New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 9 new articles in PLoS ONE today (as well as another 3 articles published last night). 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:

Hybridization among Three Native North American Canis Species in a Region of Natural Sympatry:

Population densities of many species throughout the world are changing due to direct persecution as well as anthropogenic habitat modification. These changes may induce or increase the frequency of hybridization among taxa. If extensive, hybridization can threaten the genetic integrity or survival of endangered species. Three native species of the genus Canis, coyote (C. latrans), Mexican wolf (C. lupus baileyi) and red wolf (C. rufus), were historically sympatric in Texas, United States. Human impacts caused the latter two to go extinct in the wild, although they survived in captive breeding programs. Morphological data demonstrate historic reproductive isolation between all three taxa. While the red wolf population was impacted by introgressive hybridization with coyotes as it went extinct in the wild, the impact of hybridization on the Texas populations of the other species is not clear. We surveyed variation at maternally and paternally inherited genetic markers (mitochondrial control region sequence and Y chromosome microsatellites) in coyotes from Texas, Mexican wolves and red wolves from the captive breeding programs, and a reference population of coyotes from outside the historic red wolf range. Levels of variation and phylogenetic analyses suggest that hybridization has occasionally taken place between all three species, but that the impact on the coyote population is very small. Our results demonstrate that the factors driving introgressive hybridization in sympatric Texan Canis are multiple and complex. Hybridization is not solely determined by body size or sex, and density-dependent effects do not fully explain the observed pattern either. No evidence of hybridization was identified in the Mexican wolf captive breeding program, but introgression appears to have had a greater impact on the captive red wolves.

Genetic Dissimilarity between Mates, but Not Male Heterozygosity, Influences Divorce in Schistosomes:

Correlational studies strongly suggest that both genetic similarity and heterozygosity can influence female mate choice. However, the influence of each variable has usually been tested independently, although similarity and heterozygosity might be correlated. We experimentally determined the relative influence of genetic similarity and heterozygosity in divorce and re-mating in the monogamous endoparasite Schistosoma mansoni. We performed sequential infections of vertebrate hosts with controlled larval populations of parasites, where sex and individual genetic diversity and similarity were predetermined before infection. Divorce rate increased significantly when females were given the opportunity to increase genetic dissimilarity through re-mating with a new partner, independently of the intensity of male-male competition. We found however no evidence for females attempting to maximize the level of heterozygosity of their reproductive partner through divorce. Female preference for genetically dissimilar males should result in more heterozygous offspring. Because genetic heterozygosity might partly determine the ability of parasites to counter host resistance, adaptive divorce could be an important factor in the evolutionary arms race between schistosomes and their hosts.

Ubiquitous Water-Soluble Molecules in Aquatic Plant Exudates Determine Specific Insect Attraction:

Plants produce semio-chemicals that directly influence insect attraction and/or repulsion. Generally, this attraction is closely associated with herbivory and has been studied mainly under atmospheric conditions. On the other hand, the relationship between aquatic plants and insects has been little studied. To determine whether the roots of aquatic macrophytes release attractive chemical mixtures into the water, we studied the behaviour of mosquito larvae using olfactory experiments with root exudates. After testing the attraction on Culex and Aedes mosquito larvae, we chose to work with Coquillettidia species, which have a complex behaviour in nature and need to be attached to plant roots in order to obtain oxygen. This relationship is non-destructive and can be described as commensal behaviour. Commonly found compounds seemed to be involved in insect attraction since root exudates from different plants were all attractive. Moreover, chemical analysis allowed us to identify a certain number of commonly found, highly water-soluble, low-molecular-weight compounds, several of which (glycerol, uracil, thymine, uridine, thymidine) were able to induce attraction when tested individually but at concentrations substantially higher than those found in nature. However, our principal findings demonstrated that these compounds appeared to act synergistically, since a mixture of these five compounds attracted larvae at natural concentrations (0.7 nM glycerol,

Fetal and Neonatal Nicotine Exposure in Wistar Rats Causes Progressive Pancreatic Mitochondrial Damage and Beta Cell Dysfunction:

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is currently recommended as a safe smoking cessation aid for pregnant women. However, fetal and neonatal nicotine exposure in rats causes mitochondrial-mediated beta cell apoptosis at weaning, and adult-onset dysglycemia, which we hypothesize is related to progressive mitochondrial dysfunction in the pancreas. Therefore in this study we examined the effect of fetal and neonatal exposure to nicotine on pancreatic mitochondrial structure and function during postnatal development. Female Wistar rats were given saline (vehicle control) or nicotine bitartrate (1 mg/kg/d) via subcutaneous injection for 2 weeks prior to mating until weaning. At 3-4, 15 and 26 weeks of age, oral glucose tolerance tests were performed, and pancreas tissue was collected for electron microscopy, enzyme activity assays and islet isolation. Following nicotine exposure mitochondrial structural abnormalities were observed beginning at 3 weeks and worsened with advancing age. Importantly the appearance of these structural defects in nicotine-exposed animals preceded the onset of glucose intolerance. Nicotine exposure also resulted in significantly reduced pancreatic respiratory chain enzyme activity, degranulation of beta cells, elevated islet oxidative stress and impaired glucose-stimulated insulin secretion compared to saline controls at 26 weeks of age. Taken together, these data suggest that maternal nicotine use during pregnancy results in postnatal mitochondrial dysfunction that may explain, in part, the dysglycemia observed in the offspring from this animal model. These results clearly indicate that further investigation into the safety of NRT use during pregnancy is warranted.

Estimated Drug Overdose Deaths Averted by North America's First Medically-Supervised Safer Injection Facility:

Illicit drug overdose remains a leading cause of premature mortality in urban settings worldwide. We sought to estimate the number of deaths potentially averted by the implementation of a medically supervised safer injection facility (SIF) in Vancouver, Canada. The number of potentially averted deaths was calculated using an estimate of the local ratio of non-fatal to fatal overdoses. Inputs were derived from counts of overdose deaths by the British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency and non-fatal overdose rates from published estimates. Potentially-fatal overdoses were defined as events within the SIF that required the provision of naloxone, a 911 call or an ambulance. Point estimates and 95% Confidence Intervals (95% CI) were calculated using a Monte Carlo simulation. Between March 1, 2004 and July 1, 2008 there were 1004 overdose events in the SIF of which 453 events matched our definition of potentially fatal. In 2004, 2005 and 2006 there were 32, 37 and 38 drug-induced deaths in the SIF's neighbourhood. Owing to the wide range of non-fatal overdose rates reported in the literature (between 5% and 30% per year) we performed sensitivity analyses using non-fatal overdose rates of 50, 200 and 300 per 1,000 person years. Using these model inputs, the number of averted deaths were, respectively: 50.9 (95% CI: 23.6-78.1); 12.6 (95% CI: 9.6-15.7); 8.4 (95% CI: 6.5-10.4) during the study period, equal to 1.9 to 11.7 averted deaths per annum. Based on a conservative estimate of the local ratio of non-fatal to fatal overdoses, the potentially fatal overdoses in the SIF during the study period could have resulted in between 8 and 51 deaths had they occurred outside the facility, or from 6% to 37% of the total overdose mortality burden in the neighborhood during the study period. These data should inform the ongoing debates over the future of the pilot project.

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