Biology2013, 2(4), 1465-1487; doi:10.3390/biology2041465 - published online 9 December 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Arabidopsis thaliana became the model organism for plant studies because of its small diploid genome, rapid lifecycle and short adult size. Its genome was the first among plants to be sequenced, becoming the reference in plant genomics. However, the Arabidopsis genome is characterized by an inherently complex organization, since it has undergone ancient whole genome duplications, followed by gene reduction, diploidization events and extended rearrangements, which relocated and split up the retained portions. These events, together with probable chromosome reductions, dramatically increased the genome complexity, limiting its role as a reference. The identification of paralogs and single copy genes within a highly duplicated genome is a prerequisite to understand its organization and evolution and to improve its exploitation in comparative genomics. This is still controversial, even in the widely studied Arabidopsis genome. This is also due to the lack of a reference bioinformatics pipeline that could exhaustively identify paralogs and singleton genes. We describe here a complete computational strategy to detect both duplicated and single copy genes in a genome, discussing all the methodological issues that may strongly affect the results, their quality and their reliability. This approach was used to analyze the organization of Arabidopsis nuclear protein coding genes, and besides classifying computationally defined paralogs into networks and single copy genes into different classes, it unraveled further intriguing aspects concerning the genome annotation and the gene relationships in this reference plant species. Since our results may be useful for comparative genomics and genome functional analyses, we organized a dedicated web interface to make them accessible to the scientific community.
Biology2013, 2(4), 1438-1464; doi:10.3390/biology2041438 - published online 2 December 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: In this article, we illustrate the application of difference in-gel electrophoresis for the proteomic analysis of dystrophic skeletal muscle. The mdx diaphragm was used as a tissue model of dystrophinopathy. Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis is a widely employed protein separation method in proteomic investigations. Although two-dimensional gels usually underestimate the cellular presence of very high molecular mass proteins, integral membrane proteins and low copy number proteins, this method is extremely powerful in the comprehensive analysis of contractile proteins, metabolic enzymes, structural proteins and molecular chaperones. This gives rise to two-dimensional gel electrophoretic separation as the method of choice for studying contractile tissues in health and disease. For comparative studies, fluorescence difference in-gel electrophoresis has been shown to provide an excellent biomarker discovery tool. Since aged diaphragm fibres from the mdx mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy closely resemble the human pathology, we have carried out a mass spectrometry-based comparison of the naturally aged diaphragm versus the senescent dystrophic diaphragm. The proteomic comparison of wild type versusmdx diaphragm resulted in the identification of 84 altered protein species. Novel molecular insights into dystrophic changes suggest increased cellular stress, impaired calcium buffering, cytostructural alterations and disturbances of mitochondrial metabolism in dystrophin-deficient muscle tissue.
Biology2013, 2(4), 1411-1437; doi:10.3390/biology2041411 - published online 2 December 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: We present an analytic framework based on Self-Organizing Map (SOM) machine learning to study large scale patient data sets. The potency of the approach is demonstrated in a case study using gene expression data of more than 200 mature aggressive B-cell lymphoma patients. The method portrays each sample with individual resolution, characterizes the subtypes, disentangles the expression patterns into distinct modules, extracts their functional context using enrichment techniques and enables investigation of the similarity relations between the samples. The method also allows to detect and to correct outliers caused by contaminations. Based on our analysis, we propose a refined classification of B-cell Lymphoma into four molecular subtypes which are characterized by differential functional and clinical characteristics.
Biology2013, 2(4), 1378-1410; doi:10.3390/biology2041378 - published online 28 November 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The packaging of chromatin into the nucleus of a eukaryotic cell requires an extraordinary degree of compaction and physical organization. In recent years, it has been shown that this organization is dynamically orchestrated to regulate responses to exogenous stimuli as well as to guide complex cell-type-specific developmental programs. Gene expression is regulated by the compartmentalization of functional domains within the nucleus, by distinct nucleosome compositions accomplished via differential modifications on the histone tails and through the replacement of core histones by histone variants. In this review, we focus on these aspects of chromatin organization and discuss novel approaches such as live cell imaging and photobleaching as important tools likely to give significant insights into our understanding of the very dynamic nature of chromatin and chromatin regulatory processes. We highlight the contribution plant studies have made in this area showing the potential advantages of plants as models in understanding this fundamental aspect of biology.
Biology2013, 2(4), 1357-1377; doi:10.3390/biology2041357 - published online 25 November 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Cereal crops form the bulk of the world’s food sources, and thus their importance cannot be understated. Crop breeding programs increasingly rely on high-resolution molecular genetic markers to accelerate the breeding process. The development of these markers is hampered by the complexity of some of the major cereal crop genomes, as well as the time and cost required. In this review, we address current and future methods available for the characterisation of cereal genomes, with an emphasis on faster and more cost effective approaches for genome sequencing and the development of markers for trait association and marker assisted selection (MAS) in crop breeding programs.
Biology2013, 2(4), 1338-1356; doi:10.3390/biology2041338 - published online 21 November 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The genome of an organism is under constant attack from endogenous and exogenous DNA damaging factors, such as reactive radicals, radiation, and genotoxins. Therefore, DNA damage response systems to sense DNA damage, arrest cell cycle, repair DNA lesions, and/or induce programmed cell death are crucial for maintenance of genomic integrity and survival of the organism. Genome sequences revealed that, although plants possess many of the DNA damage response factors that are present in the animal systems, they are missing some of the important regulators, such as the p53 tumor suppressor. These observations suggest differences in the DNA damage response mechanisms between plants and animals. In this review the DNA damage responses in plants and animals are compared and contrasted. In addition, the function of SUPPRESSOR OF GAMMA RESPONSE 1 (SOG1), a plant-specific transcription factor that governs the robust response to DNA damage, is discussed.