School of BioSciences - Research Publications
Now showing items 1-12 of 1508
Identification of microplastics in surface water and Australian freshwater shrimp Paratya australiensis in Victoria, Australia
(ELSEVIER SCI LTD, 2020-04-01)
Compared to marine microplastics research, few studies have bio-monitored microplastics in inland waters. It is also important to understand the microplastics' uptake and their potential risks to freshwater species. The Australian glass shrimp Paratya australiensis (Family: Atyidae) is commonly found in fresh waterbodies in eastern Australia, and are sensitive to anthropogenic stressors but have a wide tolerance range to the natural environmental conditions. This study aimed to understand the microplastics' occurrence and types in water samples and the shrimp P. australiensis, and identify if the shrimp could be a suitable bioindicator for microplastic pollution. Surface water and P. australiensis across ten urban and rural freshwater sites in Victoria were sampled. In total, 30 water samples and 100 shrimp were analysed for microplastic content, and shrimp body weights and sizes were also recorded. Microplastics were picked, photographed and identified using FT-IR microscopy: in water samples, 57.9% of items including suspect items were selected to identify; all microplastics found in shrimp samples were identified. Microplastics were present in the surface waters of all sites, with an average abundance of 0.40 ± 0.27 items/L. A total of 36% of shrimp contained microplastics with an average of 0.52 ± 0.55 items/ind (24 ± 31 items/g). Fibre was the most common shape, and blue was the most frequent colour in both water and shrimp samples. The dominant plastic types were polyester in water samples, and rayon in shrimp samples. Even though results from this study show a relatively low concentration of microplastics in water samples in comparison with global studies, it is worth noticing that microplastics were regularly detected in fresh waterbodies in Victoria, Australia. Compared with water samples, shrimp contained a wider variety of plastic types, suggesting they may potentially behave as passive samplers of microplastics pollution in freshwater environments.
A generalised and scalable framework for modelling incursions, surveillance and control of plant and environmental pests
(Elsevier BV, 2021-05)
Invasive plant and environmental pests can seriously impact environment, economy, health and amenity. It is challenging to form response policies given the diversity of pest species; complex spatiotemporal interplay between arrival, spread, surveillance, and control; and limited field data when pests are rare/absent. Models can provide useful decision support through the exploration of incursion pathways and comparison of surveillance and control strategies. However, increased use of quantitative models to inform pest management requires adaptable modelling frameworks. The new Australian Priority Pest and Disease modelling framework (APPDIS) allows pest models to be constructed through user configuration choices for a broad range of different pest types. Pest populations may be defined as point incursions, established populations, or estimated mechanistically from environmental criteria. Spread occurs at multiple scales, through either simple mathematical kernels, or more complex spatial pathways, depending on data availability and pest type. Useful experiments can be conducted on general surveillance, specific surveillance, and treatment regimes. Control activities are dynamically resource-constrained and costed for relative comparisons in terms of benefit and cost. A case study on a tramp ant incursion is provided for illustrative purposes.
Syncytiotrophoblast Vesicles Show Altered micro-RNA and Haemoglobin Content after Ex-vivo Perfusion of Placentas with Haemoglobin to Mimic Preeclampsia
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2014-02-27)
BACKGROUND: Cell-free foetal haemoglobin (HbF) has been shown to play a role in the pathology of preeclampsia (PE). In the present study, we aimed to further characterize the harmful effects of extracellular free haemoglobin (Hb) on the placenta. In particular, we investigated whether cell-free Hb affects the release of placental syncytiotrophoblast vesicles (STBMs) and their micro-RNA content. METHODS: The dual ex-vivo perfusion system was used to perfuse isolated cotyledons from human placenta, with medium alone (control) or supplemented with cell-free Hb. Perfusion medium from the maternal side of the placenta was collected at the end of all perfusion phases. The STBMs were isolated using ultra-centrifugation, at 10,000×g and 150,000×g (referred to as 10K and 150K STBMs). The STBMs were characterized using the nanoparticle tracking analysis, identification of surface markers and transmission electron microscopy. RNA was extracted and nine different micro-RNAs, related to hypoxia, PE and Hb synthesis, were selected for analysis by quantitative PCR. RESULTS: All micro-RNAs investigated were present in the STBMs. Mir-517a, mir-141 and mir-517b were down regulated after Hb perfusion in the 10K STBMs. Furthermore, Hb was shown to be carried by the STBMs. CONCLUSION: This study showed that Hb perfusion can alter the micro-RNA content of released STBMs. Of particular interest is the alteration of two placenta specific micro-RNAs; mir-517a and mir-517b. We have also seen that STBMs may function as carriers of Hb into the maternal circulation.
The C-terminal propeptide of a plant defensin confers cytoprotective and subcellular targeting functions
BACKGROUND: Plant defensins are small (45-54 amino acids), basic, cysteine-rich proteins that have a major role in innate immunity in plants. Many defensins are potent antifungal molecules and are being evaluated for their potential to create crop plants with sustainable disease resistance. Defensins are produced as precursor molecules which are directed into the secretory pathway and are divided into two classes based on the absence (class I) or presence (class II) of an acidic C-terminal propeptide (CTPP) of about 33 amino acids. The function of this CTPP had not been defined. RESULTS: By transgenically expressing the class II plant defensin NaD1 with and without its cognate CTPP we have demonstrated that NaD1 is phytotoxic to cotton plants when expressed without its CTPP. Transgenic cotton plants expressing constructs encoding the NaD1 precursor with the CTPP had the same morphology as non-transgenic plants but expression of NaD1 without the CTPP led to plants that were stunted, had crinkled leaves and were less viable. Immunofluorescence microscopy and transient expression of a green fluorescent protein (GFP)-CTPP chimera were used to confirm that the CTPP is sufficient for vacuolar targeting. Finally circular dichroism and NMR spectroscopy were used to show that the CTPP adopts a helical confirmation. CONCLUSIONS: In this report we have described the role of the CTPP on NaD1, a class II defensin from Nicotiana alata flowers. The CTPP of NaD1 is sufficient for vacuolar targeting and plays an important role in detoxification of the defensin as it moves through the plant secretory pathway. This work may have important implications for the use of defensins for disease protection in transgenic crops.
Evolutionary Changes in Gene Expression, Coding Sequence and Copy-Number at the Cyp6g1 Locus Contribute to Resistance to Multiple Insecticides in Drosophila
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2014-01-08)
Widespread use of insecticides has led to insecticide resistance in many populations of insects. In some populations, resistance has evolved to multiple pesticides. In Drosophila melanogaster, resistance to multiple classes of insecticide is due to the overexpression of a single cytochrome P450 gene, Cyp6g1. Overexpression of Cyp6g1 appears to have evolved in parallel in Drosophila simulans, a sibling species of D. melanogaster, where it is also associated with insecticide resistance. However, it is not known whether the ability of the CYP6G1 enzyme to provide resistance to multiple insecticides evolved recently in D. melanogaster or if this function is present in all Drosophila species. Here we show that duplication of the Cyp6g1 gene occurred at least four times during the evolution of different Drosophila species, and the ability of CYP6G1 to confer resistance to multiple insecticides exists in D. melanogaster and D. simulans but not in Drosophila willistoni or Drosophila virilis. In D. virilis, which has multiple copies of Cyp6g1, one copy confers resistance to DDT and another to nitenpyram, suggesting that the divergence of protein sequence between copies subsequent to the duplication affected the activity of the enzyme. All orthologs tested conferred resistance to one or more insecticides, suggesting that CYP6G1 had the capacity to provide resistance to anthropogenic chemicals before they existed. Finally, we show that expression of Cyp6g1 in the Malpighian tubules, which contributes to DDT resistance in D. melanogaster, is specific to the D. melanogaster-D. simulans lineage. Our results suggest that a combination of gene duplication, regulatory changes and protein coding changes has taken place at the Cyp6g1 locus during evolution and this locus may play a role in providing resistance to different environmental toxins in different Drosophila species.
Disentangling How Landscape Spatial and Temporal Heterogeneity Affects Savanna Birds
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2013-09-16)
In highly seasonal tropical environments, temporal changes in habitat and resources are a significant determinant of the spatial distribution of species. This study disentangles the effects of spatial and mid to long-term temporal heterogeneity in habitat on the diversity and abundance of savanna birds by testing four competing conceptual models of varying complexity. Focussing on sites in northeast Australia over a 20 year time period, we used ground cover and foliage projected cover surfaces derived from a time series of Landsat Thematic Mapper imagery, rainfall data and site-level vegetation surveys to derive measures of habitat structure at local (1-100 ha) and landscape (100-1000s ha) scales. We used generalised linear models and an information theoretic approach to test the independent effects of spatial and temporal influences on savanna bird diversity and the abundance of eight species with different life-history behaviours. Of four competing models defining influences on assemblages of savanna birds, the most parsimonious included temporal and spatial variability in vegetation cover and site-scale vegetation structure, suggesting savanna bird species respond to spatial and temporal habitat heterogeneity at both the broader landscape scale and at the fine-scale. The relative weight, strength and direction of the explanatory variables changed with each of the eight species, reflecting their different ecology and behavioural traits. This study demonstrates that variations in the spatial pattern of savanna vegetation over periods of 10 to 20 years at the local and landscape scale strongly affect bird diversity and abundance. Thus, it is essential to monitor and manage both spatial and temporal variability in avian habitat to achieve long-term biodiversity outcomes.
Co-expression of cell wall-related genes: new tools and insights
(FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2012-01-01)
Global transcript analyses based on publicly available microarray dataset have revealed that genes with similar function tend to be transcriptionally coordinated. Indeed, many genes involved in the formation of cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin have been identified using co-expression approaches in Arabidopsis. To facilitate these transcript analyses, several web-based tools have been developed that allow researchers to investigate co-expression relationships of their gene(s) of interest. In addition, several tools now also provide the possibility of comparative transcriptional analyses across species, which potentially increases the predictive power. In this short review, we describe recent developments and updates of plant-related co-expression tools, and summarize studies that have successfully used expression profiling in cell wall research. Finally, we illustrate the value of comparative co-expression relationships across species using genes involved in lignin biosynthesis.
Higher Plant Calreticulins Have Acquired Specialized Functions in Arabidopsis
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2010-06-28)
BACKGROUND: Calreticulin (CRT) is a ubiquitous ER protein involved in multiple cellular processes in animals, such as protein folding and calcium homeostasis. Like in animals, plants have evolved divergent CRTs, but their physiological functions are less understood. Arabidopsis contains three CRT proteins, where the two CRTs AtCRT1a and CRT1b represent one subgroup, and AtCRT3 a divergent member. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Through expression of single Arabidopsis family members in CRT-deficient mouse fibroblasts we show that both subgroups have retained basic CRT functions, including ER Ca2+-holding potential and putative chaperone capabilities. However, other more general cellular defects due to the absence of CRT in the fibroblasts, such as cell adhesion deficiencies, were not fully restored. Furthermore, in planta expression, protein localization and mutant analyses revealed that the three Arabidopsis CRTs have acquired specialized functions. The AtCRT1a and CRT1b family members appear to be components of a general ER chaperone network. In contrast, and as recently shown, AtCRT3 is associated with immune responses, and is essential for responsiveness to the bacterial Pathogen-Associated Molecular Pattern (PAMP) elf18, derived from elongation factor (EF)-Tu. Whereas constitutively expressed AtCRT1a fully complemented Atcrt1b mutants, AtCRT3 did not. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: We conclude that the physiological functions of the two CRT subgroups in Arabidopsis have diverged, resulting in a role for AtCRT3 in PAMP associated responses, and possibly more general chaperone functions for AtCRT1a and CRT1b.
Clinical, Microbiological and Pathological Findings of Mycobacterium ulcerans Infection in Three Australian Possum Species
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2014-01-01)
BACKGROUND: Buruli ulcer (BU) is a skin disease caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans, with endemicity predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa and south-eastern Australia. The mode of transmission and the environmental reservoir(s) of the bacterium and remain elusive. Real-time PCR investigations have detected M. ulcerans DNA in a variety of Australian environmental samples, including the faeces of native possums with and without clinical evidence of infection. This report seeks to expand on previously published findings by the authors' investigative group with regards to clinical and subclinical disease in selected wild possum species in BU-endemic areas of Victoria, Australia. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Twenty-seven clinical cases of M. ulcerans infection in free-ranging possums from southeastern Australia were identified retrospectively and prospectively between 1998-2011. Common ringtail possums (Pseudocheirus peregrinus), a common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) and a mountain brushtail possum (Trichosurus cunninghami) were included in the clinically affected cohort. Most clinically apparent cases were adults with solitary or multiple ulcerative cutaneous lesions, generally confined to the face, limbs and/or tail. The disease was minor and self-limiting in the case of both Trichosurus spp. possums. In contrast, many of the common ringtail possums had cutaneous disease involving disparate anatomical sites, and in four cases there was evidence of systemic disease at post mortem examination. Where tested using real-time PCR targeted at IS2404, animals typically had significant levels of M. ulcerans DNA throughout the gut and/or faeces. A further 12 possums without cutaneous lesions were found to have PCR-positive gut contents and/or faeces (subclinical cases), and in one of these the organism was cultured from liver tissue. Comparisons were made between clinically and subclinically affected possums, and 61 PCR-negative, non-affected individuals, with regards to disease category and the categorical variables of species (common ringtail possums v others) and sex. Animals with clinical lesions were significantly more likely to be male common ringtail possums. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: There is significant disease burden in common ringtail possums (especially males) in some areas of Victoria endemic for M. ulcerans disease. The natural history of the disease generally remains unknown, however it appears that some mildly affected common brushtail and mountain brushtail possums can spontaneously overcome the infection, whereas some severely affected animals, especially common ringtail possums, may become systemically, and potentially fatally affected. Subclinical gut carriage of M. ulcerans DNA in possums is quite common and in some common brushtail and mountain brushtail possums this is transient. Further work is required to determine whether M. ulcerans infection poses a potential threat to possum populations, and whether these animals are acting as environmental reservoirs in certain geographical areas.
Voting Systems for Environmental Decisions
Voting systems aggregate preferences efficiently and are often used for deciding conservation priorities. Desirable characteristics of voting systems include transitivity, completeness, and Pareto optimality, among others. Voting systems that are common and potentially useful for environmental decision making include simple majority, approval, and preferential voting. Unfortunately, no voting system can guarantee an outcome, while also satisfying a range of very reasonable performance criteria. Furthermore, voting methods may be manipulated by decision makers and strategic voters if they have knowledge of the voting patterns and alliances of others in the voting populations. The difficult properties of voting systems arise in routine decision making when there are multiple criteria and management alternatives. Because each method has flaws, we do not endorse one method. Instead, we urge organizers to be transparent about the properties of proposed voting systems and to offer participants the opportunity to approve the voting system as part of the ground rules for operation of a group.
Loss of Bak enhances lymphocytosis but does not ameliorate thrombocytopaenia in BCL-2 transgenic mice
(NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2014-05-01)
Bax and Bak are critical effectors of apoptosis. Although both are widely expressed and usually functionally redundant, recent studies suggest that Bak has particular importance in certain cell types. Genetic and biochemical studies indicate that Bak activation is prevented primarily by Mcl-1 and Bcl-xL, whereas Bax is held in check by all pro-survival Bcl-2 homologues, including Bcl-2 itself. In this study, we have investigated whether loss of Bak or elevated Mcl-1 modulates haemopoietic abnormalities provoked by overexpression of Bcl-2. The Mcl-1 transgene had little impact, probably because the expression level was insufficient to effectively reduce Bak activation. However, loss of Bak enhanced lymphocytosis in vavP-BCL-2 transgenic mice and increased resistance of their thymocytes to some cytotoxic agents, implying that Bak-specific signals can be triggered in certain lymphoid populations. Nevertheless, lack of Bak had no significant impact on thymic abnormalities in vavP-BCL-2tg mice, which kinetic analysis suggested was due to accumulation of self-reactive thymocytes that resist deletion. Intriguingly, although Bak(-/-) mice have elevated platelet counts, Bak(-/-)vavP-BCL-2 mice, like vavP-BCL-2 littermates, were thrombocytopaenic. To clarify why, the vavP-BCL-2 platelet phenotype was scrutinised more closely. Platelet life span was found to be elevated in vavP-BCL-2 mice, which should have provoked thrombocytosis, as in Bak(-/-) mice. Analysis of bone marrow chimaeric mice suggested the low platelet phenotype was due principally to extrinsic factors. Following splenectomy, blood platelets remained lower in vavP-BCL-2 than wild-type mice. However, in Rag1(-/-) BCL-2tg mice, platelet levels were normal, implying that elevated lymphocytes are primarily responsible for BCL-2tg-induced thrombocytopaenia.
RNA sequencing reveals sexually dimorphic gene expression before gonadal differentiation in chicken and allows comprehensive annotation of the W-chromosome
BACKGROUND: Birds have a ZZ male: ZW female sex chromosome system and while the Z-linked DMRT1 gene is necessary for testis development, the exact mechanism of sex determination in birds remains unsolved. This is partly due to the poor annotation of the W chromosome, which is speculated to carry a female determinant. Few genes have been mapped to the W and little is known of their expression. RESULTS: We used RNA-seq to produce a comprehensive profile of gene expression in chicken blastoderms and embryonic gonads prior to sexual differentiation. We found robust sexually dimorphic gene expression in both tissues pre-dating gonadogenesis, including sex-linked and autosomal genes. This supports the hypothesis that sexual differentiation at the molecular level is at least partly cell autonomous in birds. Different sets of genes were sexually dimorphic in the two tissues, indicating that molecular sexual differentiation is tissue specific. Further analyses allowed the assembly of full-length transcripts for 26 W chromosome genes, providing a view of the W transcriptome in embryonic tissues. This is the first extensive analysis of W-linked genes and their expression profiles in early avian embryos. CONCLUSION: Sexual differentiation at the molecular level is established in chicken early in embryogenesis, before gonadal sex differentiation. We find that the W chromosome is more transcriptionally active than previously thought, expand the number of known genes to 26 and present complete coding sequences for these W genes. This includes two novel W-linked sequences and three small RNAs reassigned to the W from the Un_Random chromosome.