Neurophysiological events induced by octopamine and serotonin in the honeybee brain
Reprogramming of tumor cells : signaling events and phenotypes
Chul Min Yang
- Cancer is a disease characterized by uncontrolled cell growth and the capacity to disseminate to distant organs. The properties of cancers are caused by genetic and epigenetic alterations when compared to their normal counterparts. Genetic mutations occur in oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes and are the initial drivers of cellular transformation (Lengauer et al., 1998; Vogelstein and Kinzler, 2004). In addition, epigenetic alterations, which influence the expression of oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes independently from sequence alterations, are also involved in the transformation process (Esteller and Herman, 2001; Sharma et al., 2010). Genetic alterations and epigenetic regulatory signals cooperate in tumor etiology. Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a frequent and aggressive malignant brain tumor in humans. The median survival of GBM patients is about 15 months after diagnosis. Like in other cancers, genetic and epigenetic alterations can be detected in GBM. Genetic alterations in GBM affect cell growth, apoptosis, angiogenesis, and invasion; however, epigenetic alterations in GBM also affect the expression of oncogenes or tumor suppresser genes that increase tumor malignancy (Nagarajan and Costello, 2009).
Reprogramming is a cellular process in which somatic cells can be induced to assume the properties of less differentiated stem cells. This process can be mediated through epigenetic modifications of the genome of somatic cells by the action of four defined transcription factors (Oct4, Sox2, Klf4 and Myc) or by the action of the miR 302/367 cluster (Anokye-Danso et al., 2011; Takahashi and Yamanaka, 2006; Takahashi et al., 2007) and result in the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). Reprogramming of somatic cells by the miR 302/367 cluster can generate nontumorigenic iPS cells through the inhibition of the epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), cell cycle regulatory genes and epigenetic modifiers (Lin and Ying, 2013).
Long-term observation of arabidopsis thaliana root growth under close-to-natural conditions using light sheet-based fluorescence microscopy
Daniel Wangenheim von
- In the interest of understanding the development of a multicellular organism, subcellular events must be seen in the context of the entire three-dimensional tissue. In addition, events that occur within a short period of time can be of great importance for the relatively long developmental process of the organ. Thus, it is required to capture subcellular events in a larger spatio-temporal scale context, which has been up to now a technical challenge. In developmental biology, light microscopy has always been an important tool. The dilemma of light microscopy, in particular fluorescence microscopy, is that molecules receive high light intensities that might change the conformation of molecules, which can have signaling or toxic effects. In Light Sheet-based Fluorescence Microscopy (LSFM), the energy required for a single recording is reduced by several orders of magnitude compared to other fluorescence microscopy techniques. During the last ten years, LSFM has emerged as a preferred tool to capture all cells during embryogenesis of the zebrafish Danio rerio, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster or recently the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum for a period of several days. The motivation of this work was to gain new insights in developmental related processes of plant organs. The aim of this work was to establish a protocol for imaging plant growth over a long period of time using LSFM and perform comprehensive analyses at the cellular level. Plants have to cope with a variety of environmental conditions, therefore the conditions inside the microscope chamber had to be brought under control. The sample preparation methods and the standardized conditions at a physiological level allowed the study of gravity response, day-night rhythms, organ shape development as well as the intracellular dynamic events of the cytoskeleton and endosomal compartments in an unprecedented manner. Several of these projects were successfully published in collaborations with Prof. Jozef Šamaj (Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic), Prof. Niko Geldner (University of Lausanne, Switzerland), Prof. Malcom Bennett (University of Nottingham, UK) and Dr. Jürgen Kleine-Vehn (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Austria). The main part of my work focused on the formation of lateral roots in Arabidopsis thaliana and was conducted in close collaboration with Dr. Alexis Maizel (University of Heidelberg, Germany). Previously, most experiments that describe lateral root formation have been performed on a small number of cells and for short periods of time. Capturing the complete process of lateral roots is an ambitious goal, because first, the primordium of a lateral root is located deep inside the primary root and imaging quality is impaired due to scattering of the overlaying tissue. Second, the process takes about 48 h, i.e. the plant has to be kept healthy for the whole period. Third, the amount of excitation light required for the spatio-temporal might have phototoxic effects that lead to a stop of growth at least in conventional microscopic techniques. In Arabidopsis embryogenesis, the sequence of cell divisions is relatively invariant. However, whether lateral root organogenesis follows particular cell division patterns has been unknown. The complete process of lateral root formation was captured from the first cell division until after the emergence from the main root. Images of a nuclei marker and a plasmamembrane marker were recorded every 5 min for a time period of up to 64 h. The positions and cell divisions of all cells were tracked manually. In collaboration with Alexander Schmitz (Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Germany) and Dr. Jens Fangerau (University of Heidelberg, Germany), comprehensive analyses of the data were performed. A lateral root forms from initially 8-15 founder cells, arranged in a patch of 5-8 parallel files. The occurrence of new cell layers by periclinal divisions, as well as the sequence of layer generation was conserved and resembles the sequence suggested by Malamy and Benfey in 1997. Besides this stereotyped occurrence of periclinal divisions, radial divisions were found to appear stochastically, following no particular pattern. A large variability was also found in the contribution of founder cells and cell files to the final lateral root. In summary, the results suggest that a stereotyped pattern of cell divisions at particular developmental stages and a dynamically adapted control of cell divisions exist in parallel. Both properties allow a controlled but flexible development of the organ according to variations in cell topology and mechanical properties of the surrounding tissue. This work shows that LSFM, the sample preparation methods and controlled environmental conditions allow to capture and analyse the development of plants over several days at high resolution in an unprecedented manner.
Role of G-protein G12/13 signaling in angiogenesis
Kishor Kumar Sivaraj
- Angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels from existing ones, is a fundamental biological process required for embryonic development; it also plays an important role during postnatal organ development and various physiological and pathological remodeling processes in the adult organism. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and its main receptor, VEGF receptor-2 (VEGFR-2), play a central role in angiogenesis. VEGFR-2 expression is strongly upregulated in angiogenic vessels, but the mechanisms regulating VEGFR-2 expression are not well understood. We found in this study that the G-protein α subunit Gα13 plays an important role in the regulation of VEGFR-2 expression. In vitro, we found that knockdown of Gα13 reduced VEGFR-2 expression in human umbilical vein endothelial cells and impaired responsiveness to VEGF-A. This phenotype was rescued by adenoviral normalization of VEGFR-2 expression. Gα13-dependent VEGFR-2 expression involved activation of the small GTPase RhoA and transcription factor NF-κB; it was abrogated by deletion of the NF-κB binding site at position -84 of the VEGFR-2 promoter. In vivo, endothelial cell-specific loss of Gα13 resulted in reduced VEGFR-2 expression, impaired responsiveness towards VEGF-A in Matrigel assays, and reduced retinal angiogenesis. Importantly, also tumor vascularization was diminished in the absence of endothelial Gα13, resulting in reduced tumor growth. Taken together, we identified Gα13-dependent NF-κB activation as a new pathway underlying the transcriptional regulation of VEGFR-2 during retinal and tumor angiogenesis.
Identification of novel base methyltransferases of the 25S rRNA in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
- RNA modifications are present in all three kingdoms of life and detected in all classes of cellular RNAs. RNA modifications are diverse, with more than 100 types of chemical modifications identified to date. These chemical modifications expand the topological repertoire of RNAs and are expected to fine-tune their functions. Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) contains two types of covalent modifications, either methylation on the sugar (Nm) or bases (mN), or base isomerization (conversion of uridine into pseudouridines, "). Pseudouridylations and ribose methylations are catalyzed by site-specific H/ACA and C/D box snoRNPs, respectively. The RNA component (snoRNA) of both types of snoRNPs is responsible for the site selection by base pairing with the rRNA substrate, whereas the protein component catalyzes the modification reaction: Nop1 in C/D box and Cbf5 in H/ACA box snoRNPs. Contrastingly, base methylations are performed by snoRNA independent, ‘protein-only’, methyltransferases (MTases). rRNA modifications occur at highly conserved positions, all clustering around functional ribosomal sites. Mutations in factors involved in rRNA modification have been linked to severe human diseases (e.g. X-linked Dyskeratosis congenita). Emerging evidences indicate that heterogeneity in RNA modification prevails, i.e. not all positions are modified at all time, and the concept of ‘specialized ribosomes’ has been coined. rRNA modification heterogeneity has been correlated with disease etiology (cancer), and shown to play a role in cell differentiation(hematopoiesis). Remarkably, alteration in rRNA modification patterns profoundly affects the preference of ribosomes for cap- versus IRESdependent translation initiation, with major consequences on cell physiology.
Assessing the combined effects of xenobiotics, climate change and predators on aquatic organisms in multiple stressor experiments - a case study with pyrimethanil
- The environmental impact of climate change is meanwhile not only discussed in the scientific community but also in the general public. However, little is known about the interaction between climate change and pollutants like pesticides. A combination of multiple stressors (e.g. temperature, pollutants, predators) may lead to severe alterations for organisms such as changes in time of reproduction, reproductive success and growth performance, mortality and geographic distribution. The questions if aquatic organisms tend to react more sensitive towards incidents under climate change conditions remains. Therefore, within the present thesis the aquatic ecotoxicological profile of the fungicide pyrimethanil, as an exemplarily anthropogenic used contaminant, was examined.
A large test battery of ecotoxicological standard tests and supplement bioassays with non-model species was conducted to investigate if species-specific or life stage-specific differences occur or if temperature alteration may change the impact of the fungicide. Two of the most sensitive species (Chironomus riparius and Daphnia magna) were used to investigate the acute and chronic thermal dependence of pyrimethanil effects. The results clearly depict that the ecotoxicity of pyrimethanil at optimal thermal conditions did not depend on the trophic level, but was species-specific. With regard to EC10 values the acute pyrimethanil toxicity on C. riparius increased with higher temperature (6.78 mg L-1 at 14°C and 3.06 mg L-1 at 26°C). The chronic response of D. magna to the NOEC (no observed effect concentration) of the fungicide (0.5 mg L-1) was examined in an experiment which lasted for several generations under three simulated near-natural temperature regimes (‘cold year, today’ (11 to 22.7°C), ‘warm year, today’ (14 to 25.2°C) and ‘warm year, 2080’ (16.5 to 28.1°C)). A pyrimethanil-induced mortality increase was buffered by the strongly related increase of the general reproductive capacity, while population growth was stronger influenced by temperature than by the fungicide. At a further pyrimethanil concentration (LOEC – lowest observed effect concentration: 1 mg L-1), a second generation could not be established by D. magna under all thermal regimes.
Besides daphnids, the midge C. riparius was used for a second multigeneration study. In a bifactorial test design it was tested if climate change conditions alter or affect the impact of a low fungicide concentration on life history and genetic diversity. The NOAEC/2 (half of the no observed adverse effect concentration derived from a standard toxicity test) was used as a low pyrimethanil concentration to which laboratory populations of the midges were chronically exposed under the mentioned temperature scenarios. During the 140-day-multigeneration study, survival, emergence, reproduction, population growth, and genetic diversity of C. riparius were analyzed. The results reveal that high temperatures and pyrimethanil act synergistically on life history parameters of C. riparius. In simulated present-day scenarios, a NOAEC/2 of pyrimethanil provoked only slight to moderate beneficial or adverse effects. In contrast, an exposure to a NOAEC/2 concentration of pyrimethanil at a thermal situation likely for a summer under the future expactations uncovered adverse effects on mortality and population growth rate. In addition, genetic diversity was considerably reduced by pyrimethanil in the ‘warm year, 2080’ scenario, but only slightly under current climatic conditions. The multigeneration studies under near-natural thermal conditions indicate that not only the impact of climate change, but also low concentrations of pesticides may pose a reasonable risk for aquatic invertebrates in the future. This clearly shows that thermal and multigenerational effects should be considered when appraising the ecotoxicity of pesticides and assessing their future risk for the environment.
In addition to temperature further multiple abiotic and biotic stressors alterate pollutant effects. Moreover, to better discriminate and understand the intrinsic and environmental correlates of changing aquatic ecosystems, it was experimentally unraveled how the effects of a low-dose of pyrimethanil on daphnids becomes modified by different temperatures (15°C, 20°C, 25°C) and in the presence/ absence of predator kairomones of Chaoborus flavicans larvae. The usage of a fractional multifactorial test design provided the possibility to investigate the individual growth, reproduction and population growth rate of Daphnia pulex via different exposure routes to the fungicide pyrimethanil at an environmentally relevant concentration (0.05 mg L-1) - either directly (via the water phase), indirectly (via algae food), dually (via water and food) or for multiple generations (fungicide treated source population).
The number of neonates increased with increasing temperatures. At a temperature of 25°C no significant differences between the individual treatment groups were observed although the growth was overall inhibited due to pyrimethanil. Besides, at 15 and 20°C it is obvious that daphnids which were fed with contaminated algae had the lowest reproduction and growth rate. The obtained results clearly demonstrate that multiple stress factors can modify the response of daphnids to pollutants. The exposure routes of the contaminant are of minor importance, while temperature and the presence of a predator are the dominant factors impacting the reproduction of D. pulex. It can be concluded that low concentrations of pyrimethanil may disturb the zooplankton community at suboptimal temperature conditions, but the effects will become masked if chaoborid larvae are present. Therefore it seems necessary to observe prospectively if the combination of several stress factors like pesticide exposure and suboptimal temperature may influence the life history and sensitivity of several aquatic invertebrates differently.
Besides standard test organisms it is inevitable to conduct test with aquatic invertebrate which are not yet considered regularly in ecotoxicological experiments. For example molluscs represent one of the largest phyla of macroinvertebrates with more than 100.000 species, being ecologically and economically important. Therefore, within the present study embryo, juvenile, half- and full-life cycle toxicity tests with the snail Physella acuta were performed to investigate the impact of pollutants on various life stages. Different concentrations of pyrimethanil (0.06-0.5 or 1.0 mg L-1) assessed at three temperatures (15°C, 20°C, 25°C) revealed that pyrimethanil caused concentration-dependent effects independent of temperature. Interestingly, the ecotoxicity of pyrimethanil was higher at lower temperature for the embryo hatching and F1 reproduction, but its ecotoxicity for the growth of juveniles and the F0 reproduction increased with increasing temperature. More specifically, it could have been observed that especially during the reproduction test high mortality rates occurred at the highest concentration of 1 mg L-1 at all temperatures. Due to high mortality rates no snails were available for the F1 at the highest concentrations (0.5 and 1.0 mg L-1). Compared to the F0, overall more egg masses were produced in the F1, being all fertile and no mortality occurred. For the F1-generation the strongest pyrimethanil effects were detected at 15°C. A comparison of effect concentrations between both generations showed that the F1 is more sensitive than the F0.
These results indicate that an exposure over more than one generation may give a better overview of the impact of xenobiotics. With the establishment of an embryo and reproduction test under different temperatures and various concentrations of pyrimethanil with P. acuta we could successfully show that molluscs can respond more sensitive than model organisms and that both, chemical and thermal stressor strongly influence the behaviour of the pulmonates. It can be concluded that the high susceptibility for the fungicide observed in gastropods clearly demonstrates the complexity of pesticide-temperature interactions and the challenge to draw conclusions for the ecotoxicological risk assessment of pesticides under the impact of global climate change.
Impact of land-use on savanna vegetation and populations of non-timber forest product-providing tree species in West Africa
- Savannas are the most important timber and non-timber forest products (NTFPs) providing ecosystems in West Africa. They have been shaped by traditional human land-use (i.e. agriculture, grazing, and harvesting) for thousands of years. In the last decades, land-use has drastically changed due to the rapid population growth and the growing production of cash-crop in West Africa and this process is still continuing. The percentage of land intensively used for agriculture has increased, while the length of fallow periods has decreased. Such changes have enormous ecological, economic, and social consequences. In the context of land-use changes, there is an urgent need to better understand and evaluate the impact of land-use on savannas. Such an understanding provides insights on appropriate management activities that ensure the maintenance of savannas and guarantee the availability of savanna products for subsistence and commercial use of rural West African people.
The major objective of the present thesis was to study the impact of land-use on savanna vegetation and diversity as well as on populations of two important NTFP-providing tree species in a semi-arid area in West Africa. The study area was located in the south-eastern part of Burkina Faso and comprised the protected W National Park and its adjacent communal area.
In the first study (chapter 2), I investigated in cooperation with a colleague from Burkina Faso (Blandine Nacoulma) the impact of land-use on the savanna vegetation. We analyzed which environmental factors determine the occurrence of the vegetation types and investigated the effect of land-use on vegetation structure and the occurrence of life forms and highly valued tree species. Furthermore, we tested whether land-use has an impact on plant diversity pattern and if this impact differed between the vegetation types and layers (woody and herb layer). Vegetation relevés were performed and the vegetation and plant diversity of the protected W National Park were compared with those of its surrounding communal area. Our results reveal five vegetation types occurring in both areas. Elevation and physical soil characteristics and thus soil water availability for plants played the most important role for the occurrence of the vegetation types. The influence of land-use on plant diversity differed between the five vegetation types and the two layers. The impact was highest on the vegetation types with the most favorable soil conditions for cultivation and lowest on rocky habitats with poor soils. While the diversity of the woody layer was increased under human land-use, the diversity of the herb layer was diminished. Overall, as land-use effects were not only negative, our findings suggest that land-use does not automatically lead to a loss of plant species and to a degradation of savanna habitats. We conclude that both protected and communal areas are of great importance for the conservation of savanna vegetation and diversity. Our study highlights furthermore the importance of different management strategies for each vegetation type.
In the following two studies (chapter 3 and 4), the impact of land-use - and in particular of harvesting - on populations of Adansonia digitata L., the baobab tree, and Anogeissus leiocarpa (DC.) Guill. & Perr. was examined. These two tree species were chosen as they provide several NTFPs for the local population and as they show different levels of human protection and opposed life histories. Thus, they may react differently to land-use. Stands of the protected W National Park were compared with those of its surrounding communal area (in fallows, croplands, and villages). I applied dendrometric methods to study the population structures and combined it with rates and patterns of NTFP-harvesting (debarking and chopping/pruning). Furthermore, the impact of land-use and harvesting on the fruit production of A. digitata and on the sprouting ability of A. leiocarpa were studied. The inverse J-shaped size class distribution curve indicates that the stands of A. digitata were in a healthy state in the park, while the low number of smaller size classes in fallows, croplands, and villages may give evidence of an ageing population. However, a high number of seedlings were recorded in villages. The stands of A. leiocarpa were also in healthy states in the park and likewise in fallows. In contrast, the absence of saplings gives evidence of a declining population in croplands. Both species were strongly harvested by local people and harvesting was tree size-specific. Pruning in interaction with tree-size had a significant impact on fruit production of A. digitata. While smaller trees were more vulnerable to pruning, bigger trees benefited from slight-pruning. A. leiocarpa had a great ability to respond to chopping by sprouting. The sprouting ability increased even with higher chopping intensity. Results suggest that despite the intense harvesting and the land-use impact, populations of both species are still well preserved. While A. digitata can withstand the harvesting and land-use pressure by its longevity, extremely low adult mortality rates, and particularly due to positive human influences, A. leiocarpa is able to withstand the use pressure by its fast growing, high recruitment, and high sprouting ability. I conclude that a none protected tree species (A. leiocarpa) might not necessarily be at higher risk to the harvesting and land-use impact than a protected tree species (A. digitata) as the adverse impact of harvesting and land-use can be compensated by its specific life history.
Important additional information to such ecological findings can be provided by local people. Learning from traditional knowledge and management systems of local people will help to produce culturally and ecologically reasonable conservation and management strategies. Thus, I investigated local uses and management strategies of A. digitata and A. leiocarpa in the last two studies (chapter 5 and 6). Quantitative ethnobotanical surveys among the Gulimanceba people were conducted in the communal area in order to document uses of the different plant parts, harvesting modes, perceptions about the population status, and conservation status of both species. Hereby, differences in knowledge between gender, generations, and people from different villages were tested. Interviews reveal that both species are harvested for multipurpose and emphasize the high importance of both species for local people. Especially the leaves and fruits of A. digitata add valuable minerals and vitamins to the otherwise micronutrient-“poor” staple crops of the Gulimanceba people. In comparison with other studies in West Africa, it has turned out that people in this area could benefit even more from A. leiocarpa, e.g. for dyeing of clothes, for treatment of malaria and skin problems. Local knowledge did not differ between genders and generations, while it slightly differed between people from different villages. The lack of age differences suggests that the traditional knowledge about these two species is passed on from one generation to another. Differences between people from different villages might be explained by influences from the neighboring countries Niger and Benin. Current local harvesting modes and management strategies of both species resulted in sustainable use. However, ongoing land-use intensifications require adapted harvesting and management techniques to guarantee the persistence of these economically important species. These results provide, in combination with the ecological findings (chapter 3 and 4), appropriate management recommendations for A. digitata and A. leiocarpa that are reliable under currently practiced management strategies.
Cell specific crosstalk of the Wnt/β-catenin and the Shh pathway: implications for tumor development and regression
- The canonical Wnt/β-catenin and the Shh pathway as well as the Notch signaling cascade
are key regulators in stem cell biology and are independently associated with the development
of cancer. Despite the knowledge of a balanced signaling for cellular maintenance, the
fundamental biochemical mechanisms of crosstalk are still poorly understood. This study
demonstrates that the outcome of interaction between Wnt and Shh is cell type specific. A
combined inhibitory mechanism of the Shh and Notch2/Jagged2 pathways on dominant
active β-catenin signaling in the adult tongue epithelium keeps Wnt/β-catenin signaling
restricted to physiological tolerable levels. In the opposite crosstalk the activation of
Wnt/β-catenin signaling in medulloblastoma (MB) of the Shh subtype, in turn inhibits the Hh
The inhibitory mechanism of Shh and Notch2/Jagged2 on Wnt/β-catenin signaling is
independent of the degradation complex of β-catenin and takes place inside the nucleus.
Furthermore, the negative feedback on Wnt/β-catenin signaling by the Shh pathway relies
on transcriptional activity of Gli1/2A. Inhibition of Gli1/2A with the specific inhibitor GANT61
abrogated the negative impact of Shh on β-catenin signaling in vitro. Although the negative
feedback loop of Shh is still functional in human SCC25 cells, the inhibitory effect of
Notch2/Jagged2 is lost and contributes to the cancerogenic phenotype of these cells. In the
inverse situation, the activation of β−catenin signaling has a negative feedback on
constantly active Shh signaling and significantly inhibits the Hh pathway. This was shown in
Ptch+/- and Math1-Cre:SmoM2Fl/+ MB tumor spheres in vitro, in which inhibition of sphere
formation and growth was observed and Hh target gene transcription was down-regulated.
This demonstrates for the first time that the activation of canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling
in primary MB cells with a Hh pathway over-activation has a negative effect on the growth of
these cells in vitro.
In summary the results show that crosstalk of Wnt/β-catenin and Shh signaling has context
specific outcome on pathway activity. Elucidation of the molecular interactions will improve
our understanding of Wnt and Hh associated tumors and contribute to the development of
new therapeutic strategies.
Climate-linked temporal and spatial patterns in the evolution of African bovidae
Tim F. Schikora
- Climate and subsequent environmental changes are regarded as one driver of species evolution. Against this background the present study investigates the evolutionary history of the mammalian family Bovidae (Cetartiodactyla, Mammalia), today the most species-rich family of large herbivores on the African continent. Temporal and spatial patterns in that group’s evolution are the focus of the present study and were investigated using methods and data deriving from multiple disciplines (palaeontology, genetics, climatology, conservation biology). The results serve as a validation of macroevolutionary hypotheses of species evolution.
A major proportion of African mammalian fossils can be assigned to that family. Due to their morphological adaptations, bovid species are highly indicative of their habitats. Hence, bovids are of great importance for paleontology. However, a strong taphonomic bias is present in the fossil record of bovids, favoring large and arid- adapted species. Molecular phylogenies of extant species and species distribution modelling combined with climate reconstructions can help to overcome these limitations.
A molecular phylogeny, based on the cytochrome b gene of 136 bovid species served as basis for analysis of temporal patterns. Divergence events were dated using the relaxed molecular clock approach. The tree was time calibrated at 30 nodes using information inferred from the fossil record. Lineage-Through-Time plots and the respective statistical analyses reveal detailed temporal patterns in the evolutionary history of tribes and groups combining arid- and humid-adapted tribes. The resulting pattern shows three distinct phases. Phase 1 (P1) is dominated by speciation events within the humid group, while the second phase (P2) is marked by a dominance of speciation within the arid group. The switch in diversification rates (BDS) from P1 to P2 is dated to 2.8 million years ago. The third phase (P3) shows low diversification rates for all groups, starting around 1.4 million year ago and culminates in a significantly reduced diversification rate for the complete family at 0.8 million years ago. Both transitions are contemporaneous with global climate changes and turnover events in fossil faunal communities.
To investigate the impact of climate changes onto the habitat availability within the last 3 million years and its putative influence on diversification rates, the species distribution modeling method was applied. For 85 African species and subspecies the climate niches were established and grouped into 5 climate-groups based on their climate preferences. For each group the available habitat for the period before and after the BDS was calculated on continental scale using reconstructed climate scenarios. To evaluate the modeled habitat distributions, regional analyses were performed in test areas surrounding well studied fossil sites (Laetoli, Olduvai, Chiwondo Beds, Lothagam, Koobi Fora, West Turkana, Swartkrans, Sterkfontain und Toros-Menalla). Habitat profiles (HP) permitted the comparison of the model based habitat reconstruction with the interpretations of classic paleontological reconstruction. The validity of the habitat modeling has been shown in particular for East African test areas. The reconstructions for the northern and southern fossil sites does not support the modeled habitats in these areas. Yet, the method of habitat- profiling may serve as suitable tool for environmental reconstruction of areas lacking sufficient paleontological material. A comparison of habitat availability before and after the BDS on continental scale identified a significant loss of habitat for humid adapted groups (7-22%) and habitat gain for arid adapted groups (19-173%). The climatically intermediate group experiences a tremendous gain of habitat (3366%). The greatest environmental change was modeled for East Africa, initiated by a progressive regional aridification.
In addition to the distribution modeling for past climate conditions, the geographical distribution was modeled for the future, i.e. for climate scenarios representing the years 2050 and 2080 under a putative climate change scenario (global surface warming). It was shown that in particular the arid groups have to expect a remarkable loss of habitat (41-76%), while a gain of available habitat can be expected for the humid adapted groups (114-577%). The climatically intermediate group suffers the strongest habitat loss (85%). Regions with locally stable climate conditions were detected and may serve as potential refugia and are already today known as Africa’s hot spots of biodiversity.
The results show a positive correlation of high diversification rates and increasing habitat availability. None of the tested speciation hypotheses taken alone explains the observations (e.g., Turnover-pulse Hypothesis, Relay Model). A major element in these hypotheses is the passive fragmentation of populations induced by unfavorable climate changes. In contrast, the Periodic Model (Grubb 1999) considers natural, periodically recurring climate changes and moreover, the active dispersal of individuals and resulting founder events. I added the effect of a superimposed directed climate trend – like the progressive aridification since the late Pliocene in Africa – which leads to a bias in the proportion and probability towards leading edge effects. This Directed Periodic Model explains the patterns found in the evolution of Bovidae.
The combination of a molecular phylogeny and species distribution modeling, together with information inferred from the fossil record, reveals remarkable temporal and spatial patterns in the evolution of bovids, and helps overcome the limitations of the fossil record. The present study highlights the importance of active dispersal and founder populations in speciation processes. A point widely unattended in speciation hypotheses. The fully dated molecular phylogeny is the most densely sampled tree for the family Bovidae to date and may serve as a framework for a connection of present and future population studies, permitting the connection of medium-scale with long- term effects induced by climate and environmental changes.
Nephronectin regulates cardiac valve development via BMP4-HAS2 signaling in zebrafish
- It has been estimated that about 1% of live births carry severe congenital heart defects and 20-30% among them have valve malformations. Despite its medical importance the underlying cause of many valvular diseases remains undiscovered. Thus, it is important to identify genes that play a crucial role in cardiac valve formation and maturation.
A temporal RNA expression analysis of heart development suggested that the extracellular matrix protein Nephronectin might be a novel regulator of valve development and/or trabeculation. Nephronectin is transiently expressed during rat heart development at the time of heart valve morphogenesis and trabeculation. Moreover, the extracellular matrix is known to be crucial for organogenesis. It is a complex, dynamic and critical component that regulates cell behavior by modulating the activity, bioavailability, or presentation of growth factors to cell surface receptors.
In order to verify the hypothesis that Nephronectin is a novel regulator of valve formation and/or trabeculation the zebrafish was chosen as model system. Females are able to spawn at intervals of 5 days laying hundreds of eggs in each clutch. Development progresses rapidly with precursors to all major organs appearing within 36 hours post fertilization. Zebrafish embryos develop externally, are translucent and continue to grow for several days despite developing severely malformed, non functional hearts. In addition, gene expression can be easily modulated. During the present study it has been shown that Nephronectin expression is correlated to valve development and trabeculation. Morpholinomediated knockdown of Nephronectin in zebrafish caused failure of valve formation and trabeculation resulting in > 85% lethality at 7 days post fertilization.
Cardiac valve formation is initiated at the junction of atrium and ventricle and is characterized by extracellular matrix deposition and endocardial cell differentiation. In accordance with the above-described phenotype the earliest observed abnormality in Nephronectin morphants was an extended tube like structure at the atrio-ventricular boundary. In addition, the expression of myocardial genes involved in cardiac valve formation (cspg2, fibulin1, tbx2b, bmp4) was expanded and endocardial cells along the extended tube like structure exhibited characteristics of atrio-ventricular cells (has2, notch1b and Alcam expression, cuboidal cell shape). Inhibition of has2 in Nephronectin morphants rescued the endocardial but not the myocardial expansion. In contrast, diminishment of BMP signaling in npnt morphants resulted in reduced ectopic expression of myocardial and endocardial atrio-ventricular markers. Taken together, these results identify Nephronectin as a novel upstream regulator of BMP4-HAS2 signaling playing a crucial role in atrio-ventricular canal differentiation.