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New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 12 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:

Urochordate Histoincompatible Interactions Activate Vertebrate-Like Coagulation System Components:

The colonial ascidian Botryllus schlosseri expresses a unique allorecognition system. When two histoincompatible Botryllus colonies come into direct contact, they develop an inflammatory-like rejection response. A surprising high number of vertebrates’ coagulation genes and coagulation-related domains were disclosed in a cDNA library of differentially expressed sequence tags (ESTs), prepared for this allorejection process. Serine proteases, especially from the trypsin family, were highly represented among Botryllus library ortholgues and its “molecular function” gene ontology analysis. These, together with the built-up clot-like lesions in the interaction area, led us to further test whether a vertebrate-like clotting system participates in Botryllus innate immunity. Three morphologically distinct clot types (points of rejection; POR) were followed. We demonstrated the specific expression of nine coagulation orthologue transcripts in Botryllus rejection processes and effects of the anti-coagulant heparin on POR formation and heartbeats. In situ hybridization of fibrinogen and von Willebrand factor orthologues elucidated enhanced expression patterns specific to histoincompatible reactions as well as common expressions not augmented by innate immunity. Immunohistochemistry for fibrinogen revealed, in naïve and immune challenged colonies alike, specific antibody binding to a small population of Botryllus compartment cells. Altogether, molecular, physiological and morphological outcomes suggest the involvement of vertebrates-like coagulation elements in urochordate immunity, not assigned with vasculature injury.

Changes in Cognition and Mortality in Relation to Exercise in Late Life: A Population Based Study:

On average, cognition declines with age but this average hides considerable variability, including the chance of improvement. Here, we investigate how exercise is associated with cognitive change and mortality in older people and, particularly, whether exercise might paradoxically increase the risk of dementia by allowing people to live longer. In the Canadian Study of Health and Aging (CSHA), of 8403 people who had baseline cognition measured and exercise reported at CSHA-1, 2219 had died and 5376 were re-examined at CSHA-2. We used a parametric Markov chain model to estimate the probabilities of cognitive improvement, decline, and death, adjusted for age and education, from any cognitive state as measured by the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination. High exercisers (at least three times per week, at least as intense as walking, n = 3264) had more frequent stable or improved cognition (42.3%, 95% confidence interval: 40.6-44.0) over 5 years than did low/no exercisers (all other exercisers and non exercisers, n = 4331) (27.8% (95% CI 26.4-29.2)). The difference widened as baseline cognition worsened. The proportion whose cognition declined was higher amongst the high exercisers but was more similar between exercise groups (39.4% (95% CI 37.7-41.1) for high exercisers versus 34.8% (95% CI 33.4-36.2) otherwise). People who did not exercise were also more likely to die (37.5% (95% CI 36.0-39.0) versus 18.3% (95% CI 16.9-19.7)). Even so, exercise conferred its greatest mortality benefit to people with the highest baseline cognition. Exercise is strongly associated with improving cognition. As the majority of mortality benefit of exercise is at the highest level of cognition, and declines as cognition declines, the net effect of exercise should be to improve cognition at the population level, even with more people living longer.

Chronic Cigarette Smoke Causes Oxidative Damage and Apoptosis to Retinal Pigmented Epithelial Cells in Mice:

The purpose of this study was to determine whether mice exposed to chronic cigarette smoke develop features of early age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Two month old C57Bl6 mice were exposed to either filtered air or cigarette smoke in a smoking chamber for 5 h/day, 5 days/week for 6 months. Eyes were fixed in 2.5% glutaraldehyde/2% paraformaldehyde and examined for ultrastructural changes by transmission electron microscopy. The contralateral eye was fixed in 2% paraformaldehyde and examined for oxidative injury to the retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE) by 8-oxo-7,8-dihydro-2′-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) immunolabeling and apoptosis by TUNEL labeling. Mice exposed to cigarette smoke had immunolabeling for 8-OHdG in 85±3.7% of RPE cells counted compared to 9.5±3.9% in controls (p<0.00001). Bruch membrane was thicker in mice exposed to smoke (1086±332 nm) than those raised in air (543±132 nm; p = 0.0069). The two most pronounced ultrastructural changes (severity grading scale from 0-3) seen were a loss of basal infoldings (mean difference in grade = 1.98; p<0.0001), and an increase in intracellular vacuoles (mean difference in grade = 1.7; p<0.0001). Ultrastructural changes to Bruch membrane in cigarette-smoke exposed mice were smaller in magnitude but consistently demonstrated significantly higher grade injury in cigarette-exposed mice, including basal laminar deposits (mean difference in grade = 0.54; p<0.0001), increased outer collagenous layer deposits (mean difference in grade = 0.59; p = 0.002), and increased basal laminar deposit continuity (mean difference in grade = 0.4; p<0.0001). TUNEL assay showed a higher percentage of apoptotic RPE from mice exposed to cigarette smoke (average 8.0±1.1%) than room air (average 0±0%; p = 0.043). Mice exposed to chronic cigarette smoke develop evidence of oxidative damage with ultrastructural degeneration to the RPE and Bruch membrane, and RPE cell apoptosis. This model could be useful for studying the mechanism of smoke induced changes during early AMD.