Latest Articles

Open AccessReview
Stabilin Receptors: Role as Phosphatidylserine Receptors
Biomolecules 2019, 9(8), 387; https://doi.org/10.3390/biom9080387 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
Phosphatidylserine is a membrane phospholipid that is localized to the inner leaflet of the plasma membrane. Phosphatidylserine externalization to the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane is an important signal for various physiological processes, including apoptosis, platelet activation, cell fusion, lymphocyte activation, and [...] Read more.
Phosphatidylserine is a membrane phospholipid that is localized to the inner leaflet of the plasma membrane. Phosphatidylserine externalization to the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane is an important signal for various physiological processes, including apoptosis, platelet activation, cell fusion, lymphocyte activation, and regenerative axonal fusion. Stabilin-1 and stabilin-2 are membrane receptors that recognize phosphatidylserine on the cell surface. Here, we discuss the functions of Stabilin-1 and stabilin-2 as phosphatidylserine receptors in apoptotic cell clearance (efferocytosis) and cell fusion, and their ligand-recognition and signaling pathways. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Risks of Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) for Sustainable Water Recycling via Aquifers
Water 2019, 11(8), 1737; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11081737 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
The prediction of the fate of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in water recycling with urban stormwater and treated wastewater is important since PFAS are widely used, persistent, and have potential impacts on human health and the environment. These alternative water sources have [...] Read more.
The prediction of the fate of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in water recycling with urban stormwater and treated wastewater is important since PFAS are widely used, persistent, and have potential impacts on human health and the environment. These alternative water sources have been utilized for water recycling via aquifers or managed aquifer recharge (MAR). However, the fate of these chemicals in MAR schemes and the potential impact in terms of regulation have not been studied. PFAS can potentially be transported long distances in the subsurface during MAR. This article reviews the potential risks to MAR systems using recycled water and urban stormwater. To date, there are insufficient data to determine if PFAS can be degraded by natural processes or retained in the aquifer and become suitable pre-treatment or post-treatment technologies that will need to be employed depending upon the end use of the recovered water. The use of engineered pre-treatment or post-treatment methods needs to be based on a ‘fit for purpose’ principle and carefully integrated with the proposed water end use to ensure that human and environmental health risks are appropriately managed. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Loss of Protein Kinase Csnk2b/CK2β at Neuromuscular Junctions Affects Morphology and Dynamics of Aggregated Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors, Neuromuscular Transmission, and Synaptic Gene Expression
Cells 2019, 8(8), 940; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells8080940 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
The protein kinase Csnk2/CK2 is important for cell proliferation, differentiation, and survival. Previously, we showed that CK2 binds distinctive proteins at neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) of mice and phosphorylates some of them. CK2 likely stabilizes clustered nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs). In the absence of [...] Read more.
The protein kinase Csnk2/CK2 is important for cell proliferation, differentiation, and survival. Previously, we showed that CK2 binds distinctive proteins at neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) of mice and phosphorylates some of them. CK2 likely stabilizes clustered nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs). In the absence of the β-subunit of CK2 in skeletal muscle fibers, mice develop an age-dependent decrease of grip strength accompanied by NMJ fragmentation and impairments of neuromuscular transmission. However, the precise role of CK2β regarding the clustering of AChRs and downstream signaling at NMJs is unknown. Here, we compared conditional CK2β-deficient mice with controls and found in the mutants (1) a lower decrement of endplate potentials after repetitive stimulation and decrements of nerve-evoked compound muscle action potentials decayed more rapidly after synaptic transmission was partially blocked, (2) that their muscle weakness was partially rescued by administration of an acetylcholine esterase inhibitor, (3) fragmented NMJs and impaired AChR clustering was detected in muscles and cultured muscle cells, (4) enlarged myonuclei, (5) impaired synaptic gene expression, and (6) a high turnover rate of their AChR clusters in vivo. Altogether, our data demonstrate a role for CK2 at the NMJ by maintaining a high density of AChRs and ensuring physiological synaptic gene expression. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperReview
A Stage-Based Approach to Therapy in Parkinson’s Disease
Biomolecules 2019, 9(8), 388; https://doi.org/10.3390/biom9080388 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that features progressive, disabling motor symptoms, such as bradykinesia, rigidity, and resting tremor. Nevertheless, some non-motor symptoms, including depression, REM sleep behavior disorder, and olfactive impairment, are even earlier features of PD. At later stages, apathy, [...] Read more.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that features progressive, disabling motor symptoms, such as bradykinesia, rigidity, and resting tremor. Nevertheless, some non-motor symptoms, including depression, REM sleep behavior disorder, and olfactive impairment, are even earlier features of PD. At later stages, apathy, impulse control disorder, neuropsychiatric disturbances, and cognitive impairment can present, and they often become a heavy burden for both patients and caregivers. Indeed, PD increasingly compromises activities of daily life, even though a high variability in clinical presentation can be observed among people affected. Nowadays, symptomatic drugs and non-pharmaceutical treatments represent the best therapeutic options to improve quality of life in PD patients. The aim of the present review is to provide a practical, stage-based guide to pharmacological management of both motor and non-motor symptoms of PD. Furthermore, warning about drug side effects, contraindications, as well as dosage and methods of administration, are highlighted here, to help the physician in yielding the best therapeutic strategies for each symptom and condition in patients with PD. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Maize Silage Digestate Application Affecting Germination and Early Growth of Maize Modulated by Soil Type
Agronomy 2019, 9(8), 473; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy9080473 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
During biogas production anaerobic digestion of plant material produces a nutrient-rich residue called digestate. The application of the nutrients present in the digestate should improve soil fertility, particularly in nutrient poor soils, and thus crop yield, promoting the closure of the nutrient cycle. [...] Read more.
During biogas production anaerobic digestion of plant material produces a nutrient-rich residue called digestate. The application of the nutrients present in the digestate should improve soil fertility, particularly in nutrient poor soils, and thus crop yield, promoting the closure of the nutrient cycle. This study evaluated the effect of digestate application on the germination and early stages of plant development since these are the first steps to be considered when studying the benefits on plant growth in low fertility substrates. A greenhouse experiment was conducted to evaluate the effects of three substrates of different texture and fertility (field loam, field sand, sand), as well as type and amount of fertilizer (pure maize digestate vs. inorganic nitrogen/phosphorus/potassium (NPK) fertilizer) on both germination and early plant performance of maize (Zea mays L. subsp. mays). While digestate and NPK fertilizer applications had no significant effect on germination in the two field soils, digestate applications significantly decreased the germination rate in sand (36%–82% reduction) due to an increase of surface water repellency. In contrast, for aboveground biomass yield, the most positive fertilization effects of digestate application were found on sand (up to 3.5 times the biomass of the unamended control) followed by field sand (1.5 times), compared to no effect for field loam. Our findings suggest that digestate application have positive fertilization effects in low-fertility substrates, similar to NPK, even though digestate application may have a negative impact on the permeability in sandy substrates that could interfere with germination. Full article
Open AccessReview
Ecological and Health Effects of Lubricant Oils Emitted into the Environment
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(16), 3002; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16163002 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
Lubricating oils used in machines with an open cutting system, such as a saw or harvester, are applied in forest areas, gardening, in the household, and in urban greenery. During the operation of the device with an open cutting system, the lubricating oil [...] Read more.
Lubricating oils used in machines with an open cutting system, such as a saw or harvester, are applied in forest areas, gardening, in the household, and in urban greenery. During the operation of the device with an open cutting system, the lubricating oil is emitted into the environment. Therefore, the use of an oil base and refining additives of petroleum origin in the content of lubricants is associated with a negative impact on health and the environment. The current legal regulations concerning lubricants applicable in the European Union (EU) assess the degree of biodegradability. Legislation permits the use of biodegradable oils at 60% for a period of 28 days. This means that, in practice, lubricating oil considered to be biodegradable can contain up to 50% of the so-called petroleum oil base. The paper aims to draw public attention to the need to reduce the toxicity and harmful effects, due to their composition, of lubricating oils emitted into the environment on health. The authors discuss the impact of petroleum oil lubricants on soils, groundwater, vegetation, and animals, and the impact of petroleum-origin oil mist on health. An overview of test methods for the biodegradability of lubricating oils is presented, including the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 301 A–F, 310, and 302 A–D tests, as well as their standard equivalents. The current legal regulations regarding the use and control of lubricating oils emitted into the environment are discussed. Legal provisions are divided according to their area of application. Key issues regarding the biodegradability and toxicity of petroleum fractions in lubricating oils are also addressed. It is concluded that lubricating oils, emitted or potentially emitted into the environment, should contain only biodegradable ingredients in order to eliminate the negative impact on both the environment and health. Total biodegradability should be confirmed by widely applied tests. Therefore, a need to develop and implement low-cost and simple control procedures for each type of lubricating oil, ensuring the possibility of an indisputable conclusion about the presence and total absence of petroleum-derived components in oil, as well as the content of natural ingredients, occurs. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Mineralogy and Leachability of Natural Rocks–A Comparison to Electric Arc Furnace Slags
Minerals 2019, 9(8), 501; https://doi.org/10.3390/min9080501 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
In waste management, recycled and industrial aggregates (e.g., electric arc furnace (EAF) slags) for construction applications have to fulfil the limit values with respect to the total and/or leachable contents of potentially environmentally problematic chemical elements (PEPE, e.g., Cr, Ni, Cu, Mo, V). [...] Read more.
In waste management, recycled and industrial aggregates (e.g., electric arc furnace (EAF) slags) for construction applications have to fulfil the limit values with respect to the total and/or leachable contents of potentially environmentally problematic chemical elements (PEPE, e.g., Cr, Ni, Cu, Mo, V). Natural aggregates, i.e., quarried hard rocks, are neither tested nor regulated for these parameters in most EU member states, e.g., Austria, prior to using them as a construction material. The purpose of this study was to relate the mineralogy to the leachability of natural aggregates with a special emphasis on PEPE and to interpret these findings in comparison with EAF slags. Five samples of Austrian rocks were investigated by polarization microscopy, electron probe microanalyses (EPMA), X‐ray diffraction (XRD), and leaching tests as well as by hydrogeochemical modelling using LeachXSTM. Two samples showed elevated total contents of Cr, Ni, and Mo which were present as Cr‐spinel, (Fe,Mg)(Al,Cr)2O4, Ni‐olivine, (Fe,Mg,Ni)2SiO4, and molybdenite, MoS2. Whereas the former two phases also controlled the leaching of Cr and Ni, the observed leaching of Mo was higher than expected in the case of solubility control by molybdenite. In summary, the leachability of PEPE in natural and industrial aggregates was controlled by similar mineralogical mechanisms. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Population Genetic Analysis of the Estonian Native Horse Suggests Diverse and Distinct Genetics, Ancient Origin and Contribution from Unique Patrilines
Genes 2019, 10(8), 629; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10080629 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
The Estonian Native Horse (ENH) is a medium-size pony found mainly in the western islands of Estonia and is well-adapted to the harsh northern climate and poor pastures. The ancestry of the ENH is debated, including alleged claims about direct descendance from the [...] Read more.
The Estonian Native Horse (ENH) is a medium-size pony found mainly in the western islands of Estonia and is well-adapted to the harsh northern climate and poor pastures. The ancestry of the ENH is debated, including alleged claims about direct descendance from the extinct Tarpan. Here we conducted a detailed analysis of the genetic makeup and relationships of the ENH based on the genotypes of 15 autosomal short tandem repeats (STRs), 18 Y chromosomal single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), mitochondrial D-loop sequence and lateral gait allele in DMRT3. The study encompassed 2890 horses of 61 breeds, including 33 ENHs. We show that the expected and observed genetic diversities of the ENH are among the highest within 52 global breeds, and the highest among 8 related Northern European ponies. The genetically closest breeds to the ENH are the Finn Horse, and the geographically more distant primitive Hucul and Konik. ENH matrilines are diverse and relate to draught and Pontic-Caspian breeds. ENH patrilines relate to draught breeds, and to a unique haplogroup not described before. None of the 33 ENHs carried the “gait” mutation, but the mutation was found in 2 Huculs. The study demonstrates that the ENH is a genetically distinct and diverse breed of ancient origin with no notable pressure of selective breeding. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Spatiotemporal Simulation of Net Ecosystem Productivity and Its Response to Climate Change in Subtropical Forests
Forests 2019, 10(8), 708; https://doi.org/10.3390/f10080708 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
Subtropical forests have great potential as carbon sinks; however, the relationship between net ecosystem productivity (NEP) and climate change is still unclear. This study took Zhejiang Province, a subtropical region, as an example. Based on remote sensing classification data of forest resources, the [...] Read more.
Subtropical forests have great potential as carbon sinks; however, the relationship between net ecosystem productivity (NEP) and climate change is still unclear. This study took Zhejiang Province, a subtropical region, as an example. Based on remote sensing classification data of forest resources, the integrated terrestrial ecosystem carbon cycle (InTEC) model was used to simulate the spatiotemporal dynamics of the forest NEP in Zhejiang Province during 1985–2015 and analyze its response to meteorological factors such as temperature, precipitation, relative humidity, and radiation. Three patterns emerged: (1) The optimized InTEC model can better simulate the forest NEP in Zhejiang Province, and the correlation coefficient between the simulated NEP and observed NEP was up to 0.75. (2) From 1985 to 2015, the increase in the total NEP was rapid, with an average annual growth rate of 1.52 Tg·C·yr−1. During 1985–1988, the forests in Zhejiang Province were carbon sources. After 1988, the forests turned into carbon sinks and this continued to increase. During 2000–2015, more than 97% of the forests in Zhejiang Province were carbon sinks. The total NEP reached 32.02 Tg·C·yr−1, and the annual mean NEP increased to 441.91 gC·m−2·yr−1. The carbon sequestration capacity of forests in the east and southwest of Zhejiang Province is higher than that in the northeast of Zhejiang Province. (3) From 2000 to 2015, there was an extremely significant correlation between forest NEP and precipitation, with a correlation coefficient of 0.85. Simultaneously, the forest NEP showed a negative correlation with temperature and radiation, with a correlation coefficient of −0.56 for both, and the forest NEP was slightly negatively correlated with relative humidity. The relative contribution rates of temperature, precipitation, relative humidity, and radiation data to NEP showed that the contribution of precipitation to NEP is the largest, reaching 61%, followed by temperature and radiation at 18% and 17%, respectively. The relative contribution rate of relative humidity is the smallest at only 4%. During the period of 1985–1999, due to significant man-made disturbances, the NEP had a weak correlation with temperature, precipitation, relative humidity, and radiation. The results of this study are important for addressing climate change and illustrating the response mechanism between subtropical forest NEP and climate change. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Comparison of Splitting Methods for Deterministic/Stochastic Gross–Pitaevskii Equation
Math. Comput. Appl. 2019, 24(3), 76; https://doi.org/10.3390/mca24030076 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
In this paper, we discuss the different splitting approaches to numerically solve
the Gross–Pitaevskii equation (GPE). The models are motivated from spinor Bose–Einstein
condensate (BEC). This system is formed of coupled mean-field equations, which are based on
coupled Gross–Pitaevskii equations. We consider conservative [...] Read more.
In this paper, we discuss the different splitting approaches to numerically solve
the Gross–Pitaevskii equation (GPE). The models are motivated from spinor Bose–Einstein
condensate (BEC). This system is formed of coupled mean-field equations, which are based on
coupled Gross–Pitaevskii equations. We consider conservative finite-difference schemes and spectral
methods for the spatial discretisation. Furthermore, we apply implicit or explicit time-integrators and
combine these schemes with different splitting approaches. The numerical solutions are compared
based on the conservation of the L2-norm with the analytical solutions. The advantages of the novel
splitting methods for large time-domains are based on the asymptotic conservation of the solution of
the soliton’s applications. Furthermore, we have the benefit of larger local time-steps and therefore
obtain faster numerical schemes. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Concept and Evaluation of a Method for the Integration of Human Factors into Human-Oriented Work Design in Cyber-Physical Production Systems
Sustainability 2019, 11(16), 4508; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11164508 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
Due to the shift from mainly manual labor to an increased portion of cognitive tasks
in manufacturing caused by the introduction of cyber-physical systems, there is a need for an
updated collection of adequate design principles for user interfaces between humans and machines.
[...] Read more.
Due to the shift from mainly manual labor to an increased portion of cognitive tasks
in manufacturing caused by the introduction of cyber-physical systems, there is a need for an
updated collection of adequate design principles for user interfaces between humans and machines.
Thus, we developed a method for the determination and evaluation of such design principles.
It is based on human factors methods and facilitates the assessment of specific work design elements
which are supposed to have a significant effect on work performance and the perception of work
in cyber-physical production systems (CPPS). Within the application of the developed method,
we derived an overview of key design elements in CPPS, developed an experimental platform,
and conducted two empirical studies with a total of n = 68 participants. This way, three design
elements were investigated, and the findings transferred into preliminary design principles. We can
state that the method can be used both for a better understanding of the mechanisms between human
factors and work in CPPS. Besides, it helps to provide a catalogue of design principles applicable to
SMEs to promote more efficient and successful integration of workers into CPPS. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Utilization of Petroleum Coke Soot as Energy Storage Material
Energies 2019, 12(16), 3195; https://doi.org/10.3390/en12163195 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
Anode active materials for lithium ion batteries (LIBs) were produced by using waste soot generated after combustion in a plant using petroleum coke as fuel. The soot collected from the boilers in the plant was graphitized through annealing, and this annealed soot was [...] Read more.
Anode active materials for lithium ion batteries (LIBs) were produced by using waste soot generated after combustion in a plant using petroleum coke as fuel. The soot collected from the boilers in the plant was graphitized through annealing, and this annealed soot was applied to anode active materials. After annealing at 2700 °C, the soot was converted into highly crystalline graphite with ring shapes approximately 100 nm in diameter. The lithium ion coin cells produced using graphitized soot showed high discharge capacity and excellent life cycle with a reversible capacity of 250 mAh/g even after 300 cycles at a rate of 1 C. This study describes a new possibility of using environmentally harmful combustion wastes of petroleum coke as a low-price anode material for LIBs by converting them into a graphite multilayer structure with a unique ring shape through annealing. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Pollution Source Identification for River Chemical Spills by Modular-Bayesian Approach: A Retrospective Study on the ‘Landmark’ Spill Incident in China
Hydrology 2019, 6(3), 74; https://doi.org/10.3390/hydrology6030074 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
It is important to identify source information after a river chemical spill incident occurs. Among various source inversion approaches, a Bayesian-based framework is able to directly characterize inverse uncertainty using a probability distribution and has recently become of interest. However, the literature has [...] Read more.
It is important to identify source information after a river chemical spill incident occurs. Among various source inversion approaches, a Bayesian-based framework is able to directly characterize inverse uncertainty using a probability distribution and has recently become of interest. However, the literature has not reported its application to actual spill incidents, and many aspects in practical use have not yet been clearly illustrated, e.g., feasibility for large scale pollution incidents, algorithm parameters, and likelihood functions. This work deduced a complete modular-Bayesian approach for river chemical spills, which combined variance assumptions on a pollutant concentration time series with Adaptive-Metropolis sampling. A retrospective case study was conducted based on the ‘landmark’ spill incident in China, the Songhua River nitrobenzene spill of 2005. The results show that release mass, place, and moment were identified with biases of −26.9%, −7.9%, and 16.9%, respectively. Inverse uncertainty statistics were also quantified for each source parameter. Performance, uncertainty sources, and future work are discussed. This study provides an important real-life case to demonstrate the usefulness of the modular-Bayesian approach in practice and provides valuable references for the setting of parameters for the sampling algorithm and variance assumptions. Full article
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