A Blog Around The Clock

New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 24 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. You can now also easily place articles on various social services (CiteULike, Connotea, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg) with just one click. Here are my own picks for the week – you go and look for your own favourites:

Evolutionary Patterns and Selective Pressures of Odorant/Pheromone Receptor Gene Families in Teleost Fishes:

Teleost fishes do not have a vomeronasal organ (VNO), and their vomeronasal receptors (V1Rs, V2Rs) are expressed in the main olfactory epithelium (MOE), as are odorant receptors (ORs) and trace amine-associated receptors (TAARs). In this study, to obtain insights into the functional distinction among the four chemosensory receptor families in teleost fishes, their evolutionary patterns were examined in zebrafish, medaka, stickleback, fugu, and spotted green pufferfish. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that many lineage-specific gene gains and losses occurred in the teleost fish TAARs, whereas only a few gene gains and losses have taken place in the teleost fish vomeronasal receptors. In addition, synonymous and nonsynonymous nucleotide substitution rate ratios (KA/KS) in TAARs tended to be higher than those in ORs and V2Rs. Frequent gene gains/losses and high KA/KS in teleost TAARs suggest that receptors in this family are used for detecting some species-specific chemicals such as pheromones. Conversely, conserved repertoires of V1R and V2R families in teleost fishes may imply that receptors in these families perceive common odorants for teleosts, such as amino acids. Teleost ORs showed intermediate evolutionary pattern between TAARs and vomeronasal receptors. Many teleost ORs seem to be used for common odorants, but some ORs may have evolved to recognize lineage-specific odors.

Insect Brains Use Image Interpolation Mechanisms to Recognise Rotated Objects:

Recognising complex three-dimensional objects presents significant challenges to visual systems when these objects are rotated in depth. The image processing requirements for reliable individual recognition under these circumstances are computationally intensive since local features and their spatial relationships may significantly change as an object is rotated in the horizontal plane. Visual experience is known to be important in primate brains learning to recognise rotated objects, but currently it is unknown how animals with comparatively simple brains deal with the problem of reliably recognising objects when seen from different viewpoints. We show that the miniature brain of honeybees initially demonstrate a low tolerance for novel views of complex shapes (e.g. human faces), but can learn to recognise novel views of stimuli by interpolating between or ‘averaging’ views they have experienced. The finding that visual experience is also important for bees has important implications for understanding how three dimensional biologically relevant objects like flowers are recognised in complex environments, and for how machine vision might be taught to solve related visual problems.

An Epididymis-Specific Secretory Protein HongrES1 Critically Regulates Sperm Capacitation and Male Fertility:

Mammalian sperm capacitation is an essential prerequisite to fertilizion. Although progress had been made in understanding the physiology and biochemistry of capacitation, little is known about the potential roles of epididymal proteins during this process. Here we report that HongrES1, a new member of the SERPIN (serine proteinase inhibitor) family exclusively expressed in the rat cauda epididymis and up-regulated by androgen, is secreted into the lumen and covers the sperm head. Co-culture of caudal sperms with HongrES1 antibody in vitro resulted in a significant increase in the percentage of capacitated spermatozoa. Furthermore, the percentage of capacitated spermatozoa clearly increased in rats when HongrES1 was down-regulated by RNAi in vivo. Remarkably, knockdown of HongrES1 in vivo led to reduced fertility accompanied with deformed appearance of fetuses and pups. These results identify HongrES1 as a novel and critical molecule in the regulation of sperm capacitation and male fertility.