• Volume 25, Issue 1

March 2000,   pages  1-120

• Clipboard: Compensasome in Drosophila

• Clipboard: Size control in development: lessons from Drosophila

• Clipboard: Should erythrocyte destruction in vivo be through phagocytosis alone?

• Clipboard: Transfer of learning across the somatosensory cortex

• Commentary: Molecular slavery

• Commentary: The smallest form of life yet?

• The sight of the peacock’s tail makes me sick: The early arguments on sexual selection

Why does a peacock have a beautiful train, while a peahen is sober without such flamboyance? Darwin proposed the theory of sexual selection to explain the differences between the sexes of the same species. Recently the study of sexual selection has been one of the most flourishing areas in evolutionary biology. However, the theory met with great resistance from biologists since the publication of the idea and the history of the theory included a lot of misunderstanding and confusion. There are several reasons for this. First, classical Darwinism failed to recognize social competition as an important selective force. Second, the good-for-the-species argument, which persisted in the days after Darwin, made the sexual selection argument more difficult to understand. Compared to the discussions on animals, Darwin’s argument on human sex differences is not satisfactory. The reason probably lies in the debate over human racial differences which prevailed in the 19th century.

• Analysis of BRCA1 involvement in breast cancer in Indian women

The involvement of the familial breast-ovarian cancer gene (BRCA1) in the molecular pathogenesis of breast cancer among Indian women is unknown. We have used a set of microsatellite polymorphisms to examine the frequency of allele loss at the BRCA1 region on chromosome 17q21, in a panel of 80 human breast tumours. Tumour and blood leukocyte/normal tissue DNA from a series of 80 patients with primary breast cancer was screened by PCR-amplified microsatellite length polymorphisms to detect deletions at three polymorphic BRCA1 loci. PCR-allelotype was valuable in examining allele losses from archival and small tumour samples. Loss of alleles at BRCA1 in the patient set, confirmed a noteworthy role of this gene in the molecular pathogenesis of breast cancer and was in accordance with its well-documented tumour suppressive function.

• Growth modulation of fibroblasts by chitosan-polyvinyl pyrrolidone hydrogel: Implications for wound management?

Wounds in adults and fetuses differ in their healing ability with respect to scar formation. In adults, wounds lacking the epidermis exhibit excess collagen production and scar formation. Fibroblasts synthesize and deposit a collagen rich extracellular matrix. The early migration and proliferation of fibroblasts in the wound area is implicated in wound scarring. We have synthesized a hydrogel from chitosan-polyvinyl pyrrolidone (PVP) and examined its effect on fibroblast growth modulation in vitro. The hydrogel was found to be hydrophilic as seen from its octane contact angle (141·2 ± 0·37°). The hydrogel was non-toxic and biocompatible with fibroblasts and epithelial cells as confirmed by the 3(4,5-dimethylthiazolyl-2)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay. It showed dual properties by supporting growth of epithelial cells (SiHa) and selectively inhibiting fibroblast (NIH3T3) growth. Growth inhibition of fibroblasts resulted from their inability to attach on to the hydrogel. These findings are supported by image analysis, which revealed a significant difference (𝑃 < 0·05) between the number of fibroblasts attached to the hydrogel in tissue culture as compared to tissue culture treated polystyrene (TCPS) controls. However, no significant difference was observed (𝑃 > 0·05) in the number of epithelial (SiHa) cells attached on to the hydrogel as compared to the TCPS control. Although in vivo experiments are awaited, these findings point to the possible use of chitosan-PVP hydrogels in wound-management.

• PTP-S2, a nuclear tyrosine phosphatase, is phosphorylated and excluded from condensed chromosomes during mitosis

PTP-S2 is a tyrosine specific protein phosphatase that binds to DNA and is localized to the nucleus in association with chromatin. It plays a role in the regulation of cell proliferation. Here we show that the subcellular distribution of this protein changes during cell division. While PTP-S2 was localized exclusively to the nucleus in interphase cells, during metaphase and anaphase it was distributed throughout the cytoplasm and excluded from condensed chromosomes. At telophase PTP-S2 began to associate with chromosomes and at cytokinesis it was associated with chromatin in the newly formed nucleus. It was hyperphosphorylated and showed retarded mobility in cells arrested in metaphase. In vitro experiments showed that it was phosphorylated by CK2 resulting in mobility shift. Using a deletion mutant we found that CK2 phosphorylated PTP-S2 in the C-terminal non-catalytic domain. A heparin sensitive kinase from mitotic cell extracts phosphorylated PTP-S2 resulting in mobility shift. These results are consistent with the suggestion that during metaphase PTP-S2 is phosphorylated (possibly by CK2 or a CK2-like enzyme), resulting in its dissociation from chromatin.

• Cloning of partial putative gonadotropin hormone receptor sequence from fish

A search for the presence of mariner-like elements in the Labeo rohita genome by polymerase chain reaction led to the amplification of a partial DNA sequence coding for a putative transmembrane domain of gonadotropin hormone receptor. The amplified DNA sequence shows a high degree of homology to the available turkey and human luteinizing and follicle stimulating hormone receptor coding sequences. This is the first report on cloning such sequences of piscine origin.

• An enzyme immunoassay for detection of Japanese encephalitis virus-induced chemotactic cytokine

Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) induces human peripheral blood monocytes to secrete a chemotactic cytokine [human macrophage-derived factor (hMDF)] which causes chemotaxis of neutrophils. The only known assay for hMDF cannot quantify its level in samples, so an enzyme immunoassay has been standardized for detection of hMDF and hMDF-specific antibodies in test samples. The reported enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was found to be sensitive (89%), specific (91%), accurate (92·2%) and reproducible and was able to detect a minimum concentration of 23 ng hMDF/ml in test samples. The chemotactic factor could be detected in JEV inoculated mouse sera and JEV infected culture fluids. Significant finding of the test was the detection of hMDF in sera of human cases of JE.

• A four-element based transposon system for allele specific tagging in plants – Theoretical considerations

The two-element transposon constructs, utilizing either Ac/Ds or Spm/dSpm, allow random tagging of genes in heterologous model species, but are inadequate for directed tagging of specific alleles of agronomic importance. We propose the use of Ac/Ds in conjunction with Spm/dSpm to develop a four-element system for directed tagging of crop-specific alleles. The four-element based construct would include both Ds and dSpm along with relevant marker genes and would function in two steps. In the first step dSpm(Ds) stocks (a minimum of two) would be crossed to a line containing transposases of Spm and unlinked integrations would be selected from segregating population by the use of a negative selection marker to develop stocks representing integration of dSpm(Ds) at a large number of locations in the genome. Selections would be made for a line in which dSpm(Ds) shows partial or complete linkage to the allele of interest. In the second step selected line would be crossed to a line containing Ac transposase to induce transpositions of Ds element to linked sites thereby exploiting the natural tendency of Ds element to jump to linked sites. Unlinked jumps of dSpm(Ds) and linked jumps of Ds could be monitored by appropriate marker genes. The proposed model would allow tagging of allele of interest in chromosome addition lines and also help in the efficient use of genic male sterility systems for hybrid seed production by tightly marking the fertility restorer gene with a negative selection marker.

• Degradation and de novo synthesis of D1 protein and psbA transcript in reinhardtii during UV-B inactivation of photosynthesis

UV-B induces intensity and time dependent inhibition of photosynthetic O evolution and PS II electron transport Chlamydomonas reinhardtii chloroplast membranes are rapidly and essential for the repair of damaged PS II as chloramphenicol accelerated UV-B inactivation of photosynthesis and psb for the D1 protein. Cells showing 72% inhibition of PS II protein. This shows that synthesis of D1 protein is not the only component involved in the recovery process. Our events, which in turn may limit the repair of damaged PS II.

• Avirulent mutants of Macrophomina phaseolina and Aspergillus fumigatus initiate infection in Phaseolus mungo in the presence of phaseo-linone; levamisole gives protection

To evaluate the role of phaseolinone, a phytotoxin produced by Macrophomina phaseolina, in disease initiation, three nontoxigenic avirulent mutants of the fungus were generated by UV-mutagenesis. Two of them were able to initiate infection in germinating Phaseolus mungo seeds only in the presence of phaseolinone. The minimum dose of phaseolinone required for infection in 30% seedlings was 2·5 𝜇g/ml. A human pathogen, Aspergillus fumigatus was also able to infect germinating seeds of P. mungo in the presence of 5 𝜇g/ml concentration of phaseolinone. Phaseolinone seemed to facilitate infection by A. fumigatus, which is not normally phytopathogenic, by reducing the immunity of germinating seedlings in a nonspecific way. Levamisole, a non-specific immunopotentiator gave protection against infection induced by A. fumigatus at an optimum dose of 50 𝜇g/ml. Sodium malonate prevented the effects of levamisole.

• Generation of deviation parameters for amino acid singlets, doublets and triplets from three-dimensional structures of proteins and its implications for secondary structure prediction from amino acid sequences

We present a new method, secondary structure prediction by deviation parameter (SSPDP) for predicting the secondary structure of proteins from amino acid sequence. Deviation parameters (DP) for amino acid singlets, doublets and triplets were computed with respect to secondary structural elements of proteins based on the dictionary of secondary structure prediction (DSSP)-generated secondary structure for 408 selected non-homologous proteins. To the amino acid triplets which are not found in the selected dataset, a DP value of zero is assigned with respect to the secondary structural elements of proteins. The total number of parameters generated is 15,432, in the possible parameters of 25,260. Deviation parameter is complete with respect to amino acid singlets, doublets, and partially complete with respect to amino acid triplets. These generated parameters were used to predict secondary structural elements from amino acid sequence. The secondary structure predicted by our method (SSPDP) was compared with that of single sequence (NNPREDICT) and multiple sequence (PHD) methods. The average value of the percentage of prediction accuracy for α-helix by SSPDP, NNPREDICT and PHD methods was found to be 57%, 44% and 69% respectively for the proteins in the selected dataset. For 𝛽-strand the prediction accuracy is found to be 69%, 21% and 53% respectively by SSPDP, NNPREDICT and PHD methods. This clearly indicates that the secondary structure prediction by our method is as good as PHD method but much better than NNPREDICT method.

• Did fleshy fruit pulp evolve as a defence against seed loss rather than as a dispersal mechanism?

Relatively few studies have examined the evolution of the mutualism between endozoochorous plants and seed dispersers. Most seed dispersal studies are ecological and examine the role of fruit pulp in promoting seed dispersal. This interaction is often assumed to have originated due to selection stemming from seed dispersers. Here I suggest a defence scenario” wherein fleshy fruits originated as mechanisms to defend seeds and secondarily became structures to promote seed dispersal. I suggest that frugivory followed from herbivores that specialized on consuming seed defensive tissues and that enhanced seed dispersal was initially a consequence of seed defence. The proposed defence scenario is not posited as an explanation for the sequence that led to all modern frugivores. However, it is suggested that seed predation was the initial source of selection that led to fleshy fruits; the necessary precursor to frugivory. Support is described from the fossil record and from modern structures and interactions. Testable predictions are made in hope that greater interest will be focused on the defensive role of fleshy fruit pulp both in modern interactions and historically.

• Small mammal trapping in tropical montane forests of the Upper Nilgiris, southern India: an evaluation of capture-recapture models in estimating abundance

Capture-mark-recapture was used to study small mammal populations in tropical montane forests in southern India. Eleven plots in six montane forest patches were sampled from February–October, 1994. Six species were captured, including four rodents and two shrews. PROGRAM CAPTURE was used to derive estimates of density of the most abundant species in the study area, Rattus rattus Linnaeus. The coefficient of variation of the density estimate was used as an index of precision. The coefficient of variation decreased exponentially with increasing capture probability and with an increase in trapping duration. The coefficient of variation and the capture probability were not correlated with estimates of density. The density estimate increased with trapping duration, as did trap mortality. The latter may have been due to the trend of increased mortality with recaptures of the same individual, which in turn may have been due to weight loss over consecutive captures. Estimates of density derived using four estimators were different for 2, 3, 4 and 5 days of trapping. The coefficient of variation was highest for the generalized removal estimate and lowest for Darroch’s estimate. The models and estimators could not be applied to more than one species, and for this species, only in select habitats in a few seasons. Therefore, models of density estimation developed for temperate areas may not be suitable for tropical habitats due to low densities of small mammals in these habitats.

• Timing of surgery during the menstrual cycle and prognosis of breast cancer

There are conflicting reports on the differential effect of surgery performed during the two phases of the menstrual cycle, namely, follicular and luteal, and prognosis of operable breast cancer. A statistical meta-analysis of the published evidence suggests a modest survival benefit of 15 ± 4% when the operation is performed during the lueteal phase. Further research in this area might provide a novel avenue to understand the natural history of breast cancer. A spin off from these studies might be the understanding of the importance of events that occur at the time of surgery in determining long term prognosis.

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