanding of cellular diversity, functional heterogeneity, and their importance in intestinal tract development and disease. Although such profiling has been extensively conducted in humans and mice, the single-cell gene expression landscape of the pig cecum remains unexplored. Here, single-cell RNA sequencing was performed on 45 572 cells obtained from seven cecal samples in pigs at four different developmental stages (days (D) 30, 42, 150, and 730). Analysis revealed 12 major cell types and 38 subtypes, as well as their distinctive genes, transcription factors, and regulons, many of which were conserved in humans. An increase in the relative proportions of CD8+ T and Granzyme A (low expression) natural killer T cells (GZMAlow NKT) cells and a decrease in the relative proportions of epithelial stem cells, Tregs, RHEX+ T cells, and plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) were noted across the developmental stages. Moreover, the post-weaning period exhibited an up-regulation in mitochondrial genes, COX2 and ND2, as well as genes involved in immune activation in multiple cell types. Cell-cell crosstalk analysis indicated that IBP6+ fibroblasts were the main signal senders at D30, whereas IBP6 fibroblasts assumed this role at the other stages. NKT cells established interactions with epithelial cells and IBP6+ fibroblasts in the D730 cecum through mediation of GZMA-F2RL1/F2RL2 pairs. This study provides valuable insights into cellular heterogeneity and function in the pig cecum at different development stages.
Birds exhibit extraordinary mobility and remarkable navigational skills, obtaining guidance cues from the Earth’s magnetic field for orientation and long-distance movement. Bird species also show tremendous diversity in navigation strategies, with considerable differences even within the same taxa and among individuals from the same population. The highly conserved iron and iron-sulfur cluster binding magnetoreceptor (MagR) protein is suggested to enable animals, including birds, to detect the geomagnetic field and navigate accordingly. Notably, MagR is also implicated in other functions, such as electron transfer and biogenesis of iron-sulfur clusters, raising the question of whether variability exists in its biochemical and biophysical features among species, particularly birds. In the current study, we conducted a comparative analysis of MagR from two different bird species, including the migratory European robin and the homing pigeon. Sequence alignment revealed an extremely high degree of similarity between the MagRs of these species, with only three sequence variations. Nevertheless, two of these variations underpinned significant differences in metal binding capacity, oligomeric state, and magnetic properties. These findings offer compelling evidence for the marked differences in MagR between the two avian species, potentially explaining how a highly conserved protein can mediate such diverse functions.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is associated with mutations in lipopolysaccharide-binding protein (LBP), but the underlying epigenetic mechanisms remain understudied. Herein, LBP-/- rats with NAFLD were established and used to conduct integrative targeting-active enhancer histone H3 lysine 27 acetylation (H3K27ac) chromatin immunoprecipitation coupled with high-throughput and transcriptomic sequencing analysis to explore the potential epigenetic pathomechanisms of active enhancers of NAFLD exacerbation upon LBP deficiency. Notably, LBP-/- reduced the inflammatory response but markedly aggravated high-fat diet (HFD)-induced NAFLD in rats, with pronounced alterations in the histone acetylome and regulatory transcriptome. In total, 1 128 differential enhancer-target genes significantly enriched in cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism were identified between wild-type (WT) and LBP-/- NAFLD rats. Based on integrative analysis, CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein β (C/EBPβ) was identified as a pivotal transcription factor (TF) and contributor to dysregulated histone acetylome H3K27ac, and the lipid metabolism gene SCD was identified as a downstream effector exacerbating NAFLD. This study not only broadens our understanding of the essential role of LBP in the pathogenesis of NAFLD from an epigenetics perspective but also identifies key TF C/EBPβ and functional gene SCD as potential regulators and therapeutic targets.
The gut microbiome interacts with the host to maintain body homeostasis, with gut microbial dysbiosis implicated in many diseases. However, the underlying mechanisms of gut microbe regulation of host behavior and brain functions remain unclear. This study aimed to elucidate the influence of gut microbiota on brain functions via post-translational modification mechanisms in the presence or absence of bacteria without any stimulation. We conducted succinylome analysis of hippocampal proteins in germ-free (GF) and specific pathogen-free (SPF) mice and metagenomic analysis of feces from SPF mice. These results were integrated with previously reported hippocampal acetylome and phosphorylome data from the same batch of mice. Subsequent bioinformatics analyses revealed 584 succinylation sites on 455 proteins, including 54 up-regulated succinylation sites on 91 proteins and 99 down-regulated sites on 51 proteins in the GF mice compared to the SPF mice. We constructed a panoramic map of gut microbiota-regulated succinylation, acetylation, and phosphorylation, and identified cross-talk and relative independence between the different types of post-translational modifications in modulating complicated intracellular pathways. Pearson correlation analysis indicated that 13 taxa, predominantly belonging to the Bacteroidetes phylum, were correlated with the biological functions of post-translational modifications. Positive correlations between these taxa and succinylation and negative correlations between these taxa and acetylation were identified in the modulation of intracellular pathways. This study highlights the hippocampal physiological changes induced by the absence of gut microbiota, and proteomic quantification of succinylation, phosphorylation, and acetylation, contributing to our understanding of the role of the gut microbiome in brain function and behavioral phenotypes.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative condition that results in dyskinesia, with oxidative stress playing a pivotal role in its progression. Antioxidant peptides may thus present therapeutic potential for PD. In this study, a novel cathelicidin peptide (Cath-KP; GCSGRFCNLFNNRRPGRLTLIHRPGGDKRTSTGLIYV) was identified from the skin of the Asiatic painted frog (Kaloula pulchra). Structural analysis using circular dichroism and homology modeling revealed a unique αββ conformation for Cath-KP. In vitro experiments, including free radical scavenging and ferric-reducing antioxidant analyses, confirmed its antioxidant properties. Using the 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium ion (MPP+)-induced dopamine cell line and 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)-induced PD mice, Cath-KP was found to penetrate cells and reach deep brain tissues, resulting in improved MPP+-induced cell viability and reduced oxidative stress-induced damage by promoting antioxidant enzyme expression and alleviating mitochondrial and intracellular reactive oxygen species accumulation through Sirtuin-1 (Sirt1)/Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) pathway activation. Both focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and p38 were also identified as regulatory elements. In the MPTP-induced PD mice, Cath-KP administration increased the number of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-positive neurons, restored TH content, and ameliorated dyskinesia. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to report on a cathelicidin peptide demonstrating potent antioxidant and neuroprotective properties in a PD model by targeting oxidative stress. These findings expand the known functions of cathelicidins, and hold promise for the development of therapeutic agents for PD.
Geographical background and dispersal ability may strongly influence assemblage dissimilarity; however, these aspects have generally been overlooked in previous large-scale beta diversity studies. Here, we examined whether the patterns and drivers of taxonomic beta diversity (TBD) and phylogenetic beta diversity (PBD) of breeding birds in China vary across (1) regions on both sides of the Hu Line, which demarcates China’s topographical, climatic, economic, and social patterns, and (2) species with different dispersal ability. TBD and PBD were calculated and partitioned into turnover and nestedness components using a moving window approach. Variables representing climate, habitat heterogeneity, and habitat quality were employed to evaluate the effects of environmental filtering. Spatial distance was considered to assess the impact of dispersal limitation. Variance partitioning analysis was applied to assess the relative roles of these variables. In general, the values of TBD and PBD were high in mountainous areas and were largely determined by environmental filtering. However, different dominant environmental filters on either side of the Hu Line led to divergent beta diversity patterns. Specifically, climate-driven species turnover and habitat heterogeneity-related species nestedness dominated the regions east and west of the line, respectively. Additionally, bird species with stronger dispersal ability were more susceptible to environmental filtering, resulting in more homogeneous assemblages. Our results indicated that regions with distinctive geographical backgrounds may present different ecological factors that lead to divergent assemblage dissimilarity patterns, and dispersal ability determines the response of assemblages to these ecological factors. Identifying a single universal explanation for the observed pattern without considering these aspects may lead to simplistic or incomplete conclusions. Consequently, a comprehensive understanding of large-scale beta diversity patterns and effective planning of conservation strategies necessitate the consideration of both geographical background and species dispersal ability.
Editorial
Article
Regulatory sequences and transposable elements (TEs) account for a large proportion of the genomic sequences of species; however, their roles in gene transcription, especially tissue-specific expression, remain largely unknown. Pigs serve as an excellent animal model for studying genomic sequence biology due to the extensive diversity among their wild and domesticated populations. Here, we conducted an integrated analysis using H3K27ac ChIP-seq, H3K4me3 ChIP-seq, and RNA-seq data from 10 different tissues of seven fetuses and eight closely related adult pigs. We aimed to annotate the regulatory elements and TEs to elucidate their associations with histone modifications and mRNA expression across different tissues and developmental stages. Based on correlation analysis between mRNA expression and H3K27ac and H3K4me3 peak activity, results indicated that H3K27ac exhibited stronger associations with gene expression than H3K4me3. Furthermore, 1.45% of TEs overlapped with either the H3K27ac or H3K4me3 peaks, with the majority displaying tissue-specific activity. Notably, a TE subfamily (LTR4C_SS), containing binding motifs for SIX1 and SIX4, showed specific enrichment in the H3K27ac peaks of the adult and fetal ovaries. RNA-seq analysis also revealed widespread expression of TEs in the exons or promoters of genes, including 4 688 TE-containing transcripts with distinct development stage-specific and tissue-specific expression. Of note, 1 967 TE-containing transcripts were enriched in the testes. We identified a long terminal repeat (LTR), MLT1F1, acting as a testis-specific alternative promoter in SRPK2 (a cell cycle-related protein kinase) in our pig dataset. This element was also conserved in humans and mice, suggesting either an ancient integration of TEs in genes specifically expressed in the testes or parallel evolutionary patterns. Collectively, our findings demonstrate that TEs are deeply embedded in the genome and exhibit important tissue-specific biological functions, particularly in the reproductive organs.
We examined the global biogeography of the Scytodes thoracica group of spitting spiders based on 23 years of sampling at the species level (61 species in the thoracica group and 84 species of Scytodes) using DNA data from six loci. Our results indicated that the thoracica group initially dispersed from Southeast Asia to East Africa between 46.5 and 33.0 million years ago, and dispersal events intensified between Southeast/South Asia and East/South Africa from the early to late Miocene. The timing of these events indicates that Asian-African faunal exchange of the thoracica group was driven by the Indian monsoon, and the pattern of dispersal suggests that colonialization took root when the Indian monsoon shifted from a North-South direction to an East-West direction from the middle Eocene.
The insect mitogenome is typically a compact circular molecule with highly conserved gene contents. Nonetheless, mitogenome structural variations have been reported in specific taxa, and gene rearrangements, usually the tRNAs, occur in different lineages. Because synapomorphies of mitogenome organizations can provide information for phylogenetic inferences, comparative analyses of mitogenomes have been given increasing attention. However, most studies use a very few species to represent the whole genus, tribe, family, or even order, overlooking potential variations at lower taxonomic levels, which might lead to some incorrect inferences. To provide new insights into mitogenome organizations and their implications for phylogenetic inference, this study conducted comparative analyses for mitogenomes of three social bee tribes (Meliponini, Bombini, and Apini) based on the phylogenetic framework with denser taxonomic sampling at the species and population levels. Comparative analyses revealed that mitogenomes of Apini and Bombini are the typical type, while those of Meliponini show diverse variations in mitogenome sizes and organizations. Large inverted repeats (IRs) cause significant gene rearrangements of protein coding genes (PCGs) and rRNAs in Indo-Malay/Australian stingless bee species. Molecular evolution analyses showed that the lineage with IRs have lower dN/dS ratios for PCGs than lineages without IRs, indicating potential effects of IRs on the evolution of mitochondrial genes. The finding of IRs and different patterns of gene rearrangements suggested that Meliponini is a hotspot in mitogenome evolution. Unlike conserved PCGs and rRNAs whose rearrangements were found only in the mentioned lineages within Meliponini, tRNA rearrangements are common across all three tribes of social bees, and are significant even at the species level, indicating that comprehensive sampling is needed to fully understand the patterns of tRNA rearrangements, and their implications for phylogenetic inference.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs), particularly docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3, DHA), play crucial roles in the reproductive health of vertebrates, including humans. Nevertheless, the underlying mechanism related to this phenomenon remains largely unknown. In this study, we employed two zebrafish genetic models, i.e., elovl2-/- mutant as an endogenous DHA-deficient model and fat1 (omega-3 desaturase encoding gene) transgenic zebrafish as an endogenous DHA-rich model, to investigate the effects of DHA on oocyte maturation and quality. Results show that the elovl2-/- mutants had much lower fecundity and poorer oocyte quality than the wild-type controls, while the fat1 zebrafish had higher fecundity and better oocyte quality than wild-type controls. DHA deficiency in elovl2-/- embryos led to defects in egg activation, poor microtubule stability, and reduced pregnenolone levels. Further study revealed that DHA promoted pregnenolone synthesis by enhancing transcription of cyp11a1, which encodes the cholesterol side-chain cleavage enzyme, thereby stabilizing microtubule assembly during oogenesis. In turn, the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis was enhanced by DHA. In conclusion, using two unique genetic models, our findings demonstrate that endogenously synthesized DHA promotes oocyte maturation and quality by promoting pregnenolone production via transcriptional regulation of cyp11a1.
Monitoring the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs) is vital for addressing the global crisis of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. Despite its importance, the characterization of ARGs and microbiome structures, as well as the identification of indicators for routine ARG monitoring in pig farms, are still lacking, particularly concerning variations in antimicrobial exposure in different countries or regions. Here, metagenomics and random forest machine learning were used to elucidate the ARG profiles, microbiome structures, and ARG contamination indicators in pig manure under different antimicrobial pressures between China and Europe. Results showed that Chinese pigs exposed to high-level antimicrobials exhibited higher total and plasmid-mediated ARG abundances compared to those in European pigs (P<0.05). ANT(6)-Ib, APH(3')-IIIa, and tet(40) were identified as shared core ARGs between the two pig populations. Furthermore, the core ARGs identified in pig populations were correlated with those found in human populations within the same geographical regions. Lactobacillus and Prevotella were identified as the dominant genera in the core microbiomes of Chinese and European pigs, respectively. Forty ARG markers and 43 biomarkers were able to differentiate between the Chinese and European pig manure samples with accuracies of 100% and 98.7%, respectively. Indicators for assessing ARG contamination in Chinese and European pigs also achieved high accuracy (r=0.72–0.88). Escherichia flexneri in both Chinese and European pig populations carried between 21 and 37 ARGs. The results of this study emphasize the importance of global collaboration in reducing antimicrobial resistance risk and provide validated indicators for evaluating the risk of ARG contamination in pig farms.
Glycogen serves as the principal energy reserve for metabolic processes in aquatic shellfish and substantially contributes to the flavor and quality of oysters. The Jinjiang oyster (Crassostrea ariakensis) is an economically and ecologically important species in China. In the present study, RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) and assay for transposase-accessible chromatin using sequencing (ATAC-seq) were performed to investigate gene expression and chromatin accessibility variations in oysters with different glycogen contents. Analysis identified 9 483 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) and 7 215 genes with significantly differential chromatin accessibility (DCAGs) were obtained, with an overlap of 2 600 genes between them. Notably, a significant proportion of these genes were enriched in pathways related to glycogen metabolism, including “Glycogen metabolic process” and “Starch and sucrose metabolism”. In addition, genome-wide association study (GWAS) identified 526 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) loci associated with glycogen content. These loci corresponded to 241 genes, 63 of which were categorized as both DEGs and DCAGs. This study enriches basic research data and provides insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying the regulation of glycogen metabolism in C. ariakensis.
A total of 10 specimens of Alcyonacea corals were collected at depths ranging from 905 m to 1 633 m by the manned submersible Shenhai Yongshi during two cruises in the South China Sea (SCS). Based on mitochondrial genomic characteristics, morphological examination, and sclerite scanning electron microscopy, the samples were categorized into four suborders (Calcaxonia, Holaxonia, Scleraxonia, and Stolonifera), and identified as 9 possible new cold-water coral species. Assessments of GC-skew dissimilarity, phylogenetic distance, and average nucleotide identity (ANI) revealed a slow evolutionary rate for the octocoral mitochondrial sequences. The nonsynonymous (Ka) to synonymous (Ks) substitution ratio (Ka/Ks) suggested that the 14 protein-coding genes (PCGs) were under purifying selection, likely due to specific deep-sea environmental pressures. Correlation analysis of the median Ka/Ks values of five gene families and environmental factors indicated that the genes encoding cytochrome b (cyt b) and DNA mismatch repair protein (mutS) may be influenced by environmental factors in the context of deep-sea species formation. This study highlights the slow evolutionary pace and adaptive mechanisms of deep-sea corals.
Letter to the editor
Obituary