PLOS Biology (new articles)

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Mechanotransduction in talin through the interaction of the R8 domain with DLC1

Fri, 2018-07-20 23:00

by Alexander William M. Haining, Rolle Rahikainen, Ernesto Cortes, Dariusz Lachowski, Alistair Rice, Magdalena von Essen, Vesa P. Hytönen, Armando del Río Hernández

The mechanical unfolding of proteins is a cellular mechanism for force transduction with potentially broad implications in cell fate. Despite this, the mechanism by which protein unfolding elicits differential downstream signalling pathways remains poorly understood. Here, we used protein engineering, atomic force microscopy, and biophysical tools to delineate how protein unfolding controls cell mechanics. Deleted in liver cancer 1 (DLC1) is a negative regulator of Ras homolog family member A (RhoA) and cell contractility that regulates cell behaviour when localised to focal adhesions bound to folded talin. Using a talin mutant resistant to force-induced unfolding of R8 domain, we show that talin unfolding determines DLC1 downstream signalling and, consequently, cell mechanics. We propose that this new mechanism of mechanotransduction may have implications for a wide variety of associated cellular processes.
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Genome-wide maps of ribosomal occupancy provide insights into adaptive evolution and regulatory roles of uORFs during <i>Drosophila</i> development

Fri, 2018-07-20 23:00

by Hong Zhang, Shengqian Dou, Feng He, Junjie Luo, Liping Wei, Jian Lu

Upstream open reading frames (uORFs) play important roles in regulating the main coding DNA sequences (CDSs) via translational repression. Despite their prevalence in the genomes, uORFs are overall discriminated against by natural selection. However, it remains unclear why in the genomes there are so many uORFs more conserved than expected under the assumption of neutral evolution. Here, we generated genome-wide maps of translational efficiency (TE) at the codon level throughout the life cycle of Drosophila melanogaster. We identified 35,735 uORFs that were expressed, and 32,224 (90.2%) of them showed evidence of ribosome occupancy during Drosophila development. The ribosome occupancy of uORFs is determined by genomic features, such as optimized sequence contexts around their start codons, a shorter distance to CDSs, and higher coding potentials. Our population genomic analysis suggests the segregating mutations that create or disrupt uORFs are overall deleterious in D. melanogaster. However, we found for the first time that many (68.3% of) newly fixed uORFs that are associated with ribosomes in D. melanogaster are driven by positive Darwinian selection. Our findings also suggest that uORFs play a vital role in controlling the translational program in Drosophila. Moreover, we found that many uORFs are transcribed or translated in a developmental stage-, sex-, or tissue-specific manner, suggesting that selective transcription or translation of uORFs could potentially modulate the TE of the downstream CDSs during Drosophila development.
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Hair cell identity establishes labeled lines of directional mechanosensation

Thu, 2018-07-19 23:00

by Marta Lozano-Ortega, Gema Valera, Yan Xiao, Adèle Faucherre, Hernán López-Schier

Directional mechanoreception by hair cells is transmitted to the brain via afferent neurons to enable postural control and rheotaxis. Neuronal tuning to individual directions of mechanical flow occurs when each peripheral axon selectively synapses with multiple hair cells of identical planar polarization. How such mechanosensory labeled lines are established and maintained remains unsolved. Here, we use the zebrafish lateral line to reveal that asymmetric activity of the transcription factor Emx2 diversifies hair cell identity to instruct polarity-selective synaptogenesis. Unexpectedly, presynaptic scaffolds and coherent hair cell orientation are dispensable for synaptic selectivity, indicating that epithelial planar polarity and synaptic partner matching are separable. Moreover, regenerating axons recapitulate synapses with hair cells according to Emx2 expression but not global orientation. Our results identify a simple cellular algorithm that solves the selectivity task even in the presence of noise generated by the frequent receptor cell turnover. They also suggest that coupling connectivity patterns to cellular identity rather than polarity relaxes developmental and evolutionary constraints to innervation of organs with differing orientation.
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Sometimes you’re the scooper, and sometimes you get scooped: How to turn both into something good

Mon, 2018-07-16 23:00

by Jin-Soo Kim, Jacob E. Corn

Fast-moving, competitive fields often inadvertently duplicate research. In a research environment that values being first over being robust, this results in one manuscript “scooping” ongoing research from other groups. Opportunities to demonstrate the solidity of a result through coincidental reproduction are thus lost. Here, two group leaders, one the scooper and one the scoopee, discuss their experiences under PLOS Biology’s new “complementary research” policy. In this case, submission of the second article followed publication of the first by mere days. Scooper and scoopee discuss how complementary research is good for everyone by expanding the scientific reach of studies that are overlapping but not identical, demonstrating the robustness of related results, increasing readership for both authors, and making “replication” studies cost effective by creatively using resources that have already been spent.
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The next generation of natural history collections

Mon, 2018-07-16 23:00

by David E. Schindel, Joseph A. Cook

The last 50 years have witnessed rapid changes in the ways that natural history specimens are collected, preserved, analyzed, and documented. Those changes have produced unprecedented access to specimens, images, and data as well as impressive research results in organismal biology. The stage is now set for a new generation of collecting, preserving, analyzing, and integrating biological samples—a generation devoted to interdisciplinary research into complex biological interactions and processes. Next-generation collections may be essential for breakthrough research on the spread of infectious diseases, feeding Earth's growing population, adapting to climate change, and other grand research challenges. A decade-long investment in research collection infrastructure will be needed.
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In vitro–transcribed guide RNAs trigger an innate immune response via the RIG-I pathway

Mon, 2018-07-16 23:00

by Beeke Wienert, Jiyung Shin, Elena Zelin, Kathleen Pestal, Jacob E. Corn

Clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)–CRISPR-associated 9 (Cas9) genome editing is revolutionizing fundamental research and has great potential for the treatment of many diseases. While editing of immortalized cell lines has become relatively easy, editing of therapeutically relevant primary cells and tissues can remain challenging. One recent advancement is the delivery of a Cas9 protein and an in vitro–transcribed (IVT) guide RNA (gRNA) as a precomplexed ribonucleoprotein (RNP). This approach allows editing of primary cells such as T cells and hematopoietic stem cells, but the consequences beyond genome editing of introducing foreign Cas9 RNPs into mammalian cells are not fully understood. Here, we show that the IVT gRNAs commonly used by many laboratories for RNP editing trigger a potent innate immune response that is similar to canonical immune-stimulating ligands. IVT gRNAs are recognized in the cytosol through the retinoic acid–inducible gene I (RIG-I) pathway but not the melanoma differentiation–associated gene 5 (MDA5) pathway, thereby triggering a type I interferon response. Removal of the 5’-triphosphate from gRNAs ameliorates inflammatory signaling and prevents the loss of viability associated with genome editing in hematopoietic stem cells. The potential for Cas9 RNP editing to induce a potent antiviral response indicates that care must be taken when designing therapeutic strategies to edit primary cells.
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Inter-subunit interactions drive divergent dynamics in mammalian and <i>Plasmodium</i> actin filaments

Mon, 2018-07-16 23:00

by Ross G. Douglas, Prajwal Nandekar, Julia-Elisabeth Aktories, Hirdesh Kumar, Rebekka Weber, Julia M. Sattler, Mirko Singer, Simone Lepper, S. Kashif Sadiq, Rebecca C. Wade, Friedrich Frischknecht

Cell motility is essential for protozoan and metazoan organisms and typically relies on the dynamic turnover of actin filaments. In metazoans, monomeric actin polymerises into usually long and stable filaments, while some protozoans form only short and highly dynamic actin filaments. These different dynamics are partly due to the different sets of actin regulatory proteins and partly due to the sequence of actin itself. Here we probe the interactions of actin subunits within divergent actin filaments using a comparative dynamic molecular model and explore their functions using Plasmodium, the protozoan causing malaria, and mouse melanoma derived B16-F1 cells as model systems. Parasite actin tagged to a fluorescent protein (FP) did not incorporate into mammalian actin filaments, and rabbit actin-FP did not incorporate into parasite actin filaments. However, exchanging the most divergent region of actin subdomain 3 allowed such reciprocal incorporation. The exchange of a single amino acid residue in subdomain 2 (N41H) of Plasmodium actin markedly improved incorporation into mammalian filaments. In the parasite, modification of most subunit–subunit interaction sites was lethal, whereas changes in actin subdomains 1 and 4 reduced efficient parasite motility and hence mosquito organ penetration. The strong penetration defects could be rescued by overexpression of the actin filament regulator coronin. Through these comparative approaches we identified an essential and common contributor, subdomain 3, which drives the differential dynamic behaviour of two highly divergent eukaryotic actins in motile cells.
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Species in ecosystems and all that jazz

Fri, 2018-07-13 23:00

by Oswald J. Schmitz

Ecosystem ecologists explore how different kinds of species fit together to drive ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling and productivity. This research is motivated by theories that assume that the suite of traits that characterize a species’ form determines its function, that these traits have become fixed over evolutionary time, and that ensuing ecosystem process are not resilient to environmental change. Here, I explore new research that re-evaluates this theory. Recent results suggest that functional traits are malleable, enabling species to rapidly respond and adapt to each other as environmental conditions change with predictable effects on ecosystem processes. These basic research findings suggest that species adaptations may impart in ecosystems an inherent capacity to weather environmental changes, thereby offering deeper understanding about which biological attributes protect ecological functions and which are needed to restore damaged ecosystems.
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Highly diverged novel subunit composition of apicomplexan F-type ATP synthase identified from <i>Toxoplasma gondii</i>

Fri, 2018-07-13 23:00

by Rahul Salunke, Tobias Mourier, Manidipa Banerjee, Arnab Pain, Dhanasekaran Shanmugam

The mitochondrial F-type ATP synthase, a multisubunit nanomotor, is critical for maintaining cellular ATP levels. In T. gondii and other apicomplexan parasites, many subunit components necessary for proper assembly and functioning of this enzyme appear to be missing. Here, we report the identification of 20 novel subunits of T. gondii F-type ATP synthase from mass spectrometry analysis of partially purified monomeric (approximately 600 kDa) and dimeric (>1 MDa) forms of the enzyme. Despite extreme sequence diversification, key FO subunits a, b, and d can be identified from conserved structural features. Orthologs for these proteins are restricted to apicomplexan, chromerid, and dinoflagellate species. Interestingly, their absence in ciliates indicates a major diversion, with respect to subunit composition of this enzyme, within the alveolate clade. Discovery of these highly diversified novel components of the apicomplexan F-type ATP synthase complex could facilitate the development of novel antiparasitic agents. Structural and functional characterization of this unusual enzyme complex will advance our fundamental understanding of energy metabolism in apicomplexan species.
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Decoding the chromatin proteome of a single genomic locus by DNA sequencing

Fri, 2018-07-13 23:00

by Tessy Korthout, Deepani W. Poramba-Liyanage, Ila van Kruijsbergen, Kitty F. Verzijlbergen, Frank P. A. van Gemert, Tibor van Welsem, Fred van Leeuwen

Transcription, replication, and repair involve interactions of specific genomic loci with many different proteins. How these interactions are orchestrated at any given location and under changing cellular conditions is largely unknown because systematically measuring protein–DNA interactions at a specific locus in the genome is challenging. To address this problem, we developed Epi-Decoder, a Tag-chromatin immunoprecipitation-Barcode-Sequencing (TAG-ChIP-Barcode-Seq) technology in budding yeast. Epi-Decoder is orthogonal to proteomics approaches because it does not rely on mass spectrometry (MS) but instead takes advantage of DNA sequencing. Analysis of the proteome of a transcribed locus proximal to an origin of replication revealed more than 400 interacting proteins. Moreover, replication stress induced changes in local chromatin proteome composition prior to local origin firing, affecting replication proteins as well as transcription proteins. Finally, we show that native genomic loci can be decoded by efficient construction of barcode libraries assisted by clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated protein 9 (CRISPR/Cas9). Thus, Epi-Decoder is an effective strategy to identify and quantify in an unbiased and systematic manner the proteome of an individual genomic locus by DNA sequencing.
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The noisy basis of morphogenesis: Mechanisms and mechanics of cell sheet folding inferred from developmental variability

Thu, 2018-07-12 23:00

by Pierre A. Haas, Stephanie S. M. H. Höhn, Aurelia R. Honerkamp-Smith, Julius B. Kirkegaard, Raymond E. Goldstein

Variability is emerging as an integral part of development. It is therefore imperative to ask how to access the information contained in this variability. Yet most studies of development average their observations and, discarding the variability, seek to derive models, biological or physical, that explain these average observations. Here, we analyse this variability in a study of cell sheet folding in the green alga Volvox, whose spherical embryos turn themselves inside out in a process sharing invagination, expansion, involution, and peeling of a cell sheet with animal models of morphogenesis. We generalise our earlier, qualitative model of the initial stages of inversion by combining ideas from morphoelasticity and shell theory. Together with three-dimensional visualisations of inversion using light sheet microscopy, this yields a detailed, quantitative model of the entire inversion process. With this model, we show how the variability of inversion reveals that two separate, temporally uncoupled processes drive the initial invagination and subsequent expansion of the cell sheet. This implies a prototypical transition towards higher developmental complexity in the volvocine algae and provides proof of principle of analysing morphogenesis based on its variability.
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A bidirectional relationship between sleep and oxidative stress in <i>Drosophila</i>

Thu, 2018-07-12 23:00

by Vanessa M. Hill, Reed M. O’Connor, Gunter B. Sissoko, Ifeoma S. Irobunda, Stephen Leong, Julie C. Canman, Nicholas Stavropoulos, Mimi Shirasu-Hiza

Although sleep appears to be broadly conserved in animals, the physiological functions of sleep remain unclear. In this study, we sought to identify a physiological defect common to a diverse group of short-sleeping Drosophila mutants, which might provide insight into the function and regulation of sleep. We found that these short-sleeping mutants share a common phenotype of sensitivity to acute oxidative stress, exhibiting shorter survival times than controls. We further showed that increasing sleep in wild-type flies using genetic or pharmacological approaches increases survival after oxidative challenge. Moreover, reducing oxidative stress in the neurons of wild-type flies by overexpression of antioxidant genes reduces the amount of sleep. Together, these results support the hypothesis that a key function of sleep is to defend against oxidative stress and also point to a reciprocal role for reactive oxygen species (ROS) in neurons in the regulation of sleep.
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Molecular mechanism of the tree shrew’s insensitivity to spiciness

Thu, 2018-07-12 23:00

by Yalan Han, Bowen Li, Ting-Ting Yin, Cheng Xu, Rose Ombati, Lei Luo, Yujie Xia, Lizhen Xu, Jie Zheng, Yaping Zhang, Fan Yang, Guo-Dong Wang, Shilong Yang, Ren Lai

Spicy foods elicit a pungent or hot and painful sensation that repels almost all mammals. Here, we observe that the tree shrew (Tupaia belangeri chinensis), which possesses a close relationship with primates and can directly and actively consume spicy plants. Our genomic and functional analyses reveal that a single point mutation in the tree shrew’s transient receptor potential vanilloid type-1 (TRPV1) ion channel (tsV1) lowers its sensitivity to capsaicinoids, which enables the unique feeding behavior of tree shrews with regards to pungent plants. We show that strong selection for this residue in tsV1 might be driven by Piper boehmeriaefolium, a spicy plant that geographically overlaps with the tree shrew and produces Cap2, a capsaicin analog, in abundance. We propose that the mutation in tsV1 is a part of evolutionary adaptation that enables the tree shrew to tolerate pungency, thus widening the range of its diet for better survival.
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Cholinergic-mediated coordination of rhythmic sympathetic and motor activities in the newborn rat spinal cord

Mon, 2018-07-09 23:00

by Mélissa Sourioux, Sandrine S. Bertrand, Jean-René Cazalets

Here, we investigated intrinsic spinal cord mechanisms underlying the physiological requirement for autonomic and somatic motor system coupling. Using an in vitro spinal cord preparation from newborn rat, we demonstrate that the specific activation of muscarinic cholinergic receptors (mAchRs) (with oxotremorine) triggers a slow burst rhythm in thoracic spinal segments, thereby revealing a rhythmogenic capability in this cord region. Whereas axial motoneurons (MNs) were rhythmically activated during both locomotor activity and oxotremorine-induced bursting, intermediolateral sympathetic preganglionic neurons (IML SPNs) exhibited rhythmicity solely in the presence of oxotremorine. This somato-sympathetic synaptic drive shared by MNs and IML SPNs could both merge with and modulate the locomotor synaptic drive produced by the lumbar motor networks. This study thus sheds new light on the coupling between somatic and sympathetic systems and suggests that an intraspinal network that may be conditionally activated under propriospinal cholinergic control constitutes at least part of the synchronizing mechanism.
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The actin remodeling protein cofilin is crucial for thymic αβ but not γδ T-cell development

Mon, 2018-07-09 23:00

by Isabel Seeland, Ying Xiong, Christian Orlik, Daniel Deibel, Sandra Prokosch, Günter Küblbeck, Beate Jahraus, Daniela De Stefano, Sonja Moos, Florian C. Kurschus, Bernd Arnold, Yvonne Samstag

Cofilin is an essential actin remodeling protein promoting depolymerization and severing of actin filaments. To address the relevance of cofilin for the development and function of T cells in vivo, we generated knock-in mice in which T-cell–specific nonfunctional (nf) cofilin was expressed instead of wild-type (WT) cofilin. Nf cofilin mice lacked peripheral αβ T cells and showed a severe thymus atrophy. This was caused by an early developmental arrest of thymocytes at the double negative (DN) stage. Importantly, even though DN thymocytes expressed the TCRβ chain intracellularly, they completely lacked TCRβ surface expression. In contrast, nf cofilin mice possessed normal numbers of γδ T cells. Their functionality was confirmed in the γδ T-cell–driven, imiquimod (IMQ)-induced, psoriasis-like murine model. Overall, this study not only highlights the importance of cofilin for early αβ T-cell development but also shows for the first time that an actin-binding protein is differentially involved in αβ versus γδ T-cell development.
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p38α blocks brown adipose tissue thermogenesis through p38δ inhibition

Fri, 2018-07-06 23:00

by Nuria Matesanz, Ivana Nikolic, Magdalena Leiva, Marta Pulgarín-Alfaro, Ayelén M. Santamans, Edgar Bernardo, Alfonso Mora, Leticia Herrera-Melle, Elena Rodríguez, Daniel Beiroa, Ainoa Caballero, Elena Martín-García, Rebeca Acín-Pérez, Lourdes Hernández-Cosido, Luis Leiva-Vega, Jorge L. Torres, Francisco Centeno, Angel R. Nebreda, José Antonio Enríquez, Rubén Nogueiras, Miguel Marcos, Guadalupe Sabio

Adipose tissue has emerged as an important regulator of whole-body metabolism, and its capacity to dissipate energy in the form of heat has acquired a special relevance in recent years as potential treatment for obesity. In this context, the p38MAPK pathway has arisen as a key player in the thermogenic program because it is required for the activation of brown adipose tissue (BAT) thermogenesis and participates also in the transformation of white adipose tissue (WAT) into BAT-like depot called beige/brite tissue. Here, using mice that are deficient in p38α specifically in adipose tissue (p38αFab-KO), we unexpectedly found that lack of p38α protected against high-fat diet (HFD)-induced obesity. We also showed that p38αFab-KO mice presented higher energy expenditure due to increased BAT thermogenesis. Mechanistically, we found that lack of p38α resulted in the activation of the related protein kinase family member p38δ. Our results showed that p38δ is activated in BAT by cold exposure, and lack of this kinase specifically in adipose tissue (p38δ Fab-KO) resulted in overweight together with reduced energy expenditure and lower body and skin surface temperature in the BAT region. These observations indicate that p38α probably blocks BAT thermogenesis through p38δ inhibition. Consistent with the results obtained in animals, p38α was reduced in visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue of subjects with obesity and was inversely correlated with body mass index (BMI). Altogether, we have elucidated a mechanism implicated in physiological BAT activation that has potential clinical implications for the treatment of obesity and related diseases such as diabetes.
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<i>Drosophila melanogaster</i> establishes a species-specific mutualistic interaction with stable gut-colonizing bacteria

Thu, 2018-07-05 23:00

by Inês S. Pais, Rita S. Valente, Marta Sporniak, Luis Teixeira

Animals live together with diverse bacteria that can impact their biology. In Drosophila melanogaster, gut-associated bacterial communities are relatively simple in composition but also have a strong impact on host development and physiology. It is generally assumed that gut bacteria in D. melanogaster are transient and their constant ingestion with food is required to maintain their presence in the gut. Here, we identify bacterial species from wild-caught D. melanogaster that stably associate with the host independently of continuous inoculation. Moreover, we show that specific Acetobacter wild isolates can proliferate in the gut. We further demonstrate that the interaction between D. melanogaster and the wild isolated Acetobacter thailandicus is mutually beneficial and that the stability of the gut association is key to this mutualism. The stable population in the gut of D. melanogaster allows continuous bacterial spreading into the environment, which is advantageous to the bacterium itself. The bacterial dissemination is in turn advantageous to the host because the next generation of flies develops in the presence of this particularly beneficial bacterium. A. thailandicus leads to a faster host development and higher fertility of emerging adults when compared to other bacteria isolated from wild-caught flies. Furthermore, A. thailandicus is sufficient and advantageous when D. melanogaster develops in axenic or freshly collected figs, respectively. This isolate of A. thailandicus colonizes several genotypes of D. melanogaster but not the closely related D. simulans, indicating that the stable association is host specific. This work establishes a new conceptual model to understand D. melanogaster–gut microbiota interactions in an ecological context; stable interactions can be mutualistic through microbial farming, a common strategy in insects. Moreover, these results develop the use of D. melanogaster as a model to study gut microbiota proliferation and colonization.
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CellProfiler 3.0: Next-generation image processing for biology

Tue, 2018-07-03 23:00

by Claire McQuin, Allen Goodman, Vasiliy Chernyshev, Lee Kamentsky, Beth A. Cimini, Kyle W. Karhohs, Minh Doan, Liya Ding, Susanne M. Rafelski, Derek Thirstrup, Winfried Wiegraebe, Shantanu Singh, Tim Becker, Juan C. Caicedo, Anne E. Carpenter

CellProfiler has enabled the scientific research community to create flexible, modular image analysis pipelines since its release in 2005. Here, we describe CellProfiler 3.0, a new version of the software supporting both whole-volume and plane-wise analysis of three-dimensional (3D) image stacks, increasingly common in biomedical research. CellProfiler’s infrastructure is greatly improved, and we provide a protocol for cloud-based, large-scale image processing. New plugins enable running pretrained deep learning models on images. Designed by and for biologists, CellProfiler equips researchers with powerful computational tools via a well-documented user interface, empowering biologists in all fields to create quantitative, reproducible image analysis workflows.
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A revised understanding of <i>Tribolium</i> morphogenesis further reconciles short and long germ development

Tue, 2018-07-03 23:00

by Matthew A. Benton

In Drosophila melanogaster, the germband forms directly on the egg surface and solely consists of embryonic tissue. In contrast, most insect embryos undergo a complicated set of tissue rearrangements to generate a condensed, multilayered germband. The ventral side of the germband is embryonic, while the dorsal side is thought to be an extraembryonic tissue called the amnion. While this tissue organisation has been accepted for decades and has been widely reported in insects, its accuracy has not been directly tested in any species. Using live cell tracking and differential cell labelling in the short germ beetle Tribolium castaneum, I show that most of the cells previously thought to be amnion actually give rise to large parts of the embryo. This process occurs via the dorsal-to-ventral flow of cells and contributes to germband extension (GBE). In addition, I show that true ‘amnion’ cells in Tribolium originate from a small region of the blastoderm. Together, my findings show that development in the short germ embryos of Tribolium and the long germ embryos of Drosophila is more similar than previously proposed. Dorsal-to-ventral cell flow also occurs in Drosophila during GBE, and I argue that the flow is driven by a conserved set of underlying morphogenetic events in both species. Furthermore, the revised Tribolium fate map that I present is far more similar to that of Drosophila than the classic Tribolium fate map. Lastly, my findings show that there is no qualitative difference between the tissue structure of the cellularised blastoderm and the short/intermediate germ germband. As such, the same tissue patterning mechanisms could function continuously throughout the cellularised blastoderm and germband stages, and easily shift between them over evolutionary time.
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Brain–computer interface use is a skill that user and system acquire together

Mon, 2018-07-02 23:00

by Dennis J. McFarland, Jonathan R. Wolpaw

A brain–computer interface (BCI) is a computer-based system that acquires, analyzes, and translates brain signals into output commands in real time. Perdikis and colleagues demonstrate superior performance in a Cybathlon BCI race using a system based on “three pillars”: machine learning, user training, and application. These results highlight the fact that BCI use is a learned skill and not simply a matter of “mind reading.”
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