ISSN / EISSN : 1544-9173 / 1545-7885
Current Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS) (10.1371)
Total articles ≅ 6,031
Latest articles in this journal
PLOS Biology, Volume 19; doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3001157
Exaggerated sexually selected traits, often carried by males, are characterized by the evolution of hyperallometry, resulting in their disproportionate growth relative to the rest of the body among individuals of the same population. While the evolution of allometry has attracted much attention for centuries, our understanding of the developmental genetic mechanisms underlying its emergence remains fragmented. Here we conduct comparative transcriptomics of the legs followed by an RNA interference (RNAi) screen to identify genes that play a role in the hyperallometric growth of the third legs in the males of the water strider Microvelia longipes. We demonstrate that a broadly expressed growth factor, Bone Morphogenetic Protein 11 (BMP11, also known as Growth Differentiation Factor 11), regulates leg allometries through increasing the allometric slope and mean body size in males. In contrast, BMP11 RNAi reduced mean body size but did not affect slope either in the females of M. longipes or in the males and females of other closely related Microvelia species. Furthermore, our data show that a tissue-specific factor, Ultrabithorax (Ubx), increases intercept without affecting mean body size. This indicates a genetic correlation between mean body size and variation in allometric slope, but not intercept. Strikingly, males treated with BMP11 RNAi exhibited a severe reduction in fighting frequency compared to both controls and Ubx RNAi-treated males. Therefore, male body size, the exaggerated weapon, and the intense fighting behavior associated with it are genetically correlated in M. longipes. Our results support a possible role of pleiotropy in the evolution of allometric slope.
PLOS Biology, Volume 19; doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3001228
The biogenic amine octopamine (OA) and its precursor tyramine (TA) are involved in controlling a plethora of different physiological and behavioral processes. The tyramine-ß-hydroxylase (tßh) gene encodes the enzyme catalyzing the last synthesis step from TA to OA. Here, we report differential dominance (from recessive to overdominant) of the putative null tßh nM18 allele in 2 behavioral measures in Buridan’s paradigm (walking speed and stripe deviation) and in proboscis extension (sugar sensitivity) in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. The behavioral analysis of transgenic tßh expression experiments in mutant and wild-type flies as well as of OA and TA receptor mutants revealed a complex interaction of both aminergic systems. Our analysis suggests that the different neuronal networks responsible for the 3 phenotypes show differential sensitivity to tßh gene expression levels. The evidence suggests that this sensitivity is brought about by a TA/OA opponent system modulating the involved neuronal circuits. This conclusion has important implications for standard transgenic techniques commonly used in functional genetics.
Expression of concern
PLOS Biology, Volume 19; doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3001246
PLOS Biology, Volume 19; doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3001253
Sex/gender differences in the human brain attract attention far beyond the neuroscience community. Given the interest of nonspecialists, it is important that researchers studying human female–male brain difference assume greater responsibility for the accurate communication of their findings.
PLOS Biology, Volume 19; doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3001077
Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) provides an unprecedented view of cellular diversity of biological systems. However, across the thousands of publications and datasets generated using this technology, we estimate that only a minority (<25%) of studies provide cell-level metadata information containing identified cell types and related findings of the published dataset. Metadata omission hinders reproduction, exploration, validation, and knowledge transfer and is a common problem across journals, data repositories, and publication dates. We encourage investigators, reviewers, journals, and data repositories to improve their standards and ensure proper documentation of these valuable datasets.
PLOS Biology, Volume 19; doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3001235
New technologies make it possible to measure activity from many neurons simultaneously. One approach is to analyze simultaneously recorded neurons individually, then group together neurons which increase their activity during similar behaviors into an “ensemble.” However, this notion of an ensemble ignores the ability of neurons to act collectively and encode and transmit information in ways that are not reflected by their individual activity levels. We used microendoscopic GCaMP imaging to measure prefrontal activity while mice were either alone or engaged in social interaction. We developed an approach that combines a neural network classifier and surrogate (shuffled) datasets to characterize how neurons synergistically transmit information about social behavior. Notably, unlike optimal linear classifiers, a neural network classifier with a single linear hidden layer can discriminate network states which differ solely in patterns of coactivity, and not in the activity levels of individual neurons. Using this approach, we found that surrogate datasets which preserve behaviorally specific patterns of coactivity (correlations) outperform those which preserve behaviorally driven changes in activity levels but not correlated activity. Thus, social behavior elicits increases in correlated activity that are not explained simply by the activity levels of the underlying neurons, and prefrontal neurons act collectively to transmit information about socialization via these correlations. Notably, this ability of correlated activity to enhance the information transmitted by neuronal ensembles is diminished in mice lacking the autism-associated gene Shank3. These results show that synergy is an important concept for the coding of social behavior which can be disrupted in disease states, reveal a specific mechanism underlying this synergy (social behavior increases correlated activity within specific ensembles), and outline methods for studying how neurons within an ensemble can work together to encode information.
PLOS Biology, Volume 19; doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3001237
The recently reported “UK variant” (B.1.1.7) of SARS-CoV-2 is thought to be more infectious than previously circulating strains as a result of several changes, including the N501Y mutation. We present a 2.9-Å resolution cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) structure of the complex between the ACE2 receptor and N501Y spike protein ectodomains that shows Y501 inserted into a cavity at the binding interface near Y41 of ACE2. This additional interaction provides a structural explanation for the increased ACE2 affinity of the N501Y mutant, and likely contributes to its increased infectivity. However, this mutation does not result in large structural changes, enabling important neutralization epitopes to be retained in the spike receptor binding domain. We confirmed this through biophysical assays and by determining cryo-EM structures of spike protein ectodomains bound to 2 representative potent neutralizing antibody fragments.
PLOS Biology, Volume 19; doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3001207
Missense variants are present amongst the healthy population, but some of them are causative of human diseases. A classification of variants associated with “healthy” or “diseased” states is therefore not always straightforward. A deeper understanding of the nature of missense variants in health and disease, the cellular processes they may affect, and the general molecular principles which underlie these differences is essential to offer mechanistic explanations of the true impact of pathogenic variants. Here, we have formalised a statistical framework which enables robust probabilistic quantification of variant enrichment across full-length proteins, their domains, and 3D structure-defined regions. Using this framework, we validate and extend previously reported trends of variant enrichment in different protein structural regions (surface/core/interface). By examining the association of variant enrichment with available functional pathways and transcriptomic and proteomic (protein half-life, thermal stability, abundance) data, we have mined a rich set of molecular features which distinguish between pathogenic and population variants: Pathogenic variants mainly affect proteins involved in cell proliferation and nucleotide processing and are enriched in more abundant proteins. Additionally, rare population variants display features closer to common than pathogenic variants. We validate the association between these molecular features and variant pathogenicity by comparing against existing in silico variant impact annotations. This study provides molecular details into how different proteins exhibit resilience and/or sensitivity towards missense variants and provides the rationale to prioritise variant-enriched proteins and protein domains for therapeutic targeting and development. The ZoomVar database, which we created for this study, is available at fraternalilab.kcl.ac.uk/ZoomVar. It allows users to programmatically annotate missense variants with protein structural information and to calculate variant enrichment in different protein structural regions.
PLOS Biology, Volume 19; doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3001198
Transactive response DNA-binding Protein of 43 kDa (TDP-43) assembles various aggregate forms, including biomolecular condensates or functional and pathological amyloids, with roles in disparate scenarios (e.g., muscle regeneration versus neurodegeneration). The link between condensates and fibrils remains unclear, just as the factors controlling conformational transitions within these aggregate species: Salt- or RNA-induced droplets may evolve into fibrils or remain in the droplet form, suggesting distinct end point species of different aggregation pathways. Using microscopy and NMR methods, we unexpectedly observed in vitro droplet formation in the absence of salts or RNAs and provided visual evidence for fibrillization at the droplet surface/solvent interface but not the droplet interior. Our NMR analyses unambiguously uncovered a distinct amyloid conformation in which Phe-Gly motifs are key elements of the reconstituted fibril form, suggesting a pivotal role for these residues in creating the fibril core. This contrasts the minor participation of Phe-Gly motifs in initiation of the droplet form. Our results point to an intrinsic (i.e., non-induced) aggregation pathway that may exist over a broad range of conditions and illustrate structural features that distinguishes between aggregate forms.
PLOS Biology, Volume 19; doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3001036
In response to the Hong Kong Principles for assessing researchers, this Formal Comment argues that it is time to take gender and diversity considerations seriously in the pursuit of fostering research integrity; this requires acknowledging and reshaping the influence of research assessment criteria on researcher representation.