Abstract in English:A new scientometric indicator, the h-index, has been recently proposed (Hirsch JE. Proc Natl Acad Sci 2005; 102: 16569-16572). The index avoids some shortcomings of the calculation of the total number of citations as a parameter to evaluate scientific performance. Although it has become known only recently, it has had widespread acceptance. A comparison of the average h-index of members of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (BAS) and of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (NAS-USA) was carried out for 10 different areas of science. Although, as expected, the comparison was unfavorable to the members of the BAS, the imbalance was distinct in different areas. Since these two academies represent, to a significant extent, the science of top quality produced in each country, the comparison allows the identification of the areas in Brazil that are closer to the international stakeholders of scientific excellence. The areas of Physics and Mathematics stand out in this context. The heterogeneity of the h-index in the different areas, estimated by the median dispersion of the index, is significantly higher in the BAS than in the NAS-USA. No elements have been collected in the present study to provide an explanation for this fact.
Abstract in English:Facial expressions of basic emotions have been widely used to investigate the neural substrates of emotion processing, but little is known about the exact meaning of subjective changes provoked by perceiving facial expressions. Our assumption was that fearful faces would be related to the processing of potential threats, whereas angry faces would be related to the processing of proximal threats. Experimental studies have suggested that serotonin modulates the brain processes underlying defensive responses to environmental threats, facilitating risk assessment behavior elicited by potential threats and inhibiting fight or flight responses to proximal threats. In order to test these predictions about the relationship between fearful and angry faces and defensive behaviors, we carried out a review of the literature about the effects of pharmacological probes that affect 5-HT-mediated neurotransmission on the perception of emotional faces. The hypothesis that angry faces would be processed as a proximal threat and that, as a consequence, their recognition would be impaired by an increase in 5-HT function was not supported by the results reviewed. In contrast, most of the studies that evaluated the behavioral effects of serotonin challenges showed that increased 5-HT neurotransmission facilitates the recognition of fearful faces, whereas its decrease impairs the same performance. These results agree with the hypothesis that fearful faces are processed as potential threats and that 5-HT enhances this brain processing.
Abstract in English:Iron is an essential metal for all living organisms. However, iron homeostasis needs to be tightly controlled since iron can mediate the production of reactive oxygen species, which can damage cell components and compromise the integrity and/or cause DNA mutations, ultimately leading to cancer. In eukaryotes, iron-regulatory protein 1 (IRP1) plays a central role in the control of intracellular iron homeostasis. This occurs by interaction of IRP1 with iron-responsive element regions at 5' of ferritin mRNA and 3' of transferrin mRNA which, respectively, represses translation and increases mRNA stability. We have expressed IRP1 using the plasmid pT7-His-hIRP1, which codifies for human IRP1 attached to an NH2-terminal 6-His tag. IRP1 was expressed in Escherichia coli using the strategy of co-expressing chaperonins GroES and GroEL, in order to circumvent inclusion body formation and increase the yield of soluble protein. The protein co-expressed with these chaperonins was obtained mostly in the soluble form, which greatly increased the efficiency of protein purification. Metal affinity and FPLC ion exchange chromatography were used in order to obtain highly purified IRP1. Purified protein was biologically active, as assessed by electrophoretic mobility shift assay, and could be converted to the cytoplasmic aconitase form. These results corroborate previous studies, which suggest the use of folding catalysts as a powerful strategy to increase protein solubility when expressing heterologous proteins in E. coli.
Abstract in English:Bovine coronavirus (BCoV) causes severe diarrhea in newborn calves, is associated with winter dysentery in adult cattle and respiratory infections in calves and feedlot cattle. The BCoV S protein plays a fundamental role in viral attachment and entry into the host cell, and is cleaved into two subunits termed S1 (amino terminal) and S2 (carboxy terminal). The present study describes a strategy for the sequencing of the BCoV S1 gene directly from fecal diarrheic specimens that were previously identified as BCoV positive by RT-PCR assay for N gene detection. A consensus sequence of 2681 nucleotides was obtained through direct sequencing of seven overlapping PCR fragments of the S gene. The samples did not undergo cell culture passage prior to PCR amplification and sequencing. The structural analysis was based on the genomic differences between Brazilian strains and other known BCoV from different geographical regions. The phylogenetic analysis of the entire S1 gene showed that the BCoV Brazilian strains were more distant from the Mebus strain (97.8% identity for nucleotides and 96.8% identity for amino acids) and more similar to the BCoV-ENT strain (98.7% for nucleotides and 98.7% for amino acids). Based on the phylogenetic analysis of the hypervariable region of the S1 subunit, these strains clustered with the American (BCoV-ENT, 182NS) and Canadian (BCQ20, BCQ2070, BCQ9, BCQ571, BCQ1523) calf diarrhea and the Canadian winter dysentery (BCQ7373, BCQ2590) strains, but clustered on a separate branch of the Korean and respiratory BCoV strains. The BCoV strains of the present study were not clustered in the same branch of previously published Brazilian strains (AY606193, AY606194). These data agree with the genealogical construction and suggest that at least two different BCoV strains are circulating in Brazil.
Abstract in English:GM1 gangliosidosis is an autosomal recessive disorder caused by the deficiency of lysosomal acid hydrolase ß-galactosidase (ß-Gal). It is one of the most frequent lysosomal storage disorders in Brazil, with an estimated frequency of 1:17,000. The enzyme is secreted and can be captured by deficient cells and targeted to the lysosomes. There is no effective treatment for GM1 gangliosidosis. To determine the efficiency of an expression vector for correcting the genetic defect of GM1 gangliosidosis, we tested transfer of the ß-Gal gene (Glb1) to fibroblasts in culture using liposomes. ß-Gal cDNA was cloned into the expression vectors pSCTOP and pREP9. Transfection was performed using 4 µL lipofectamine 2000 and 1.5-2.0 µg DNA. Cells (2 x 10(5)/well) were harvested 24 h, 48 h, and 7 days after transfection. Enzyme specific activity was measured in cell lysate and supernatant by fluorometric assay. Twenty-four hours after transfection, treated cells showed a higher enzyme specific activity (pREP9-ß-Gal: 621.5 ± 323.0, pSCTOP-ß-Gal: 714.5 ± 349.5, pREP9-ß-Gal + pSCTOP-ß-Gal: 1859.0 ± 182.4, and pREP9-ß-Gal + pTRACER: 979.5 ± 254.9 nmol·h-1·mg-1 protein) compared to untreated cells (18.0 ± 3.1 for cell and 32.2 ± 22.2 nmol·h-1·mg-1 protein for supernatant). However, cells maintained in culture for 7 days showed values similar to those of untreated patients. In the present study, we were able to transfect primary patients' skin fibroblasts in culture using a non-viral vector which overexpresses the ß-Gal gene for 24 h. This is the first attempt to correct fibroblasts from patients with GM1 gangliosidosis by gene therapy using a non-viral vector.
Abstract in English:Azospirillum brasilense is a diazotroph found in association with important agricultural crops. In this organism, the regulation of nitrogen fixation by ammonium ions involves several proteins including the uridylyltransferase/uridylyl-removing enzyme, GlnD, which reversibly uridylylates the two PII proteins, GlnB and GlnZ, in response to the concentration of ammonium ions. In the present study, the uridylylation/deuridylylation cycle of A. brasilense GlnB and GlnZ proteins by GlnD was reconstituted in vitro using the purified proteins. The uridylylation assay was analyzed using non-denaturing polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and fluorescent protein detection. Our results show that the purified A. brasilense GlnB and GlnZ proteins were uridylylated by the purified A. brasilense GlnD protein in a process dependent on ATP and 2-oxoglutarate. The dependence on ATP for uridylylation was similar for both proteins. On the other hand, at micromolar concentration of 2-oxoglutarate (up to 100 µM), GlnB uridylylation was almost twice that of GlnZ, an effect that was not observed at higher concentrations of 2-oxoglutarate (up to 10 mM). Glutamine inhibited uridylylation and stimulated deuridylylation of both GlnB and GlnZ. However, glutamine seemed to inhibit GlnZ uridylylation more efficiently. Our results suggest that the differences in the uridylylation pattern of GlnB and GlnZ might be important for fine-tuning of the signaling pathway of cellular nitrogen status in A. brasilense.
Abstract in English:The features of the nucleotide sequences in both replication and promoter regions have been investigated in many organisms. Intrinsically bent DNA sites associated with transcription have been described in several prokaryotic organisms. The aim of the present study was to investigate intrinsic bent DNA sites in the segment that holds the chromosomal replication origin, oriC, of Xylella fastidiosa 9a5c. Electrophoretic behavior analyses, as well as in silico analyses of both the 2-D projection and helical parameters, were performed. The chromosomal segment analyzed contains the initial sequence of the rpmH gene, an intergenic region, the dnaA gene, the oriC sequence, and the 5' partial sequence of the dnaN gene. The analysis revealed fragments with reduced electrophoretic mobility, which indicates the presence of curved DNA segments. The analysis of the helical parameter ENDS ratio revealed three bent DNA sites (b1, b2, and b3) located in the rpmH-dnaA intergenic region, the dnaA gene, and the oriC 5' end, respectively. The chromosomal segment of X. fastidiosa analyzed here is rich in phased AT tracts and in CAnT motifs. The 2-D projection indicated a segment whose structure was determined by the cumulative effect of all bent DNA sites. Further, the in silico analysis of the three different bacterial oriC sequences indicated similar negative roll and twist >34.00° values. The DnaA box sequences, and other motifs in them, may be associated with the intrinsic DNA curvature.
Abstract in English:We showed that guaraná (Paullinia cupana Mart var. sorbilis) had a chemopreventive effect on mouse hepatocarcinogenesis and reduced diethylnitrosamine-induced DNA damage. In the present experiment, we evaluated the effects of guaraná in an experimental metastasis model. Cultured B16/F10 melanoma cells (5 x 10(5) cells/animal) were injected into the tail vein of mice on the 7th day of guaraná treatment (2.0 mg P. cupana/g body weight, per gavage) and the animals were treated with guaraná daily up to 14 days until euthanasia (total treatment time: 21 days). Lung sections were obtained for morphometric analysis, apoptotic bodies were counted to calculate the apoptotic index and proliferating cell nuclear antigen-positive cells were counted to determine the proliferation index. Guaraná-treated (GUA) animals presented a 68.6% reduction in tumor burden area compared to control (CO) animals which were not treated with guaraná (CO: 0.84 ± 0.26, N = 6; GUA: 0.27 ± 0.24, N = 6; P = 0.0043), a 57.9% reduction in tumor proliferation index (CO: 23.75 ± 20.54, N = 6; GUA: 9.99 ± 3.93, N = 6; P = 0.026) and a 4.85-fold increase in apoptotic index (CO: 66.95 ± 22.95, N = 6; GUA: 324.37 ± 266.74 AB/mm², N = 6; P = 0.0152). In this mouse model, guaraná treatment decreased proliferation and increased apoptosis of tumor cells, consequently reducing the tumor burden area. We are currently investigating the molecular pathways of the effects of guaraná in cultured melanoma cells, regarding principally the cell cycle inhibitors and cyclins.
Abstract in English:Denervation of the colon is protective against the colon cancer; however, the mechanisms involved are unknown. We tested the hypothesis that the denervated colonic mucosa could be less responsive to the action of the chemical carcinogen dimethylhydrazine (DMH). Three groups of 32 male Wistar rats were treated as follows: group 1 (G1) had the colon denervated with 0.3 mL 1.5 mM benzyldimethyltetradecylammonium (benzalkonium chloride, BAC); G2 received a single ip injection of 125 mg/kg DMH; G3 was treated with BAC + the same dose and route of DMH. A control group (Sham, N = 32) did not receive any treatment. Each group was subdivided into four groups according to the sacrifice time (1, 2, 6, and 12 weeks after DMH). Crypt fission index, ß-catenin accumulated crypts, aberrant crypt foci, and cell proliferation were evaluated and analyzed by ANOVA and the Student t-test. G3 animals presented a small number of aberrant crypt foci and low crypt fission index compared to G2 animals after 2 and 12 weeks, respectively. From the second week on, the index of ß-catenin crypt in G3 animals increased slower than in G2 animals. From the 12th week on, G2 animals presented a significant increase in cell proliferation when compared to the other groups. Colonic denervation plays an anticarcinogenic role from early stages of colon cancer development. This finding can be of importance for the study of the role of the enteric nervous system in the carcinogenic process.
Abstract in English:Newcastle disease virus (NDV) is the causative agent of an economically important disease, which affects all species of birds worldwide. Current vaccination programs for NDV include the use of either low-virulent live-virus vaccines or inactivated vaccines to induce protective immunity while producing minimal adverse effects in birds. In order to further characterize the immune response elicited by live virus and inactivated NDV conventional vaccines in chickens, we evaluated the presence of specific antibodies in different secretions and in tissue culture supernatants of immunized birds. To this end, we analyzed all the samples by ELISA, using an indirect assay set up in the laboratory. Specific anti-NDV IgG antibodies were detected in tracheal and cloacal swabs and tracheal and intestinal washes of immunized animals. We also found specific anti-NDV IgG antibodies in tracheal and intestinal tissue culture supernatants, indicating that the IgG found in swabs and washes was not transudated from serum or, at least, was not all transudated from serum. Knowledge about the mechanisms involved in the immune response of chickens to different NDV vaccines should increase our understanding of the mucosal response against the virus and, eventually, provide new useful information for the development and evaluation of synthetic vaccines.
Abstract in English:A former study with scenarios conducted in Hawaii has suggested that humans share with non-human mammals the same basic defensive strategies - risk assessment, freezing, defensive threat, defensive attack, and flight. The selection of the most adaptive strategy is strongly influenced by features of the threat stimulus - magnitude, escapability, distance, ambiguity, and availability of a hiding place. Aiming at verifying if these strategies would be consistent in a different culture, 12 defensive scenarios were translated into Portuguese and adapted to the Brazilian culture. The sample consisted of male and female undergraduate students divided into two groups: 76 students, who evaluated the five dimensions of each scenario and 248 medical students, who chose the most likely response for each scenario. In agreement with the findings from studies of non-human mammal species, the scenarios were able to elicit different defensive behavioral responses, depending on features of the threat. "Flight" was chosen as the most likely response in scenarios evaluated as an unambiguous and intense threat, but with an available route of escape, whereas "attack" was chosen in an unambiguous, intense and close dangerous situation without an escape route. Less urgent behaviors, such as "check out", were chosen in scenarios evaluated as less intense, more distant and more ambiguous. Moreover, the results from the Brazilian sample were similar to the results obtained in the original study with Hawaiian students. These data suggest that a basic repertoire of defensive strategies is conserved along the mammalian evolution because they share similar functional benefits in maintaining fitness.
Abstract in English:Hippocampal output is increased in affective disorders and is mediated by increased glutamatergic input via N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor and moderated by antidepressant treatment. Activation of NMDA receptors by glutamate evokes the release of nitric oxide (NO) by the activation of neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS). The human hippocampus contains a high density of NMDA receptors and nNOS-expressing neurons suggesting the existence of an NMDA-NO transduction pathway which can be involved in the pathogenesis of affective disorders. We tested the hypothesis that nNOS expression is increased in the human hippocampus from affectively ill patients. Immunocytochemistry was used to demonstrate nNOS-expressing neurons in sections obtained from the Stanley Consortium postmortem brain collection from patients with major depression (MD, N = 15), bipolar disorder (BD, N = 15), and schizophrenia (N = 15) and from controls (N = 15). nNOS-immunoreactive (nNOS-IR) and Nissl-stained neurons were counted in entorhinal cortex, hippocampal CA1, CA2, CA3, and CA4 subfields, and subiculum. The numbers of Nissl-stained neurons were very similar in different diagnostic groups and correlated significantly with the number of nNOS-IR neurons. Both the MD and the BD groups had greater number of nNOS-IR neurons/400 µm² in CA1 (mean ± SEM: MD = 9.2 ± 0.6 and BD = 8.4 ± 0.6) and subiculum (BD = 6.7 ± 0.4) when compared to control group (6.6 ± 0.5) and this was significantly more marked in samples from the right hemisphere. These changes were specific to affective disorders since no changes were seen in the schizophrenic group (6.7 ± 0.8). The results support the current view of the NMDA-NO pathway as a target for the pathophysiology of affective disorders and antidepressant drug development.