New pathway for DNA transfer discovered in tumor microenvironment

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University of Notre Dame researchers have discovered another way tumor cells transfer genetic material to other cells in their microenvironment, causing cancer to spread.

In their latest study, published in Cell Reports, Crislyn D’Souza-Schorey, the Morris Pollard Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and collaborators discovered that DNA “cargo” is transported in small informational sacs called extracellular microvesicles. Their study is a continuation of work her lab has undertaken to further understand the sharing of information between cells.

“We’ve shown that DNA present in these microvesicles is related to metastasis, so now we have a great platform to assess for genetic aberrations,” said D’Souza-Schorey, who is also affiliated with the Berthiaume Institute for Precision Health, the Boler-Parseghian Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases and the Harper Cancer Research Institute.

Cancer cells, unlike , are often filled with cytosolic DNA, which is DNA found in the jelly-like fluid outside of the cell’s nucleus. This DNA can be derived from multiple sources, but recent evidence suggests that chromosomal instability is a primary source of cytosolic DNA in tumor cells.

The research team used a cell model from a male cancer patient to show how Y-chromosomal DNA—present in the cytosol due to —is carried by extracellular vesicles and transferred to a female mammary epithelial cell line.

“These female cells do not have Y-chromosomal DNA present without exposure to the male microvesicles,” said James Clancy, research assistant professor of biological sciences, who is the first author on the paper. “This is an accessible way to show people that the DNA was transferred, making it easier to prove this form of communication.”

The researchers demonstrated that cytosolic DNA is moved to microvesicles alongside an enzyme, cGAS, which was discovered in part because of its role during the immune response to bacterial and viral infections. Scientists have increasingly recognized that cGAS may play a part in tumor progression, and this new study delineated a way the DNA is modified to aid that progression.

Work published by D’Souza-Schorey’s lab in 2019 in Nature Cell Biology described how microRNA within tumor is moved to microvesicles just beginning to form at the cell periphery. Once shed, these vesicles are taken up by non- in the microenvironment. Microvesicles can also be found circulating through the body in fluids like blood and urine, and can be used as biomarkers that point to the presence of cancer.

While microRNA can affect more quickly than DNA, the researchers were interested in the DNA content as it is the actual part of a person’s genome, including any tumor-associated mutations, Clancy said. It was also more difficult to prove that DNA has moved from one cell to another.

The lab’s continued foundational research in this area may lead to early detection of different types of tumors.

In addition to D’Souza-Schorey and Clancy, others who worked on the study include Colin Sheehan, class of ’19, and Alex C. Boomgarden, a fourth-year doctoral student at Notre Dame and recipient of a Berthiaume Institute for Precision Health predoctoral fellowship. Sheehan is now pursuing his doctoral degree at the University of Chicago. The study was supported in part by the National Cancer Institute and the Boler Family Foundation.

More information:
James W. Clancy et al, Recruitment of DNA to tumor-derived microvesicles, Cell Reports (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2022.110443

New pathway for DNA transfer discovered in tumor microenvironment (2022, March 25)
retrieved 26 March 2022

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Stabilizing emulsion research improves firefighting operations and more

Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

Researchers at Texas A&M University have found a way to control the charge of nanoparticles on a two-fluid interface to create a more stable system in which its charge can also be switched and controlled. The ability to change the charge of nanoparticles on a two-fluid interface would result in a surface that could acclimate itself to fit many diverse applications, such as a more durable firefighting operation and even controlled release in certain medications.

“Based on this idea, we proposed a concept that this will be a pH-responsive material. If we change the pH value, we can control the ,” said Dr. Qingsheng Wang, associate professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering and holder of the George Armistead ’23 Faculty Fellowship at Texas A&M.

The team’s research was published in the American Chemical Society’s journal, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Emulsion is a mixture of two or more incompatible and unmixable liquids, much like oil and water, that can be stabilized by the interference of solid particles. These solid particles tightly assemble at the fluid-fluid interface, like swim lanes in a lap pool, to prevent coalescence. This process is known as Pickering emulsion.

The success of this system is ultimately made possible by the use of graphene quantum dots (GQDs) containing zwitterionic properties. Using several sheets of GQDs stacked together, the research team is able to not only stabilize emulsion, but also control the molecular diffusion on the interface by adjusting its pH values, much like flipping a light switch. These sheets together measure less than 5 nanometers in thickness. To put this into perspective, the average human hair is anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 nanometers wide.

The functionalized GQDs are composed of nanocarbon materials containing zwitterionic structure, which is formed from nanoparticles that contain an equal amount of both positive and while still remaining electronically neutral. After the nanoparticles are added to the interface, they separate the two fluids by making one side hydrophobic and the other side hydrophilic.

This electronic makeup also makes it possible to control the overall pH of the interface. By adjusting the pH values, these GQDs can be finely tuned to both block and unblock an oil-water interface. Changing the nanoplatelets on the to the same charge means that they will be disassembled, thus creating a more stable emulsion system.

“This is going to help us design a good system in high-performance fire suppression. In addition, because we can control the release, this could be promising for and enhanced oil recovery,” Wang said. “Usually, this is very difficult to do. And sometimes, if we can control the release, but the system itself is not stable, it may only be possible to do one or two cycles of this before the system collapses.”

The research team consists of chemical engineering doctoral student Rong Ma and former chemical engineering doctoral students Dr. Minxiang Zeng, now a research scientist at the University of Notre Dame, and Dr. Dali Huang, now a process engineer at Formosa Plastics Corporation.

More information:
Rong Ma et al, Zwitterionic Graphene Quantum Dots to Stabilize Pickering Emulsions for Controlled-Release Applications, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (2022). DOI: 10.1021/acsami.1c23226

Stabilizing emulsion research improves firefighting operations and more (2022, March 25)
retrieved 26 March 2022

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The mystery of an unusual Panamanian plant’s dispersal

Zamia pseudoparasitica is the only species in its genus that grows on other trees, but little is known about how it persists in the canopy. Credit: Pedro Luis Castillo, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Sleeping in a car may be a necessity for scientists conducting fieldwork. In 2020, a team of young researchers spent two nights sleeping in their car in the mountains of western Panama. The second time it was not intentional: their car broke down in El Copé, in Coclé province, and they had to wait for a tow truck. At least a woman from the area took pity on them and offered them fried plantains and coffee. A few years and a pandemic later, the study resulting from those adventures was published in the journal Ecology and Evolution, revealing clues about the natural history of an unusual plant that only exists in Panama.

Zamia pseudoparasitica is a unique species that is only found in the montane cloud forests of western Panama. It is a cycad, belonging to a very ancient order of plants that resemble and produce cones. The genus, Zamia, originated 68.3 million years ago, when there were still dinosaurs roaming the planet. But the most unusual thing about this particular species is that it is the only epiphytic Zamia in the world: it does not grow on the ground, but hangs on to the branches and trunks of trees using its roots, generally 7-20 meters above the ground.

To begin to solve the mystery of how it persists in the canopy, a somewhat fortuitous research team formed. Doctoral student at the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior and visiting scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), Claudio Monteza, and Senacyt-STRI intern and biologist Lilisbeth Rodríguez, ran into each other one day at the Smithsonian research station on Barro Colorado Island, in the Panama Canal. She told him about the project that she was conducting with Z. pseudoparasitica under the supervision of Juan Carlos Villarreal, a biologist from Laval University in Canada, and Kristin Saltonstall, a STRI staff scientist in Panama.

“My goal was to collect samples from different species of Zamias in the country,” Rodríguez said. “These samples would later be analyzed in the laboratory to find out what species of fungi and bacteria grow inside their leaves.”

Given her experience climbing trees, Lilisbeth Rodríguez borrowed some camera traps from Claudio Monteza to place them high up in the trees and document which animals interacted with Zamia pseudoparasitica. Credit: Claudio Monteza, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior.

Her supervisor, Juan Carlos Villarreal, told her that no one knew how this plant’s seeds were dispersed: it was still a mystery. But given her experience climbing trees as part of the project, and aware of Claudio’s work with to study mammal behavior, Lilisbeth asked to borrow some traps. She wanted to place them high up in the trees to find out what species of animals interacted with the Zamia.

Claudio joined the project, as did Pedro Luis Castillo, a research assistant at STRI, and Edgar Toribio, a tour guide from Santa Fe. At the end of 2019, they placed the camera traps on trees in three protected areas where Z. pseudoparasitica grows: the Palo Seco Protected Forest, the Santa Fe National Park and the Omar Torrijos Herrera National Park in El Copé. In March, shortly before a mandatory quarantine due to the pandemic began, they collected the camera traps.

What they saw in the images could help explain how Z. pseudoparasitica disperses in the trees and not on the ground like other Zamia species. While seven different mammals visited the branches where Z. pseudoparasitica were growing, some paid no attention to the plant; others, such as capuchin monkeys, opossums and kinkajous inspected its cones, some even licked them, but did not take the seeds. Only the northern olingo (Bassaricyon gabbii), a nocturnal tree-dwelling mammal that is active high in the canopy and feeds primarily on fruit, was repeatedly observed at all three sites. When the cones of Z. pseudoparasitica were still closed and immature, they were seen inspecting and biting them. Once opened, the cameras detected the olingos collecting up to four seeds at a time.

“It could be that the olingos are taking the seeds to what would be their den or perhaps to a seed bank,” Monteza explained. “If they are, which we don’t yet know for sure, it would help to explain why this is the only Zamia species that lives in the .”

The northern olingo (Bassaricyon gabbii), a nocturnal tree-dwelling mammal, was observed repeatedly inspecting and biting at the immature cones of Z. pseudoparasitica and then taking up to four seeds at a time once open. Credit: Claudio Monteza, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior.

In other words, if the seeds are being stored in the canopy by olingos, chances are they might end up in favorable places for germination up there.

“The montane forests of western Panama are very unique, filled with many species that aren’t found anywhere else,” said Kristin Saltonstall, co-supervisor of the project. “It’s exciting to document this interaction between such a special plant and an animal that is also poorly understood.”

Z. pseudoparasitica is a true epiphyte; that is to say, it spends its entire life in the forest canopy,” said Monteza. “How it persists there is a mystery that perhaps we will begin to solve with these initial findings. It’s exciting because we can continue to the next phase by collecting more data; for example, it occurs to us that we can mark the seeds with bioluminescence, wait for the olingos to take them away and then search for the seeds at night.”

More information:
Claudio M. Monteza‐Moreno et al, Arboreal camera trapping sheds light on seed dispersal of the world’s only epiphytic gymnosperm: Zamia pseudoparasitica, Ecology and Evolution (2022). DOI: 10.1002/ece3.8769

The mystery of an unusual Panamanian plant’s dispersal (2022, March 25)
retrieved 26 March 2022

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Water resource conservation promotes sustainable development in China’s northern drylands

Water resource conservation promotes synergy between economy and environment through industrial transformation in inner mongolia. Credit: Higher Education Press

Water resource availability is the major limiting factor for sustainable development in drylands. The drylands of northern China contain only 19% of the country’s total water resources but house one-third of the national population, and are therefore under considerable water stress. In particular, Inner Mongolia, which is a typical dryland province, plays an important role in maintaining ecological security in northern China. For the past few years, its anthropogenic water consumption has increased 4-fold, from 6.68 billion m3 in 1987 to 27.11 billion m3 in 2015; this increase has seriously threatened regional grasslands, which also rely on water resources to sustain ecological integrity. The conflict between ecological and social-economic systems and the actions that might relieve it has been long overlooked, thus, might lead to unexpected problems when adopting one-sided policies.

Climate change intensifies the conflicting water demands between people and the environment and highlights the importance of effective water resource management for achieving a balance between economic development and environmental protection. In 2008, Inner Mongolia proposed strict regulations on water exploitation and utilization aimed at achieving . By adopting these regulations, Inner Mongolia’s government aims to limit high water consumption and the expansion of polluting industries; by doing so, they aim to achieve industrial restructuring toward sustainable development. However, no systematic evaluation has been conducted to determine if and how such strict regulations on might alleviate the tension between environmental protection and economic development. Without this information, policy adjustment and the ability to achieve sustainable development are limited.

Now, a research group from University of Chinese Academy of Sciences studied the effectiveness and performance of these long-standing water conservation regulations. The results were published in Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering.

They found that the regulations drove industrial transformation, evidenced by the decreasing proportion of environmentally harmful industries such as coal and steel, and the increasing proportion of tertiary industries (especially tourism). Following industrial transformation, economic development decoupled from industrial water consumption and subsequently led to reduced negative environmental impacts.

Based on these results, adaptive strategies were developed for 12 cities by revealing and integrating their development pathways and relative status in achieving sustainable development. Integration and cooperation between cities were proposed, e.g., a water trade agreement between eastern Inner Mongolia (an economically underdeveloped region with relatively abundant ) and central Inner Mongolia (an economically developed region with high water stress). Such an agreement may enable the holistic achievement of sustainable development across regions. By integrating the findings of the research, a reproducible framework is established for water-management-based sustainable development strategies in drylands.

Stimulating the internal motivation of industrial transformation through the regulations of water resources could help achieve synergy between and , therefore, promoting sustainable development in drylands. Taken together, three suggestions are proposed for sustainable development in drylands: (1) restrict the water exploitation and regulate the water cost to reconcile the conflict between economy and environment; (2) promote novel technologies to increase the water use efficiency; (3) enhance regional cooperation achieve holistic development in a mutually beneficial way.

More information:
Yali Liu et al, Water resource conservation promotes synergy between economy and environment in China’s northern drylands, Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering (2021). DOI: 10.1007/s11783-021-1462-y

Provided by
Higher Education Press

Water resource conservation promotes sustainable development in China’s northern drylands (2022, March 25)
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