There are 14 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:
Maternal environment has been demonstrated to produce considerable impact on offspring growth. However, few studies have been carried out to investigate multi-generational maternal effects of elevated CO2 on plant growth and development. Here we present the first report on the responses of plant reproductive, photosynthetic, and cellular characteristics to elevated CO2 over 15 generations using Arabidopsis thaliana as a model system. We found that within an individual generation, elevated CO2 significantly advanced plant flowering, increased photosynthetic rate, increased the size and number of starch grains per chloroplast, reduced stomatal density, stomatal conductance, and transpiration rate, and resulted in a higher reproductive mass. Elevated CO2 did not significantly influence silique length and number of seeds per silique. Across 15 generations grown at elevated CO2 concentrations, however, there were no significant differences in these traits. In addition, a reciprocal sowing experiment demonstrated that elevated CO2 did not produce detectable maternal effects on the offspring after fifteen generations. Taken together, these results suggested that the maternal effects of elevated CO2 failed to extend to the offspring due to the potential lack of genetic variation for CO2 responsiveness, and future plants may not evolve specific adaptations to elevated CO2 concentrations.
Lamprey, basal vertebrate, is an important model system for understanding early events in vertebrate evolution. Lamprey contains orthologs of the estrogen receptor [ER], progesterone receptor and corticoid receptor. A perplexing property of lamprey is that 15α-hydroxy-steroids are active steroids. For example, 15α-hydroxy-estradiol [15α-OH-E2] is the estrogen, instead of estradiol [E2]. To investigate how 15α-OH-E2 binds lamprey ER, we constructed a 3D model of the lamprey ER with E2 and 15α-OH-E2. We used the 3D structure of human ERα as a template to construct a 3D model of lamprey ER. E2 and 15α-OH-E2 were inserted into the 3D model of lamprey ER and 15α-OH-E2 was inserted into human ERα. Then the each steroid-protein complex was refined using Discover 3 from Insight II software. To determine if lamprey ER had some regions that were unique among vertebrate ERs, we used the ligand-binding domain of lamprey ER as a query for a BLAST search of GenBank. Our 3D model of lamprey ER with 15α-OH-E2 shows that Sδ on Met-409 can form a hydrogen bond with the 15α-hydroxyl on 15α-OH-E2. In human ERα, the corresponding residue Ile-424 has a van der Waals contact with 15α-OH-E2. BLAST analysis of GenBank indicates that among vertebrate ERs, only lamprey ER contains a methionine at this position. Thus, the contact between Sδ on Met-409 and 15α-OH-E2 is unique. Interestingly, BLAST finds that five New World monkeys and a sturgeon contain a valine instead of isoleucine. In addition to shedding light on the structure of the ER in a basal vertebrate, our 3D model of lamprey ER should prove useful in virtual screening of chemical libraries to identify compounds for controlling reproduction in sea lamprey, an environmental pest in Lake Michigan.
Stresses like dietary restriction or various toxins increase lifespan in taxa as diverse as yeast, Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila and rats, by triggering physiological responses that also tend to delay reproduction. Food odors can reverse the effects of dietary restriction, showing that key mechanisms respond to information, not just resources. Such environmental cues can predict population trends, not just individual prospects for survival and reproduction. When population size is increasing, each offspring produced earlier makes a larger proportional contribution to the gene pool, but the reverse is true when population size is declining. We show mathematically that natural selection can favor facultative delay in reproduction when environmental cues predict a decrease in total population size, even if lifetime fecundity decreases with delay. We also show that increased reproduction from waiting for better conditions does not increase fitness (proportional representation) when the whole population benefits similarly. We conclude that the beneficial effects of stress on longevity (hormesis) in diverse taxa are a side-effect of delaying reproduction in response to environmental cues that population size is likely to decrease. The reversal by food odors of the effects of dietary restriction can be explained as a response to information that population size is less likely to decrease, reducing the chance that delaying reproduction will increase fitness.