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My lessons in mentorship

Jue, 06/22/2017 - 11:20

Chemical transformation of xenobiotics by the human gut microbiota

Jue, 06/22/2017 - 11:20

The human gut microbiota makes key contributions to the metabolism of ingested compounds (xenobiotics), transforming hundreds of dietary components, industrial chemicals, and pharmaceuticals into metabolites with altered activities, toxicities, and lifetimes within the body. The chemistry of gut microbial xenobiotic metabolism is often distinct from that of host enzymes. Despite their important consequences for human biology, the gut microbes, genes, and enzymes involved in xenobiotic metabolism are poorly understood. Linking these microbial transformations to enzymes and elucidating their biological effects is undoubtedly challenging. However, recent studies demonstrate that integrating traditional and emerging technologies can enable progress toward this goal. Ultimately, a molecular understanding of gut microbial xenobiotic metabolism will guide personalized medicine and nutrition, inform toxicology risk assessment, and improve drug discovery and development.

An environment-dependent transcriptional network specifies human microglia identity

Jue, 06/22/2017 - 11:20

Microglia play essential roles in central nervous system (CNS) homeostasis and influence diverse aspects of neuronal function. However, the transcriptional mechanisms that specify human microglia phenotypes are largely unknown. We examined the transcriptomes and epigenetic landscapes of human microglia isolated from surgically resected brain tissue ex vivo and after transition to an in vitro environment. Transfer to a tissue culture environment resulted in rapid and extensive down-regulation of microglia-specific genes that were induced in primitive mouse macrophages after migration into the fetal brain. Substantial subsets of these genes exhibited altered expression in neurodegenerative and behavioral diseases and were associated with noncoding risk variants. These findings reveal an environment-dependent transcriptional network specifying microglia-specific programs of gene expression and facilitate efforts to understand the roles of microglia in human brain diseases.

A global brain state underlies C. elegans sleep behavior

Jue, 06/22/2017 - 11:20

How the brain effectively switches between and maintains global states, such as sleep and wakefulness, is not yet understood. We used brainwide functional imaging at single-cell resolution to show that during the developmental stage of lethargus, the Caenorhabditis elegans brain is predisposed to global quiescence, characterized by systemic down-regulation of neuronal activity. Only a few specific neurons are exempt from this effect. In the absence of external arousing cues, this quiescent brain state arises by the convergence of neuronal activities toward a fixed-point attractor embedded in an otherwise dynamic neural state space. We observed efficient spontaneous and sensory-evoked exits from quiescence. Our data support the hypothesis that during global states such as sleep, neuronal networks are drawn to a baseline mode and can be effectively reactivated by signaling from arousing circuits.