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See detailInfluence of noise correction on intra- and inter-subject variability of quantitative metrics in diffusion kurtosis imaging
André, Elodie ULg; Grinberg, Farida; Farrher, Ezequiel et al

in PLoS ONE (in press)

Diffusion kurtosis imaging (DKI) is a promising extension of diffusion tensor imaging, giving new insights into the white matter microstructure and providing new biomarkers. Given the rapidly increasing ... [more ▼]

Diffusion kurtosis imaging (DKI) is a promising extension of diffusion tensor imaging, giving new insights into the white matter microstructure and providing new biomarkers. Given the rapidly increasing number of studies, DKI has a potential to establish itself as a valuable tool in brain diagnostics. However, to become a routine procedure, DKI still needs to be improved in terms of robustness, reliability, and reproducibility. As it requires acquisitions at higher diffusion31 weightings, results are more affected by noise than in diffusion tensor imaging. The lack of standard procedures for post-processing, especially for noise correction, might become a significant obstacle for the use of DKI in clinical routine limiting its application. We considered two noise correction schemes accounting for the noise properties of multichannel phased-array coils, in order to improve the data quality at signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) typical for DKI. The SNR dependence of estimated DKI metrics such as mean kurtosis (MK), mean diffusivity (MD) and fractional anisotropy (FA) is investigated for these noise correction approaches in Monte Carlo simulations and in in vivo human studies. The intra-subject reproducibility is investigated in a single subject study by varying the SNR level and SNR spatial distribution. Then the impact of the noise correction on inter-subject variability is evaluated in a homogeneous sample of 25 healthy volunteers. Results show a strong impact of noise correction on the MK estimate, while the estimation of FA and MD was affected to a lesser extent. Both intra- and inter-subject SNR related variability of the MK estimate is considerably reduced after correction for the noise bias, providing more accurate and reproducible measures. In this work, we have proposed a straightforward method that improves accuracy of DKI metrics. This should contribute to standardization of DKI applications in clinical studies and making valuable inferences in group analysis and longitudinal studies. [less ▲]

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See detailRGD surface functionalization of the hydrophilic acrylic intraocular lens material to control posterior capsular opacification
Huang, Yi-Shiang ULg; Bertrand, Virginie ULg; Bozukova, Dimitriya et al

in PLoS ONE (2014), 9(12), 32

Posterior Capsular Opacification (PCO) is the capsule fibrosis developed on implanted IntraOcular Lens (IOL) by the de-differentiation of Lens Epithelial Cells (LECs) undergoing Epithelial Mesenchymal ... [more ▼]

Posterior Capsular Opacification (PCO) is the capsule fibrosis developed on implanted IntraOcular Lens (IOL) by the de-differentiation of Lens Epithelial Cells (LECs) undergoing Epithelial Mesenchymal Transition (EMT). Literature has shown that the incidence of PCO is multifactorial including the patient’s age or disease, surgical technique, and IOL design and material. Reports comparing hydrophilic and hydrophobic acrylic IOLs have shown that the former has more severe PCO. On the other hand, we have previously demonstrated that the adhesion of LECs is favored on hydrophobic compared to hydrophilic materials. By combining these two facts and contemporary knowledge in PCO development via the EMT pathway, we propose a biomimetically inspired strategy to promote LEC adhesion without de-differentiation to reduce the risk of PCO development. By surface grafting of a cell adhesion molecule (RGD peptide) onto the conventional hydrophilic acrylic IOL material, the surface-functionalized IOL can be used to reconstitute a capsule-LEC-IOL sandwich structure, which has been considered to prevent PCO formation in literature. Our results show that the innovative biomaterial improves LEC adhesion, while also exhibiting similar optical (light transmittance, optical bench) and mechanical (haptic compression force, IOL injection force) properties compared to the starting material. In addition, compared to the hydrophobic IOL material, our bioactive biomaterial exhibits similar abilities in LEC adhesion, morphology maintenance, and EMT biomarker expression, which is the crucial pathway to induce PCO. The in vitro assays suggest that this biomaterial has the potential to reduce the risk factor of PCO development. [less ▲]

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See detailSoil charcoal to assess the impacts of past human disturbances on tropical forests
Vleminckx, Jason; Morin-Rivat, Julie ULg; Biwolé, Achille et al

in PLoS ONE (2014)

The canopy of many central African forests is dominated by light-demanding tree species that do not regenerate well under themselves. The prevalence of these species might result from ancient slash-and ... [more ▼]

The canopy of many central African forests is dominated by light-demanding tree species that do not regenerate well under themselves. The prevalence of these species might result from ancient slash-and-burn agricultural activities that created large openings, while a decline of these activities since the colonial period could explain their deficit of regeneration. To verify this hypothesis, we compared soil charcoal abundance, used as a proxy for past slash-and-burn agriculture, and tree species composition assessed on 208 rainforest 0.2 ha plots located in three areas from Southern Cameroon. Species were classified in regeneration guilds (pioneer, non-pioneer light-demanding, shade-bearer) and characterized by their woodspecific gravity, assumed to reflect light requirement. We tested the correlation between soil charcoal abundance and: (i) the relative abundance of each guild, (ii) each species and family abundance and (iii) mean wood-specific gravity. Charcoal was found in 83% of the plots, indicating frequent past forest fires. Radiocarbon dating revealed two periods of fires: ‘‘recent’’ charcoal were on average 300 years old (up to 860 BP, n = 16) and occurred in the uppermost 20 cm soil layer, while ‘‘ancient’’ charcoal were on average 1900 years old (range: 1500 to 2800 BP, n = 43, excluding one sample dated 9400 BP), and found in all soil layers. While we expected a positive correlation between the relative abundance of light demanding species and charcoal abundance in the upper soil layer, overall there was no evidence that the current heterogeneity in tree species composition can be explained by charcoal abundance in any soil layer. The absence of signal supporting our hypothesis might result from (i) a relatively uniform impact of past slash-and-burn activities, (ii) pedoturbation processes bringing ancient charcoal to the upper soil layer, blurring the signal of centuries-old Human disturbances, or (iii) the prevalence of other environmental factors on species composition. [less ▲]

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See detailComparison of the Decomposition VOC Profile during Winter and Summer in a Moist, Mid-latitude (Cfb) Climate
Forbes, Shari L.; Perrault, Katelynn A.; Stefanuto, Pierre-Hugues ULg et al

in PLoS ONE (2014), 9(e113681), 1-11

The investigation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) associated with decomposition is an emerging field in forensic taphonomy due to their importance in locating human remains using biological detectors ... [more ▼]

The investigation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) associated with decomposition is an emerging field in forensic taphonomy due to their importance in locating human remains using biological detectors such as insects and canines. A consistent decomposition VOC profile has not yet been elucidated due to the intrinsic impact of the environment on the decomposition process in different climatic zones. The study of decomposition VOCs has typically occurred during the warmer months to enable chemical profiling of all decomposition stages. The present study investigated the decomposition VOC profile in air during both warmer and cooler months in a moist, mid-latitude (Cfb) climate as decomposition occurs year-round in this environment. Pig carcasses (Sus scrofa domesticus L.) were placed on a soil surface to decompose naturally and their VOC profile was monitored during the winter and summer months. Corresponding control sites were also monitored to determine the natural VOC profile of the surrounding soil and vegetation. VOC samples were collected onto sorbent tubes and analyzed using comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography – time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC6GC-TOFMS). The summer months were characterized by higher temperatures and solar radiation, greater rainfall accumulation, and comparable humidity when compared to the winter months. The rate of decomposition was faster and the number and abundance of VOCs was proportionally higher in summer. However, a similar trend was observed in winter and summer demonstrating a rapid increase in VOC abundance during active decay with a second increase in abundance occurring later in the decomposition process. Sulfur-containing compounds, alcohols and ketones represented the most abundant classes of compounds in both seasons, although almost all 10 compound classes identified contributed to discriminating the stages of decomposition throughout both seasons. The advantages of GC6GC-TOFMS were demonstrated for detecting and identifying trace levels of VOCs, particularly ethers, which are rarely reported as decomposition VOCs. [less ▲]

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See detailQTL analysis and candidate gene mapping for the polyphenol content in cider apple
Verdu, Cindy ULg; Guyot, Sylvain; Childebrand, Nicolas et al

in PLoS ONE (2014), 9(10), 107103

Polyphenols have favorable antioxidant potential on human health suggesting that their high content is responsible for the beneficial effects of apple consumption. They control the quality of ciders as ... [more ▼]

Polyphenols have favorable antioxidant potential on human health suggesting that their high content is responsible for the beneficial effects of apple consumption. They control the quality of ciders as they predominantly account for astringency, bitterness, color and aroma. In this study, we identified QTLs controlling phenolic compound concentrations and the average polymerization degree of flavanols in a cider apple progeny. Thirty two compounds belonging to five groups of phenolic compounds were identified and quantified by reversed phase liquid chromatography on both fruit extract and juice, over three years. The average polymerization degree of flavanols was estimated in fruit by phloroglucinolysis coupled to HPLC. Parental maps were built using SSR and SNP markers and used for the QTL analysis. Sixty-nine and 72 QTLs were detected on 14 and 11 linkage groups of the female and male maps, respectively. A majority of the QTLs identified in this study are specific to this population, while others are consistent with previous studies. This study presents for the first time in apple, QTLs for the mean polymerization degree of procyanidins, for which the mechanisms involved remains unknown to this day. Identification of candidate genes underlying major QTLs was then performed in silico and permitted the identification of 18 enzymes of the polyphenol pathway and six transcription factors involved in the apple anthocyanin regulation. New markers were designed from sequences of the most interesting candidate genes in order to confirm their co-localization with underlying QTLs by genetic mapping. Finally, the potential use of these QTLs in breeding programs is discussed. [less ▲]

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See detailPosterior Cingulate Cortex-Related Co-Activation Patterns: A Resting State fMRI Study in Propofol-Induced Loss of Consciousness
Amico, Enrico ULg; Gomez, Francisco; Di Perri, Carol et al

in PLoS ONE (2014), 9

Background: Recent studies have been shown that functional connectivity of cerebral areas is not a static phenomenon, but exhibits spontaneous fluctuations over time. There is evidence that fluctuating ... [more ▼]

Background: Recent studies have been shown that functional connectivity of cerebral areas is not a static phenomenon, but exhibits spontaneous fluctuations over time. There is evidence that fluctuating connectivity is an intrinsic phenomenon of brain dynamics that persists during anesthesia. Lately, point process analysis applied on functional data has revealed that much of the information regarding brain connectivity is contained in a fraction of critical time points of a resting state dataset. In the present study we want to extend this methodology for the investigation of resting state fMRI spatial pattern changes during propofol-induced modulation of consciousness, with the aim of extracting new insights on brain networks consciousness-dependent fluctuations. Methods: Resting-state fMRI volumes on 18 healthy subjects were acquired in four clinical states during propofol injection: wakefulness, sedation, unconsciousness, and recovery. The dataset was reduced to a spatio-temporal point process by selecting time points in the Posterior Cingulate Cortex (PCC) at which the signal is higher than a given threshold (i.e., BOLD intensity above 1 standard deviation). Spatial clustering on the PCC time frames extracted was then performed (number of clusters = 8), to obtain 8 different PCC co-activation patterns (CAPs) for each level of consciousness. Results: The current analysis shows that the core of the PCC-CAPs throughout consciousness modulation seems to be preserved. Nonetheless, this methodology enables to differentiate region-specific propofol-induced reductions in PCC-CAPs, some of them already present in the functional connectivity literature (e.g., disconnections of the prefrontal cortex, thalamus, auditory cortex), some others new (e.g., reduced co-activation in motor cortex and visual area). Conclusion: In conclusion, our results indicate that the employed methodology can help in improving and refining the characterization of local functional changes in the brain associated to propofol-induced modulation of consciousness. [less ▲]

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See detailThe Transcription Factor EGR1 Localizes to the Nucleolus and Is Linked to Suppression of Ribosomal Precursor Synthesis
Ponti, Donatella; Bellenchi, Gian Carlo; Puca, Rosa et al

in PLoS ONE (2014), 9(5),

EGR1 is an immediate early gene with a wide range of activities as transcription factor, spanning from regulation of cell growth to differentiation. Numerous studies show that EGR1 either promotes the ... [more ▼]

EGR1 is an immediate early gene with a wide range of activities as transcription factor, spanning from regulation of cell growth to differentiation. Numerous studies show that EGR1 either promotes the proliferation of stimulated cells or suppresses the tumorigenic growth of transformed cells. Upon interaction with ARF, EGR1 is sumoylated and acquires the ability to bind to specific targets such as PTEN and in turn to regulate cell growth. ARF is mainly localized to the periphery of nucleolus where is able to negatively regulate ribosome biogenesis. Since EGR1 colocalizes with ARF under IGF-1 stimulation we asked the question of whether EGR1 also relocate to the nucleolus to interact with ARF. Here we show that EGR1 colocalizes with nucleolar markers such as fibrillarin and B23 in the presence of ARF. Western analysis of nucleolar extracts from HeLa cells was used to confirm the presence of EGR1 in the nucleolus mainly as the 100 kDa sumoylated form. We also show that the level of the ribosomal RNA precursor 47S is inversely correlated to the level of EGR1 transcripts. The EGR1 iseffective to regulate the synthesis of the 47S rRNA precursor. Then we demonstrated that EGR1 binds to the Upstream Binding Factor (UBF) leading us to hypothesize that the regulating activity of EGR1 is mediated by its interaction within the transcriptional complex of RNA polymerase I. These results confirm the presence of EGR1 in the nucleolus and point to a role for EGR1 in the control of nucleolar metabolism. [less ▲]

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See detailNest grouping patterns of bonobos (Pan paniscus) in relation to fruit availability in a forest-savannah mosaic
Serckx, Adeline ULg; Huynen, Marie-Claude ULg; Bastin, Jean-François ULg et al

in PLoS ONE (2014)

A topic of major interest in socio-ecology is the comparison of chimpanzees and bonobos’ grouping patterns. Numerous studies have highlighted the impact of social and environmental factors on the ... [more ▼]

A topic of major interest in socio-ecology is the comparison of chimpanzees and bonobos’ grouping patterns. Numerous studies have highlighted the impact of social and environmental factors on the different evolution in group cohesion seen in these sister species. We are still lacking, however, key information about bonobo social traits across their habitat range, in order to make accurate inter-species comparisons. In this study we investigated bonobo social cohesiveness at nesting sites depending on fruit availability in the forest-savannah mosaic of western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a bonobo habitat which has received little attention from researchers and is characterized by high food resource variation within years. We collected data on two bonobo communities. Nest counts at nesting sites were used as a proxy for night grouping patterns and were analysed with regard to fruit availability. We also modelled bonobo population density at the site in order to investigate yearly variation. We found that one community density varied across the three years of surveys, suggesting that this bonobo community has significant variability in use of its home range. This finding highlights the importance of forest connectivity, a likely prerequisite for the ability of bonobos to adapt their ranging patterns to fruit availability changes. We found no influence of overall fruit availability on bonobo cohesiveness. Only fruit availability at the nesting sites showed a positive influence, indicating that bonobos favour food ‘hot spots’ as sleeping sites. Our findings have confirmed the results obtained from previous studies carried out in the dense tropical forests of DRC. Nevertheless, in order to clarify the impact of environmental variability on bonobo social cohesiveness, we will need to make direct observations of the apes in the forest-savannah mosaic as well as make comparisons across the entirety of the bonobos’ range using systematic methodology. [less ▲]

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See detailExploiting SNP Correlations within Random Forest for Genome-Wide Association Studies
Botta, Vincent ULg; Louppe, Gilles ULg; Geurts, Pierre ULg et al

in PLoS ONE (2014)

The primary goal of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) is to discover variants that could lead, in isolation or in combination, to a particular trait or disease. Standard approaches to GWAS, however ... [more ▼]

The primary goal of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) is to discover variants that could lead, in isolation or in combination, to a particular trait or disease. Standard approaches to GWAS, however, are usually based on univariate hypothesis tests and therefore can account neither for correlations due to linkage disequilibrium nor for combinations of several markers. To discover and leverage such potential multivariate interactions, we propose in this work an extension of the Random Forest algorithm tailored for structured GWAS data. In terms of risk prediction, we show empirically on several GWAS datasets that the proposed T-Trees method significantly outperforms both the original Random Forest algorithm and standard linear models, thereby suggesting the actual existence of multivariate non-linear effects due to the combinations of several SNPs. We also demonstrate that variable importances as derived from our method can help identify relevant loci. Finally, we highlight the strong impact that quality control procedures may have, both in terms of predictive power and loci identification. [less ▲]

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See detailWidespread occurence of expressed fungal secretory peroxydases in forest soils
Kellner, Harald; Luis, Patricia; Pecyna, Marek, J. et al

in PLoS ONE (2014), 9(4),

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See detailNIMEFI: Gene Regulatory Network Inference using Multiple Ensemble Feature Importance Algorithms
Ruyssinck, Joeri; Huynh-Thu, Vân Anh ULg; Geurts, Pierre ULg et al

in PLoS ONE (2014)

One of the long-standing open challenges in computational systems biology is the topology inference of gene regulatory networks from high-throughput omics data. Recently, two community-wide efforts ... [more ▼]

One of the long-standing open challenges in computational systems biology is the topology inference of gene regulatory networks from high-throughput omics data. Recently, two community-wide efforts, DREAM4 and DREAM5, have been established to benchmark network inference techniques using gene expression measurements. In these challenges the overall top performer was the GENIE3 algorithm. This method decomposes the network inference task into separate regression problems for each gene in the network in which the expression values of a particular target gene are predicted using all other genes as possible predictors. Next, using tree-based ensemble methods, an importance measure for each predictor gene is calculated with respect to the target gene and a high feature importance is considered as putative evidence of a regulatory link existing between both genes. The contribution of this work is twofold. First, we generalize the regression decomposition strategy of GENIE3 to other feature importance methods. We compare the performance of support vector regression, the elastic net, random forest regression, symbolic regression and their ensemble variants in this setting to the original GENIE3 algorithm. To create the ensemble variants, we propose a subsampling approach which allows us to cast any feature selection algorithm that produces a feature ranking into an ensemble feature importance algorithm. We demonstrate that the ensemble setting is key to the network inference task, as only ensemble variants achieve top performance. As second contribution, we explore the effect of using rankwise averaged predictions of multiple ensemble algorithms as opposed to only one. We name this approach NIMEFI (Network Inference using Multiple Ensemble Feature Importance algorithms) and show that this approach outperforms all individual methods in general, although on a specific network a single method can perform better. An implementation of NIMEFI has been made publicly available. [less ▲]

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See detailIdentification of Metabolic Pathways Expressed by Pichia anomala KH6 in the Presence of the Pathogen Botrytis cinerea on Apple: New Possible Targets for Biocontrol Improvement
Kwasiborski, Anthony; Bajji, Mohammed; Renaut, J. et al

in PLoS ONE (2014), 9(3),

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See detailCombining PET images and neuropsychological test data for automatic diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease
Segovia-Román, Fermín ULg; Bastin, Christine ULg; Salmon, Eric ULg et al

in PLoS ONE (2014), 9(2),

In recent years, several approaches to develop computer aided diagnosis (CAD) systems for dementia have been proposed. Some of these systems analyze neurological brain images by means of machine learning ... [more ▼]

In recent years, several approaches to develop computer aided diagnosis (CAD) systems for dementia have been proposed. Some of these systems analyze neurological brain images by means of machine learning algorithms in order to find the patterns that characterize the disorder, and a few combine several imaging modalities to improve the diagnostic accuracy. However, they usually do not use neuropsychological testing data in that analysis. The purpose of this work is to measure the advantages of using not only neuroimages as data source in CAD systems for dementia but also neuropsychological scores. To this aim, we compared the accuracy rates achieved by systems that use neuropsychological scores beside the imaging data in the classification step and systems that use only one of these data sources. In order to address the small sample size problem and facilitate the data combination, a dimensionality reduction step (implemented using three different algorithms) was also applied on the imaging data. After each image is summarized in a reduced set of image features, the data sources were combined and classified using three different data combination approaches and a Support Vector Machine classifier. That way, by testing different dimensionality reduction methods and several data combination approaches, we aim not only highlighting the advantages of using neuropsychological scores in the classification, but also implementing the most accurate computer system for early dementia detention. The accuracy of the CAD systems were estimated using a database with records from 46 subjects, diagnosed with MCI or AD. A peak accuracy rate of 89% was obtained. In all cases the accuracy achieved using both, neuropsychological scores and imaging data, was substantially higher than the one obtained using only the imaging data. [less ▲]

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See detailDo Photobiont Switch and Cephalodia Emancipation Act as Evolutionary Drivers in the Lichen Symbiosis? A Case Study in the Pannariaceae (Peltigerales)
Magain, Nicolas ULg; Sérusiaux, Emmanuël ULg

in PLoS ONE (2014), 9(2), 89876

Lichen symbioses in the Pannariaceae associate an ascomycete and either cyanobacteria alone (usually Nostoc; bipartite thalli) or green algae and cyanobacteria (cyanobacteria being located in dedicated ... [more ▼]

Lichen symbioses in the Pannariaceae associate an ascomycete and either cyanobacteria alone (usually Nostoc; bipartite thalli) or green algae and cyanobacteria (cyanobacteria being located in dedicated structures called cephalodia; tripartite thalli) as photosynthetic partners (photobionts). In bipartite thalli, cyanobacteria can either be restricted to a well-delimited layer within the thallus (‘pannarioid’ thalli) or spread over the thallus that becomes gelatinous when wet (‘collematoid’ thalli). We studied the collematoid genera Kroswia and Physma and an undescribed tripartite species along with representatives of the pannarioid genera Fuscopannaria, Pannaria and Parmeliella. Molecular inferences from 4 loci for the fungus and 1 locus for the photobiont and statistical analyses within a phylogenetic framework support the following: (a) several switches from pannarioid to collematoid thalli occured and are correlated with photobiont switches; the collematoid genus Kroswia is nested within the pannarioid genus Fuscopannaria and the collematoid genus Physma is sister to the pannarioid Parmeliella mariana group; (b) Nostoc associated with collematoid thalli in the Pannariaceae are related to that of the Collemataceae (which contains only collematoid thalli), and never associated with pannarioid thalli; Nostoc associated with pannarioid thalli also associate in other families with similar morphology; (c) ancestors of several lineages in the Pannariaceae developed tripartite thalli, bipartite thalli probably resulting from cephalodia emancipation from tripartite thalli which eventually evolved and diverged, as suggested by the same Nostoc present in the collematoid genus Physma and in the cephalodia of a closely related tripartite species; Photobiont switches and cephalodia emancipation followed by divergence are thus suspected to act as evolutionary drivers in the family Pannariaceae. [less ▲]

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See detailHybridization capture using short PCR products enriches small genomes by capturing flanking sequences (CapFlank)
Tsangaras, K.; Wales, N.; Sicheritz-Pontén, T. et al

in PLoS ONE (2014), 9(10),

Solution hybridization capture methods utilize biotinylated oligonucleotides as baits to enrich homologous sequences from next generation sequencing (NGS) libraries. Coupled with NGS, the method generates ... [more ▼]

Solution hybridization capture methods utilize biotinylated oligonucleotides as baits to enrich homologous sequences from next generation sequencing (NGS) libraries. Coupled with NGS, the method generates kilo to gigabases of high confidence consensus targeted sequence. However, in many experiments, a non-negligible fraction of the resulting sequence reads are not homologous to the bait. We demonstrate that during capture, the bait-hybridized library molecules add additional flanking library sequences iteratively, such that baits limited to targeting relatively short regions (e.g. few hundred nucleotides) can result in enrichment across entire mitochondrial and bacterial genomes. Our findings suggest that some of the off-target sequences derived in capture experiments are non-randomly enriched, and that CapFlank will facilitate targeted enrichment of large contiguous sequences with minimal prior target sequence information. [less ▲]

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See detailHigh Diversity in Cretaceous Ichthyosaurs from Europe Prior to Their Extinction
Fischer, Valentin ULg; Bardet, Nathalie; Guiomar, Myette et al

in PLoS ONE (2014), 9(1), 84709

Background: Ichthyosaurs are reptiles that inhabited the marine realm during most of the Mesozoic. Their Cretaceous representatives have traditionally been considered as the last survivors of a group ... [more ▼]

Background: Ichthyosaurs are reptiles that inhabited the marine realm during most of the Mesozoic. Their Cretaceous representatives have traditionally been considered as the last survivors of a group declining since the Jurassic. Recently, however, an unexpected diversity has been described in Upper Jurassic–Lower Cretaceous deposits, but is widely spread across time and space, giving small clues on the adaptive potential and ecosystem control of the last ichthyosaurs. The famous but little studied English Gault Formation and ‘greensands’ deposits (the Upper Greensand Formation and the Cambridge Greensand Member of the Lower Chalk Formation) offer an unprecedented opportunity to investigate this topic, containing thousands of ichthyosaur remains spanning the Early–Late Cretaceous boundary. Methodology/Principal findings: To assess the diversity of the ichthyosaur assemblage from these sedimentary bodies, we recognized morphotypes within each type of bones. We grouped these morphotypes together, when possible, by using articulated specimens from the same formations and from new localities in the Vocontian Basin (France); a revised taxonomic scheme is proposed. We recognize the following taxa in the ‘greensands’: the platypterygiines ‘Platypterygius’ sp. and Sisteronia seeleyi gen. et sp. nov., indeterminate ophthalmosaurines and the rare incertae sedis Cetarthrosaurus walkeri. The taxonomic diversity of late Albian ichthyosaurs now matches that of older, well-known intervals such as the Toarcian or the Tithonian. Contrasting tooth shapes and wear patterns suggest that these ichthyosaurs colonized three distinct feeding guilds, despite the presence of numerous plesiosaur taxa. Conclusion/Significance: Western Europe was a diversity hot-spot for ichthyosaurs a few million years prior to their final extinction. By contrast, the low diversity in Australia and U.S.A. suggests strong geographical disparities in the diversity pattern of Albian–early Cenomanian ichthyosaurs. This provides a whole new context to investigate the extinction of these successful marine reptiles, at the end of the Cenomanian. [less ▲]

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See detailPrediction of monomer isomery in Florine: a workflow dedicated to nonribosomal peptide discovery.
Caradec, Thibault; Pupin, Maude; Vanvlassenbroeck, Aurelien et al

in PloS one (2014), 9(1), 85667

Nonribosomal peptides represent a large variety of natural active compounds produced by microorganisms. Due to their specific biosynthesis pathway through large assembly lines called NonRibosomal Peptide ... [more ▼]

Nonribosomal peptides represent a large variety of natural active compounds produced by microorganisms. Due to their specific biosynthesis pathway through large assembly lines called NonRibosomal Peptide Synthetases (NRPSs), they often display complex structures with cycles and branches. Moreover they often contain non proteogenic or modified monomers, such as the D-monomers produced by epimerization. We investigate here some sequence specificities of the condensation (C) and epimerization (E) domains of NRPS that can be used to predict the possible isomeric state (D or L) of each monomer in a putative peptide. We show that C- and E- domains can be divided into 2 sub-regions called Up-Seq and Down-Seq. The Up-Seq region corresponds to an InterPro domain (IPR001242) and is shared by C- and E-domains. The Down-Seq region is specific to the enzymatic activity of the domain. Amino-acid signatures (represented as sequence logos) previously described for complete C-and E-domains have been restricted to the Down-Seq region and amplified thanks to additional sequences. Moreover a new Down-Seq signature has been found for Ct-domains found in fungi and responsible for terminal cyclization of the peptides. The identification of these signatures has been included in a workflow named Florine, aimed to predict nonribosomal peptides from NRPS sequence analyses. In some cases, the prediction of isomery is guided by genus-specific rules. Florine was used on a Pseudomonas genome to allow the determination of the type of pyoverdin produced, the update of syringafactin structure and the identification of novel putative products. [less ▲]

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See detailCrystal structure of penicillin-binding protein 3 (PBP3) from Escherichia coli
Sauvage, Eric; Derouaux, Adeline ULg; Fraipont, Claudine ULg et al

in PLoS ONE (2014)

In Escherichia coli, penicillin-binding protein 3 (PBP3), also known as FtsI, is a central component of the divisome, catalyzing cross-linking of the cell wall peptidoglycan during cell division. PBP3 is ... [more ▼]

In Escherichia coli, penicillin-binding protein 3 (PBP3), also known as FtsI, is a central component of the divisome, catalyzing cross-linking of the cell wall peptidoglycan during cell division. PBP3 is mainly periplasmic, with a 23 residues cytoplasmic tail and a single transmembrane helix. We have solved the crystal structure of a soluble form of PBP3 (PBP357-577) at 2.5 Å revealing the two modules of high molecular weight class B PBPs, a carboxy terminal module exhibiting transpeptidase activity and an amino terminal module with unknown function. To gain additional insight, the PBP3 Val88-Ser165 subdomain (PBP388-165), for which the electron density is poorly defined in the PBP3 crystal, was produced and its structure solved by SAD phasing at 2.1 Å. The structure shows a three dimensional domain swapping with a β-strand of one molecule inserted between two strands of the paired molecule, suggesting a possible role in PBP357-577 dimerization. [less ▲]

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See detailRedefining the PF06864 Pfam family based on Burkholderia pseudomallei PilO2(Bp) S-SAD crystal structure.
Lassaux, Patricia ULg; Conchillo-Sole, Oscar; Manjasetty, Babu A. et al

in PloS one (2014), 9(4), 94981

Type IV pili are surface-exposed filaments and bacterial virulence factors, represented by the Tfpa and Tfpb types, which assemble via specific machineries. The Tfpb group is further divided into seven ... [more ▼]

Type IV pili are surface-exposed filaments and bacterial virulence factors, represented by the Tfpa and Tfpb types, which assemble via specific machineries. The Tfpb group is further divided into seven variants, linked to heterogeneity in the assembly machineries. Here we focus on PilO2(Bp), a protein component of the Tfpb R64 thin pilus variant assembly machinery from the pathogen Burkholderia pseudomallei. PilO2(Bp) belongs to the PF06864 Pfam family, for which an improved definition is presented based on newly derived Hidden Markov Model (HMM) profiles. The 3D structure of the N-terminal domain of PilO2(Bp) (N-PilO2(Bp)), here reported, is the first structural representative of the PF06864 family. N-PilO2(Bp) presents an actin-like ATPase fold that is shown to be present in BfpC, a different variant assembly protein; the new HMM profiles classify BfpC as a PF06864 member. Our results provide structural insight into the PF06864 family and on the Type IV pili assembly machinery. [less ▲]