#27 Pheromones Improving Eggs, Mitigating Farms Mitigates Climate Change and Traits Jumping Between Life...
Male pheromones improve the health of females' eggs, management could help China's climate change impact and traits jump between trees of life...
🥚Pheromones Improving Eggs
Male pheromones improve the health of females’ eggs…
The research team from Northwestern University used a well known model organism, the roundworm C. elegans, to test whether exposure of a female organism to male pheromones slowed the aging of the females’ egg cells to an extent.
Exposure to the male pheromones decreased embryonic death by over double, as well as decreasing chromosomal abnormalities in surviving offspring by more than twofold. The research team reported how the oocytes looked younger, healthier and correctly shaped. In typical aged egg cells, they are misshapen and smaller in appearance.
The research team conducted a simple study, comparing the results between a female roundworm. aged in the presence of a pheromone that is normally produced by a male roundworm, versus previously known “typical” oocytes. Furthermore, the team compared the results between those continuously exposed to male pheromones and those just briefly exposed. Whilst the continuous exposure showed the highest quality results in the organism, even short exposure improved overall egg quality.
“Reproductive aging affects everyone,” said Ilya Ruvinsky, who led the study for Northwestern University. “One of the first signs of biological aging is the decreased quality of reproductive cells, which causes reduced fertility, increased incidence of foetal defects including miscarriages, and eventually loss of fertility. By all criteria we could think of, male pheromones made the eggs better.”
Ruvinsky went on to say that some of the results seen could be explained by redirected energy budget by the animal. Pheromones are chemicals responsible for eliciting a social response from other organisms within their species. Ruvinsky said how pheromones can also be used to inform animals about how to use their energy and make the most of their limited resource. In addition Ruvinsky said that “The pheromone tricks the female into sending help to her eggs and shortchanging the rest of her body,” “It’s not all or nothing, but it’s shifting the balance.”
As a result, there were unfortunate trade offs. Due to the fact that the female roundworms were neglecting the rest of their body, they were more likely to experience early death. This could be used to advise future drug development in humans. Whilst the pheromones used are not found in humans the neurons are very similar when activated.
Ruvinsky went on to say how they “are working to design pharmacological interventions that manipulate these neurons to improve fertility while reducing the negative side effects. It remains to be seen, but it’s definitely worth trying.”
🐄Management Mitigating Climate Change
Management could help China mitigate climate change…
Due to key drivers such as urbanisation, population increase and increasing worker wages, the production of animal protein in China has increased by 800% over the past 40 years.
The research team stated that “as the world population grows, we will need every weapon in our arsenal in the fight against climate change, including reduction of nitrous oxide emissions from livestock production,” Houlton said. “This study demonstrates a promising path forward for limiting such emissions through a coordinated national approach that combines policy interventions with adoption of more efficient farming technologies and methods.”
Livestock production is responsible for roughly 8% of global, total human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. However, livestock production causes up to 44% of the total emissions for nitrous oxide. This being 300 more harmful gas than other greenhouse gases.
Over a time period from 1978 - 2017, the global emissions of nitrous oxide have increased by 30%. Importantly, in China alone emissions have increased by 286%. This increase however, predominantly occurred while animal protein production increased, by roughly 800%.
Within their study, the research team looked at the key drivers that could help reduce nitrous oxide emissions. The most effective climate mitigation strategy was to adopt anaerobic digesters. Anaerobic digesters are a technology that converts livestock manure into electricity whilst also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Whilst this was the most effective, the most cost-effective strategy was the adoption of animal feed that is lower in protein. Due to these findings, the researchers suggest a combination of both these methods. However, this would require financial support as well as planning and policy guidance from the Chinese government.
“The bad news is that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, including nitrous oxide,” Benjamin Houlton, lead author of the study, said. “But it would be even worse without the substantial mitigation efforts in China, which have improved agricultural efficiencies while starting to decouple production from emissions. Policy incentives that promote the adoption of circular systems in agriculture, including anaerobic digesters, will be key to building on the gains we have seen and could eventually even reverse emissions.”
🦠Traits Jumping Branches
Traits jumping between the branches of the tree of life…
A research team from the University of California, Santa Barbara have been investigating the effects of the “swapping and stealing” traits strategy. In particular they focused on the ability to acquire metabolic pathways. This is evolutionary important as this change can have serious competitive consequences and ramifications.
An acquired metabolism is simply a metabolic pathway not encoded in the organisms DNA. Examples being the symbiotic fungi that help plants source minerals from soil or the microbes in a cow’s gut that enable it to digest cellulose. Previous research focused around the interactions of the acquired metabolism with the environment. This research team however focuses on acquired phototrophy. An example of this being sea slugs that steal chloroplasts from their food allowing them to photosynthesise. "We really wanted to understand whether or not this acquired phototrophy would give an organism a competitive advantage," said lead author Veronica Hsu.
The researchers used two microbes to test under four different light settings. The two microbes being a Paramecium bursaria as well as a species in the genus Colpidium. Paramecium bursaria, shares its counterpart's diet, but had also acquired the ability to photosynthesize at some point in the past. The Colpidium species performed well in all settings with P. bursaria faring significantly better under brighter conditions. Pitted against each other, P. bursaria was outcompeted in darker conditions yet dominated in brighter conditions.
"I think it gets to this idea that you can't be good at everything," said co-author Holly Moeller, an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. By adapting to an acquired metabolism P. bursaria may have lost out however at high light levels the photosynthesis boost more than makes up for this.
Interestingly the two microbes were able to coexist under intermediate light conditions. “Niche partitioning” allowed the two to avoid direct competition. This shows how symbiosis and acquired metabolism affect community dynamics. "Expanding on your metabolic repertoire has cascading implications on how you can make a living, and the extent to which you're going to shove other organisms out of the way," Moeller said.
This study has highlighted the important of the study of both acquired metabolisms and its impact on evolution and ecology especially when considering their importance in fundamental life. Photosynthesis has been around for a long time with plants inheriting their chloroplasts from a eukaryotic ancestor that domesticated a cyanobacterium.
Moeller’s group will continue to study the implications of acquired metabolisms. In particular focusing on the transition from heterotrophy to autotrophy - especially photosynthesis.
🦠 Disease and Illness
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🥚Pheromones Improving Eggs
Aprison, E., Dzitoyeva, S., Angeles-Albores, D. and Ruvinsky, I., 2022. A male pheromone that improves the quality of the oogenic germline. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(21).
🐄Farm Management Mitigating Climate Change
Xu, P., Houlton, B., Zheng, Y., Zhou, F., Ma, L., Li, B., Liu, X., Li, G., Lu, H., Quan, F., Hu, S. and Chen, A., 2022. Policy-enabled stabilization of nitrous oxide emissions from livestock production in China over 1978–2017. Nature Food,.
🦠Traits Jumping Branches
Hsu, V., Pfab, F. and Moeller, H., 2022. Niche expansion via acquired metabolism facilitates competitive dominance in planktonic communities. Ecology,.