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  • Tegelberg, Saara (Helsingin yliopisto, 2013)
    Progressive myoclonus epilepsy of Unverricht-Lundborg type (EPM1) is an autosomal recessively inherited neurodegenerative disorder caused by mutations in the cystatin B (CSTB) gene. Although the gene behind the disease has long been known, the exact physiological function of CSTB and the molecular pathogenesis in EPM are largely unknown. In my thesis, I have characterized the developmental and degenerative processes in the brains of young, pre-symptomatic and fully symptomatic Cstb-deficient mice. This mouse is an excellent model for EPM1, as its phenotype closely resembles the human disease. To study the spatiotemporal disease progression, we conducted systematic analyses of changes in neurons and glia in Cstb-deficient brains. We saw significant microgliosis already in two-week-old Cstb-deficient animals, before the appearance of myoclonus at 1 month of age. Early microgliosis was followed by astroglial activation along with progressive neuron loss and brain atrophy. The phenotype of activated microglial cells changed during disease progression. To characterize molecular alterations in Cstb-deficient mouse brains, we performed a gene expression profiling. As the cerebellum shows the earliest and most prominent pathological changes, we focused the gene expression analyses on cerebellum of young Cstb-deficient animals. The results implied disturbances in pathways related to synaptic development, structure and function. Immunohisto¬chemical, electrophysiological and ligand binding studies suggested the involvement of especially GABAergic synapses. Data also showed alterations in genes related to the cytoskeleton and intracellular transport, along with pathways implying activation of immune defence. To shed light on the neuron death seen in the brain of Cstb-deficient mouse, we studied the effect of oxidative stress on Cstb-deficient neurons. As CSTB is an inhibitor of cysteine cathepsins and thus is proposed to protect cells from adverse cathepsin functions, we studied also the role of cathepsins in oxidative stress. The results show that oxidative insult increases the expression of both CSTB and cathepsin B. Cstb-deficient cells are sensitized to oxidative stress-induced damage and cell death, which is at least partially mediated through increased cathepsin B activity. These findings in Cstb-deficient mouse suggest that CSTB has an important role in protecting normal cellular integrity and functions along with affecting the development and function of synaptic connections. Our results also imply that microglia have a central role in nervous system damage already before the appearance of symptoms of EPM1. The results of my thesis study have guided the research of our group into new fields by revealing the importance of microglia in the early stages of EPM1. This study also shows that CSTB-deficiency leads not only to neurodegeneration per se, but also results in developmental defects whose consequences manifest later in EPM1 disease progression.
  • Ruokolainen, Lasse (Helsingin yliopisto, 2009)
    While environmental variation is an ubiquitous phenomenon in the natural world which has for long been appreciated by the scientific community recent changes in global climatic conditions have begun to raise consciousness about the economical, political and sociological ramifications of global climate change. Climate warming has already resulted in documented changes in ecosystem functioning, with direct repercussions on ecosystem services. While predicting the influence of ecosystem changes on vital ecosystem services can be extremely difficult, knowledge of the organisation of ecological interactions within natural communities can help us better understand climate driven changes in ecosystems. The role of environmental variation as an agent mediating population extinctions is likely to become increasingly important in the future. In previous studies population extinction risk in stochastic environmental conditions has been tied to an interaction between population density dependence and the temporal autocorrelation of environmental fluctuations. When populations interact with each other, forming ecological communities, the response of such species assemblages to environmental stochasticity can depend, e.g., on trophic structure in the food web and the similarity in species-specific responses to environmental conditions. The results presented in this thesis indicate that variation in the correlation structure between species-specific environmental responses (environmental correlation) can have important qualitative and quantitative effects on community persistence and biomass stability in autocorrelated (coloured) environments. In addition, reddened environmental stochasticity and ecological drift processes (such as demographic stochasticity and dispersal limitation) have important implications for patterns in species relative abundances and community dynamics over time and space. Our understanding of patterns in biodiversity at local and global scale can be enhanced by considering the relevance of different drift processes for community organisation and dynamics. Although the results laid out in this thesis are based on mathematical simulation models, they can be valuable in planning effective empirical studies as well as in interpreting existing empirical results. Most of the metrics considered here are directly applicable to empirical data.
  • Valosaari, Kata-Riina (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    Biological invasions are considered as one of the greatest threats to biodiversity, as they may lead to disruption and homogenization of natural communities, and in the worst case, to native species extinctions. The introduction of gene modified organisms (GMOs) to agricultural, fisheries and forestry practices brings them into contact with natural populations. GMOs may appear as new invasive species if they are able to (1) invade into natural habitats or (2) hybridize with their wild relatives. The benefits of GMOs, such as increased yield or decreased use of insecticides or herbicides in cultivation, may thus be reduced due the potential risks they may cause. A careful ecological risk analysis therefore has to precede any responsible GMO introduction. In this thesis I study ecological invasion in relation to GMOs, and what kind of consequences invasion may have in natural populations. A set of theoretical models that combine life-history evolution, population dynamics, and population genetics were developed for the hazard identification part of ecological risks assessment of GMOs. In addition, the potential benefits of GMOs in management of an invasive pest were analyzed. In the first study I showed that a population that is fluctuating due to scramble-type density dependence (due to, e.g., nutrient competition in plants) may be invaded by a population that is relatively more limited by a resource (e.g., light in plants) that is a cause of contest-type density dependence. This result emphasises the higher risk of invasion in unstable environments. The next two studies focused on escape of a growth hormone (GH) transgenic fish into a natural population. The results showed that previous models may have given too pessimistic a view of the so called Trojan gene -effect, where the invading genotype is harmful for the population as a whole. The previously suggested population extinctions did not occur in my studies, since the changes in mating preferences caused by the GH-fish were be ameliorated by decreased level of competition. The GH-invaders may also have to exceed a threshold density before invasion can be successful. I also showed that the prevalence of mature parr (aka. sneaker) strategy among GH-fish may have clear effect on invasion outcome. The fourth study assessed the risks and developed methods against the invasion of the Colorado Potato Beetle (CPB, Leptinotarsa decemlineata). I showed that the eradication of CPB is most important for the prevention of their establishment, but the cultivation of transgenic Bt-potato could also be effective. In general, my results emphasise that invasion of transgenic species or genotypes to be possible under certain realistic conditions and resulting in competitive exclusion, population decline through outbreeding depression and genotypic displacement of native species. Ecological risk assessment should regard the decline and displacement of the wild genotype by an introduced one as a consequence that is as serious as the population extinction. It will also be crucial to take into account different kinds of behavioural differences among species when assessing the possible hazards that GMOs may cause if escaped. The benefits found of GMO crops effectiveness in pest management may also be too optimistic since CPB may evolve resistance to Bt-toxin. The models in this thesis could be further applied in case specific risk assessment of GMOs by supplementing them with detailed data of the species biology, the effect of the transgene introduced to the species, and also the characteristics of the populations or the environments in the risk of being invaded.
  • Vainio, Eeva Johanna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    Wood decay fungi belonging to the species complex Heterobasidion annosum sensu lato are among the most common and economically important species causing root rot and stem decay in conifers of the northern temperate regions. New infections by these pathogens can be suppressed by tree stump treatments using chemical or biological control agents. In Finland, the corticiaceous fungus Phlebiopsis gigantea has been formulated into a commercial biocontrol agent called Rotstop (Verdera Ltd.). This thesis addresses the ecological impacts of Rotstop biocontrol treatment on the mycoflora of conifer stumps. Locally, fungal communities within Rotstop-treated and untreated stumps were analyzed using a novel method based on DGGE profiling of small subunit ribosomal DNA fragments amplified directly from wood samples. Population analyses for P. gigantea and H. annosum s.l. were conducted to evaluate possible risks associated with local and/or global distribution of the Rotstop strain. Based on molecular community profiling by DGGE, we detected a few individual wood-inhabiting fungal species (OTUs) that seemed to have suffered or benefited from the Rotstop biocontrol treatment. The DGGE analyses also revealed fungal diversity not retrieved by cultivation and some fungal sequence types untypical for decomposing conifer wood. However, statistical analysis of DGGE community profiles obtained from Rotstop-treated and untreated conifer stumps revealed that the Rotstop treatment had not caused a statistically significant reduction in the species diversity of wood-inhabiting fungi within our experimental forest plots. Locally, ISSR genotyping of cultured P. gigantea strains showed that the Rotstop biocontrol strain was capable of surviving up to six years within treated Norway spruce stumps, while in Scots pine stumps it was sooner replaced by successor fungal species. In addition, the spread of resident P. gigantea strains into Rotstop-treated forest stands seemed effective in preventing the formation of genetically monomorphic populations in the short run. On a global scale, we detected a considerable level of genetic differentiation between the interfertile European and North American populations of P. gigantea. These results strongly suggest that local biocontrol strains should be used in order to prevent global spread of P. gigantea and hybrid formation between geographically isolated populations. The population analysis for H. annosum s.l. revealed a collection of Chinese fungal strains that showed a high degree of laboratory fertility with three different allopatric H. annosum s.l. taxa. However, based on the molecular markers, the Chinese strains could be clearly affiliated with the H. parviporum taxonomical cluster, which thus appears to have a continuous distribution range from Europe through southern Siberia to northern China. Keywords: Rotstop, wood decay, DGGE, ISSR fingerprinting, ribosomal DNA
  • Laaka-Lindberg, Sanna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2000)
  • Kolehmainen, Johanna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    The ongoing rapid fragmentation of tropical forests is a major threat to global biodiversity. This is because many of the tropical forests are so-called biodiversity 'hotspots', areas that host exceptional species richness and concentrations of endemic species. Forest fragmentation has negative ecological and genetic consequences for plant survival. Proposed reasons for plant species' loss in forest fragments are, e.g., abiotic edge effects, altered species interactions, increased genetic drift, and inbreeding depression. To be able to conserve plants in forest fragments, the ecological and genetic processes that threaten the species have to be understood. That is possible only after obtaining adequate information on their biology, including taxonomy, life history, reproduction, and spatial and genetic structure of the populations. In this research, I focused on the African violet (genus Saintpaulia), a little-studied conservation flagship from the Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal Forests hotspot of Tanzania and Kenya. The main objective of the research was to increase understanding of the life history, ecology and population genetics of Saintpaulia that is needed for the design of appropriate conservation measures. A further aim was to provide population-level insights into the difficult taxonomy of Saintpaulia. Ecological field work was conducted in a relatively little fragmented protected forest in the Amani Nature Reserve in the East Usambara Mountains, in northeastern Tanzania, complemented by population genetic laboratory work and ecological experiments in Helsinki, Finland. All components of the research were conducted with Saintpaulia ionantha ssp. grotei, which forms a taxonomically controversial population complex in the study area. My results suggest that Saintpaulia has good reproductive performance in forests with low disturbance levels in the East Usambara Mountains. Another important finding was that seed production depends on sufficient pollinator service. The availability of pollinators should thus be considered in the in situ management of threatened populations. Dynamic population stage structures were observed suggesting that the studied populations are demographically viable. High mortality of seedlings and juveniles was observed during the dry season but this was compensated by ample recruitment of new seedlings after the rainy season. Reduced tree canopy closure and substrate quality are likely to exacerbate seedling and juvenile mortality, and, therefore, forest fragmentation and disturbance are serious threats to the regeneration of Saintpaulia. Restoration of sufficient shade to enhance seedling establishment is an important conservation measure in populations located in disturbed habitats. Long-term demographic monitoring, which enables the forecasting of a population s future, is also recommended in disturbed habitats. High genetic diversities were observed in the populations, which suggest that they possess the variation that is needed for evolutionary responses in a changing environment. Thus, genetic management of the studied populations does not seem necessary as long as the habitats remain favourable for Saintpaulia. The observed high levels of inbreeding in some of the populations, and the reduced fitness of the inbred progeny compared to the outbred progeny, as revealed by the hand-pollination experiment, indicate that inbreeding and inbreeding depression are potential mechanisms contributing to the extinction of Saintpaulia populations. The relatively weak genetic divergence of the three different morphotypes of Saintpaulia ionantha ssp. grotei lend support to the hypothesis that the populations in the Usambara/lowlands region represent a segregating metapopulation (or metapopulations), where subpopulations are adapting to their particular environments. The partial genetic and phenological integrity, and the distinct trailing habit of the morphotype 'grotei' would, however, justify its placement in a taxonomic rank of its own, perhaps in a subspecific rank.
  • Mustonen, Tuija (Helsingin yliopisto, 2004)
  • Pispa, Johanna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2004)
  • Pastila, Riikka (Helsingin yliopisto, 2006)
    The skin cancer incidence has increased substantially over the past decades and the role of ultraviolet (UV) radiation in the etiology of skin cancer is well established. Ultraviolet B radiation (280-320 nm) is commonly considered as the more harmful part of the UV-spectrum due to its DNA-damaging potential and well-known carcinogenic effects. Ultraviolet A radiation (320-400 nm) is still regarded as a relatively low health hazard. However, UVA radiation is the predominant component in sunlight, constituting more than 90% of the environmentally relevant solar ultraviolet radiation. In the light of the recent scientific evidence, UVA has been shown to have genotoxic and immunologic effects, and it has been proposed that UVA plays a significant role in the development of skin cancer. Due to the popularity of skin tanning lamps, which emit high intensity UVA radiation and because of the prolonged sun tanning periods with the help of effective UVB blockers, the potential deleterious effects of UVA has emerged as a source of concern for public health. The possibility that UV radiation may affect melanoma metastasis has not been addressed before. UVA radiation can modulate various cellular processes, some of which might affect the metastatic potential of melanoma cells. The aim of the present study was to investigate the possible role of UVA irradiation on the metastatic capacity of mouse melanoma both in vitro and in vivo. The in vitro part of the study dealt with the enhancement of the intercellular interactions occurring either between tumor cells or between tumor cells and endothelial cells after UVA irradiation. The use of the mouse melanoma/endothelium in vitro model showed that a single-dose of UVA to melanoma cells causes an increase in melanoma cell adhesiveness to non-irradiated endothelium after 24-h irradiation. Multiple-dose irradiation of melanoma cells already increased adhesion at a 1-h time-point, which suggests the possible cumulative effect of multiple doses of UVA irradiation. This enhancement of adhesiveness might lead to an increase in binding tumor cells to the endothelial lining of vasculature in various internal organs if occurring also in vivo. A further novel observation is that UVA induced both decline in the expression of E-cadherin adhesion molecule and increase in the expression of the N-cadherin adhesion molecule. In addition, a significant decline in homotypic melanoma-melanoma adhesion (clustering) was observed, which might result in the reduction of E-cadherin expression. The aim of the in vivo animal study was to confirm the physiological significance of previously obtained in vitro results and to determine whether UVA radiation might increase melanoma metastasis in vivo. The use of C57BL/6 mice and syngeneic melanoma cell lines B16-F1 and B16-F10 showed that mice, which were i.v. injected with B16-F1 melanoma cells and thereafter exposed to UVA developed significantly more lung metastases when compared with the non-UVA-exposed group. To study the mechanism behind this phenomenon, the direct effect of UVA-induced lung colonization capacity was examined by the in vitro exposure of B16-F1 cells. Alternatively, the UVA-induced immunosuppression, which might be involved in increased melanoma metastasis, was measured by standard contact hypersensitivity assay (CHS). It appears that the UVA-induced increase of metastasis in vivo might be caused by a combination of UVA-induced systemic immunosuppression, and to the lesser extent, it might be caused by the increased adhesiveness of UVA irradiated melanoma cells. Finally, the UVA effect on gene expression in mouse melanoma was determined by a cDNA array, which revealed UVA-induced changes in the 9 differentially expressed genes that are involved in angiogenesis, cell cycle, stress-response, and cell motility. These results suggest that observed genes might be involved in cellular response to UVA and a physiologically relevant UVA dose have previously unknown cellular implications. The novel results presented in this thesis offer evidence that UVA exposure might increase the metastatic potential of the melanoma cells present in blood circulation. Considering the wellknown UVA-induced deleterious effects on cellular level, this study further supports the notion that UVA radiation might have more potential impact on health than previously suggested. The possibility of the pro-metastatic effects of UVA exposure might not be of very high significance for daily exposures. However, UVA effects might gain physiological significance following extensive sunbathing or solaria tanning periods. Whether similar UVA-induced pro-metastatic effects occur in people sunbathing or using solaria remains to be determined. In the light of the results presented in this thesis, the avoidance of solaria use could be well justified.
  • Rodewald, Petra (Helsingin yliopisto, 2013)
    An increasing number of programs are releasing animals to nature to conserve threatened populations or to reintroduce animal populations that are extinct from the wild. Crucial to the success of these programs is the survival of the animal. Animals reared in captivity show often maladaptive behaviour and low survival in the wild. Genetic domestication and adaptation to the rearing environment are influencing the development of animals. It has been shown that enriching the rearing environment by e.g. adding structure is promoting animal behaviour and survival. Many studies are now investigating the effects of genetic domestication and the effects of rearing environment on behavioural development of animals and survival in the wild. However, few studies have addressed the effects of genetic domestication and enriched rearing on behaviour and survival simultaneously. The main aim of this thesis was therefore to investigate the effects of broodstock origin (wild vs. captive) and rearing environment (enriched vs. standard) of endangered Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) on important life skills (e.g. foraging and antipredation), migration and survival after release to the wild. Survival after release is not only thought to be influenced by the quality of fish, but partly due to the release methods. Handling and transportation to a release site represent major stressors for animals and can impair important survival traits. Methods that aim at decreasing stress before release to the wild have been developed and are used in many animal taxa with promising results. The second part of this thesis was therefore designed to investigate the effects of stocking procedures on stress and if so-called soft release methods (acclimatization after transport to decrease stress levels) could benefit post-release performance. The results showed that enriched rearing improved foraging capacity and decreased maladaptive behaviour after release to semi-natural environments of salmon parr. Enriched rearing also promoted migration and survival after release to the wild of salmon smolts. The effects of genetic domestication were less clear. Acclimatization after transport (soft release) proved important for lowering stress before release, but no direct evidence on survival was found. These results show clearly that conventional rearing does not produce fish that are prepared for a life in the wild and indicates that environmental enrichment can improve life skills and survival of fish significantly.
  • Engström-Öst, Jonna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2002)
  • North, Ace (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    Environmental variation is a fact of life for all the species on earth: for any population of any particular species, the local environmental conditions are liable to vary in both time and space. In today's world, anthropogenic activity is causing habitat loss and fragmentation for many species, which may profoundly alter the characteristics of environmental variation in remaining habitat. Previous research indicates that, as habitat is lost, the spatial configuration of remaining habitat will increasingly affect the dynamics by which populations are governed. Through the use of mathematical models, this thesis asks how environmental variation interacts with species properties to influence population dynamics, local adaptation, and dispersal evolution. More specifically, we couple continuous-time continuous-space stochastic population dynamic models to landscape models. We manipulate environmental variation via parameters such as mean patch size, patch density, and patch longevity. Among other findings, we show that a mixture of high and low quality habitat is commonly better for a population than uniformly mediocre habitat. This conclusion is justified by purely ecological arguments, yet the positive effects of landscape heterogeneity may be enhanced further by local adaptation, and by the evolution of short-ranged dispersal. The predicted evolutionary responses to environmental variation are complex, however, since they involve numerous conflicting factors. We discuss why the species that have high levels of local adaptation within their ranges may not be the same species that benefit from local adaptation during range expansion. We show how habitat loss can lead to either increased or decreased selection for dispersal depending on the type of habitat and the manner in which it is lost. To study the models, we develop a recent analytical method, Perturbation expansion, to enable the incorporation of environmental variation. Within this context, we use two methods to address evolutionary dynamics: Adaptive dynamics, which assumes mutations occur infrequently so that the ecological and evolutionary timescales can be separated, and via Genotype distributions, which assume mutations are more frequent. The two approaches generally lead to similar predictions yet, exceptionally, we show how the evolutionary response of dispersal behaviour to habitat turnover may qualitatively depend on the mutation rate.
  • Ekroos, Johan (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    Intensified agricultural practises introduced after the Second World War are identified as a major cause of global biodiversity declines. In several European countries agri-environment support schemes have been introduced to counteract the ongoing biodiversity declines. Farmers participating in agri-environment schemes are financially compensated for decreasing the intensity of farming practises leading to smaller yields and lower income. The Finnish agri-environment support scheme is composed of a set of measures, such as widened field margins along main ditches (obligatory measure), management of features increasing landscape diversity, management of semi-natural grasslands, and organic farming (special agreement measures). The magnitude of the benefits for biodiversity depends on landscape context and the properties of individual schemes. In this thesis I studied whether one agri-environment scheme, organic farming, is beneficial for species diversity and abundance of diurnal lepidopterans, bumblebees, carabid beetles and arable weeds. I found that organic farming did not enhance species richness of selected insect taxa, although bumblebee species richness tended to be higher in organic farms. Abundance of lepidopterans and bumblebees was not enhanced by organic farming, but carabid beetle abundance was higher in mixed farms with both cereal crop production and animal husbandry. Both species richness and abundance of arable weeds were higher in organic farms. My second objective was to study how landscape structure shapes farmland butterfly communities. I found that the percentage of habitat specialists and species with poor dispersal abilities in butterfly assemblages decreased with increasing arable field cover, leading to a dramatic decrease in butterfly beta diversity. In field boundaries local species richness of butterflies was linearly related to landscape species richness in geographic regions with high arable field cover, indicating that butterfly species richness in field boundaries is more limited by landscape factors than local habitat factors. In study landscapes containing semi-natural grasslands the relationship decelerated at high landscape species richness, suggesting that local species richness of butterflies in field boundaries is limited by habitat factors (demanding habitat specialists that occurred in semi-natural grasslands were absent in field margins). My results suggest that management options in field margins will affect mainly generalists, and species with good dispersal abilities, in landscapes with high arable field cover. Habitat specialists and species with poor dispersal abilities may benefit of management options if these are applied in the vicinity of source populations.
  • Rintala, Eija (VTT Valtion teknillinen tutkimuskeskus, 2010)
    The availability of oxygen has a major effect on all organisms. The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is able to adapt its metabolism for growth in different conditions of oxygen provision, and to grow even under complete lack of oxygen. Although the physiology of S. cerevisiae has mainly been studied under fully aerobic and anaerobic conditions, less is known of metabolism under oxygen-limited conditions and of the adaptation to changing conditions of oxygen provision. This study compared the physiology of S. cerevisiae in conditions of five levels of oxygen provision (0, 0.5, 1.0, 2.8 and 20.9% O2 in feed gas) by using measurements on metabolite, transcriptome and proteome levels. On the transcriptional level, the main differences were observed between the three level groups, 0, 0.5 2.8 and 20.9% O2 which led to fully fermentative, respiro-fermentative and fully respiratory modes of metabolism, respectively. However, proteome analysis suggested post-transcriptional regulation at the level of 0.5 O2. The analysis of metabolite and transcript levels of central carbon metabolism also suggested post-transcriptional regulation especially in glycolysis. Further, a global upregulation of genes related to respiratory pathways was observed in the oxygen-limited conditions and the same trend was seen in the proteome analysis and in the activities of enzymes of the TCA cycle. The responses of intracellular metabolites related to central carbon metabolism and transcriptional responses to change in oxygen availability were studied. As a response to sudden oxygen depletion, concentrations of the metabolites of central carbon metabolism responded faster than the corresponding levels of gene expression. In general, the genome-wide transcriptional responses to oxygen depletion were highly similar when two different initial conditions of oxygen provision (20.9 and 1.0% O2) were compared. The genes related to growth and cell proliferation were transiently downregulated whereas the genes related to protein degradation and phosphate uptake were transiently upregulated. In the cultures initially receiving 1.0% O2, a transient upregulation of genes related to fatty acid oxidation, peroxisomal biogenesis, response to oxidative stress and pentose phosphate pathway was observed. Additionally, this work analysed the effect of oxygen on transcription of genes belonging to the hexose transporter gene family. Although the specific glucose uptake rate was highest in fully anaerobic conditions, none of the hxt genes showed highest expression in anaerobic conditions. However, the expression of genes encoding the moderately low affinity transporters decreased with the decreasing oxygen level. Thus it was concluded that there is a relative increase in high affinity transport in anaerobic conditions supporting the high uptake rate.
  • Oksaharju, Anna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2012)
    Mast cells are immunological cells having an important function in host defense. Mast cells also participate in the regulation of many other physiological functions of the body, such as the regulation of tissue homeostasis, intestinal functions, and neuro-immune interactions, by producing multiple mediators including cytokines, chemokines, leukotrienes, prostaglandins, proteases, and biogenic amines. However, these same mast cell-derived mediators are involved in the pathogenesis of many inflammatory diseases, such as atherosclerosis and other metabolic disorders, as well as allergy and intestinal diseases. Considering the inflammatory nature of atherosclerosis, exploring the role of infection in the pathogenesis of the disease has recently gained attention. Components of microbial origin have been detected in atherosclerotic lesions and are suggested to promote the inflammatory status in the arteries. On the other hand, microbes with beneficial effects on human health, called probiotics, have been under extensive study regarding their ability to modulate immunological functions and, thus, their possible benefits in the prevention and alleviation of inflammatory diseases. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the ability of atherosclerosis-related and probiotic bacteria to activate mast cells and their possible effects on inflammation caused by infection or diet. The proatherogenic bacteria Chlamydia pneumoniae (Cpn) and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans (Aa) induced pro-inflammatory effects in cultured human peripheral-derived mast cells characterized by the elevated expression and secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α), and chemokines, such as interleukin (IL)-8 and chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2 (CCL-2). Cpn and Aa also increased the number of activated mast cells in the aortas of atherosclerosis-prone ApoE-/- mice. Aa was also observed to induce increased concentrations of serum lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and TNF-α in the mice. The probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (GG) and Lactobacillus rhamnosus Lc705 (Lc705) induced the downregulation of several mast cell activation-related genes in cultured human peripheral-derived mast cells. In addition, GG, Lc705, Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis Bb12 (Bb12), and a combination of these three strains with Propionibacter freudenreichii ssp. shermanii JS (PJS) upregulated the expression of Th1 type pro-inflammatory cytokines, including TNF-α and IL-1β, and chemokines CCL-2 and IL-8, as well as the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10. The administration of GG and PJS to high fat-fed ApoE*3Leiden mice reduced the number of intestinal mast cells and the concentrations of plasma markers of inflammation, including vascular cell adhesion molecule (VCAM) 1 E-selectin, and serum amyloid A (SAA). In conclusion, Cpn and Aa induced pro-inflammatory actions in cultured mast cells as well as the activation of mast cells and the induction of systemic inflammation markers in vivo. These effects might induce the inflammation in atherosclerotic lesions and, thus, promote the development of atherosclerosis. The probiotic GG and Lc705 suppressed the expression of genes related to mast cell activation and induced the production of Th1 type and anti-inflammatory cytokines. These changes are suggested to alleviate allergic inflammation. In addition, GG and PJS elicited several anti-inflammatory effects in mice with high-fat diet-induced inflammation, including decreases in the numbers of intestinal mast cells and in the concentrations of markers of systemic inflammation. These actions could be beneficial in the prevention or treatment of inflammatory diseases, such as metabolic disorders.
  • Malmivaara-Lämsä, Minna (Finnish Society of Forest Science, Finnish Forest Research Institute, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry of the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Forestry of the University of Joensuu, 2008)
    The impacts of fragmentation and recreational use on the hemiboreal urban forest understorey vegetation and the microbial community of the humus layer (the phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) pattern, microbial biomass and microbial activity, measured as basal respiration) were examined in the greater Helsinki area, southern Finland. Trampling tolerance of 1) herb-rich OMT, 2) mesic MT, and 3) sub-xeric VT forests (in decreasing order of fertility) was studied by comparing relative understorey vegetation cover (urban/untrampled reference ratio) of the three forest types. The trampling tolerance of forest vegetation increased with the productivity of the site (sub-xeric < mesic < herb-rich). Wear of understorey vegetation correlated positively with the number of residents (i.e., recreational pressure) around the forest patch. An increase of 15000 residents within a radius of 1 km around a forest patch was associated with ca. 30% decrease in the relative understorey vegetation cover. The cover of dwarf shrub Vaccinium myrtillus in particular decreased with increasing levels of wear. The cover of mosses in urban forests was less than half of that in untrampled reference areas. Cover of tree saplings, mainly Sorbus aucuparia, and some resilient herbs was higher than in the reference areas. In small urban forest fragments, broad-leaved trees, grasses and herbs were more abundant and mosses were scarcer than in larger urban forest areas. Thus, due to trampling and edge effects, resilient herb and grass species are replacing sensitive dwarf shrubs, mosses and lichens in urban forests. Differences in the soil microbial community structure were found between paths and untrampled areas and the effects of paths extended more than one meter from the paths. Paths supported approximately 25-30% higher microbial biomass with a transition zone of at least 1 m from the path edge. However, microbial activity per unit of biomass was lower on paths than in untrampled areas. Furthermore, microbial biomass and activity were 30-45% lower at the first 20 m into the forest fragments, due to low moisture content of humus near the edge. The decreased microbial activity detected at forest edges and paths implies decreased litter decomposition rates, and thus, a change in nutrient cycling. Changes in the decomposition and nutrient supply may in turn affect the diversity and function of plant communities in urban forests. Keywords: boreal forest vegetation, edge effects, phospholipid fatty acids, trampling, urban woodlands, wear