Project description:Kynureninase is a member of a large family of catalytically diverse but structurally homologous pyridoxal 5'-phosphate (PLP) dependent enzymes known as the aspartate aminotransferase superfamily or alpha-family. The Homo sapiens and other eukaryotic constitutive kynureninases preferentially catalyze the hydrolytic cleavage of 3-hydroxy-l-kynurenine to produce 3-hydroxyanthranilate and l-alanine, while l-kynurenine is the substrate of many prokaryotic inducible kynureninases. The human enzyme was cloned with an N-terminal hexahistidine tag, expressed, and purified from a bacterial expression system using Ni metal ion affinity chromatography. Kinetic characterization of the recombinant enzyme reveals classic Michaelis-Menten behavior, with a Km of 28.3 +/- 1.9 microM and a specific activity of 1.75 micromol min-1 mg-1 for 3-hydroxy-dl-kynurenine. Crystals of recombinant kynureninase that diffracted to 2.0 A were obtained, and the atomic structure of the PLP-bound holoenzyme was determined by molecular replacement using the Pseudomonas fluorescens kynureninase structure (PDB entry 1qz9) as the phasing model. A structural superposition with the P. fluorescens kynureninase revealed that these two structures resemble the "open" and "closed" conformations of aspartate aminotransferase. The comparison illustrates the dynamic nature of these proteins' small domains and reveals a role for Arg-434 similar to its role in other AAT alpha-family members. Docking of 3-hydroxy-l-kynurenine into the human kynureninase active site suggests that Asn-333 and His-102 are involved in substrate binding and molecular discrimination between inducible and constitutive kynureninase substrates.
Project description:We investigated the evidence of recent positive selection in the human phototransduction system at single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and gene level.SNP genotyping data from the International HapMap Project for European, Eastern Asian, and African populations was used to discover differences in haplotype length and allele frequency between these populations. Numeric selection metrics were computed for each SNP and aggregated into gene-level metrics to measure evidence of recent positive selection. The level of recent positive selection in phototransduction genes was evaluated and compared to a set of genes shown previously to be under recent selection, and a set of highly conserved genes as positive and negative controls, respectively.Six of 20 phototransduction genes evaluated had gene-level selection metrics above the 90th percentile: RGS9, GNB1, RHO, PDE6G, GNAT1, and SLC24A1. The selection signal across these genes was found to be of similar magnitude to the positive control genes and much greater than the negative control genes.There is evidence for selective pressure in the genes involved in retinal phototransduction, and traces of this selective pressure can be demonstrated using SNP-level and gene-level metrics of allelic variation. We hypothesize that the selective pressure on these genes was related to their role in low light vision and retinal adaptation to ambient light changes. Uncovering the underlying genetics of evolutionary adaptations in phototransduction not only allows greater understanding of vision and visual diseases, but also the development of patient-specific diagnostic and intervention strategies.
Project description:Cortical thickness has been investigated since the beginning of the 20th century, but we do not know how similar the cortical thickness profiles among humans are. In this study, the local similarity of cortical thickness profiles was investigated using sliding window methods. Here, we show that approximately 5% of the cortical thickness profiles are similarly expressed among humans while 45% of the cortical thickness profiles show a high level of heterogeneity. Therefore, heterogeneity is the rule, not the exception. Cortical thickness profiles of somatosensory homunculi and the anterior insula are consistent among humans, while the cortical thickness profiles of the motor homunculus are more variable. Cortical thickness profiles of homunculi that code for muscle position and skin stimulation are highly similar among humans despite large differences in sex, education, and age. This finding suggests that the structure of these cortices remains well preserved over a lifetime. Our observations possibly relativize opinions on cortical plasticity.
Project description:Understanding the timing and character of the expansion of Homo sapiens out of Africa is critical for inferring the colonization and admixture processes that underpin global population history. It has been argued that dispersal out of Africa had an early phase, particularly ~130-90 thousand years ago (ka), that reached only the East Mediterranean Levant, and a later phase, ~60-50?ka, that extended across the diverse environments of Eurasia to Sahul. However, recent findings from East Asia and Sahul challenge this model. Here we show that H. sapiens was in the Arabian Peninsula before 85?ka. We describe the Al Wusta-1 (AW-1) intermediate phalanx from the site of Al Wusta in the Nefud desert, Saudi Arabia. AW-1 is the oldest directly dated fossil of our species outside Africa and the Levant. The palaeoenvironmental context of Al Wusta demonstrates that H. sapiens using Middle Palaeolithic stone tools dispersed into Arabia during a phase of increased precipitation driven by orbital forcing, in association with a primarily African fauna. A Bayesian model incorporating independent chronometric age estimates indicates a chronology for Al Wusta of ~95-86?ka, which we correlate with a humid episode in the later part of Marine Isotope Stage 5 known from various regional records. Al Wusta shows that early dispersals were more spatially and temporally extensive than previously thought. Early H. sapiens dispersals out of Africa were not limited to winter rainfall-fed Levantine Mediterranean woodlands immediately adjacent to Africa, but extended deep into the semi-arid grasslands of Arabia, facilitated by periods of enhanced monsoonal rainfall.
Project description:Africa was the birth-place of Homo sapiens and has the earliest evidence for symbolic behaviour and complex technologies. The best-attested early flowering of these distinctive features was in a glacial refuge zone on the southern coast 100-70 ka, with fewer indications in eastern Africa until after 70 ka. Yet it was eastern Africa, not the south, that witnessed the first major demographic expansion, ~70-60 ka, which led to the peopling of the rest of the world. One possible explanation is that important cultural traits were transmitted from south to east at this time. Here we identify a mitochondrial signal of such a dispersal soon after ~70 ka - the only time in the last 200,000 years that humid climate conditions encompassed southern and tropical Africa. This dispersal immediately preceded the out-of-Africa expansions, potentially providing the trigger for these expansions by transmitting significant cultural elements from the southern African refuge.
Project description:Gene expression profiling of immortalized human mesenchymal stem cells with hTERT/E6/E7 transfected MSCs. hTERT may change gene expression in MSCs. Goal was to determine the gene expressions of immortalized MSCs. Overall design: One-condition experment, gene expression of 3A6
Project description:Gene expression profiling of immortalized human mesenchymal stem cells with hTERT/E6/E7 transfected MSCs. hTERT may change gene expression in MSCs. Goal was to determine the gene expressions of immortalized MSCs. One-condition experment, gene expression of 3A6
Project description:Defining the distinctive capacities of Homo sapiens relative to other hominins is a major focus for human evolutionary studies. It has been argued that the procurement of small, difficult-to-catch, agile prey is a hallmark of complex behavior unique to our species; however, most research in this regard has been limited to the last 20,000 years in Europe and the Levant. Here, we present detailed faunal assemblage and taphonomic data from Fa-Hien Lena Cave in Sri Lanka that demonstrates specialized, sophisticated hunting of semi-arboreal and arboreal monkey and squirrel populations from ca. 45,000 years ago, in a tropical rainforest environment. Facilitated by complex osseous and microlithic technologies, we argue these data highlight that the early capture of small, elusive mammals was part of the plastic behavior of Homo sapiens that allowed it to rapidly colonize a series of extreme environments that were apparently untouched by its hominin relatives.