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New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 20 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, Mendeley, 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:

A Locomotor Innovation Enables Water-Land Transition in a Marine Fish:

Morphological innovations that significantly enhance performance capacity may enable exploitation of new resources and invasion of new ecological niches. The invasion of land from the aquatic realm requires dramatic structural and physiological modifications to permit survival in a gravity-dominated, aerial environment. Most fishes are obligatorily aquatic, with amphibious fishes typically making slow-moving and short forays on to land. Here I describe the behaviors and movements of a little known marine fish that moves extraordinarily rapidly on land. I found that the Pacific leaping blenny, Alticus arnoldorum, employs a tail-twisting movement on land, previously unreported in fishes. Focal point behavioral observations of Alticus show that they have largely abandoned the marine realm, feed and reproduce on land, and even defend terrestrial territories. Comparisons of these blennies’ terrestrial kinematic and kinetic (i.e., force) measurements with those of less terrestrial sister genera show A. arnoldorum move with greater stability and locomotor control, and can move away more rapidly from impending threats. My results demonstrate that axial tail twisting serves as a key innovation enabling invasion of a novel marine niche. This paper highlights the potential of using this system to address general evolutionary questions about water-land transitions and niche invasions.

Stage-Specific Effects of Candidate Heterochronic Genes on Variation in Developmental Time along an Altitudinal Cline of Drosophila melanogaster:

Previously, we have shown there is clinal variation for egg-to-adult developmental time along geographic gradients in Drosophila melanogaster. Further, we also have identified mutations in genes involved in metabolic and neurogenic pathways that affect development time (heterochronic genes). However, we do not know whether these loci affect variation in developmental time in natural populations. Here, we constructed second chromosome substitution lines from natural populations of Drosophila melanogaster from an altitudinal cline, and measured egg-adult development time for each line. We found not only a large amount of genetic variation for developmental time, but also positive associations of the development time with thermal amplitude and altitude. We performed genetic complementation tests using substitution lines with the longest and shortest developmental times and heterochronic mutations. We identified segregating variation for neurogenic and metabolic genes that largely affected the duration of the larval stages but had no impact on the timing of metamorphosis. Altitudinal clinal variation in developmental time for natural chromosome substitution lines provides a unique opportunity to dissect the response of heterochronic genes to environmental gradients. Ontogenetic stage-specific variation in invected, mastermind, cricklet and CG14591 may affect natural variation in development time and thermal evolution.

A Lagrangian Identification of the Main Sources of Moisture Affecting Northeastern Brazil during Its Pre-Rainy and Rainy Seasons:

This work examines the sources of moisture affecting the semi-arid Brazilian Northeast (NEB) during its pre-rainy and rainy season (JFMAM) through a Lagrangian diagnosis method. The FLEXPART model identifies the humidity contributions to the moisture budget over a region through the continuous computation of changes in the specific humidity along back or forward trajectories up to 10 days period. The numerical experiments were done for the period that spans between 2000 and 2004 and results were aggregated on a monthly basis. Results show that besides a minor local recycling component, the vast majority of moisture reaching NEB area is originated in the south Atlantic basin and that the nearby wet Amazon basin bears almost no impact. Moreover, although the maximum precipitation in the “Poligono das Secas” region (PS) occurs in March and the maximum precipitation associated with air parcels emanating from the South Atlantic towards PS is observed along January to March, the highest moisture contribution from this oceanic region occurs slightly later (April). A dynamical analysis suggests that the maximum precipitation observed in the PS sector does not coincide with the maximum moisture supply probably due to the combined effect of the Walker and Hadley cells in inhibiting the rising motions over the region in the months following April.

Desire and Dread from the Nucleus Accumbens: Cortical Glutamate and Subcortical GABA Differentially Generate Motivation and Hedonic Impact in the Rat:

GABAergic signals to the nucleus accumbens (NAc) shell arise from predominantly subcortical sources whereas glutamatergic signals arise mainly from cortical-related sources. Here we contrasted GABAergic and glutamatergic generation of hedonics versus motivation processes, as a proxy for comparing subcortical and cortical controls of emotion. Local disruptions of either signals in medial shell of NAc generate intense motivated behaviors corresponding to desire and/or dread, along a rostrocaudal gradient. GABA or glutamate disruptions in rostral shell generate appetitive motivation whereas disruptions in caudal shell elicit fearful motivation. However, GABA and glutamate signals in NAc differ in important ways, despite the similarity of their rostrocaudal motivation gradients. Microinjections of a GABAA agonist (muscimol), or of a glutamate AMPA antagonist (DNQX) in medial shell of rats were assessed for generation of hedonic “liking” or “disliking” by measuring orofacial affective reactions to sucrose-quinine taste. Motivation generation was independently assessed measuring effects on eating versus natural defensive behaviors. For GABAergic microinjections, we found that the desire-dread motivation gradient was mirrored by an equivalent hedonic gradient that amplified affective taste “liking” (at rostral sites) versus “disliking” (at caudal sites). However, manipulation of glutamatergic signals completely failed to alter pleasure-displeasure reactions to sensory hedonic impact, despite producing a strong rostrocaudal gradient of motivation. We conclude that the nucleus accumbens contains two functional affective keyboards for amino-acid signals: a motivation-generating keyboard and a hedonic-generating keyboard. Corticolimbic glutamate signals and subcortical GABA signals equivalently engage the motivation keyboard to generate desire and-or dread. Only subcortical GABA signals additionally engage the hedonic keyboard to amplify affective “liking” and “disliking” reactions. We thus suggest that top-down cortical glutamate signals powerfully regulate motivation components, but are relatively unable to penetrate core hedonic components of emotion. That may carry implications of limits to therapeutic regulation of pathological emotions.

How Pig Sperm Prepares to Fertilize: Stable Acrosome Docking to the Plasma Membrane:

Mammalian sperms are activated in the oviduct. This process, which involves extensive sperm surface remodelling, is required for fertilization and can be mimicked under in vitro fertilization conditions (IVF). Here we demonstrate that such treatments caused stable docking and priming of the acrosome membrane to the apical sperm head surface without the emergence of exocytotic membrane fusion. The interacting membranes could be isolated as bilamellar membrane structures after cell disruption. These membrane structures as well as whole capacitated sperm contained stable ternary trans-SNARE complexes that were composed of VAMP 3 and syntaxin 1B from the plasma membrane and SNAP 23 from the acrosomal membrane. This trans-SNARE complex was not observed in control sperm. We propose that this capacitation driven membrane docking and stability thereof is a preparative step prior to the multipoint membrane fusions characteristic for the acrosome reaction induced by sperm-zona binding. Thus, sperm can be considered a valuable model for studying exocytosis.