A Blog Around The Clock

New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 11 new articles in PLoS ONE today. As always, you should rate the articles, post notes and comments and send trackbacks when you blog about the papers. Here are my own picks for the week – you go and look for your own favourites:

Systems Biology of the Clock in Neurospora crassa:

A model-driven discovery process, Computing Life, is used to identify an ensemble of genetic networks that describe the biological clock. A clock mechanism involving the genes white-collar-1 and white-collar-2 (wc-1 and wc-2) that encode a transcriptional activator (as well as a blue-light receptor) and an oscillator frequency (frq) that encodes a cyclin that deactivates the activator is used to guide this discovery process through three cycles of microarray experiments. Central to this discovery process is a new methodology for the rational design of a Maximally Informative Next Experiment (MINE), based on the genetic network ensemble. In each experimentation cycle, the MINE approach is used to select the most informative new experiment in order to mine for clock-controlled genes, the outputs of the clock. As much as 25% of the N. crassa transcriptome appears to be under clock-control. Clock outputs include genes with products in DNA metabolism, ribosome biogenesis in RNA metabolism, cell cycle, protein metabolism, transport, carbon metabolism, isoprenoid (including carotenoid) biosynthesis, development, and varied signaling processes. Genes under the transcription factor complex WCC ( = WC-1/WC-2) control were resolved into four classes, circadian only (612 genes), light-responsive only (396), both circadian and light-responsive (328), and neither circadian nor light-responsive (987). In each of three cycles of microarray experiments data support that wc-1 and wc-2 are auto-regulated by WCC. Among 11,000 N. crassa genes a total of 295 genes, including a large fraction of phosphatases/kinases, appear to be under the immediate control of the FRQ oscillator as validated by 4 independent microarray experiments. Ribosomal RNA processing and assembly rather than its transcription appears to be under clock control, suggesting a new mechanism for the post-transcriptional control of clock-controlled genes.

Leptin Replacement Improves Cognitive Development:

Background

Leptin changes brain structure, neuron excitability and synaptic plasticity. It also regulates the development and function of feeding circuits. However, the effects of leptin on neurocognitive development are unknown.

Objective

To evaluate the effect of leptin on neurocognitive development.

Methodology

A 5-year-old boy with a nonconservative missense leptin gene mutation (Cys-to-Thr in codon 105) was treated with recombinant methionyl human leptin (r-metHuLeptin) at physiologic replacement doses of 0.03 mg/kg/day. Cognitive development was assessed using the Differential Ability Scales (DAS), a measure of general verbal and nonverbal functioning; and selected subtests from the NEPSY, a measure of neuropsychological functioning in children.

Principal Findings

Prior to treatment, the patient was morbidly obese, hypertensive, dyslipidemic, and hyperinsulinemic. Baseline neurocognitive tests revealed slower than expected rates of development (developmental age lower than chronological age) in a majority of the areas assessed. After two years, substantial increases in the rates of development in most neurocognitive domains were apparent, with some skills at or exceeding expectations based on chronological age. We also observed marked weight loss and resolution of hypertension, dyslipidemia and hyperinsulinemia.

Conclusions

We concluded that replacement with r-metHuLeptin is associated with weight loss and changes in rates of development in many neurocognitive domains, which lends support to the hypothesis that, in addition to its role in metabolism, leptin may have a cognitive enhancing role in the developing central nervous system.