New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 23 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:

Innervation of Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone Neurons by Peptidergic Neurons Conveying Circadian or Energy Balance Information in the Mouse:

Secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) produced in neurons in the basal forebrain is the primary regulator of reproductive maturation and function in mammals. Peptidergic signals relating to circadian timing and energy balance are an important influence on the reproductive axis. The aim of this study was to investigate the innervation of GnRH neurons by peptidergic neurons. Immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy were used to detect appositions of peptidergic fibers (NPY, β-endorphin, MCH) associated with energy balance and metabolic status in transgenic mice expressing a green fluorescent protein reporter construct in GnRH neurons. The frequency of these appositions was compared to those of vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), a hypothalamic neuropeptide likely to convey circadian timing information to the GnRH secretory system. The majority of GnRH neurons (73-87%) were closely apposed by fibers expressing NPY, β-endorphin, or MCH, and a significant proportion of GnRH neurons (28%) also had close contacts with VIP-ir fibers. It is concluded that GnRH neurons in the mouse receive a high frequency of direct modulatory inputs from multiple hypothalamic peptide systems known to be important in conveying circadian information and signalling energy balance.

Lead Bullet Fragments in Venison from Rifle-Killed Deer: Potential for Human Dietary Exposure:

Human consumers of wildlife killed with lead ammunition may be exposed to health risks associated with lead ingestion. This hypothesis is based on published studies showing elevated blood lead concentrations in subsistence hunter populations, retention of ammunition residues in the tissues of hunter-killed animals, and systemic, cognitive, and behavioral disorders associated with human lead body burdens once considered safe. Our objective was to determine the incidence and bioavailability of lead bullet fragments in hunter-killed venison, a widely-eaten food among hunters and their families. We radiographed 30 eviscerated carcasses of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) shot by hunters with standard lead-core, copper-jacketed bullets under normal hunting conditions. All carcasses showed metal fragments (geometric mean = 136 fragments, range = 15-409) and widespread fragment dispersion. We took each carcass to a separate meat processor and fluoroscopically scanned the resulting meat packages; fluoroscopy revealed metal fragments in the ground meat packages of 24 (80%) of the 30 deer; 32% of 234 ground meat packages contained at least one fragment. Fragments were identified as lead by ICP in 93% of 27 samples. Isotope ratios of lead in meat matched the ratios of bullets, and differed from background lead in bone. We fed fragment-containing venison to four pigs to test bioavailability; four controls received venison without fragments from the same deer. Mean blood lead concentrations in pigs peaked at 2.29 µg/dL (maximum 3.8 µg/dL) 2 days following ingestion of fragment-containing venison, significantly higher than the 0.63 µg/dL averaged by controls. We conclude that people risk exposure to bioavailable lead from bullet fragments when they eat venison from deer killed with standard lead-based rifle bullets and processed under normal procedures. At risk in the U.S. are some ten million hunters, their families, and low-income beneficiaries of venison donations.

Familial Resemblance of Borderline Personality Disorder Features: Genetic or Cultural Transmission?:

Borderline personality disorder is a severe personality disorder for which genetic research has been limited to family studies and classical twin studies. These studies indicate that genetic effects explain 35 to 45% of the variance in borderline personality disorder and borderline personality features. However, effects of non-additive (dominance) genetic factors, non-random mating and cultural transmission have generally not been explored. In the present study an extended twin-family design was applied to self-report data of twins (N = 5,017) and their siblings (N = 1,266), parents (N = 3,064) and spouses (N = 939) from 4,015 families, to estimate the effects of additive and non-additive genetic and environmental factors, cultural transmission and non-random mating on individual differences in borderline personality features. Results showed that resemblance among biological relatives could completely be attributed to genetic effects. Variation in borderline personality features was explained by additive genetic (21%; 95% CI 17-26%) and dominant genetic (24%; 95% CI 17-31%) factors. Environmental influences (55%; 95% CI 51-60%) explained the remaining variance. Significant resemblance between spouses was observed, which was best explained by phenotypic assortative mating, but it had only a small effect on the genetic variance (1% of the total variance). There was no effect of cultural transmission from parents to offspring.


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I think by far and away the most interesting article in PLoS One is

Assembling the Marine Metagenome, One Cell at a Time by Woyke et al. (see abstract below). I mean, that is one heck of a paper. Oh, and, I am a co-author, but don't let that make you think my comments about the paper are biased in any way.

The difficulty associated with the cultivation of most microorganisms and the complexity of natural microbial assemblages, such as marine plankton or human microbiome, hinder genome reconstruction of representative taxa using cultivation or metagenomic approaches. Here we used an alternative, single cell sequencing approach to obtain high-quality genome assemblies of two uncultured, numerically significant marine microorganisms. We employed fluorescence-activated cell sorting and multiple displacement amplification to obtain hundreds of micrograms of genomic DNA from individual, uncultured cells of two marine flavobacteria from the Gulf of Maine that were phylogenetically distant from existing cultured strains. Shotgun sequencing and genome finishing yielded 1.9 Mbp in 17 contigs and 1.5 Mbp in 21 contigs for the two flavobacteria, with estimated genome recoveries of about 91% and 78%, respectively. Only 0.24% of the assembling sequences were contaminants and were removed from further analysis using rigorous quality control. In contrast to all cultured strains of marine flavobacteria, the two single cell genomes were excellent Global Ocean Sampling (GOS) metagenome fragment recruiters, demonstrating their numerical significance in the ocean. The geographic distribution of GOS recruits along the Northwest Atlantic coast coincided with ocean surface currents. Metabolic reconstruction indicated diverse potential energy sources, including biopolymer degradation, proteorhodopsin photometabolism, and hydrogen oxidation. Compared to cultured relatives, the two uncultured flavobacteria have small genome sizes, few non-coding nucleotides, and few paralogous genes, suggesting adaptations to narrow ecological niches. These features may have contributed to the abundance of the two taxa in specific regions of the ocean, and may have hindered their cultivation. We demonstrate the power of single cell DNA sequencing to generate reference genomes of uncultured taxa from a complex microbial community of marine bacterioplankton. A combination of single cell genomics and metagenomics enabled us to analyze the genome content, metabolic adaptations, and biogeography of these taxa.

Citation: Woyke T, Xie G, Copeland A, González JM, Han C, et al. (2009) Assembling the Marine Metagenome, One Cell at a Time. PLoS ONE 4(4): e5299. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005299