6,324 research outputs found

    Phylogeny.fr: robust phylogenetic analysis for the non-specialist

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    Phylogenetic analyses are central to many research areas in biology and typically involve the identification of homologous sequences, their multiple alignment, the phylogenetic reconstruction and the graphical representation of the inferred tree. The Phylogeny.fr platform transparently chains programs to automatically perform these tasks. It is primarily designed for biologists with no experience in phylogeny, but can also meet the needs of specialists; the first ones will find up-to-date tools chained in a phylogeny pipeline to analyze their data in a simple and robust way, while the specialists will be able to easily build and run sophisticated analyses. Phylogeny.fr offers three main modes. The ‘One Click’ mode targets non-specialists and provides a ready-to-use pipeline chaining programs with recognized accuracy and speed: MUSCLE for multiple alignment, PhyML for tree building, and TreeDyn for tree rendering. All parameters are set up to suit most studies, and users only have to provide their input sequences to obtain a ready-to-print tree. The ‘Advanced’ mode uses the same pipeline but allows the parameters of each program to be customized by users. The ‘A la Carte’ mode offers more flexibility and sophistication, as users can build their own pipeline by selecting and setting up the required steps from a large choice of tools to suit their specific needs. Prior to phylogenetic analysis, users can also collect neighbors of a query sequence by running BLAST on general or specialized databases. A guide tree then helps to select neighbor sequences to be used as input for the phylogeny pipeline. Phylogeny.fr is available at: http://www.phylogeny.fr

    Inflammatory stress of pancreatic beta cells drives release of extracellular heat-shock protein 90α

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    A major obstacle in predicting and preventing the development of autoimmune type 1 diabetes (T1D) in at-risk individuals is the lack of well-established early biomarkers indicative of ongoing beta cell stress during the pre-clinical phase of disease. Recently, serum levels of the α cytoplasmic isoform of heat-shock protein 90 (hsp90) were shown to be elevated in individuals with new-onset T1D. We therefore hypothesized that hsp90α could be released from beta cells in response to cellular stress and inflammation associated with the earliest stages of T1D. Here, human beta cell lines and cadaveric islets released hsp90α in response to stress induced by treatment with a combination of pro-inflammatory cytokines including interleukin-1β, tumour necrosis factor-α and interferon-γ. Mechanistically, hsp90α release was found to be driven by cytokine-induced endoplasmic reticulum stress mediated by c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), a pathway that can eventually lead to beta cell apoptosis. Cytokine-induced beta cell hsp90α release and JNK activation were significantly reduced by pre-treating cells with the endoplasmic reticulum stress-mitigating chemical chaperone tauroursodeoxycholic acid. The hsp90α release by cells may therefore be a sensitive indicator of stress during inflammation and a useful tool in assessing therapeutic mitigation of cytokine-induced cell damage linked to autoimmunity

    Selective Constraints on Amino Acids Estimated by a Mechanistic Codon Substitution Model with Multiple Nucleotide Changes

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    Empirical substitution matrices represent the average tendencies of substitutions over various protein families by sacrificing gene-level resolution. We develop a codon-based model, in which mutational tendencies of codon, a genetic code, and the strength of selective constraints against amino acid replacements can be tailored to a given gene. First, selective constraints averaged over proteins are estimated by maximizing the likelihood of each 1-PAM matrix of empirical amino acid (JTT, WAG, and LG) and codon (KHG) substitution matrices. Then, selective constraints specific to given proteins are approximated as a linear function of those estimated from the empirical substitution matrices. Akaike information criterion (AIC) values indicate that a model allowing multiple nucleotide changes fits the empirical substitution matrices significantly better. Also, the ML estimates of transition-transversion bias obtained from these empirical matrices are not so large as previously estimated. The selective constraints are characteristic of proteins rather than species. However, their relative strengths among amino acid pairs can be approximated not to depend very much on protein families but amino acid pairs, because the present model, in which selective constraints are approximated to be a linear function of those estimated from the JTT/WAG/LG/KHG matrices, can provide a good fit to other empirical substitution matrices including cpREV for chloroplast proteins and mtREV for vertebrate mitochondrial proteins. The present codon-based model with the ML estimates of selective constraints and with adjustable mutation rates of nucleotide would be useful as a simple substitution model in ML and Bayesian inferences of molecular phylogenetic trees, and enables us to obtain biologically meaningful information at both nucleotide and amino acid levels from codon and protein sequences.Comment: Table 9 in this article includes corrections for errata in the Table 9 published in 10.1371/journal.pone.0017244. Supporting information is attached at the end of the article, and a computer-readable dataset of the ML estimates of selective constraints is available from 10.1371/journal.pone.001724

    Establishing the precise evolutionary history of a gene improves prediction of disease-causing missense mutations

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    PURPOSE: Predicting the phenotypic effects of mutations has become an important application in clinical genetic diagnostics. Computational tools evaluate the behavior of the variant over evolutionary time and assume that variations seen during the course of evolution are probably benign in humans. However, current tools do not take into account orthologous/paralogous relationships. Paralogs have dramatically different roles in Mendelian diseases. For example, whereas inactivating mutations in the NPC1 gene cause the neurodegenerative disorder Niemann-Pick C, inactivating mutations in its paralog NPC1L1 are not disease-causing and, moreover, are implicated in protection from coronary heart disease. METHODS: We identified major events in NPC1 evolution and revealed and compared orthologs and paralogs of the human NPC1 gene through phylogenetic and protein sequence analyses. We predicted whether an amino acid substitution affects protein function by reducing the organism’s fitness. RESULTS: Removing the paralogs and distant homologs improved the overall performance of categorizing disease-causing and benign amino acid substitutions. CONCLUSION: The results show that a thorough evolutionary analysis followed by identification of orthologs improves the accuracy in predicting disease-causing missense mutations. We anticipate that this approach will be used as a reference in the interpretation of variants in other genetic diseases as well. Genet Med 18 10, 1029–1036

    Coalescent-based genome analyses resolve the early branches of the euarchontoglires

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    Despite numerous large-scale phylogenomic studies, certain parts of the mammalian tree are extraordinarily difficult to resolve. We used the coding regions from 19 completely sequenced genomes to study the relationships within the super-clade Euarchontoglires (Primates, Rodentia, Lagomorpha, Dermoptera and Scandentia) because the placement of Scandentia within this clade is controversial. The difficulty in resolving this issue is due to the short time spans between the early divergences of Euarchontoglires, which may cause incongruent gene trees. The conflict in the data can be depicted by network analyses and the contentious relationships are best reconstructed by coalescent-based analyses. This method is expected to be superior to analyses of concatenated data in reconstructing a species tree from numerous gene trees. The total concatenated dataset used to study the relationships in this group comprises 5,875 protein-coding genes (9,799,170 nucleotides) from all orders except Dermoptera (flying lemurs). Reconstruction of the species tree from 1,006 gene trees using coalescent models placed Scandentia as sister group to the primates, which is in agreement with maximum likelihood analyses of concatenated nucleotide sequence data. Additionally, both analytical approaches favoured the Tarsier to be sister taxon to Anthropoidea, thus belonging to the Haplorrhine clade. When divergence times are short such as in radiations over periods of a few million years, even genome scale analyses struggle to resolve phylogenetic relationships. On these short branches processes such as incomplete lineage sorting and possibly hybridization occur and make it preferable to base phylogenomic analyses on coalescent methods

    Proinsulin and heat shock protein 90 as biomarkers of beta-cell stress in the early period after onset of type 1 diabetes

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    Rapid evaluation of therapies designed to preserve β cells in persons with type 1 diabetes (T1D) is hampered by limited availability of sensitive β-cell health biomarkers. In particular, biomarkers elucidating the presence and degree of β-cell stress are needed. We characterized β-cell secretory activity and stress in 29 new-onset T1D subjects (10.6 ± 3.0 years, 55% male) at diagnosis and then 8.2 ± 1.2 weeks later at first clinic follow-up. We did comparisons with 16 matched healthy controls. We evaluated hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), β-cell function (random C-peptide [C] and proinsulin [PI]), β-cell stress (PI:C ratio), and the β-cell stress marker heat shock protein (HSP)90 and examined these parameters' relationships with clinical and laboratory characteristics at diagnosis. Mean diagnosis HbA1c was 11.3% (100 mmol/mol) and 7.6% (60 mmol/mol) at follow-up. C-peptide was low at diagnosis (P < 0.001 vs controls) and increased at follow-up (P < 0.001) to comparable with controls. PI did not differ from controls at diagnosis but increased at follow-up (P = 0.003) signifying increased release of PI alongside improved insulin secretion. PI:C ratios and HSP90 concentrations were elevated at both time points. Younger subjects had lower C-peptide and greater PI, PI:C, and HSP90. We also examined islets isolated from prediabetic nonobese diabetic mice and found that HSP90 levels were increased ∼4-fold compared with those in islets isolated from matched CD1 controls, further substantiating HSP90 as a marker of β-cell stress in T1D. Our data indicate that β-cell stress can be assessed using PI:C and HSP90. This stress persists after T1D diagnosis. Therapeutic approaches to reduce β-cell stress in new-onset T1D should be considered

    Disturbance and Predictability of Flowering Patterns in Bird-Pollinated Cloud Forest Plants

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    The distribution and flowering patterns of hummingbird—pollinated plants were compared from July 1981 to June 1983 in three patch types in cloud forest at Monteverde, Costa Rica. Study plots were: (1) four recent, large (1100—2500 m2) disturbances ("cutovers") produced by cutting vegetation, (2) six recent, smaller (200—600 m2) disturbances caused by treefalls, and (3) four plots (1600—1800 m2) of canopied forest. Based on published literature dealing with communities that characterize different regimes of disturbance, we tested one assumption and two hypotheses. Assumption: Plant species composition differs among the three patch types. Hypothesis 1: Phenotypic specialization by plants for co—evolved interactions with hummingbirds will be lowest in large gaps, highest in forest, and intermediate in treefalls. Hypothesis 2: Predictability of flowering phenologies and nectar production will be lowest in large gaps, highest in forest, intermediate in treefalls. Neither the assumption nor the hypotheses were supported by the results. The patch mosaic in this cloud forest was not associated with major differences in species composition of bird—pollinated plants. Most species studied were self—compatible. Most abundant in cutovers were species with long corollas, relatively specialized for attracting long—billed hummingbirds. Species with short corollas, which can be visited by many hummingbird species and some insects, were most abundant in treefalls and forest. Variation in phenological patterns showed no consistent trends among patch types. Predictability of flower and nectar production tended to be greatest in treefalls, which are foci of concentrated flowering activity by all species. Discrepancies between our results and previous studies can be ascribed to two facts. (1) Much of the literature dealing with ecological consequences of disturbance has dealt with large—scale anthropogenic disturbances such as old fields of the eastern USA, whereas we studied small, natural, or quasi—natural disturbances. (2) Studies of forest disturbance have focused on the tree layer, whereas we studied the understory herbs, shrubs, and epiphytes. Natural disturbance usually involves death and replacement of one or more trees, whereas individuals of other life forms may persist through the disturbance

    DNA barcoding reveals the coral “laboratory-rat”, Stylophora pistillata encompasses multiple identities

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    Stylophora pistillata is a widely used coral “lab-rat” species with highly variable morphology and a broad biogeographic range (Red Sea to western central Pacific). Here we show, by analysing Cytochorme Oxidase I sequences, from 241 samples across this range, that this taxon in fact comprises four deeply divergent clades corresponding to the Pacific-Western Australia, Chagos-Madagascar-South Africa, Gulf of Aden-Zanzibar-Madagascar, and Red Sea-Persian/Arabian Gulf-Kenya. On the basis of the fossil record of Stylophora, these four clades diverged from one another 51.5-29.6 Mya, i.e., long before the closure of the Tethyan connection between the tropical Indo-West Pacific and Atlantic in the early Miocene (16–24 Mya) and should be recognised as four distinct species. These findings have implications for comparative ecological and/or physiological studies carried out using Stylophora pistillata as a model species, and highlight the fact that phenotypic plasticity, thought to be common in scleractinian corals, can mask significant genetic variation

    Coevolution of amino acid residues in the key photosynthetic enzyme Rubisco

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    <p>Abstract</p> <p>Background</p> <p>One of the key forces shaping proteins is coevolution of amino acid residues. Knowing which residues coevolve in a particular protein may facilitate our understanding of protein evolution, structure and function, and help to identify substitutions that may lead to desired changes in enzyme kinetics. Rubisco, the most abundant enzyme in biosphere, plays an essential role in the process of carbon fixation through photosynthesis, thus facilitating life on Earth. This makes Rubisco an important model system for studying the dynamics of protein fitness optimization on the evolutionary landscape. In this study we investigated the selective and coevolutionary forces acting on large subunit of land plants Rubisco using Markov models of codon substitution and clustering approaches applied to amino acid substitution histories.</p> <p>Results</p> <p>We found that both selection and coevolution shape Rubisco, and that positively selected and coevolving residues have their specifically favored amino acid composition and pairing preference. The mapping of these residues on the known Rubisco tertiary structures showed that the coevolving residues tend to be in closer proximity with each other compared to the background, while positively selected residues tend to be further away from each other. This study also reveals that the residues under positive selection or coevolutionary force are located within functionally important regions and that some residues are targets of both positive selection and coevolution at the same time.</p> <p>Conclusion</p> <p>Our results demonstrate that coevolution of residues is common in Rubisco of land plants and that there is an overlap between coevolving and positively selected residues. Knowledge of which Rubisco residues are coevolving and positively selected could be used for further work on structural modeling and identification of substitutions that may be changed in order to improve efficiency of this important enzyme in crops.</p
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