New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 13 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, 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:
Mass Mortality of Adult Male Subantarctic Fur Seals: Are Alien Mice the Culprits?:

Mass mortalities of marine mammals due to infectious agents are increasingly reported. However, in contrast to previous die-offs, which were indiscriminate with respect to sex and age, here we report a land-based mass mortality of Subantarctic fur seals with apparent exclusivity to adult males. An infectious agent with a male-predilection is the most plausible explanation for this die-off. Although pathogens with gender-biased transmission and pathologies are unusual, rodents are known sources of male-biased infectious agents and the invasive Mus musculus house mouse, occurs in seal rookeries. Molecular screening for male-biased pathogens in this potential rodent reservoir host revealed the absence of Cardiovirus and Leptospirosis genomes in heart and kidney samples, respectively, but identified a novel Streptococcus species with 30% prevalence in mouse kidneys. Inter-species transmission through environmental contamination with this novel bacterium, whose congenerics display male-bias and have links to infirmity in seals and terrestrial mammals (including humans), highlights the need to further evaluate disease risks posed by alien invasive mice to native species, on this and other islands.

GP-9s Are Ubiquitous Proteins Unlikely Involved in Olfactory Mediation of Social Organization in the Red Imported Fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta:

The red imported fire ant (RIFA), Solenopsis invicta, is an invasive species, accidentally introduced in the United States that can cause painful (sometimes life-threatening) stings to human, pets, and livestock. Their colonies have two social forms: monogyne and polygyne that have a single and multiple functional queens, respectively. A major gene (Gp-9), identified as a putative pheromone-binding protein on the basis of a modest amino acid sequence identity, has been suggested to influence the expression of colony social organization. Monogyne queens are reported to possess only the GP-9B alleles, whereas polygyne queens possess both GP-9B and GP-9b. Thus, both social forms are reported to express GP-9B, with GP-9b being a marker expressed in polygynes but it is absent in monogynes. Here, we report two types of polygyne colonies, one that does not express GP-9b (monogyne-like) and the other expressing both proteins, GP-9B and GP-9b. Given their expression pattern, GP-9s are hemolymph proteins, which are more likely to be involved in the transport of lipids and small ligands within the homocoel. GP-9B existed in two forms, one of them is phosphorylated. The helical-rich content of the protein resembles the secondary structures of a beetle hemolymph protein and moth pheromone-binding proteins. An olfactory role is unlikely given the lack of specific expression in the sensillar lymph. In marked contrast to GP-9s, a chemosensory protein, SinvCSP, is demonstrated to be specifically expressed in the antennae. Within the antennae, expression of SinvCSP is restricted to the last two segments, which are known to house olfactory sensilla.

The Neural Basis of Object-Context Relationships on Aesthetic Judgment:

The relationship between contextual information and object perception has received considerable attention in neuroimaging studies. In the work reported here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the relationship between aesthetic judgment and images of objects in their normal contextual setting versus images of objects in abnormal contextual settings and the underlying brain activity. When object-context relationships are violated changes in visual perception and aesthetic judgment emerges that exposes the contribution of vision to interpretations shaped by previous experience. We found that effects of context on aesthetic judgment modulates different memory sub-systems, while aesthetic judgment regardless of context recruit medial and lateral aspects of the orbitofrontal cortex, consistent with previous findings. Visual cortical areas traditionally associated with the processing of visual features are recruited in normal contexts, irrespective of aesthetic ratings, while prefrontal areas are significantly more engaged when objects are viewed in unaccustomed settings.

A Green Fluorescent Protein with Photoswitchable Emission from the Deep Sea:

A colorful variety of fluorescent proteins (FPs) from marine invertebrates are utilized as genetically encoded markers for live cell imaging. The increased demand for advanced imaging techniques drives a continuous search for FPs with new and improved properties. Many useful FPs have been isolated from species adapted to sun-flooded habitats such as tropical coral reefs. It has yet remained unknown if species expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP)-like proteins also exist in the darkness of the deep sea. Using a submarine-based and -operated fluorescence detection system in the Gulf of Mexico, we discovered ceriantharians emitting bright green fluorescence in depths between 500 and 600 m and identified a GFP, named cerFP505, with bright fluorescence emission peaking at 505 nm. Spectroscopic studies showed that ~15% of the protein bulk feature reversible ON/OFF photoswitching that can be induced by alternating irradiation with blue und near-UV light. Despite being derived from an animal adapted to essentially complete darkness and low temperatures, cerFP505 maturation in living mammalian cells at 37°C, its brightness and photostability are comparable to those of EGFP and cmFP512 from shallow water species. Therefore, our findings disclose the deep sea as a potential source of GFP-like molecular marker proteins.

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