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Frontiers news briefs: June 6

Frontiers in Neuroscience

Immune regulation of ovarian development: programming by neonatal immune challenge

Bacterial infections during early life, such as Chlamydia which is present in 15% of newly born babies, may reduce reproductive success in adult women. For example, exposure to bacteria can lead to a change in the onset of puberty, as well as in ovarian morphology and sexual behavior. Luba Sominsky and colleagues from the University of Newcastle, Australia, here show that when infant rats are injected with lipopolysaccharide molecules that are normally found on the exterior of bacteria, the expression of genes in their ovaries changes, especially for genes implicated in immune-mediated inflammatory disease. Sominsky et al. propose that during early development, immune factors are major regulators of ovarian development, so that an immune imbalance during this period may interfere with the formation of ovarian follicles, compromising fertility later in life. This link between adult fertility and infections during critical periods of development may help explain the ongoing trend for declining fertility in young women worldwide.

Researcher contact:

Luba Sominsky
School of Psychology
University of Newcastle, Australia


Frontiers in Microbiology

Metagenome reveals potential microbial degradation of hydrocarbon coupled with sulfate reduction in an oil-immersed chimney from Guaymas Basin

"Extremophiles" are organisms that thrive in extreme environments where other species cannot survive. Ying He and colleagues from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, found numerous extremophiles, particularly thermophilic sulfate-reducing archaea and bacteria, in a hydrothermal vent chimney from the Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California. Unlike hydrothermal vents in the mid-Atlantic and mid-Pacific, the Guaymas Basin is rich in organic material derived from the ocean surface; its unique microbial community reflects this, being rich in species that derive energy from hard-to-degrade hydrocarbons like cellulose, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. This study shows that deep-sea microbial communities play an essential role in the Earth's carbon cycle, breaking down complex molecules that cannot be utilized by most organisms.

Researcher contact:

Prof Fengping Wan
State Key Laboratory of Microbial Metabolism
School of Life Sciences and Biotechnology
Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China


Frontiers in Plant Science

Gomphrena claussenii, the first South American metallophyte species with indicator-like Zn and Cd accumulation and extreme metal tolerance

Contamination of soils with heavy metals is a major environmental problem worldwide. A powerful method for cleaning up soils is to grow "metallophytes", that is, plants with an extreme tolerance for heavy metals in contaminated areas. Because metallophytes render metals harmless by sequestering them in their tissue, metals can be removed from the soil by harvesting the fully grown plants. Mina Villafort and colleagues from Wageningen, the Netherlands, and Lavras, Brazil, here present the first known case of a metallophyte from South America: Gomphrena claussenii, a weed that thrives in heavily contaminated soils in the neighborhood of Vazante, a mining town in Brazil, where levels of zinc and the carcinogen cadmium are so high that other plants cannot survive. Since G. claussenii grows quickly and accumulates high levels (0.1 to 1% of dry mass) of cadmium and zinc in shoots, it is an excellent candidate for use in soil remediation, conclude the authors.

Researcher contacts:

Dr Mark G.M. Aarts
Laboratory of Genetics
Wageningen University, The Netherlands

Dr Luiz R.G. Guilherme
Soil Science Department
Federal University of Lavras, Brazil



Contact: Gozde Zorlu

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