Haustoria of the rust fungus pathogen Uromyces fabae deliver RTP1 (Rust Transferred Protein1) into host plant cells. In this work, different heterologous expression systems were used to study RTP1 biological function as well as RTP1 transfer mechanism. The first part of this thesis focused on the identification of the subcellular target compartment of RTP1 in plant cells. In this respect we could identify a functional bipartite nuclear localization signal within RTP1. However, stable and transient expression studies of RTP1 in different plant species, including the host plant Vicia faba, interfered with plant cell vitality but did not result in detection of RTP1 protein. These findings led us to propose that RTP1 interferes with plant gene expression. However, the molecular basis of this interference remains unclear. By deletion studies, we could localize the active region of RTP1 within a 45 amino acid central domain. In the second part of this study, two different lines of approaches were taken to study RTP1 transfer mechanism. First, transient expression of secreted RTP1 (sRTP1) also interfered with plant cell vitality. Addition of an endoplasmic reticulum retention signal abolished sRTP1 interference with plant cell vitality, suggesting that RTP1 can reenter the plant cell from the apoplast after secretion in the absence of the pathogen. We have identified a PEST-like region within RTP1, however, contribution of this region to the stability of RTP1 is not clear. Site directed mutagenesis analysis showed that the PEST-like region is likely to play a role during the transfer of RTP1 through plant plasma membrane. In the second line of approach, we established a recombinant delivery model, using Ustilago maydis/Zea mays pathosystem, to pursue RTP1 translocation into the plant cell. Our results indicate that U. maydis is capable of secreting high amounts of recombinant RTP1, showing similar glycosylation pattern as RTP1 secreted from rust haustoria. Our data propose the use of this model system to study RTP1 domains mediating its entry into the plant cell. Haustoria of the rust fungus pathogen Uromyces fabae deliver RTP1 (Rust Transferred Protein1) into host plant cells. In this work, different heterologous expression systems were used to study RTP1 biological function as well as RTP1 transfer mechanism. The first part of this thesis focused on the identification of the subcellular target compartment of RTP1 in plant cells. In this respect we could identify a functional bipartite nuclear localization signal within RTP1. However, stable and transient expression studies of RTP1 in different plant species, including the host plant Vicia faba, interfered with plant cell vitality but did not result in detection of RTP1 protein. These findings led us to propose that RTP1 interferes with plant gene expression. However, the molecular basis of this interference remains unclear. By deletion studies, we could localize the active region of RTP1 within a 45 amino acid central domain. In the second part of this study, two different lines of approaches were taken to study RTP1 transfer mechanism. First, transient expression of secreted RTP1 (sRTP1) also interfered with plant cell vitality. Addition of an endoplasmic reticulum retention signal abolished sRTP1 interference with plant cell vitality, suggesting that RTP1 can reenter the plant cell from the apoplast after secretion in the absence of the pathogen. We have identified a PEST-like region within RTP1, however, contribution of this region to the stability of RTP1 is not clear. Site directed mutagenesis analysis showed that the PEST-like region is likely to play a role during the transfer of RTP1 through plant plasma membrane. In the second line of approach, we established a recombinant delivery model, using Ustilago maydis/Zea mays pathosystem, to pursue RTP1 translocation into the plant cell. Our results indicate that U. maydis is capable of secreting high amounts of recombinant RTP1, showing similar glycosylation pattern as RTP1 secreted from rust haustoria. Our data propose the use of this model system to study RTP1 domains mediating its entry into the plant cell.
Fragmentation of habitats, especially of tropical rainforests, ranks globally among the most pervasive man-made disturbances of ecosystems. There is growing evidence for long-term effects of forest frag-mentation and the accompanying creation of artificial edges on ecosystem functioning and forest structure, which are altered in a way that generally transforms these forests into early successional systems. Edge-induced disruption of species interactions can be among the driving mechanisms governing this transformation. These species interactions can be direct (trophic interactions, competition, etc.) or indirect (modification of the resource availability for other organisms). Such indirect interactions are called ecosystem engineering. Leaf-cutting ants of the genus Atta are dominant herbivores and keystone-species in the Neotropics and have been called ecosystem engineers. In contrast to other prominent ecosystem engineers that have been substantially decimated by human activities some species of leaf-cutting ants profit from anthropogenic landscape alterations. Thus, leaf-cutting ants are a highly suitable model to investigate the potentially cascading effects caused by herbivores and ecosystem engineers in modern anthropogenic landscapes following fragmentation. The present thesis aims to describe this interplay between consequences of forest fragmentation for leaf-cutting ants and resulting impacts of leaf-cutting ants in fragmented forests. The cumulative thesis starts out with a review of 55 published articles demonstrating that herbivores, especially generalists, profoundly benefit from forest edges, often due to (1) favourable microenviron-mental conditions, (2) an edge-induced increase in food quantity/quality, and (3; less well documented) disrupted top-down regulation of herbivores (Wirth, Meyer et al. 2008; Progress in Botany 69:423-448). Field investigations in the heavily fragmented Atlantic Forest of Northeast Brazil (Coimbra forest) were subsequently carried out to evaluate patterns and hypotheses emerging from this review using leaf-cutting ants of the genus Atta as a model system. Colony densities of both Atta species occuring in the area changed similarly with distance to the edge but the magnitude of the effect was species-specific. Colony density of A. cephalotes was low in the forest interior (0.33 ± 1.11 /ha, pooling all zones >50 m into the forest) and sharply increased by a factor of about 8.5 towards the first 50 m (2.79 ± 3.3 /ha), while A. sexdens was more uniformly distributed (Wirth, Meyer et al. 2007; Journal of Tropical Ecology 23:501-505). The accumulation of Atta colonies persisted at physically stable forest edges over a four-year interval with no significant difference in densities between years despite high rates of colony turn-over (little less than 50% in 4 years). Stable hyper-abundant populations of leaf-cutting ants accord with the constantly high availability of pioneer plants (their preferred food source) as previously demonstrated at old stabilised forest edges in the region (Meyer et al. submitted; Biotropica). In addition, plants at the forest edge might be more attractive to leaf-cutting ants because of their physiological responses to the edge environment. In bioassays with laboratory colonies I demonstrated that drought-stressed plants are more attractive to leaf-cutting ants because of an increase in leaf nutrient content induced by osmoregulation (Meyer et al. 2006; Functional Ecology 20:973-981). Since plants along forest edges are more prone to experience drought stress, this mechanism might contribute to the high resource availabil-ity for leaf-cutting ants at forest edges. In light of the hyper-abundance of leaf-cutting ants within the forest edge zone (first 50 m), their po-tentially far-reaching ecological importance in anthropogenic landscapes is apparent. Based on previous colony-level estimates, we extrapolated that herbivory by A. cephalotes removes 36% of the available foliage at forest edges (compared to 6% in the forest interior). In addition, A. cephalotes acted as ecosys-tem engineers constructing large nests (on average 55 m2: 95%-CI: 22-136) that drastically altered forest structure. The ants opened gaps in the canopy and forest understory at nest sites, which allowed three times as much light to reach the nest surface as compared to the forest understory. This was accompa-nied by an increase in soil temperatures and a reduction in water availability. Modifications of microcli-mate and forest structure greatly surpassed previously published estimates. Since higher light levels were detectable up to about 4 m away from the nest edge, an area roughly four times as big as the actual nest (about 200 and 50 m2, respectively) was impacted by every colony, amounting to roughly 6% of the total area at the forest edge (Meyer et al. in preparation; Ecology). The hypothesized impacts of high cutting pressure and microclimatic alterations at nest sites on forest regeneration were directly tested using transplanted seedlings of six species of forest trees. Nests of A. cephalotes differentially impacted survival and growth of seedlings. Survival differed highly significantly between habitats and species and was generally high in the forest, yet low on nests where it correlated strongly with seed size of the species. These results indicate that the disturbance regime created by leaf-cutting ants differs from other distur-bances, since nest conditions select for plant species that profit from additional light, yet are large-seeded and have resprouting abilities, which are best suited to tolerate repeated defoliation on a nest (Meyer et al. in preparation; Journal of Tropical Ecology). On an ecosystem scale leaf-cutting ants might amplify edge-driven microclimatic alterations by very high rates of herbivory and the maintenance of canopy gaps above frequent nests. By allowing for an increased light penetration Atta may, ultimately, contribute to a dominating, self-replacing pioneer communities at forest edges, possibly creating a positive feed-back loop. Based on the persisting hyper-abundance of leaf-cutting ants at old edges of Coimbra forest and the multifarious impacts documented, we conclude that the ecological importance of leaf-cutting ants in pristine forests, where they are commonly believed to be keystone species despite very low colony densities, is greatly surpassed in anthropogenic landscapes In fragmented forests, Atta has been identified as an essential component of a disturbance regime that causes a post-fragmentation retrogressive succession. Apparently, these forests have reached a new self-replacing secondary state. I suggest additional human interference in form of thoughtful management in order to break this cycle of self-enhancing disturbance and to enable forest regeneration along the edges of threatened forest remnants. Thereby the situation of the forest as a whole can be ameliorated and the chances for a long-term retention of biodiversity in these landscapes increased.
Prostate cancer preferentially metastasizes to the skeleton and abundant evidence exists that osteoblasts specifically support the metastatic process, including cancer stem cell niche formation. At early stages of bone metastasis, crosstalk of prostate cancer cells and osteoblasts through soluble molecules results in a decrease of cancer cell proliferation, accompanied by altered adhesive properties and increased expression of bone-specific genes, or osteomimicry. Osteoblasts synthesize a plethora of biologically active factors, which comprise the unique bone microenvironment. By means of quantitative real-time RT-PCR it was determined that exposure to the osteoblast secretome induced gene expression changes in prostate cancer cells, including the upregulation of osteomimetic genes such as BMP2, AP, COL1A1, OPG and RANKL. IL6 and TGFbeta1 signaling pathway components also became upregulated at early time points. Moreover, osteoblast-released IL6 and TGFbeta1 contributed to the upregulation of OPG mRNA in LNCaP. Thus, the earliest response of prostate cancer cells to osteoblast-released factors, which ultimately cause metastatic cells to assume an osteomimetic phenotype, involved activation of paracrine and autocrine IL6 and TGFbeta signaling. On the other hand, a microarray analysis showed that osteoblasts exposed to the secretome of prostate cancer cells exhibited gene expression alterations suggestive of repressed proliferation, decreased matrix synthesis and inhibited immune response, which together indicate enhanced preosteocytic differentiation. TGFbeta signaling, known to inhibit osteoblast maturation, was strongly suppressed, as shown by elevated expression of negative regulators, downregulation of pathway components and of numerous target genes. Transcriptional downregulation of osteoblast inhibitory molecules such as DKK1 and FST also occurred, with concomitant upregulation of the osteoinductive molecules ADM, STC1 and BMP2, and of the transcription factors CBFA1 and HES1, which promote osteoblast differentiation. Finally, the mRNA encoding NPPB, the precursor of a molecule implicated in the inhibition of TGFbetaeffects, in bone formation and in stem cell maintenance, became upregulated after coculture both in osteoblasts and in prostate cancer cells. These results provide an insight into potential mechanisms of dysregulated bone formation in metastatic prostate cancer, as well as mechanisms by which osteoblasts might enhance the invasive, osteomimetic and stem cell-like properties of the tumor cells. In particular, the differential modulation of TGFbetasignaling in prostate cancer cells and osteoblasts appears to merit further research.
Proteins of the intermembrane space of mitochondria are generally encoded by nuclear genes that are synthesized in the cytosol. A group of small intermembrane space proteins lack classical mitochondrial targeting sequences, but these proteins are imported in an oxidation-driven reaction that relies on the activity of two components, Mia40 and Erv1. Both proteins constitute the mitochondrial disulfide relay system. Mia40 functions as an import receptor that interacts with incoming polypeptides via transient, intermolecular disulfide bonds. Erv1 is an FAD-binding sulfhydryl oxidase that activates Mia40 by re-oxidation, but the process how Erv1 itself is re-oxidized has been poorly understood. Here, I show that Erv1 interacts with cytochrome c which provides a functional link between the mitochondrial disulfide relay system and the respiratory chain. This mechanism not only increases the efficiency of mitochondrial inport by the re-oxidation of Erv1 and Mia40 but also prevents the formation of deleterious hydrogen peroxide within the intermembrane space. Thus, the miochondrial disulfide relay system is, analogous to that of the bacterial periplasm, connected to the electron transport chain of the inner membrane, which possibly allows an oxygen-dependend regulation of mitochondrial import rates. In addition, I modeled the structure of Erv1 on the basis of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae Erv2 crystal structure in order to gain insight into the molecular mechanism of Erv1. According to the high degree of sequence homologies, various characteristics found for Erv2 are also valid for Erv1. Finally, I propose a regulatory function of the disulfide relay system on the respiratory chain. The disulfide relay system senses the molecular oxygen levels in mitochondria and, thus, is able to adapt respiratory chain activity in order to prevent wastage of NADH and production of ROS.
Cyanobacteria are the only prokaryotes with the ability to conduct oxygenic photosynthesis,
therefore having major influence on the evolution of life on earth. Their diverse morphology
was traditionally the basis for taxonomy and classification. For example, the genus
Chroococcidiopsis has been classified within the order Pleurocapsales, based on a unique
reproduction modus by baeocytes. Recent phylogenetic results suggested a closer
relationship of this genus to the order Nostocales. However, these studies were based
mostly on the highly conserved 16S rRNA and a small selection of Chroococcidiopsis
strains. One aim of this present thesis was to investigate the evolutionary relationships of
the genus Chroococcidiopsis, the Pleurocapsales and remaining cyanobacteria using
16S rRNA, rpoC1 and gyrB gene. Including the single gene, as the multigene analyses of
97 strains clearly showed a separation of the genus Chroococcidiopsis from the
Pleurocapsales. Furthermore, a sister relationship between the genus Chroococcidiopsis
and the order Nostocales was confirmed. Consequently, the monogeneric family
Chroococcidiopsidaceae Geitler ex. Büdel, Donner & Kauff familia nova is justified. The
phylogenetic analyses also revealed the polyphyly of the remaining Pleurocapsales, due to
the fact that the strain Pleurocapsa PCC 7327 was always separated from other strains.
This is supported by differences in their metabolism, ecology and physiology.
A second aim of this study was to investigate the thylakoid arrangement of
Chroococcidiopsis and a selection of cyanobacterial strains. The investigation of 13 strains
with Low Temperature Scanning Electron Microscopy revealed two unknown thylakoidal
arrangements within Chroococcidiopsis (parietal and stacked). This result revised the
knowledge of the thylakoid arrangement in this genus. Previously, only a coiled
arrangement was known for three strains. Based on the data of 66 strains, the feature
thylakoid arrangement was tested as a potential feature for morphological identification of
cyanobacteria. The results showed a strong relationship between the group assignment of
cyanobacteria and their thylakoid arrangements. Hence, it is in general possible to
conclude from this certain phenotypic character the affiliation to a particular family, order
The third aim of this study was to investigate biogeographical patterns of the worldwide
distributed genus Chroococcidiopsis. The phylogenetic analysis suggested that the genus do not have biogeographical patterns, which is in contrast with a recent study on hypolithic
living Chroococcidiopsis strains and the majority of phylogeographic analysis of
microorganisms. Further analysis showed no separation of different life-strategies within
the genus. These results could be related to the genetic markers utilized, which may not
contain biogeographical information. Hence the present study can neither exclude nor
prove the possibility of biogeographic and life-strategy patterns in the genus
Future research should be focused on finding appropriate genetic markers investigate of
evolutionary relationships and biogeographical patterns within Chroococcidiopsis.