• Volume 27, Issue 7

December 2002,   pages  629-730

• Clipboard: Primary microcephaly: microcephalin and ASPM determine the size of the human brain

• Commentary: Sex and the single gene: Meiotic silencing by unpaired DNA

• Commentary: Reflective consciousness and the emergence of memes: Serial evolutionary pathways?

• Commentary: A metaphysics of living systems: the Y$\bar{o}$ga-V$\bar{a}$siṣṭha view

The Yoga-Vasistha is a rich and complex philosophical ‘poem’ (kavya) of epic length, written in classical Sanskrit by an unknown author some time between the 6th and 13th centuries CE, probably around the 7th century. It is notable for its eloquent praise of self-effort and enquiry or analysis, and for its severe disparagement of the notion of fate. It views consciousness as

• characterizing all living forms (including plant and insect life),
• being atomic, and
• analogous to the emergence of waves and whirlpools in water;

it therefore grapples with what today would be called the problems of reductionism and emergentism. Notions of the survival of the fittest, and of a dynamic process of creation and loss, are expressed with characteristic force. The paper presents a selection of verses (in an English translation) setting forth these views, and a brief analysis of their implications.

• A passion for plant life

• Monoclonal antibody affinity purification of a 78 kDa membrane protein of Leishmania donovani of Indian origin and its role in host–parasite interaction

Monoclonal antibodies were raised against pathogenic promastigotes of Leishmania donovani of Indian origin. Among these, one was used for immuno-affinity purification of a 78 kDa membrane protein present in both the amastigote and promastigote forms of the parasite. Results of immunoblot experiments with the anti-78 kDa antibody revealed that the protein was present only in parasites belonging to the L. donovani complex. The expression of the protein was observed to be the same during different phases of growth of the promastigotes. Therefore, the 78 kDa protein is neither stage-specific nor differentially regulated. Surface iodination and subcellular fractionation of the promastigotes indicated that the protein was localized on the cell surface. The 78 kDa protein was found to inhibit the binding of promastigotes to macrophages significantly, suggesting that it may play a role in the process of infection. Thus, here we report the purification of a surface protein of L. donovani of Indian origin, which may play an important role in the process of infection.

• Alterations in tumour suppressor gene p53 in human gliomas from Indian patients

Alterations in the tumour suppressor p53 gene are among the most common defects seen in a variety of human cancers. In order to study the significance of the p53 gene in the genesis and development of human glioma from Indian patients, we checked 44 untreated primary gliomas for mutations in exons 5–9 of the p53 gene by PCR-SSCP and DNA sequencing. Sequencing analysis revealed six missense mutations. The incidence of p53 mutations was 13.6% (6 of 44). All the six mutations were found to be located in the central core domain of p53, which carries the sequence-specific DNA-binding domain. These results suggest a rather low incidence but a definite involvement of p53 mutations in the gliomas of Indian patients.

• Characterization of urinary volatiles in Swiss male mice (Mus musculus): bioassay of identified compounds

The present study was carried out to investigate the chemical nature of the urine of male mice and to assess its bioactivity. Urine of mature male mice was extracted with dichloromethane (1 : 1 ratio v/v) and analysed by gas-chromatography linked mass-spectrometry (GC-MS). Ten different compounds such as alkanes, alcohols, etc. were detected in the urine. Among the ten, five compounds are specific to males, namely 3-cyclohexene-1-methanol (I), 3-amino-s-triazole (II), 4-ethyl phenol (III), 3-ethyl-2,7-dimethyl octane (IV) and 1-iodoundecane (V). The compound, 4-ethylphenol, has been previously reported in several strains of male mice. Furthermore, the compounds (II) and (IV) are similar to 2-sec-butylthiazole and dehydro-exo-brevicomin compounds which have already been reported in male mice. Bioassay revealed that compounds (II), (III) and (IV) were responsible for attracting females and in inducing aggression towards males, as compared to the other compounds, i.e. (I) and (V). The results indicate that these three volatiles (II, III and IV) of male mice appear to act as attractants of the opposite sex.

• Induction of blindness by formoguanamine hydrochloride in adult male roseringed parakeets (Psittacula krameri)

Formoguanamine (2,4-diamino-s-triazine) was known to be an effective chemical agent in inducing blindness in poultry chicks, but not in adult birds. The present study was undertaken to demonstrate the influences, if any, of this chemical on the visual performance and retinal histology in an adult sub-tropical wild bird, the roseringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri). Formoguanamine (FG) hydrochloride was subcutaneously injected into adult parakeets at a dosage of 25 mg (dissolved in 0×75 ml physiological saline)/100 g body weight/day, for two consecutive days while the control birds were injected only with a placebo. The effects were studied after 10, 20 and 30 days of the last treatment of FG. Within 24 h of the treatment of FG, about 90% of the total birds exhibited lack of visual responses to any light stimulus and even absence of pupillary light reactions. The remaining birds became totally blind on the day following the last injection of FG and remained so till the end of investigation. At the microscopic level, conspicuous degenerative changes were noted in the outer pigmented epithelium and the photoreceptive layer of rods and cones in the retinas of FG treated birds. A significant reduction in the thickness of the outer nuclear layer was also found in the retinas of FG treated parakeets, compared to that in the control birds. However, the inner cell layers of the retina in the control and FG administered parakeets were almost identical. It deserves special mention that the effects of FG, noted after 30 days of last treatment, were not very different from those noted just after 10 days of treatment. Collectively, the results of the present investigation demonstrate that FG can be used as a potent pharmacological agent for inducing irreversible blindness through selective damage in retinal tissue even in the adult wild bird, thereby making FG treatment an alternative euthanasic device to a cumbersome, stressful, surgical method of enucleation of the ocular system for laboratory studies.

• Postnatal growth, age estimation and development of foraging behaviour in the fulvous fruit bat Rousettus leschenaulti

This study documents the postnatal growth, age estimation and development of the foraging behaviour of the fulvous fruit bat Rousettus leschenaulti under captive conditions. At birth, the young were naked and pink with closed eyes and folded pinnae. By day four of age, their eyes had opened and the pups began to move. The mean length of forearm in 5-day-old pups was 24.9 mm and body mass was 10.8 g, equivalent to 32.3% and 14.2% of the values from postpartum females. The length of forearm and body mass increased linearly until 45 and 50 days, respectively, and thereafter maintained an apparent stability. The epiphyseal gap of the fourth metacarpalphalangeal joint increased until 15 days, then decreased linearly until 75 days and thereafter closed. Age was estimated quantitatively, based on linear changes observed in the length of the forearm and epiphyseal gap. Pups began to roost separately, but adjacent to their mothers when 30 days old and flew clumsily when they were about 40 days old. After attaining clumsy flight, the young bats made independent foraging attempts feebly by biting and licking small fruit pieces. Young bats were engaged in suckling as well as ingesting fruits when they were about 50 days old. Between 55 and 65 days, they flew well and fed on fruits. At the age of 75 days, the young bats were completely weaned and at two months, their foraging behaviour was similar to that of their mothers. There was no significant difference in the growth pattern of the young maintained in captivity compared with those under natural conditions.

• Applications of inulin and oligofructose in health and nutrition

Inulin and oligofructose belong to a class of carbohydrates known as fructans. The main sources of inulin and oligofructose that are used in the food industry are chicory and Jerusalem artichoke. Inulin and oligofructose are considered as functional food ingredients since they affect physiological and biochemical processes in rats and human beings, resulting in better health and reduction in the risk of many diseases. Experimental studies have shown their use as bifidogenic agents, stimulating the immune system of the body, decreasing the levels of pathogenic bacteria in the intestine, relieving constipation, decreasing the risk of osteoporosis by increasing mineral absorption, especially of calcium, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis by lowering the synthesis of triglycerides and fatty acids in the liver and decreasing their level in serum. These fructans modulate the hormonal level of insulin and glucagon, thereby regulating carbohydrate and lipid metabolism by lowering the blood glucose levels; they are also effective in lowering the blood urea and uric acid levels, thereby maintaining the nitrogen balance. Inulin and oligofructose also reduce the incidence of colon cancer. The biochemical basis of these beneficial effects of inulin and oligofructose have been discussed. Oligofructoses are non-cariogenic as they are not used by Streptococcus mutans to form acids and insoluble glucans that are the main culprits in dental caries. Because of the large number of health promoting functions of inulin and oligofructose, these have wide applications in various types of foods like confectionery, fruit preparations, milk desserts, yogurt and fresh cheese, baked goods, chocolate, ice cream and sauces. Inulin can also be used for the preparation of fructose syrups.

• Subject Index

• Author Index

• Acknowledgements

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