Abstract: Circadian rhythms refer to oscillations in biological processes with a period of approximately 24 h. In addition to the sleep/wake cycle, there are circadian rhythms in metabolism, body temperature, hormone output, organ function and gene expression. There is also evidence of circadian rhythms in synaptic plasticity, in some cases driven by a master central clock and in other cases by peripheral clocks. In this article, I review the evidence for circadian influences on synaptic plasticity. I also discuss ways to disentangle the effects of brain state and rhythms on synaptic plasticity.
Abstract: The conventional understanding of phenotype is as a derivative of descent with modification through Darwinian random mutation and natural selection. Recent research has revealed Lamarckian inheritance as a major transgenerational mechanism for environmental action on genomes whose extent is determined, in significant part, by germ line cells during meiosis and subsequent stages of embryological development. In consequence, the role of phenotype can productively be reconsidered. The possibility that phenotype is directed towards the effective acquisition of epigenetic marks in consistent reciprocation with the environment during the life cycle of an organism is explored. It is proposed that phenotype is an active agent in niche construction for the active acquisition of epigenetic marks as a dominant evolutionary mechanism rather than a consequence of Darwinian selection towards reproductive success. The reproductive phase of the life cycle can then be appraised as a robust framework in which epigenetic inheritance is entrained to affect growth and development in continued reciprocal responsiveness to environmental stresses. Furthermore, as first principles of physiology determine the limits of epigenetic inheritance, a coherent justification can thereby be provided for the obligate return of all multicellular eukaryotes to the unicellular state.
Abstract: The first anaerobic organism extracted energy for survival and reproduction from its source of nutrients, with the genetic means to ensure protection of its individual genome but also its species survival. While it had a means to communicate with its community via simple secreted molecules (“quorum sensing”), the eventual shift to an aerobic environment led to multi-cellular metazoan organisms, with evolutionary-selected genes to form extracellular matrices, stem cells, stem cell niches, and a family of gap junction or “connexin” genes. These germinal and somatic stem cells responded to extracellular signals that triggered intra-cellular signaling to regulate specific genes out of the total genome. These extra-cellular induced intra-cellular signals also modulated gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) in order to regulate the new cellular functions of symmetrical and asymmetrical cell division, cell differentiation, modes of cell death, and senescence. Within the hierarchical and cybernetic concepts, differentiated by neurons organized in the brain of the Homo sapiens, the conscious mind led to language, abstract ideas, technology, myth-making, scientific reasoning, and moral decision–making, i.e., the creation of culture. Over thousands of years, this has created the current collision between biological and cultural evolution, leading to the global “metabolic disease” crisis.
Abstract: Evolutionary developmental genetics has traditionally been conducted by two groups: Molecular evolutionists who emphasize divergence between species or higher taxa, and quantitative geneticists who study variation within species. Neither approach really comes to grips with the complexities of evolutionary transitions, particularly in light of the realization from genome-wide association studies that most complex traits fit an infinitesimal architecture, being influenced by thousands of loci. This paper discusses robustness, plasticity and lability, phenomena that we argue potentiate major evolutionary changes and provide a bridge between the conceptual treatments of macro- and micro-evolution. We offer cryptic genetic variation and conditional neutrality as mechanisms by which standing genetic variation can lead to developmental system drift and, sheltered within canalized processes, may facilitate developmental transitions and the evolution of novelty. Synthesis of the two dominant perspectives will require recognition that adaptation, divergence, drift and stability all depend on similar underlying quantitative genetic processes—processes that cannot be fully observed in continuously varying visible traits.
Abstract: The 21st century genomics-based analysis of evolutionary variation reveals a number of novel features impossible to predict when Dobzhansky and other evolutionary biologists formulated the neo-Darwinian Modern Synthesis in the middle of the last century. These include three distinct realms of cell evolution; symbiogenetic fusions forming eukaryotic cells with multiple genome compartments; horizontal organelle, virus and DNA transfers; functional organization of proteins as systems of interacting domains subject to rapid evolution by exon shuffling and exonization; distributed genome networks integrated by mobile repetitive regulatory signals; and regulation of multicellular development by non-coding lncRNAs containing repetitive sequence components. Rather than single gene traits, all phenotypes involve coordinated activity by multiple interacting cell molecules. Genomes contain abundant and functional repetitive components in addition to the unique coding sequences envisaged in the early days of molecular biology. Combinatorial coding, plus the biochemical abilities cells possess to rearrange DNA molecules, constitute a powerful toolbox for adaptive genome rewriting. That is, cells possess “Read–Write Genomes” they alter by numerous biochemical processes capable of rapidly restructuring cellular DNA molecules. Rather than viewing genome evolution as a series of accidental modifications, we can now study it as a complex biological process of active self-modification.
Abstract: Bacteria classified in species of the genus Leptothrix produce extracellular, microtubular, Fe-encrusted sheaths. The encrustation has been previously linked to bacterial Fe oxidases, which oxidize Fe(II) to Fe(III) and/or active groups of bacterial exopolymers within sheaths to attract and bind aqueous-phase inorganics. When L. cholodnii SP-6 cells were cultured in media amended with high Fe(II) concentrations, Fe(III) precipitates visibly formed immediately after addition of Fe(II) to the medium, suggesting prompt abiotic oxidation of Fe(II) to Fe(III). Intriguingly, these precipitates were deposited onto the sheath surface of bacterial cells as the population was actively growing. When Fe(III) was added to the medium, similar precipitates formed in the medium first and were abiotically deposited onto the sheath surfaces. The precipitates in the Fe(II) medium were composed of assemblies of globular, amorphous particles (ca. 50 nm diameter), while those in the Fe(III) medium were composed of large, aggregated particles (≥3 µm diameter) with a similar amorphous structure. These precipitates also adhered to cell-free sheaths. We thus concluded that direct abiotic deposition of Fe complexes onto the sheath surface occurs independently of cellular activity in liquid media containing Fe salts, although it remains unclear how this deposition is associated with the previously proposed mechanisms (oxidation enzyme- and/or active group of organic components-involved) of Fe encrustation of the Leptothrix sheaths.