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Genes, Volume 9, Issue 2 (February 2018)

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Cover Story (view full-size image) ADAR2, the main enzyme involved in the RNA editing process in the central nervous system, works as [...] Read more.
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Open AccessBrief Report Environmental Temperature Controls Accumulation of Transacting siRNAs Involved in Heterochromatin Formation
Received: 4 January 2018 / Revised: 6 February 2018 / Accepted: 12 February 2018 / Published: 21 February 2018
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Abstract
Genes or alleles can interact by small RNAs in a homology dependent manner meaning that short interfering (siRNAs) can act in trans at the chromatin level producing stable and heritable silencing phenotypes. Because of the puzzling data on endogenous paramutations, their impact contributing
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Genes or alleles can interact by small RNAs in a homology dependent manner meaning that short interfering (siRNAs) can act in trans at the chromatin level producing stable and heritable silencing phenotypes. Because of the puzzling data on endogenous paramutations, their impact contributing to adaptive evolution in a Lamarckian manner remains unknown. An increasing number of studies characterizes the underlying siRNA accumulation pathways using transgene experiments. Also in the ciliate Paramecium tetraurelia, we induce trans silencing on the chromatin level by injection of truncated transgenes. Here, we characterize the efficiency of this mechanism at different temperatures showing that silencing of the endogenous genes is temperature dependent. Analyzing different transgene constructs at different copy numbers, we dissected whether silencing efficiency is due to varying precursor RNAs or siRNA accumulation. Our data shows that silencing efficiency correlates with more efficient accumulation of primary siRNAs at higher temperatures rather than higher expression of precursor RNAs. Due to higher primary levels, secondary siRNAs also show temperature dependency and interestingly increase their relative proportion to primary siRNAs. Our data shows that efficient trans silencing on the chromatin level in P. tetraurelia depends on environmental parameters, thus being an important epigenetic factor limiting regulatory effects of siRNAs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Population and Evolutionary Genetics and Genomics)
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Open AccessReview In a quest for engineering acidophiles for biomining applications: challenges and opportunities
Received: 30 January 2018 / Revised: 16 February 2018 / Accepted: 16 February 2018 / Published: 21 February 2018
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Abstract
Biomining with acidophilic microorganisms has been used at commercial scale for the extraction of metals from various sulfide ores. With metal demand and energy prices on the rise and the concurrent decline in quality and availability of mineral resources, there is an increasing
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Biomining with acidophilic microorganisms has been used at commercial scale for the extraction of metals from various sulfide ores. With metal demand and energy prices on the rise and the concurrent decline in quality and availability of mineral resources, there is an increasing interest in applying biomining technology, in particular for leaching metals from low grade minerals and wastes. However, bioprocessing is often hampered by the presence of inhibitory compounds that originate from complex ores. Synthetic biology could provide tools to improve the tolerance of biomining microbes to various stress factors that are present in biomining environments, which would ultimately increase bioleaching efficiency. This paper reviews the state-of-the-art tools to genetically modify acidophilic biomining microorganisms and the limitations of these tools. The first part of this review discusses resilience pathways that can be engineered in acidophiles to enhance their robustness and tolerance in harsh environments that prevail in bioleaching. The second part of the paper reviews the efforts that have been carried out towards engineering robust microorganisms and developing metabolic modelling tools. Novel synthetic biology tools have the potential to transform the biomining industry and facilitate the extraction of value from ores and wastes that cannot be processed with existing biomining microorganisms. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Genetics and Genomics of Extremophiles)
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Open AccessReview Dynamin-Related Protein 1 at the Crossroads of Cancer
Received: 27 December 2017 / Revised: 13 February 2018 / Accepted: 13 February 2018 / Published: 21 February 2018
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Abstract
Mitochondrial dynamics are known to have an important role in so-called age-related diseases, including cancer. Mitochondria is an organelle involved in many key cellular functions and responds to physiologic or stress stimuli by adapting its structure and function. Perhaps the most important structural
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Mitochondrial dynamics are known to have an important role in so-called age-related diseases, including cancer. Mitochondria is an organelle involved in many key cellular functions and responds to physiologic or stress stimuli by adapting its structure and function. Perhaps the most important structural changes involve mitochondrial dynamics (fission and fusion), which occur in normal cells as well as in cells under dysregulation, such as cancer cells. Dynamin-related protein 1 (DRP1), a member of the dynamin family of guanosine triphosphatases (GTPases), is the key component of mitochondrial fission machinery. Dynamin-related protein 1 is associated with different cell processes such as apoptosis, mitochondrial biogenesis, mitophagy, metabolism, and cell proliferation, differentiation, and transformation. The role of DRP1 in tumorigenesis may seem to be paradoxical, since mitochondrial fission is a key mediator of two very different processes, cellular apoptosis and cell mitosis. Dynamin-related protein 1 has been associated with the development of distinct human cancers, including changes in mitochondrial energetics and cellular metabolism, cell proliferation, and stem cell maintenance, invasion, and promotion of metastases. However, the underlying mechanism for this association is still being explored. Herein, we review the published knowledge on the role of DRP1 in cancer, exploring its interaction with different biological processes in the tumorigenesis context. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Skin-on-a-Chip: Transepithelial Electrical Resistance and Extracellular Acidification Measurements through an Automated Air-Liquid Interface
Received: 31 January 2018 / Revised: 15 February 2018 / Accepted: 16 February 2018 / Published: 21 February 2018
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Abstract
Skin is a critical organ that plays a crucial role in defending the internal organs of the body. For this reason, extensive work has gone into creating artificial models of the epidermis for in vitro skin toxicity tests. These tissue models, called reconstructed
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Skin is a critical organ that plays a crucial role in defending the internal organs of the body. For this reason, extensive work has gone into creating artificial models of the epidermis for in vitro skin toxicity tests. These tissue models, called reconstructed human epidermis (RhE), are used by researchers in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and environmental arenas to evaluate skin toxicity upon exposure to xenobiotics. Here, we present a label-free solution that leverages the use of the intelligent mobile lab for in vitro diagnostics (IMOLA-IVD), a noninvasive, sensor-based platform, to monitor the transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER) of RhE models and adherent cells cultured on porous membrane inserts. Murine fibroblasts cultured on polycarbonate membranes were first used as a test model to optimize procedures using a custom BioChip encapsulation design, as well as dual fluidic configurations, for continuous and automated perfusion of membrane-bound cultures. Extracellular acidification rate (EAR) and TEER of membrane-bound L929 cells were monitored. The developed protocol was then used to monitor the TEER of MatTek EpiDermTM RhE models over a period of 48 h. TEER and EAR measurements demonstrated that the designed system is capable of maintaining stable cultures on the chip, monitoring metabolic parameters, and revealing tissue breakdown over time. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue From the Lab-on-a-Chip to the Organ-on-a-Chip)
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Open AccessArticle Biofilm Formation by the Acidophile Bacterium Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans Involves c-di-GMP Pathway and Pel exopolysaccharide
Received: 28 December 2017 / Revised: 31 January 2018 / Accepted: 6 February 2018 / Published: 21 February 2018
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Abstract
Acidophile bacteria belonging to the Acidithiobacillus genus are pivotal players for the bioleaching of metallic values such as copper. Cell adherence to ores and biofilm formation, mediated by the production of extracellular polymeric substances, strongly favors bioleaching activity. In recent years, the second
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Acidophile bacteria belonging to the Acidithiobacillus genus are pivotal players for the bioleaching of metallic values such as copper. Cell adherence to ores and biofilm formation, mediated by the production of extracellular polymeric substances, strongly favors bioleaching activity. In recent years, the second messenger cyclic diguanylate (c-di-GMP) has emerged as a central regulator for biofilm formation in bacteria. C-di-GMP pathways have been reported in different Acidithiobacillus species; however, c-di-GMP effectors and signal transduction networks are still largely uncharacterized in these extremophile species. Here we investigated Pel exopolysaccharide and its role in biofilm formation by sulfur-oxidizing species Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans. We identified 39 open reading frames (ORFs) encoding proteins involved in c-di-GMP metabolism and signal transduction, including the c-di-GMP effector protein PelD, a structural component of the biosynthesis apparatus for Pel exopolysaccharide production. We found that intracellular c-di-GMP concentrations and transcription levels of pel genes were higher in At. thiooxidans biofilm cells compared to planktonic ones. By developing an At. thiooxidans ΔpelD null-mutant strain we revealed that Pel exopolysaccharide is involved in biofilm structure and development. Further studies are still necessary to understand how Pel biosynthesis is regulated in Acidithiobacillus species, nevertheless these results represent the first characterization of a c-di-GMP effector protein involved in biofilm formation by acidophile species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Genetics and Genomics of Extremophiles)
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Open AccessArticle Delineation of Novel Autosomal Recessive Mutation in GJA3 and Autosomal Dominant Mutations in GJA8 in Pakistani Congenital Cataract Families
Received: 19 January 2018 / Revised: 9 February 2018 / Accepted: 9 February 2018 / Published: 20 February 2018
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Abstract
Congenital cataract is a clinically and genetically heterogeneous disease. The present study was undertaken to find the genetic cause of congenital cataract families. DNA samples of a large consanguineous Pakistani family were genotyped with a high resolution single nucleotide polymorphism Illumina microarray. Homozygosity
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Congenital cataract is a clinically and genetically heterogeneous disease. The present study was undertaken to find the genetic cause of congenital cataract families. DNA samples of a large consanguineous Pakistani family were genotyped with a high resolution single nucleotide polymorphism Illumina microarray. Homozygosity mapping identified a homozygous region of 4.4 Mb encompassing the gene GJA3. Sanger sequence analysis of the GJA3 gene revealed a novel homozygous variant c.950dup p.(His318ProfsX8) segregating in an autosomal recessive (AR) manner. The previously known mode of inheritance for GJA3 gene mutations in cataract was autosomal dominant (AD) only. The screening of additional probands (n = 41) of cataract families revealed a previously known mutation c.56C>T p.(Thr19Met) in GJA3 gene. In addition, sequencing of the exon-intron boundaries of the GJA8 gene in 41 cataract probands revealed two additional mutations: a novel c.53C>T p.(Ser18Phe) and a known c.175C>G p.(Pro59Ala) mutation, both co-segregating with the disease phenotype in an AD manner. All these mutations are predicted to be pathogenic by in silico analysis and were absent in the control databases. In conclusion, results of the current study enhance our understanding of the genetic basis of cataract, and identified the involvement of the GJA3 in the disease etiology in both AR and AD manners. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Human Genomics and Genetic Diseases)
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Open AccessArticle Genetic Variation and Hybridisation among Eight Species of kōwhai (Sophora: Fabaceae) from New Zealand Revealed by Microsatellite Markers
Received: 30 January 2018 / Revised: 12 February 2018 / Accepted: 16 February 2018 / Published: 20 February 2018
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Abstract
We analysed nine microsatellite markers for 626 individuals representing the geographic range of eight closely related endemic New Zealand species of Sophora. Structure analysis identified the optimal K value as seven, with samples identified as Sophora chathamica, Sophora fulvida
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We analysed nine microsatellite markers for 626 individuals representing the geographic range of eight closely related endemic New Zealand species of Sophora. Structure analysis identified the optimal K value as seven, with samples identified as Sophora chathamica, Sophora fulvida, Sophora longicarinata, and Sophora prostrata retrieved as well-defined groups. The remaining samples formed less resolved groups referable to Sophora tetraptera and Sophora godleyi, with Sophora microphylla and Sophora molloyi forming the seventh group. Our data suggest that considerable admixture occurs and this is most likely the result of hybridisation or introgression. S. fulvida shows admixture with the sympatric S. chathamica, and the widespread S. microphylla exhibits admixture with the sympatric S. godleyi, S. molloyi, and S. tetraptera. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Genetics and Genomics of the Rhizobium-Legume Symbiosis)
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Open AccessArticle Genome-Wide Analysis of the GRF Family Reveals Their Involvement in Abiotic Stress Response in Cassava
Received: 12 January 2018 / Revised: 13 February 2018 / Accepted: 15 February 2018 / Published: 20 February 2018
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Abstract
GENERAL REGULATORY FACTOR (GRF) proteins play vital roles in the regulation of plant growth, development, and response to abiotic stress. However, little information is known for this gene family in cassava (Manihot esculenta). In this study, 15 MeGRFs were identified from
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GENERAL REGULATORY FACTOR (GRF) proteins play vital roles in the regulation of plant growth, development, and response to abiotic stress. However, little information is known for this gene family in cassava (Manihot esculenta). In this study, 15 MeGRFs were identified from the cassava genome and were clustered into the ε and the non-ε groups according to phylogenetic, conserved motif, and gene structure analyses. Transcriptomic analyses showed eleven MeGRFs with constitutively high expression in stems, leaves, and storage roots of two cassava genotypes. Expression analyses revealed that the majority of GRFs showed transcriptional changes under cold, osmotic, salt, abscisic acid (ABA), and H2O2 treatments. Six MeGRFs were found to be commonly upregulated by abiotic stress, ABA, and H2O2 treatments, which may be the converging points of multiple signaling pathways. Interaction network analysis identified 18 possible interactors of MeGRFs. Taken together, this study elucidates the transcriptional control of MeGRFs in tissue development and the responses of abiotic stress and related signaling in cassava. Some constitutively expressed, tissue-specific, and abiotic stress-responsive candidate MeGRF genes were identified for the further genetic improvement of crops. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Plant Genetics and Genomics)
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Open AccessReview Wnt Signaling and Its Impact on Mitochondrial and Cell Cycle Dynamics in Pluripotent Stem Cells
Received: 19 December 2017 / Revised: 13 February 2018 / Accepted: 14 February 2018 / Published: 19 February 2018
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Abstract
The core transcriptional network regulating stem cell self-renewal and pluripotency remains an intense area of research. Increasing evidence indicates that modified regulation of basic cellular processes such as mitochondrial dynamics, apoptosis, and cell cycle are also essential for pluripotent stem cell identity and
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The core transcriptional network regulating stem cell self-renewal and pluripotency remains an intense area of research. Increasing evidence indicates that modified regulation of basic cellular processes such as mitochondrial dynamics, apoptosis, and cell cycle are also essential for pluripotent stem cell identity and fate decisions. Here, we review evidence for Wnt regulation of pluripotency and self-renewal, and its connections to emerging features of pluripotent stem cells, including (1) increased mitochondrial fragmentation, (2) increased sensitivity to cell death, and (3) shortened cell cycle. We provide a general overview of the stem cell–specific mechanisms involved in the maintenance of these uncharacterized hallmarks of pluripotency and highlight potential links to the Wnt signaling pathway. Given the physiological importance of stem cells and their enormous potential for regenerative medicine, understanding fundamental mechanisms mediating the crosstalk between Wnt, organelle-dynamics, apoptosis, and cell cycle will be crucial to gain insight into the regulation of stemness. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Wnt Signaling in Stem Cells)
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Open AccessReview Glutamine Synthetase: Localization Dictates Outcome
Received: 20 January 2018 / Revised: 14 February 2018 / Accepted: 15 February 2018 / Published: 19 February 2018
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Abstract
Glutamine synthetase (GS) is the adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-dependent enzyme that catalyses the synthesis of glutamine by condensing ammonium to glutamate. In the circulatory system, glutamine carries ammonia from muscle and brain to the kidney and liver. In brain reduction of GS activity has
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Glutamine synthetase (GS) is the adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-dependent enzyme that catalyses the synthesis of glutamine by condensing ammonium to glutamate. In the circulatory system, glutamine carries ammonia from muscle and brain to the kidney and liver. In brain reduction of GS activity has been suggested as a mechanism mediating neurotoxicity in neurodegenerative disorders. In cancer, the delicate balance between glutamine synthesis and catabolism is a critical event. In vitro evidence, confirmed in vivo in some cases, suggests that reduced GS activity in cancer cells associates with a more invasive and aggressive phenotype. However, GS is known to be highly expressed in cells of the tumor microenvironment, such as fibroblasts, adipocytes and immune cells, and their ability to synthesize glutamine is responsible for the acquisition of protumoral phenotypes. This has opened a new window into the complex scenario of the tumor microenvironment, in which the balance of glutamine consumption versus glutamine synthesis influences cellular function. Since GS expression responds to glutamine starvation, a lower glutamine synthesizing power due to the absence of GS in cancer cells might apply a metabolic pressure on stromal cells. This event might push stroma towards a GS-high/protumoral phenotype. When referred to stromal cells, GS expression might acquire a ‘bad’ significance to the point that GS inhibition might be considered a conceivable strategy against cancer metastasis. Full article
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Open AccessReview Alternative Splicing of Transcription Factors Genes in Muscle Physiology and Pathology
Received: 15 January 2018 / Revised: 10 February 2018 / Accepted: 13 February 2018 / Published: 19 February 2018
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Abstract
Skeletal muscle formation is a multi-step process that is governed by complex networks of transcription factors. The regulation of their functions is in turn multifaceted, including several mechanisms, among them alternative splicing (AS) plays a primary role. On the other hand, altered AS
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Skeletal muscle formation is a multi-step process that is governed by complex networks of transcription factors. The regulation of their functions is in turn multifaceted, including several mechanisms, among them alternative splicing (AS) plays a primary role. On the other hand, altered AS has a role in the pathogenesis of numerous muscular pathologies. Despite these premises, the causal role played by the altered splicing pattern of transcripts encoding myogenic transcription factors in neuromuscular diseases has been neglected so far. In this review, we systematically investigate what has been described about the AS patterns of transcription factors both in the physiology of the skeletal muscle formation process and in neuromuscular diseases, in the hope that this may be useful in re-evaluating the potential role of altered splicing of transcription factors in such diseases. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Aberrant Pre-mRNA Splicing in Disease)
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Open AccessCommunication Antibiotic Resistance Genetic Markers and Integrons in White Soft Cheese: Aspects of Clinical Resistome and Potentiality of Horizontal Gene Transfer
Received: 29 December 2017 / Revised: 13 February 2018 / Accepted: 15 February 2018 / Published: 19 February 2018
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Abstract
Antibiotic resistance poses an important threat to global public health and has become a challenge to modern medicine. The occurrence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in a broad range of foods has led to a growing concern about the impact that food may have as
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Antibiotic resistance poses an important threat to global public health and has become a challenge to modern medicine. The occurrence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in a broad range of foods has led to a growing concern about the impact that food may have as a reservoir of antibiotic resistance genes. Considering Minas Frescal Cheese (MFC)—a typical Brazilian white soft cheese—and its economic and cultural values, in this study, medically relevant antimicrobial-resistance genetic markers (AR genes) were screened, and the occurrence of integrons were evaluated in manufactured MFC using culture-independent approaches. Through a fingerprinting analysis, the tested MFCs were brand-clustered, indicating reproducibility along the production chain. A common core of resistance markers in all brands evaluated and related antimicrobials such as β-lactams, tetracyclines, quinolones, and sulfonamide was detected. Several other markers, including efflux pumps and aminoglycosides-resistance were distributed among brands. Class 1 and 2 integrons were observed, respectively, in 77% and 97% of the samples. The presence of AR genes is of special interest due to their clinical relevance. Taken together, the data may suggest that the production chain of MFC might contribute to the spread of putative drug-resistant bacteria, which could greatly impact human health. Furthermore, detection of class 1 and class 2 integrons in MFC has led to discussions about resistance gene spread in this traditional cheese, providing evidence of potential horizontal transfer of AR genes to human gut microbiota. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Genetics and Genomics of Foodborne Pathogens)
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Open AccessReview The Role of Wnt Signal in Glioblastoma Development and Progression: A Possible New Pharmacological Target for the Therapy of This Tumor
Received: 13 December 2017 / Revised: 12 February 2018 / Accepted: 13 February 2018 / Published: 17 February 2018
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Abstract
Wnt is a complex signaling pathway involved in the regulation of crucial biological functions such as development, proliferation, differentiation and migration of cells, mainly stem cells, which are virtually present in all embryonic and adult tissues. Conversely, dysregulation of Wnt signal is implicated
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Wnt is a complex signaling pathway involved in the regulation of crucial biological functions such as development, proliferation, differentiation and migration of cells, mainly stem cells, which are virtually present in all embryonic and adult tissues. Conversely, dysregulation of Wnt signal is implicated in development/progression/invasiveness of different kinds of tumors, wherein a certain number of multipotent cells, namely “cancer stem cells”, are characterized by high self-renewal and aggressiveness. Hence, the pharmacological modulation of Wnt pathway could be of particular interest, especially in tumors for which the current standard therapy results to be unsuccessful. This might be the case of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), one of the most lethal, aggressive and recurrent brain cancers, probably due to the presence of highly malignant GBM stem cells (GSCs) as well as to a dysregulation of Wnt system. By examining the most recent literature, here we point out several factors in the Wnt pathway that are altered in human GBM and derived GSCs, as well as new molecular strategies or experimental drugs able to modulate/inhibit aberrant Wnt signal. Altogether, these aspects serve to emphasize the existence of alternative pharmacological targets that may be useful to develop novel therapies for GBM. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Wnt Signaling in Stem Cells)
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Open AccessArticle Microbiome Data Accurately Predicts the Postmortem Interval Using Random Forest Regression Models
Received: 31 December 2017 / Revised: 12 February 2018 / Accepted: 12 February 2018 / Published: 16 February 2018
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Abstract
Death investigations often include an effort to establish the postmortem interval (PMI) in cases in which the time of death is uncertain. The postmortem interval can lead to the identification of the deceased and the validation of witness statements and suspect alibis. Recent
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Death investigations often include an effort to establish the postmortem interval (PMI) in cases in which the time of death is uncertain. The postmortem interval can lead to the identification of the deceased and the validation of witness statements and suspect alibis. Recent research has demonstrated that microbes provide an accurate clock that starts at death and relies on ecological change in the microbial communities that normally inhabit a body and its surrounding environment. Here, we explore how to build the most robust Random Forest regression models for prediction of PMI by testing models built on different sample types (gravesoil, skin of the torso, skin of the head), gene markers (16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA), 18S rRNA, internal transcribed spacer regions (ITS)), and taxonomic levels (sequence variants, species, genus, etc.). We also tested whether particular suites of indicator microbes were informative across different datasets. Generally, results indicate that the most accurate models for predicting PMI were built using gravesoil and skin data using the 16S rRNA genetic marker at the taxonomic level of phyla. Additionally, several phyla consistently contributed highly to model accuracy and may be candidate indicators of PMI. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Forensic Genomics)
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Open AccessReview Microfluidic Devices for Drug Delivery Systems and Drug Screening
Received: 23 December 2017 / Revised: 10 February 2018 / Accepted: 12 February 2018 / Published: 16 February 2018
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Abstract
Microfluidic devices present unique advantages for the development of efficient drug carrier particles, cell-free protein synthesis systems, and rapid techniques for direct drug screening. Compared to bulk methods, by efficiently controlling the geometries of the fabricated chip and the flow rates of multiphase
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Microfluidic devices present unique advantages for the development of efficient drug carrier particles, cell-free protein synthesis systems, and rapid techniques for direct drug screening. Compared to bulk methods, by efficiently controlling the geometries of the fabricated chip and the flow rates of multiphase fluids, microfluidic technology enables the generation of highly stable, uniform, monodispersed particles with higher encapsulation efficiency. Since the existing preclinical models are inefficient drug screens for predicting clinical outcomes, microfluidic platforms might offer a more rapid and cost-effective alternative. Compared to 2D cell culture systems and in vivo animal models, microfluidic 3D platforms mimic the in vivo cell systems in a simple, inexpensive manner, which allows high throughput and multiplexed drug screening at the cell, organ, and whole-body levels. In this review, the generation of appropriate drug or gene carriers including different particle types using different configurations of microfluidic devices is highlighted. Additionally, this paper discusses the emergence of fabricated microfluidic cell-free protein synthesis systems for potential use at point of care as well as cell-, organ-, and human-on-a-chip models as smart, sensitive, and reproducible platforms, allowing the investigation of the effects of drugs under conditions imitating the biological system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue From the Lab-on-a-Chip to the Organ-on-a-Chip)
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