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Zhu S.,CAS Institute of Zoology
Developmental and comparative immunology | Year: 2013

β-Defensins are a group of vertebrate-specific antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) with microbicidal and immune regulatory functions. In spite of their conservation across the vertebrate lineage ranging from bony fish to human, the evolutionary origin of these molecules remains unsolved. We addressed this issue by comparing three-dimensional (3D) structure and genomic organization of β-defensins with those of big defensins, a family of invertebrate-derived β-defensin-related peptides with two distinct structural and functional domains. β-Defensins and the carboxyl-terminal domain of big defensins adopt a conserved β-sheet topology stabilized by three identical disulfide bridges. Genomic organization analysis revealed that the defensin domain of these two classes of molecules is encoded by a single exon with a positionally conserved phase-1 intron in its upstream. The genomic and 3D structural conservation provides convincing evidence for their evolutionary relationship, in which β-defensins emerged from an ancestral big defensin through exon shuffling or intronization of exonic sequences. The phylogenetic distribution of big defensins in Arthropoda, Mollusca and Cephalochordata suggests an early origin of the β-defensin domain, which can be traced to the common ancestor of bilateral metazoans. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Lim H.J.,Konkuk University | Wang H.,CAS Institute of Zoology
Journal of Clinical Investigation | Year: 2010

Much of our knowledge of human uterine physiology and pathology has been extrapolated from the study of diverse animal models, as there is no ideal system for studying human uterine biology in vitro. Although it remains debatable whether mouse models are the most suitable system for investigating human uterine function(s), gene-manipulated mice are considered by many the most useful tool for mechanistic analysis, and numerous studies have identified many similarities in female reproduction between the two species. This Review brings together information from studies using animal models, in particular mouse models, that shed light on normal and pathologic aspects of uterine biology and pregnancy complications.

Yan C.,CAS Institute of Zoology
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society | Year: 2014

The relationship between stability and biodiversity has long been debated in ecology due to opposing empirical observations and theoretical predictions. Species interaction strength is often assumed to be monotonically related to population density, but the effects on stability of ecological networks of non-monotonous interactions that change signs have not been investigated previously. We demonstrate that for four kinds of non-monotonous interactions, shifting signs to negative or neutral interactions at high population density increases persistence (a measure of stability) of ecological networks, while for the other two kinds of non-monotonous interactions shifting signs to positive interactions at high population density decreases persistence of networks. Our results reveal a novel mechanism of network stabilization caused by specific non-monotonous interaction types through either increasing stable equilibrium points or reducing unstable equilibrium points (or both). These specific non-monotonous interactions may be important in maintaining stable and complex ecological networks, as well as other networks such as genes, neurons, the internet and human societies.

Ma D.,CAS Institute of Zoology
Developmental and comparative immunology | Year: 2013

The thymus is a central hematopoietic organ which produces mature T lymphocytes with diverse antigen specificity. During development, the thymus primordium is derived from the third pharyngeal endodermal pouch, and then differentiates into cortical and medullary thymic epithelial cells (TECs). TECs represent the primary functional cell type that forms the unique thymic epithelial microenvironment which is essential for intrathymic T-cell development, including positive selection, negative selection and emigration out of the thymus. Our understanding of thymopoiesis has been greatly advanced by using several important animal models. This review will describe progress on the molecular mechanisms involved in thymus and T cell development with particular focus on the signaling and transcription factors involved in this process in mouse and zebrafish. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Liu X.,CAS Institute of Zoology
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society | Year: 2013

Global factors, such as climate change, international trade and introductions of exotic species are often elicited as contributors to the unprecedented rate of disease emergence, but few studies have partitioned these factors for global pandemics. Although contemporary correlative species distribution models (SDMs) can be useful for predicting the spatial patterns of emerging diseases, they focus mainly on the fundamental niche (FN) predictors (i.e. abiotic climate and habitat factors), neglecting dispersal and propagule pressure predictors (PP, number of non-native individuals released into a region). Using a validated, predictive and global SDM, we show that both FN and PP accounted for significant, unique variation to the distribution of the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a pathogen implicated in the declines and extinctions of over 200 amphibian species worldwide. Bd was associated positively with vegetation, total trade and introduced amphibian hosts, nonlinearly with annual temperature range and non-significantly with amphibian leg trade or amphibian species richness. These findings provide a rare example where both FN and PP factors are predictive of a global pandemic. Our model should help guide management of this deadly pathogen and the development of other globally predictive models for species invasions and pathogen emergence influenced by FN and PP factors.

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