The dominant cause of malaria in Malaysia is now Plasmodium knowlesi, a zoonotic parasite of cynomolgus macaque monkeys found throughout South East Asia. Comparative genomic analysis of parasites adapted to in vitro growth in either cynomolgus or human RBCs identified a genomic deletion that includes the gene encoding normocyte-binding protein Xa (NBPXa) in parasites growing in cynomolgus RBCs but not in human RBCs. Experimental deletion of the NBPXa gene in parasites adapted to growth in human RBCs (which retain the ability to grow in cynomolgus RBCs) restricted them to cynomolgus RBCs, demonstrating that this gene is selectively required for parasite multiplication and growth in human RBCs. NBPXa-null parasites could bind to human RBCs, but invasion of these cells was severely impaired. Therefore, NBPXa is identified as a key mediator of P. knowlesi human infection and may be a target for vaccine development against this emerging pathogen.
The mangrove forests of Southeast Asia are highly biodiverse and provide multiple ecosystem services upon which millions of people depend. Mangroves enhance fisheries and coastal protection, and store among the highest densities of carbon of any ecosystem globally. Mangrove forests have experienced extensive deforestation owing to global demand for commodities, and previous studies have identified the expansion of aquaculture as largely responsible. The proportional conversion of mangroves to different land use types has not been systematically quantified across Southeast Asia, however, particularly in recent years. In this study we apply a combined geographic information system and remote sensing method to quantify the key proximate drivers (i.e., replacement land uses) of mangrove deforestation in Southeast Asia between 2000 and 2012. Mangrove forests were lost at an average rate of 0.18% per year, which is lower than previously published estimates. In total, more than 100,000 ha of mangroves were removed during the study period, with aquaculture accounting for 30% of this total forest change. The rapid expansion of rice agriculture in Myanmar, and the sustained conversion of mangroves to oil palm plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia, are identified as additional increasing and under-recognized threats to mangrove ecosystems. Our study highlights frontiers of mangrove deforestation in the border states of Myanmar, on Borneo, and in Indonesian Papua. To implement policies that conserve mangrove forests across Southeast Asia, it is essential to consider the national and subnational variation in the land uses that follow deforestation.
The Pictet-Spengler (PS) reaction constructs plant alkaloids such as morphine and camptothecin, but it has not yet been noticed in the fungal kingdom. Here, a silent fungal Pictet-Spenglerase (FPS) gene of Chaetomium globosum 1C51 residing in Epinephelus drummondhayi guts is described and ascertained to be activable by 1-methyl-L-tryptophan (1-MT). The activated FPS expression enables the PS reaction between 1-MT and flavipin (fungal aldehyde) to form "unnatural" natural products with unprecedented skeletons, of which chaetoglines B and F are potently antibacterial with the latter inhibiting acetylcholinesterase. A gene-implied enzyme inhibition (GIEI) strategy has been introduced to address the key steps for PS product diversifications. In aggregation, the work designs and validates an innovative approach that can activate the PS reaction-based fungal biosynthetic machinery to produce unpredictable compounds of unusual and novel structure valuable for new biology and biomedicine.
The extent of Dipterocarp rainforests on the emergent Sundaland landmass in Southeast Asia during Quaternary glaciations remains a key question. A better understanding of the biogeographic history of Sundaland could help explain current patterns of biodiversity and support the development of effective forest conservation strategies. Dipterocarpaceae trees dominate the rainforests of Sundaland, and their distributions serve as a proxy for rainforest extent. We used species distribution models (SDMs) of 317 Dipterocarp species to estimate the geographic extent of appropriate climatic conditions for rainforest on Sundaland at the last glacial maximum (LGM). The SDMs suggest that the climate of central Sundaland at the LGM was suitable to sustain Dipterocarp rainforest, and that the presence of a previously suggested transequatorial savannah corridor at that time is unlikely. Our findings are supported by palynologic evidence, dynamic vegetation models, extant mammal and termite communities, vascular plant fatty acid stable isotopic compositions, and stable carbon isotopic compositions of cave guano profiles. Although Dipterocarp species richness was generally lower at the LGM, areas of high species richness were mostly found off the current islands and on the emergent Sunda Shelf, indicating substantial species migration and mixing during the transitions between the Quaternary glacial maxima and warm periods such as the present.
The Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS) and its variant form (LFL) is a familial predisposition to multiple forms of childhood, adolescent, and adult cancers associated with germ-line mutation in the TP53 tumor suppressor gene. Individual disparities in tumor patterns are compounded by acceleration of cancer onset with successive generations. It has been suggested that this apparent anticipation pattern may result from germ-line genomic instability in TP53 mutation carriers, causing increased DNA copy-number variations (CNVs) with successive generations. To address the genetic basis of phenotypic disparities of LFS/LFL, we performed whole-genome sequencing (WGS) of 13 subjects from two generations of an LFS kindred. Neither de novo CNV nor significant difference in total CNV was detected in relation with successive generations or with age at cancer onset. These observations were consistent with an experimental mouse model system showing that trp53 deficiency in the germ line of father or mother did not increase CNV occurrence in the offspring. On the other hand, individual records on 1,771 TP53 mutation carriers from 294 pedigrees were compiled to assess genetic anticipation patterns (International Agency for Research on Cancer TP53 database). No strictly defined anticipation pattern was observed. Rather, in multigeneration families, cancer onset was delayed in older compared with recent generations. These observations support an alternative model for apparent anticipation in which rare variants from noncarrier parents may attenuate constitutive resistance to tumorigenesis in the offspring of TP53 mutation carriers with late cancer onset.
Environmental factors clearly affect colorectal cancer (CRC) incidence, but the mechanisms through which these factors function are unknown. One prime candidate is an altered colonic microbiota. Here we show that the mucosal microbiota organization is a critical factor associated with a subset of CRC. We identified invasive polymicrobial bacterial biofilms (bacterial aggregates), structures previously associated with nonmalignant intestinal pathology, nearly universally (89%) on right-sided tumors (13 of 15 CRCs, 4 of 4 adenomas) but on only 12% of left-sided tumors (2 of 15 CRCs, 0 of 2 adenomas). Surprisingly, patients with biofilm-positive tumors, whether cancers or adenomas, all had biofilms on their tumor-free mucosa far distant from their tumors. Bacterial biofilms were associated with diminished colonic epithelial cell E-cadherin and enhanced epithelial cell IL-6 and Stat3 activation, as well as increased crypt epithelial cell proliferation in normal colon mucosa. High-throughput sequencing revealed no consistent bacterial genus associated with tumors, regardless of biofilm status. However, principal coordinates analysis revealed that biofilm communities on paired normal mucosa, distant from the tumor itself, cluster with tumor microbiomes as opposed to biofilm-negative normal mucosa bacterial communities also from the tumor host. Colon mucosal biofilm detection may predict increased risk for development of sporadic CRC.
Inadequate funding from developed countries has hampered international efforts to conserve biodiversity in tropical forests. We present two complementary research approaches that reveal a significant increase in public demand for conservation within tropical developing countries as those countries reach upper-middle-income (UMI) status. We highlight UMI tropical countries because they contain nearly four-fifths of tropical primary forests, which are rich in biodiversity and stored carbon. The first approach is a set of statistical analyses of various cross-country conservation indicators, which suggests that protective government policies have lagged behind the increase in public demand in these countries. The second approach is a case study from Malaysia, which reveals in a more integrated fashion the linkages from rising household income to increased household willingness to pay for conservation, nongovernmental organization activity, and delayed government action. Our findings suggest that domestic funding in UMI tropical countries can play a larger role in (i) closing the funding gap for tropical forest conservation, and (ii) paying for supplementary conservation actions linked to international payments for reduced greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in tropical countries.
Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector and continues to expand alongside terrestrial crop and livestock production. Using portfolio theory as a conceptual framework, we explore how current interconnections between the aquaculture, crop, livestock, and fisheries sectors act as an impediment to, or an opportunity for, enhanced resilience in the global food system given increased resource scarcity and climate change. Aquaculture can potentially enhance resilience through improved resource use efficiencies and increased diversification of farmed species, locales of production, and feeding strategies. However, aquaculture's reliance on terrestrial crops and wild fish for feeds, its dependence on freshwater and land for culture sites, and its broad array of environmental impacts diminishes its ability to add resilience. Feeds for livestock and farmed fish that are fed rely largely on the same crops, although the fraction destined for aquaculture is presently small (∼4%). As demand for high-value fed aquaculture products grows, competition for these crops will also rise, as will the demand for wild fish as feed inputs. Many of these crops and forage fish are also consumed directly by humans and provide essential nutrition for low-income households. Their rising use in aquafeeds has the potential to increase price levels and volatility, worsening food insecurity among the most vulnerable populations. Although the diversification of global food production systems that includes aquaculture offers promise for enhanced resilience, such promise will not be realized if government policies fail to provide adequate incentives for resource efficiency, equity, and environmental protection.
Kisspeptin, a neuropeptide encoded by the KISS1/Kiss1, and its cognate G protein-coupled receptor, GPR54 (kisspeptin receptor, Kiss-R), are critical for the control of reproduction in vertebrates. We have previously identified two kisspeptin genes (kiss1 and kiss2) in the zebrafish, of which kiss1 neurons are located in the habenula, which project to the median raphe. kiss2 neurons are located in the hypothalamic nucleus and send axonal projections to gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons and regulate reproductive functions. However, the physiological significance of the Kiss1 expressed in the habenula remains unknown. Here we demonstrate the role of habenular Kiss1 in alarm substance (AS)-induced fear response in the zebrafish. We found that AS-evoked fear experience significantly reduces kiss1 and serotonin-related genes (plasmacytoma expressed transcript 1 and solute carrier family 6, member 4) in the zebrafish. Furthermore, Kiss1 administration suppressed the AS-evoked fear response. To further evaluate the role of Kiss1 in fear response, zebrafish Kiss1 peptide was conjugated to saporin (SAP) to selectively inactivate Kiss-R1-expressing neurons. The Kiss1-SAP injection significantly reduced Kiss1 immunoreactivity and c-fos mRNA in the habenula and the raphe compared with control. Furthermore, 3 d after Kiss1-SAP injection, the fish had a significantly reduced AS-evoked fear response. These findings provide an insight into the role of the habenular kisspeptin system in inhibiting fear.
Rafflesiaceae, which produce the world's largest flowers, have captivated the attention of biologists for nearly two centuries. Despite their fame, however, the developmental nature of the floral organs in these giants has remained a mystery. Most members of the family have a large floral chamber defined by a diaphragm. The diaphragm encloses the reproductive organs where pollination by carrion flies occurs. In lieu of a functional genetic system to investigate floral development in these highly specialized holoparasites, we used comparative studies of structure, development, and gene-expression patterns to investigate the homology of their floral organs. Our results surprisingly demonstrate that the otherwise similar floral chambers in two Rafflesiaceae subclades, Rafflesia and Sapria, are constructed very differently. In Rafflesia, the diaphragm is derived from the petal whorl. In contrast, in Sapria it is derived from elaboration of a unique ring structure located between the perianth and the stamen whorl, which, although developed to varying degrees among the genera, appears to be a synapomorphy of the Rafflesiaceae. Thus, the characteristic features that define the floral chamber in these closely related genera are not homologous. These differences refute the prevailing hypothesis that similarities between Sapria and Rafflesia are ancestral in the family. Instead, our data indicate that Rafflesia-like and Sapria-like floral chambers represent two distinct derivations of this morphology. The developmental repatterning we identified in Rafflesia, in particular, may have provided architectural reinforcement, which permitted the explosive growth in floral diameter that has arisen secondarily within this subclade.
Burkholderia pseudomallei is a Gram-negative soil bacterium that infects both humans and animals. Although cell culture studies have revealed significant insights into factors contributing to virulence and host defense, the interactions between this pathogen and its intact host remain to be elucidated. To gain insights into the host defense responses to B. pseudomallei infection within an intact host, we analyzed the genome-wide transcriptome of infected Caenorhabditis elegans and identified ∼6% of the nematode genes that were significantly altered over a 12-h course of infection. An unexpected feature of the transcriptional response to B. pseudomallei was a progressive increase in the proportion of down-regulated genes, of which ELT-2 transcriptional targets were significantly enriched. ELT-2 is an intestinal GATA transcription factor with a conserved role in immune responses. We demonstrate that B. pseudomallei down-regulation of ELT-2 targets is associated with degradation of ELT-2 protein by the host ubiquitin-proteasome system. Degradation of ELT-2 requires the B. pseudomallei type III secretion system. Together, our studies using an intact host provide evidence for pathogen-mediated host immune suppression through the destruction of a host transcription factor.
This article examines two strands of discourse on wild capture fisheries; one that focuses on resource sustainability and environmental impacts, another related to food and nutrition security and human well-being. Available data and research show that, for countries most dependent on fish to meet the nutritional requirements of their population, wild capture fisheries remain the dominant supplier. Although, contrary to popular narratives, the sustainability of these fisheries is not always and everywhere in crisis, securing their sustainability is essential and requires considerable effort across a broad spectrum of fishery systems. An impediment to achieving this is that the current research and policy discourses on environmental sustainability of fisheries and food security remain only loosely and superficially linked. Overcoming this requires adoption of a broader sustainability science paradigm to help harness synergies and negotiate tradeoffs between food security, resource conservation, and macroeconomic development goals. The way society chooses to govern fisheries is, however, an ethical choice, not just a technical one, and we recommend adding an ethical dimension to sustainability science as applied to fisheries.
The Toba supereruption in Sumatra, ∼74 thousand years (ka) ago, was the largest terrestrial volcanic event of the Quaternary. Ash and sulfate aerosols were deposited in both hemispheres, forming a time-marker horizon that can be used to synchronize late Quaternary records globally. A precise numerical age for this event has proved elusive, with dating uncertainties larger than the millennial-scale climate cycles that characterized this period. We report an astronomically calibrated (40)Ar/(39)Ar age of 73.88 ± 0.32 ka (1σ, full external errors) for sanidine crystals extracted from Toba deposits in the Lenggong Valley, Malaysia, 350 km from the eruption source and 6 km from an archaeological site with stone artifacts buried by ash. If these artifacts were made by Homo sapiens, as has been suggested, then our age indicates that modern humans had reached Southeast Asia by ∼74 ka ago. Our (40)Ar/(39)Ar age is an order-of-magnitude more precise than previous estimates, resolving the timing of the eruption to the middle of the cold interval between Dansgaard-Oeschger events 20 and 19, when a peak in sulfate concentration occurred as registered by Greenland ice cores. This peak is followed by a ∼10 °C drop in the Greenland surface temperature over ∼150 y, revealing the possible climatic impact of the eruption. Our (40)Ar/(39)Ar age also provides a high-precision calibration point for other ice, marine, and terrestrial archives containing Toba sulfates and ash, facilitating their global synchronization at unprecedented resolution for a critical period in Earth and human history beyond the range of (14)C dating.
Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) pose a significant threat to human health, economic stability, and biodiversity. Despite this, the mechanisms underlying disease emergence are still not fully understood, and control measures rely heavily on mitigating the impact of EIDs after they have emerged. Here, we highlight the emergence of a zoonotic Henipavirus, Nipah virus, to demonstrate the interdisciplinary and macroecological approaches necessary to understand EID emergence. Previous work suggests that Nipah virus emerged due to the interaction of the wildlife reservoir (Pteropus spp. fruit bats) with intensively managed livestock. The emergence of this and other henipaviruses involves interactions among a suite of anthropogenic environmental changes, socioeconomic factors, and changes in demography that overlay and interact with the distribution of these pathogens in their wildlife reservoirs. Here, we demonstrate how ecological niche modeling may be used to investigate the potential role of a changing climate on the future risk for Henipavirus emergence. We show that the distribution of Henipavirus reservoirs, and therefore henipaviruses, will likely change under climate change scenarios, a fundamental precondition for disease emergence in humans. We assess the variation among climate models to estimate where Henipavirus host distribution is most likely to expand, contract, or remain stable, presenting new risks for human health. We conclude that there is substantial potential to use this modeling framework to explore the distribution of wildlife hosts under a changing climate. These approaches may directly inform current and future management and surveillance strategies aiming to improve pathogen detection and, ultimately, reduce emergence risk.
Protein profiling has revealed the presence of glacontryphan-M, a peptide toxin identified only in the sea snail genus Conus, in the wings of Hebomoia glaucippe (HG). The wings and body of HG were homogenized and the proteins were extracted and analyzed by 2D gel electrophoresis with subsequent in-gel digestion. Posttranslational protein modifications were detected and analyzed by nano-LC-MS/MS. An antibody was generated against glacontryphan-M, and protein extracts from the wings of HG samples from Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines were tested by immunoblotting. Glacontryphan-M was unambiguously identified in the wings of HG containing the following posttranslational protein modifications: monoglutamylation at E55, methylation at E53, quinone modification at W61, cyanylation at C56, and amidation of the C terminus at G63. Immunoblotting revealed the presence of the toxin in the wings of HG from all origins, showing a single band for glacontryphan-M in HG samples from Malaysia and Philippines and a double band in HG samples from Indonesia. Intriguingly, sequence analysis indicated that the Conus glacontryphan is identical to that of HG. The toxin may function as a defense against diverse predators, including ants, mantes, spiders, lizards, green frogs, and birds.
The marked biogeographic difference between western (Malay Peninsula and Sumatra) and eastern (Borneo) Sundaland is surprising given the long time that these areas have formed a single landmass. A dispersal barrier in the form of a dry savanna corridor during glacial maxima has been proposed to explain this disparity. However, the short duration of these dry savanna conditions make it an unlikely sole cause for the biogeographic pattern. An additional explanation might be related to the coarse sandy soils of central Sundaland. To test these two nonexclusive hypotheses, we performed a floristic cluster analysis based on 111 tree inventories from Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, and Borneo. We then identified the indicator genera for clusters that crossed the central Sundaland biogeographic boundary and those that did not cross and tested whether drought and coarse-soil tolerance of the indicator genera differed between them. We found 11 terminal floristic clusters, 10 occurring in Borneo, 5 in Sumatra, and 3 in Peninsular Malaysia. Indicator taxa of clusters that occurred across Sundaland had significantly higher coarse-soil tolerance than did those from clusters that occurred east or west of central Sundaland. For drought tolerance, no such pattern was detected. These results strongly suggest that exposed sandy sea-bed soils acted as a dispersal barrier in central Sundaland. However, we could not confirm the presence of a savanna corridor. This finding makes it clear that proposed biogeographic explanations for plant and animal distributions within Sundaland, including possible migration routes for early humans, need to be reevaluated.
Rising global demands for food and biofuels are driving forest clearance in the tropics. Oil-palm expansion contributes to biodiversity declines and carbon emissions in Southeast Asia. However, the magnitudes of these impacts remain largely unquantified until now. We produce a 250-m spatial resolution map of closed canopy oil-palm plantations in the lowlands of Peninsular Malaysia (2 million ha), Borneo (2.4 million ha), and Sumatra (3.9 million ha). We demonstrate that 6% (or ≈880,000 ha) of tropical peatlands in the region had been converted to oil-palm plantations by the early 2000s. Conversion of peatswamp forests to oil palm led to biodiversity declines of 1% in Borneo (equivalent to four species of forest-dwelling birds), 3.4% in Sumatra (16 species), and 12.1% in Peninsular Malaysia (46 species). This land-use change also contributed to the loss of ≈140 million Mg of aboveground biomass carbon, and annual emissions of ≈4.6 million Mg of belowground carbon from peat oxidation. Additionally, the loss of peatswamp forests implies the loss of carbon sequestration service through peat accumulation, which amounts to ≈660,000 Mg of carbon annually. By 2010, 2.3 million ha of peatswamp forests were clear-felled, and currently occur as degraded lands. Reforestation of these clearings could enhance biodiversity by up to ≈20%, whereas oil-palm establishment would exacerbate species losses by up to ≈12%. To safeguard the region's biodiversity and carbon stocks, conservation and reforestation efforts should target Central Kalimantan, Riau, and West Kalimantan, which retain three-quarters (3.9 million ha) of the remaining peatswamp forests in Southeast Asia.
A "supermarket revolution" has occurred in developing countries in the past 2 decades. We focus on three specific issues that reflect the impact of this revolution, particularly in Asia: continuity in transformation, innovation in transformation, and unique development strategies. First, the record shows that the rapid growth observed in the early 2000s in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand has continued, and the "newcomers"--India and Vietnam--have grown even faster. Although foreign direct investment has been important, the roles of domestic conglomerates and even state investment have been significant and unique. Second, Asia's supermarket revolution has exhibited unique pathways of retail diffusion and procurement system change. There has been "precocious" penetration of rural towns by rural supermarkets and rural business hubs, emergence of penetration of fresh produce retail that took much longer to initiate in other regions, and emergence of Asian retail developing-country multinational chains. In procurement, a symbiosis between modern retail and the emerging and consolidating modern food processing and logistics sectors has arisen. Third, several approaches are being tried to link small farmers to supermarkets. Some are unique to Asia, for example assembling into a "hub" or "platform" or "park" the various companies and services that link farmers to modern markets. Other approaches relatively new to Asia are found elsewhere, especially in Latin America, including "bringing modern markets to farmers" by establishing collection centers and multipronged collection cum service provision arrangements, and forming market cooperatives and farmer companies to help small farmers access supermarkets.
The rising sea level at the end of the Pleistocene that created the islands of the Sunda Shelf in Indonesia and Malaysia provides a natural experiment in community disassembly and offers insights into the effects of body size and niches on abundance, distribution, and diversity. Since isolation, terrestrial mammal communities of these islands have been reduced by extinction, with virtually no offsetting colonization. We document three empirical patterns of disassembly, all of which are significantly different from null models of random assembly: (i) a diversity-area relationship: the number of taxa is strongly and positively correlated with island area; (ii) nested subset composition: species that occur on small islands tend to be subsets of more diverse communities inhabiting larger islands; and (iii) body size distributions: species of intermediate body sizes occur on the greatest number of islands, and smaller islands have smaller ranges of body sizes, caused by the absence of species of both very large and extremely small size. These patterns reveal the role of body size and other niche characteristics, such as habitat requirements and trophic status, in the differential susceptibility of taxa to extinction.
More than half the world's rainforest has been lost to agriculture since the Industrial Revolution. Among the most widespread tropical crops is oil palm (Elaeis guineensis): global production now exceeds 35 million tonnes per year. In Malaysia, for example, 13% of land area is now oil palm plantation, compared with 1% in 1974. There are enormous pressures to increase palm oil production for food, domestic products, and, especially, biofuels. Greater use of palm oil for biofuel production is predicated on the assumption that palm oil is an "environmentally friendly" fuel feedstock. Here we show, using measurements and models, that oil palm plantations in Malaysia directly emit more oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds than rainforest. These compounds lead to the production of ground-level ozone (O(3)), an air pollutant that damages human health, plants, and materials, reduces crop productivity, and has effects on the Earth's climate. Our measurements show that, at present, O(3) concentrations do not differ significantly over rainforest and adjacent oil palm plantation landscapes. However, our model calculations predict that if concentrations of oxides of nitrogen in Borneo are allowed to reach those currently seen over rural North America and Europe, ground-level O(3) concentrations will reach 100 parts per billion (10(9)) volume (ppbv) and exceed levels known to be harmful to human health. Our study provides an early warning of the urgent need to develop policies that manage nitrogen emissions if the detrimental effects of palm oil production on air quality and climate are to be avoided.