Acquired Phototrophy through Retention of Functional Chloroplasts Increases Growth Efficiency of the Sea Slug Elysia viridis

by Finn A. Baumgartner, Henrik Pavia, Gunilla B. Toth

Photosynthesis is a fundamental process sustaining heterotrophic organisms at all trophic levels. Some mixotrophs can retain functional chloroplasts from food (kleptoplasty), and it is hypothesized that carbon acquired through kleptoplasty may enhance trophic energy transfer through increased host growth efficiency. Sacoglossan sea slugs are the only known metazoans capable of kleptoplasty, but the relative fitness contributions of heterotrophy through grazing, and phototrophy via kleptoplasts, are not well understood. Fitness benefits (i.e. increased survival or growth) of kleptoplasty in sacoglossans are commonly studied in ecologically unrealistic conditions under extended periods of complete darkness and/or starvation. We compared the growth efficiency of the sacoglossan Elysia viridis with access to algal diets providing kleptoplasts of differing functionality under ecologically relevant light conditions. Individuals fed Codium fragile, which provide highly functional kleptoplasts, nearly doubled their growth efficiency under high compared to low light. In contrast, individuals fed Cladophora rupestris, which provided kleptoplasts of limited functionality, showed no difference in growth efficiency between light treatments. Slugs feeding on Codium, but not on Cladophora, showed higher relative electron transport rates (rETR) in high compared to low light. Furthermore, there were no differences in the consumption rates of the slugs between different light treatments, and only small differences in nutritional traits of algal diets, indicating that the increased growth efficiency of E. viridis feeding on Codium was due to retention of functional kleptoplasts. Our results show that functional kleptoplasts from Codium can provide sacoglossan sea slugs with fitness advantages through photosynthesis.

Dietary Factors Associated with Faecal Consistency and Other Indicators of Gastrointestinal Health in the Captive Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)

by Katherine M. Whitehouse-Tedd, Sandra L. Lefebvre, Geert P. J. Janssens

Gastrointestinal diseases pose significant risks to captive cheetah survival and welfare. Multiple factors are thought to be associated with these diseases, but to date a comprehensive epidemiological survey of disease risk factors has not been conducted. A survey of diet and health parameters was completed for 184 captive cheetahs in 86 international facilities. Comparisons were made among dietary factors with respect to disease status and observed faecal consistency, incidence of vomiting and diarrhoea in the past 4 weeks. Extremely dry faeces were most common in cheetahs fed carcasses, but was still of low incidence (15%). Contrastingly, cheetahs fed commercially prepared diets had the highest prevalence of liquid faeces “always” or “often” (9%). Cheetahs fed raw meat diets had the highest prevalence of soft faeces with no shape (22%), as well as of firm and dry faeces (40%). No broad category of diet exerted any influence on the health parameters investigated. However, feeding of ribs at least once per week reduced the odds of diarrhoea (P = 0.020) and feeding of long bones (limbs) at least once per week was associated with a lower odds of vomiting (P = 0.008). Cheetahs fed muscle meat at least once per week had reduced odds of suffering from chronic gastritis (P = 0.005) or non-specific gastrointestinal disease (P < 0.001). The only factor identified as increasing the odds of chronic gastritis was feeding of horse “often” or “always” (P = 0.023). The findings of the current study build on existing empirical research to support a recommendation towards a greater inclusion of skeletal components. Current husbandry guidelines advocating the use of supplemented raw meat diets are likewise supported, but the use of horse meat, as well as commercially prepared diets for captive cheetahs, warrants caution until further research is conducted.

Bovine Immunoglobulin/Protein Isolate Binds Pro-Inflammatory Bacterial Compounds and Prevents Immune Activation in an Intestinal Co-Culture Model

by Christopher J. Detzel, Alan Horgan, Abigail L. Henderson, Bryon W. Petschow, Christopher D. Warner, Kenneth J. Maas, Eric M. Weaver

Intestinal barrier dysfunction is associated with chronic gastrointestinal tract inflammation and diseases such as IBD and IBS. Serum-derived bovine immunoglobulin/protein isolate (SBI) is a specially formulated protein preparation (>90%) for oral administration. The composition of SBI is greater than 60% immunoglobulin including contributions from IgG, IgA, and IgM. Immunoglobulin within the lumen of the gut has been recognized to have anti-inflammatory properties and is involved in maintaining gut homeostasis. The binding of common intestinal antigens (LPS and Lipid A) and the ligand Pam3CSK4, by IgG, IgA, and IgM in SBI was shown using a modified ELISA technique. Each of these antigens stimulated IL-8 and TNF-α cytokine production by THP-1 monocytes. Immune exclusion occurred as SBI (≤50 mg/mL) bound free antigen in a dose dependent manner that inhibited cytokine production by THP-1 monocytes in response to 10 ng/mL LPS or 200 ng/mL Lipid A. Conversely, Pam3CSK4 stimulation of THP-1 monocytes was unaffected by SBI/antigen binding. A co-culture model of the intestinal epithelium consisted of a C2BBe1 monolayer separating an apical compartment from a basal compartment containing THP-1 monocytes. The C2BBe1 monolayer was permeabilized with dimethyl palmitoyl ammonio propanesulfonate (PPS) to simulate a damaged epithelial barrier. Results indicate that Pam3CSK4 was able to translocate across the PPS-damaged C2BBe1 monolayer. However, binding of Pam3CSK4 by immunoglobulins in SBI prevented Pam3CSK4 translocation across the damaged C2BBe1 barrier. These results demonstrated steric exclusion of antigen by SBI which prevented apical to basal translocation of antigen due to changes in the physical properties of Pam3CSK4, most likely as a result of immunoglobulin binding. This study demonstrates that immunoglobulins in SBI can reduce antigen-associated inflammation through immune and steric exclusion mechanisms and furthers the mechanistic understanding of how SBI might improve immune status and reduce inflammation in various intestinal disease states.

The Benefits of Social Influence in Optimized Cultural Markets

by Andrés Abeliuk, Gerardo Berbeglia, Manuel Cebrian, Pascal Van Hentenryck

Social influence has been shown to create significant unpredictability in cultural markets, providing one potential explanation why experts routinely fail at predicting commercial success of cultural products. As a result, social influence is often presented in a negative light. Here, we show the benefits of social influence for cultural markets. We present a policy that uses product quality, appeal, position bias and social influence to maximize expected profits in the market. Our computational experiments show that our profit-maximizing policy leverages social influence to produce significant performance benefits for the market, while our theoretical analysis proves that our policy outperforms in expectation any policy not displaying social signals. Our results contrast with earlier work which focused on showing the unpredictability and inequalities created by social influence. Not only do we show for the first time that, under our policy, dynamically showing consumers positive social signals increases the expected profit of the seller in cultural markets. We also show that, in reasonable settings, our profit-maximizing policy does not introduce significant unpredictability and identifies “blockbusters”. Overall, these results shed new light on the nature of social influence and how it can be leveraged for the benefits of the market.

Correction: Novel Biogenic Aggregation of Moss Gemmae on a Disappearing African Glacier

by The PLOS ONE Staff

Apple Fruit Diameter and Length Estimation by Using the Thermal and Sunshine Hours Approach and Its Application to the Digital Orchard Management Information System

by Ming Li, Meixiang Chen, Yong Zhang, Chunxia Fu, Bin Xing, Wenyong Li, Jianping Qian, Sha Li, Hui Wang, Xiaodan Fan, Yujing Yan, Yan’an Wang, Xinting Yang

In apple cultivation, simulation models may be used to monitor fruit size during the growth and development process to predict production levels and to optimize fruit quality. Here, Fuji apples cultivated in spindle-type systems were used as the model crop. Apple size was measured during the growing period at an interval of about 20 days after full bloom, with three weather stations being used to collect orchard temperature and solar radiation data at different sites. Furthermore, a 2-year dataset (2011 and 2012) of apple fruit size measurements were integrated according to the weather station deployment sites, in addition to the top two most important environment factors, thermal and sunshine hours, into the model. The apple fruit diameter and length were simulated using physiological development time (PDT), an indicator that combines important environment factors, such as temperature and photoperiod, as the driving variable. Compared to the model of calendar-based development time (CDT), an indicator counting the days that elapse after full bloom, we confirmed that the PDT model improved the estimation accuracy to within 0.2 cm for fruit diameter and 0.1 cm for fruit length in independent years using a similar data collection method in 2013. The PDT model was implemented to realize a web-based management information system for a digital orchard, and the digital system had been applied in Shandong Province, China since 2013. This system may be used to compute the dynamic curve of apple fruit size based on data obtained from a nearby weather station. This system may provide an important decision support for farmers using the website and short message service to optimize crop production and, hence, economic benefit.

Intranasally Applied Neuropeptide S Shifts a High-Anxiety Electrophysiological Endophenotype in the Ventral Hippocampus towards a "Normal"-Anxiety One

by Julien Dine, Irina A. Ionescu, Charilaos Avrabos, Yi-Chun Yen, Florian Holsboer, Rainer Landgraf, Ulrike Schmidt, Matthias Eder

The neurobiological basis of pathological anxiety and the improvement of its pharmacological treatment are a matter of intensive investigation. Here, using electrophysiological techniques in brain slices from animals of the high anxiety-related behavior (HAB) and normal anxiety-related behavior (NAB) mouse model, we show that basal neurotransmission at ventral hippocampal CA3-CA1 synapses is weaker in HAB compared to NAB mice. We further demonstrate that paired-pulse facilitation (PPF) and long-term potentiation (LTP) at these synapses are more pronounced in slices from HAB animals. Based on previous findings, we also examined whether intranasal delivery of neuropeptide S (NPS), which increasingly emerges as a potential novel treatment option for anxiety symptoms occurring in a variety of diseases like anxiety disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, and major depression, impacts on the high-anxiety electrophysiological endophenotype in HAB mice. Strikingly, we detected enhanced basal neurotransmission and reduced PPF and LTP in slices from NPS-treated HAB animals. Collectively, our study uncovers a multifaceted high-anxiety neurophysiological endophenotype in the murine ventral hippocampus and provides the first evidence that an intranasally applied neuropeptide can shift such an endophenotype in an anxiety-regulating brain structure towards a “normal”-anxiety one.

Discovery and Cardioprotective Effects of the First Non-Peptide Agonists of the G Protein-Coupled Prokineticin Receptor-1

by Adeline Gasser, Simone Brogi, Kyoji Urayama, Toshishide Nishi, Hitoshi Kurose, Andrea Tafi, Nigel Ribeiro, Laurent Désaubry, Canan G. Nebigil

Prokineticins are angiogenic hormones that activate two G protein-coupled receptors: PKR1 and PKR2. PKR1 has emerged as a critical mediator of cardiovascular homeostasis and cardioprotection. Identification of non-peptide PKR1 agonists that contribute to myocardial repair and collateral vessel growth hold promises for treatment of heart diseases. Through a combination of in silico studies, medicinal chemistry, and pharmacological profiling approaches, we designed, synthesized, and characterized the first PKR1 agonists, demonstrating their cardioprotective activity against myocardial infarction (MI) in mice. Based on high throughput docking protocol, 250,000 compounds were computationally screened for putative PKR1 agonistic activity, using a homology model, and 10 virtual hits were pharmacologically evaluated. One hit internalizes PKR1, increases calcium release and activates ERK and Akt kinases. Among the 30 derivatives of the hit compound, the most potent derivative, IS20, was confirmed for its selectivity and specificity through genetic gain- and loss-of-function of PKR1. Importantly, IS20 prevented cardiac lesion formation and improved cardiac function after MI in mice, promoting proliferation of cardiac progenitor cells and neovasculogenesis. The preclinical investigation of the first PKR1 agonists provides a novel approach to promote cardiac neovasculogenesis after MI.

Fighting while Parasitized: Can Nematode Infections Affect the Outcome of Staged Combat in Beetles?

by David Vasquez, Anna Willoughby, Andrew K. Davis

The effects of non-lethal parasites may be felt most strongly when hosts engage in intense, energy-demanding behaviors. One such behavior is fighting with conspecifics, which is common among territorial animals, including many beetle species. We examined the effects of parasites on the fighting ability of a saproxylic beetle, the horned passalus (Odontotaenius disjunctus, Family: Passalidae), which is host to a non-lethal nematode, Chondronema passali. We pitted pairs of randomly-chosen (but equally-weighted) beetles against each other in a small arena and determined the winner and aggression level of fights. Then we examined beetles for the presence, and severity of nematode infections. There was a non-significant tendency (p = 0.065) for the frequency of wins, losses and draws to differ between beetles with and without C. passali; non-parasitized individuals (n = 104) won 47% of their fights while those with the parasite (n = 88) won 34%, a 13% difference in wins. The number of nematodes in a beetle affected the outcome of fights between infected and uninfected individuals in an unexpected fashion: fighting ability was lowest in beetles with the lowest (p = 0.033), not highest (p = 0.266), nematode burdens. Within-fight aggression was highest when both beetles were uninfected and lowest when both were infected (p = 0.034). Collectively, these results suggest the nematode parasite, C. passali, is associated with a modest reduction in fighting ability in horned passalus beetles, consistent with the idea that parasitized beetles have lower energy available for fighting. This study adds to a small but growing body of evidence showing how parasites negatively influence fighting behavior in animals.

A Sunken Ship of the Desert at the River Danube in Tulln, Austria

by Alfred Galik, Elmira Mohandesan, Gerhard Forstenpointner, Ute Maria Scholz, Emily Ruiz, Martin Krenn, Pamela Burger

Rescue excavations recovered a skeleton that resurrect the contemporary dramatic history of Austria in the 17th century as troops besieged Vienna in the second Osmanic-Habsburg war. Unique for Central Europe is the evidence of a completely preserved camel skeleton uncovered in a large refuse pit. The male individual of slender stature indicates a few but characteristic pathological changes revealing not a beast of burden but probably a valuable riding animal. Anatomical and morphometrical analyses suggest a hybrid confirmed by the ancient DNA analyses resulting in the presence of a dromedary in the maternal and a Bactrian camel in the paternal line.