New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 26 new articles in PLoS ONE today. As always, you should rate the articles, post notes and comments and send trackbacks when you blog about the papers. You can now also easily place articles on various social services (CiteULike, Mendeley, Connotea, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg) with just one click. Here are my own picks for the week – you go and look for your own favourites:

The Clock Genes Period 2 and Cryptochrome 2 Differentially Balance Bone Formation:

Clock genes and their protein products regulate circadian rhythms in mammals but have also been implicated in various physiological processes, including bone formation. Osteoblasts build new mineralized bone whereas osteoclasts degrade it thereby balancing bone formation. To evaluate the contribution of clock components in this process, we investigated mice mutant in clock genes for a bone volume phenotype. We found that Per2Brdm1 mutant mice as well as mice lacking Cry2−/− displayed significantly increased bone volume at 12 weeks of age, when bone turnover is high. Per2Brdm1 mutant mice showed alterations in parameters specific for osteoblasts whereas mice lacking Cry2−/− displayed changes in osteoclast specific parameters. Interestingly, inactivation of both Per2 and Cry2 genes leads to normal bone volume as observed in wild type animals. Importantly, osteoclast parameters affected due to the lack of Cry2, remained at the level seen in the Cry2−/− mutants despite the simultaneous inactivation of Per2. This indicates that Cry2 and Per2 affect distinct pathways in the regulation of bone volume with Cry2 influencing mostly the osteoclastic cellular component of bone and Per2 acting on osteoblast parameters.

Locomotor Adaptation versus Perceptual Adaptation when Stepping Over an Obstacle with a Height Illusion:

During locomotion, vision is used to perceive environmental obstacles that could potentially threaten stability; locomotor action is then modified to avoid these obstacles. Various factors such as lighting and texture can make these environmental obstacles appear larger or smaller than their actual size. It is unclear if gait is adapted based on the actual or perceived height of these environmental obstacles. The purposes of this study were to determine if visually guided action is scaled to visual perception, and to determine if task experience influenced how action is scaled to perception. Participants judged the height of two obstacles before and after stepping over each of them 50 times. An illusion made obstacle one appear larger than obstacle two, even though they were identical in size. The influence of task experience was examined by comparing the perception-action relationship during the first five obstacle crossings (1-5) with the last five obstacle crossings (46-50). In the first set of trials, obstacle one was perceived to be 2.0 cm larger than obstacle two and subjects stepped 2.7 cm higher over obstacle one. After walking over the obstacle 50 times, the toe elevation was not different between obstacles, but obstacle one was still perceived as 2.4 cm larger. There was evidence of locomotor adaptation, but no evidence of perceptual adaptation with experience. These findings add to research that demonstrates that while the motor system can be influenced by perception, it can also operate independent of perception.

Identification and Characterization of Full-Length cDNAs in Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) and Blue Catfish (Ictalurus furcatus):

Genome annotation projects, gene functional studies, and phylogenetic analyses for a given organism all greatly benefit from access to a validated full-length cDNA resource. While increasingly common in model species, full-length cDNA resources in aquaculture species are scarce. Through in silico analysis of catfish (Ictalurus spp.) ESTs, a total of 10,037 channel catfish and 7,382 blue catfish cDNA clones were identified as potentially encoding full-length cDNAs. Of this set, a total of 1,169 channel catfish and 933 blue catfish full-length cDNA clones were selected for re-sequencing to provide additional coverage and ensure sequence accuracy. A total of 1,745 unique gene transcripts were identified from the full-length cDNA set, including 1,064 gene transcripts from channel catfish and 681gene transcripts from blue catfish, with 416 transcripts shared between the two closely related species. Full-length sequence characteristics (ortholog conservation, UTR length, Kozak sequence, and conserved motifs) of the channel and blue catfish were examined in detail. Comparison of gene ontology composition between full-length cDNAs and all catfish ESTs revealed that the full-length cDNA set is representative of the gene diversity encoded in the catfish transcriptome. This study describes the first catfish full-length cDNA set constructed from several cDNA libraries. The catfish full-length cDNA sequences, and data gleaned from sequence characteristics analysis, will be a valuable resource for ongoing catfish whole-genome sequencing and future gene-based studies of function and evolution in teleost fishes.

Socioeconomic Inequality in the Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evidence from a U.S. Cross-Sectional Study:

This study was designed to evaluate the hypothesis that the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among children in the United States is positively associated with socioeconomic status (SES). A cross-sectional study was implemented with data from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, a multiple source surveillance system that incorporates data from educational and health care sources to determine the number of 8-year-old children with ASD among defined populations. For the years 2002 and 2004, there were 3,680 children with ASD among a population of 557 689 8-year-old children. Area-level census SES indicators were used to compute ASD prevalence by SES tertiles of the population. Prevalence increased with increasing SES in a dose-response manner, with prevalence ratios relative to medium SES of 0.70 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.64, 0.76) for low SES, and of 1.25 (95% CI 1.16, 1.35) for high SES, (P<0.001). Significant SES gradients were observed for children with and without a pre-existing ASD diagnosis, and in analyses stratified by gender, race/ethnicity, and surveillance data source. The SES gradient was significantly stronger in children with a pre-existing diagnosis than in those meeting criteria for ASD but with no previous record of an ASD diagnosis (p<0.001), and was not present in children with co-occurring ASD and intellectual disability. The stronger SES gradient in ASD prevalence in children with versus without a pre-existing ASD diagnosis points to potential ascertainment or diagnostic bias and to the possibility of SES disparity in access to services for children with autism. Further research is needed to confirm and understand the sources of this disparity so that policy implications can be drawn. Consideration should also be given to the possibility that there may be causal mechanisms or confounding factors associated with both high SES and vulnerability to ASD.

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