New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 12 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. Here are my own picks for the week – you go and look for your own favourites:
Individual Differences in the Amount and Timing of Salivary Melatonin Secretion:

The aim of this study was to examine individual differences in a large sample of complete melatonin profiles not suppressed by light and search for possible associations between the amount and timing of melatonin secretion and a multitude of lifestyle variables. The melatonin profiles were derived from saliva samples collected every 30 minutes in dim light from 85 healthy women and 85 healthy men aged 18-45 years. There was a large individual variability in the amount of melatonin secreted with peak values ranging from 2 to 84 pg/ml. The onset of melatonin secretion ranged from 18:13 to 00:26 hours. The use of hormonal birth control, reduced levels of employment, a smaller number of days on a fixed sleep schedule, increased day length and lower weight were associated with an increased amplitude of melatonin secretion. The use of hormonal birth control, contact lenses, a younger age, and lower ratings of mania and paranoia were associated with a longer duration of melatonin secretion. An earlier occurrence of the onset of melatonin secretion was associated with an earlier wake time, more morningness and the absence of a bed partner. Lifestyle and behavioral variables were only able to explain about 15% of the individual variability in the amount of melatonin secretion, which is likely because of a substantial genetic influence on the levels of melatonin secretion.

Predominant Role of Host Genetics in Controlling the Composition of Gut Microbiota:

The human gastrointestinal tract is inhabited by a very diverse symbiotic microbiota, the composition of which depends on host genetics and the environment. Several studies suggested that the host genetics may influence the composition of gut microbiota but no genes involved in host control were proposed. We investigated the effects of the wild type and mutated alleles of the gene, which encodes the protein called pyrin, one of the regulators of innate immunity, on the composition of gut commensal bacteria. Mutations in MEFV lead to the autoinflammatory disorder, familial Mediterranean fever (FMF, MIM249100), which is characterized by recurrent self-resolving attacks of fever and polyserositis, with no clinical signs of disease in remission. A total of 19 FMF patients and eight healthy individuals were genotyped for mutations in the MEFV gene and gut bacterial diversity was assessed by sequencing 16S rRNA gene libraries and FISH analysis. These analyses demonstrated significant changes in bacterial community structure in FMF characterized by depletion of total numbers of bacteria, loss of diversity, and major shifts in bacterial populations within the Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes and Proteobacteria phyla in attack. In remission with no clinical signs of disease, bacterial diversity values were comparable with control but still, the bacterial composition was substantially deviant from the norm. Discriminant function analyses of gut bacterial diversity revealed highly specific, well-separated and distinct grouping, which depended on the allele carrier status of the host. This is the first report that clearly establishes the link between the host genotype and the corresponding shifts in the gut microbiota (the latter confirmed by two independent techniques). It suggests that the host genetics is a key factor in host-microbe interaction determining a specific profile of commensal microbiota in the human gut.

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