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  • Pykälä, Juha (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    Semi-natural grasslands are the most important agricultural areas for biodiversity. The present study investigates the effects of traditional livestock grazing and mowing on plant species richness, the main emphasis being on cattle grazing in mesic semi-natural grasslands. The two reviews provide a thorough assessment of the multifaceted impacts and importance of grazing and mowing management to plant species richness. It is emphasized that livestock grazing and mowing have partially compensated the suppression of major natural disturbances by humans and mitigated the negative effects of eutrophication. This hypothesis has important consequences for nature conservation: A large proportion of European species originally adapted to natural disturbances may be at present dependent on livestock grazing and / or mowing. Furthermore, grazing and mowing are key management methods to mitigate effects of nutrient-enrichment. The species composition and richness in old (continuously grazed), new (grazing restarting 3-8 years ago) and abandoned (over 10 years) pastures differed consistently across a range of spatial scales, and was intermediate in new pastures compared to old and abandoned pastures. In mesic grasslands most plant species were shown to benefit from cattle grazing. Indicator species of biologically valuable grasslands and rare species were more abundant in grazed than in abandoned grasslands. Steep S-SW-facing slopes are the most suitable sites for many grassland plants and should be prioritized in grassland restoration. The proportion of species trait groups benefiting from grazing was higher in mesic semi-natural grasslands than in dry and wet grasslands. Consequently, species trait responses to grazing and the effectiveness of the natural factors limiting plant growth may be intimately linked High plant species richness of traditionally mowed and grazed areas is explained by numerous factors which operate on different spatial scales. Particularly important for maintaining large scale plant species richness are evolutionary and mitigation factors. Grazing and mowing cause a shift towards the conditions that have occurred during the evolutionary history of European plant species by modifying key ecological factors (nutrients, pH and light). The results of this Dissertation suggest that restoration of semi-natural grasslands by private farmers is potentially a useful method to manage biodiversity in the agricultural landscape. However, the quality of management is commonly improper, particularly due to financial constraints. For enhanced success of restoration, management regulations in the agri-environment scheme need to be defined more explicitly and the scheme should be revised to encourage management of biodiversity.
  • Heikinheimo, Outi (Helsingin yliopisto, 2000)
  • Pöyry, Juha (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    This work focuses on the factors affecting species richness, abundance and species composition of butterflies and moths in Finnish semi-natural grasslands, with a special interest in the effects of grazing management. In addition, an aim was set at evaluating the effectiveness of the support for livestock grazing in semi-natural grasslands, which is included in the Finnish agri-environment scheme. In the first field study, butterfly and moth communities in resumed semi-natural pastures were com-pared to old, annually grazed and abandoned previous pastures. Butterfly and moth species compo-sition in restored pastures resembled the compositions observed in old pastures after circa five years of resumed cattle grazing, but diversity of butterflies and moths in resumed pastures remained at a lower level compared with old pastures. None of the butterfly and moth species typical of old pas-tures had become more abundant in restored pastures compared with abandoned pastures. There-fore, it appears that restoration of butterfly and moth communities inhabiting semi-natural grass-lands requires a longer time that was available for monitoring in this study. In the second study, it was shown that local habitat quality has the largest impact on the occurrence and abundance of butterflies and moths compared to the effects of grassland patch area and connec-tivity of the regional grassland network. This emphasizes the importance of current and historical management of semi-natural grasslands on butterfly and moth communities. A positive effect of habitat connectivity was observed on total abundance of the declining butterflies and moths, sug-gesting that these species have strongest populations in well-connected habitat networks. Highest species richness and peak abundance of most individual species of butterflies and moths were generally observed in taller grassland vegetation compared with vascular plants, suggesting a preference towards less intensive management in insects. These differences between plants and their insect herbivores may be understood in the light of both (1) the higher structural diversity of tall vegetation and (2) weaker tolerance of disturbances by herbivorous insects due to their higher trophic level compared to plants. The ecological requirements of all species and species groups inhabiting semi-natural grasslands are probably never met at single restricted sites. Therefore, regional implementation of management to create differently managed areas is imperative for the conservation of different species and species groups dependent on semi-natural grasslands. With limited resources it might be reasonable to focus much of the management efforts in the densest networks of suitable habitat to minimise the risk of extinction of the declining species.
  • Venn, Stephen (Helsingin yliopisto, 2013)
    In this thesis I use carabid beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae) and vascular plants to investigate the ecological effects of urbanization on forested and dry meadow habitats in the city of Helsinki, Finland. I also investigate factors that affect species diversity and the occurrence of rare and sensitive species in particular, in order to draft recommendations for habitat management for the enhancement of urban biodiversity. Urbanization gradient analyses are conducted using multivariate ordination analyses to elucidate assemblage level responses, ANOVA is applied to determine the assemblage level response of spruce forest carabid assemblages and GLMM is used to model individual species responses. The results suggest that, in contrast to Gray s suggestion, Preston s log-normal does not accurately describe the species distributions of carabid beetles in the studied habitats but rather they follow the predictions of Fisher s log series and Hubbell s unified neutral theory. I conclude that fragmentation, isolation and homogenization are the main problems regarding maintenance of urban biodiversity, and that biodiversity strategies should focus on the conservation of stenotopic species. In particular, habitats and ecologically important microhabitat conditions should be retained in as large and contiguous a form as possible. For instance, spruce forest habitats need to be managed to maintain shady, cool and moist conditions and dry meadows should be mown late in the season and the cut vegetation removed. Additionally, supplementation of habitat networks should be implemented, by habitat restoration and habitat creation, such as the construction of dry meadows on landfills and noise abatement banks.
  • Leskelä, Ari (Helsingin yliopisto, 2006)
    Anadromous whitefish is one of the most important fish species in the Finnish coastal fisheries in the Gulf fo Bothnia. To compensate the lost reproduction due to river damming and to support the fisheries, several million one-summer old whitefish are released yearly into the Gulf of Bothnia. Since there are naturally reproducing whitefish in the Gulf as well, and the wild and stocked fish can not be separated in the catch, stocking impact can only be estimated by marking the stocked fish. Due to the small size and large number of released whitefish, the scattered fishery and large area where the whitefish migrate, most of the traditionally used fish marking methods were either unsuitable (e.g. Carlin-tags) or proved to be too expensive (e.g. coded wire tags). Fluorescent pigment spraying method offers a fast and cost-effective method to mass-mark young fish. However, the results are not always satisfactory due to low long-time retention of the marks in some species. The method has to be tested and proper marking conditions and methods determined for each species. This thesis is based on work that was accomplished while developing the fluorescent pigment spraying method for marking one-summer old whitefish fingerlings, and it draws together the results of mass-marking whitefish fingerlings that were released in the Gulf of Bothnia. Fluorescent pigment spraying method is suitable for one-summer old whitefish larger than 8 cm total length. The water temperature during the marking should not exceed 10o C. Suitable spraying pressure is 6 bars measured in the compressor outlet, and the distance of the spraying gun nozzle should be ca 20 cm from the fish. Under such conditions, the marking results in long-term retention of the mark with low or no mortality. The stress level of the fish (measured as muscle water content) rises during the marking procedure, but if the fish are allowed to recover after marking, the overall stress level remains within the limits observed in normal fish handling during the capture-loading-transport-stocking procedure. The marked whitefish fingerlings are released into the sea at larger size and later in the season than the wild whitefish. However, the stocked individuals migrate to the southern feeding grounds in a similar pattern to the wild ones. The catch produced by whitefish stocking in the Gulf of Bothnia varied between released fingerling groups, but was within the limits reported elsewhere in Finland. The releases in the southern Bothnian Bay resulted in a larger catch than those made in the northern Bothnian Bay. The size of the released fingerlings seemed to have some effect on survival of the fish during the first winter in the sea. However, when the different marking groups were compared, the mean fingerling size was not related to stocking success.
  • Hermansson, Martin (Helsingin yliopisto, 2012)
    This thesis consists of five parts. In the first part, the first automated method for quantitative analysis of lipid compositions of cells and tissues by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry was developed. In the second part, this method was applied to investigate brain lipid compositions of patients with progressive epilepsy with mental retardation (EPMR), caused by mutations in the CLN8 gene. We were able to show major progressive alterations in brain lipid profiles of EPMR patients which may contribute to disease pathogenesis in those patients. In the third part, a novel approach to investigate the metabolism of single glycerophospholipid molecular species in living cells was developed. This approach was applied to study mechanisms of acyl chain remodeling, i.e. the exchange of fatty acyl residues, of aminophospholipids in BHK and HeLa cells. In the fourth part a novel mass-spectrometric approach was developed to investigate the substrate specificity of phospholipases and was utilized to elucidate the specificities of secretory A-type phospholipases in unprecedented detail. We showed that the specificity of those phospholipases depended mainly on the propensity of the substrates to efflux from the membrane and interactions between the substrate and the enzyme catalytic site are secondary. In the fifth part of this thesis, mechanisms of mammalian glycerophospholipid homeostasis were reviewed and novel theoretical considerations presented.
  • Anttila, Jani (Helsingin yliopisto, 2015)
    Environmental opportunist pathogens are a class of organisms that are able to both infect multicellular hosts and grow in the outside-host environment as free-living organisms. Environmental opportunism differs from obligate parasitism in that direct host-to-host contact is not necessary for disease transmission and that there are environmental pathogen reservoirs which in suitable conditions act as sources of infection. Because of this, environmental opportunist pathogens form a persistent threat to human health, livestock, and wildlife, and cannot be eradicated by treating hosts. Three well-known examples of pathogens of this class are Vibrio cholerae, Flavobacterium columnare, and Bacillus anthracis, all of which cause sporadic outbreaks. Between infections, these pathogens are subject to multiple biotic and abiotic environmental pressures in the outside-host environment. While environmental opportunist pathogens are not dependent on live hosts for transmission and thus benefit from increased virulence, balancing between the two environments, within-host and outside-host, might incur trade-offs and thus limitations to their spread. In this thesis I have developed mathematical models of environmental opportunist pathogen dynamics and studied the effects of environmental variation and outsidehost interactions on patterns of pathogen outbreaks. The studies included in the thesis address (i) the origin of a sigmoidal dose-dependent infectivity response, (ii) the effect of competition in the outside-host environment on opportunist pathogen outbreaks, (iii) the effect of environmental variation on environmental opportunist dynamics, and (iiii) how environmental variation enables invasions of emerging opportunist pathogen strains. The modelling approach has enabled identification of factors such as alleviation of competitive pressure and certain kinds of environmental variation as outside-host environmental factors that promote outbreaks. Additionally, modelling results can be used to suggest control strategies to reduce the probability of environmental opportunist pathogen outbreaks.
  • Rämö , Kaisa Henriikka (Helsingin yliopisto, 2006)
    The main aim of my thesis project was to assess the impact of elevated ozone (O3) and carbon dioxide (CO2) on the growth, competition and community of meadow plants in northern Europe. The thesis project consisted of three separate O3 and CO2 exposure experiments that were conducted as open-top-chamber (OTC) studies at Jokioinen, SW Finland, and a smaller-scale experiment with different availabilities of resources in greenhouses in Helsinki. The OTC experiments included a competition experiment with two- and three-wise interactions, a mesocosm-scale meadow community with a large number of species, and a pot experiment that assessed intraspecific differences of Centaurea jacea ecotypes. The studied lowland hay meadow proved to be an O3-sensitive biotope, as the O3 concentrations used (40-50 ppb) were moderate, and yet, six out of nine species (Campanula rotundifolia, Centaurea jacea, Fragaria vesca, Ranunculus acris, Trifolium medium, Vicia cracca) showed either significant reductions in biomass or reproductive development, visible O3 injury or any two as a response to elevated O3. The plant species and ecotypes exhibited large intra- and interspecific variation in their response to O3, but O3 and CO2 concentrations did not cause changes in their interspecific competition or in community composition. However, the largest O3-induced growth reductions were seen in the least abundant species (C. rotundifolia and F. vesca), which may indicate O3-induced suppression of weak competitors. The overall effects of CO2 were relatively small and mainly restricted to individual species and several measured variables. Based on the present studies, most of the deleterious effects of tropospheric O3 are not diminished by a moderate increase in CO2 under low N availability, and variation exists between different species and variables. The present study indicates that the growth of several herb species decreases with increasing atmospheric O3 concentrations, and that these changes may pose a threat to the biodiversity of meadows. Ozone-induced reductions in the total community biomass production and N pool are likely to have important consequences for the nutrient cycling of the ecosystem.
  • Norros, Veera (Helsingin yliopisto, 2013)
    Movement has become a very active topic in biological research. An area of particular interest is identifying traits that determine species movement patterns and that could be used to predict their population trends in the changing world. Wood decay fungi have become one of the great losers in the human-dominated forest landscape of Fennoscandia today. Many species are threatened by the loss and fragmentation of old-growth forest and the decline of dead wood in production forests. However, other species have not been affected and some even seem to benefit from fragmentation. In this doctoral thesis, I combine empirical and modelling approaches to uncover the traits that determine dispersal ability in wood decay fungi. I examine the possibility of dispersal limitation and assess whether species responses to habitat fragmentation are related to their dispersal ability. My results confirm that wood decay fungi have a very high dispersal potential. Even under moderate wind conditions, as much as 95% of the spores released by a fruit body can disperse beyond 1 km. Spores that are lifted above the forest canopy join the atmospheric spore pool that can extend around the world. Nevertheless, spore concentration is rapidly diluted with increasing distance from the source. Due to this distance-dependence and the rarity of colonisation opportunities, wood decay fungi that are rare in the landscape and have specialised resource requirements are likely to be dispersal limited already at the scale of hundreds of metres. Wood decay species differ in a number of dispersal-related traits, creating differences in species dispersal patterns. Spore size is particularly important as it determines spore deposition rate from the air to surfaces: small spores disperse considerably further than large spores. However, the declined species are not generally less efficient dispersers than other species. Substrate availability combined with establishment probability is likely to be more critical for species persistence than dispersal ability. Combined with previous findings, my results suggest that the decline of rare specialist wood decay fungi can be accelerated by the competitive advantage gained by common generalists as their spores become increasingly dominant in the airborne spore pool from which recruitment occurs. In small isolated populations, loss of genetic diversity can lead to decreased spore viability, further decreasing the probability of new colonisations. Nevertheless, the high dispersal potential of wood decay fungi provides hope that the population declines might be halted by sufficient increases in the amount of dead wood in the landscape. A better understanding of the factors governing establishment could help to develop more directed conservation and restoration measures.
  • Lisal, Jiri (Helsingin yliopisto, 2006)
    Molecular motors are proteins that convert chemical energy into mechanical work. The viral packaging ATPase P4 is a hexameric molecular motor that translocates RNA into preformed viral capsids. P4 belongs to the ubiquitous class of hexameric helicases. Although its structure is known, the mechanism of RNA translocation remains elusive. Here we present a detailed kinetic study of nucleotide binding, hydrolysis, and product release by P4. We propose a stochastic-sequential cooperative model to describe the coordination of ATP hydrolysis within the hexamer. In this model the apparent cooperativity is a result of hydrolysis stimulation by ATP and RNA binding to neighboring subunits rather than cooperative nucleotide binding. Simultaneous interaction of neighboring subunits with RNA makes the otherwise random hydrolysis sequential and processive. Further, we use hydrogen/deuterium exchange detected by high resolution mass spectrometry to visualize P4 conformational dynamics during the catalytic cycle. Concerted changes of exchange kinetics reveal a cooperative unit that dynamically links ATP binding sites and the central RNA binding channel. The cooperative unit is compatible with the structure-based model in which translocation is effected by conformational changes of a limited protein region. Deuterium labeling also discloses the transition state associated with RNA loading which proceeds via opening of the hexameric ring. Hydrogen/deuterium exchange is further used to delineate the interactions of the P4 hexamer with the viral procapsid. P4 associates with the procapsid via its C-terminal face. The interactions stabilize subunit interfaces within the hexamer. The conformation of the virus-bound hexamer is more stable than the hexamer in solution, which is prone to spontaneous ring openings. We propose that the stabilization within the viral capsid increases the packaging processivity and confers selectivity during RNA loading. Finally, we use single molecule techniques to characterize P4 translocation along RNA. While the P4 hexamer encloses RNA topologically within the central channel, it diffuses randomly along the RNA. In the presence of ATP, unidirectional net movement is discernible in addition to the stochastic motion. The diffusion is hindered by activation energy barriers that depend on the nucleotide binding state. The results suggest that P4 employs an electrostatic clutch instead of cycling through stable, discrete, RNA binding states during translocation. Conformational changes coupled to ATP hydrolysis modify the electrostatic potential inside the central channel, which in turn biases RNA motion in one direction. Implications of the P4 model for other hexameric molecular motors are discussed.
  • Järvinen, Elina (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    In most non-mammalian vertebrates, such as fish and reptiles, teeth are replaced continuously. However, tooth replacement in most mammals, including human, takes place only once and further renewal is apparently inhibited. It is not known how tooth replacement is genetically regulated, and little is known on the physiological mechanism and evolutionary reduction of tooth replacement in mammals. In this study I have attempted to address these questions. In a rare human condition cleidocranial dysplasia, caused by a mutation in a Runt domain transcription factor Runx2, tooth replacement is continued. Runx2 mutant mice were used to investigate the molecular mechanisms of Runx2 function. Microarray analysis from dissected embryonic day 14 Runx2 mutant and wild type dental mesenchymes revealed many downstream targets of Runx2, which were validated using in situ hybridization and tissue culture methods. Wnt signaling inhibitor Dkk1 was identified as a candidate target, and in tissue culture conditions it was shown that Dkk1 is induced by FGF4 and this induction is Runx2 dependent. These experiments demonstrated a connection between Runx2, FGF and Wnt signaling in tooth development and possibly also in tooth replacement. The role of Wnt signaling in tooth replacement was further investigated by using a transgenic mouse model where Wnt signaling mediator β-catenin is continuously stabilized in dental epithelium. This stabilization led to activated Wnt signaling and to the formation of multiple enamel knots. In vitro and transplantation experiments were performed to examine the process of extra tooth formation. We showed that new teeth were continuously generated and that new teeth form from pre-existing teeth. A morphodynamic activator-inhibitor model was used to simulate enamel knot formation. By increasing the intrinsic production rate of the activator (β-catenin), the multiple enamel knot phenotype was reproduced by computer simulations. It was thus concluded that β-catenin acts as an upstream activator of enamel knots, closely linking Wnt signaling to the regulation of tooth renewal. As mice do not normally replace teeth, we used other model animals to investigate the physiological and genetic mechanisms of tooth replacement. Sorex araneus, the common shrew was earlier reported to have non-functional tooth replacement in all antemolar tooth positions. We showed by histological and gene expression studies that there is tooth replacement only in one position, the premolar 4 and that the deciduous tooth is diminished in size and disappears during embryogenesis without becoming functional. The growth rates of deciduous and permanent premolar 4 were measured and it was shown by competence inference that the early initiation of the replacement tooth in relation to the developmental stage of the deciduous tooth led to the inhibition of deciduous tooth morphogenesis. It was concluded that the evolutionary loss of deciduous teeth may involve the early activation of replacement teeth, which in turn suppress their predecessors. Mustela putorius furo, the ferret, has a dentition that resembles that of the human as ferrets have teeth that belong to all four tooth families, and all the antemolar teeth are replaced once. To investigate the replacement mechanism, histological serial sections from different embryonic stages were analyzed. It was noticed that tooth replacement is a process which involves the growth and detachment of the dental lamina from the lingual cervical loop of the deciduous tooth. Detachment of the deciduous tooth leads to a free successional dental lamina, which grows deeper into the mesenchyme, and later buds the replacement tooth. A careful 3D analysis of serial histological sections was performed and it was shown that replacement teeth are initiated from the successional dental lamina and not from the epithelium of the deciduous tooth. The molecular regulation of tooth replacement was studied and it was shown by examination of expression patterns of candidate regulatory genes that BMP/Wnt inhibitor Sostdc1 was strongly expressed in the buccal aspect of the dental lamina, and in the intersection between the detaching deciduous tooth and the successional dental lamina, suggesting a role for Sostdc1 in the process of detachment. Shh was expressed in the enamel knot and in the inner enamel epithelium in both generations of teeth supporting the view that the morphogenesis of both generations of teeth is regulated by similar mechanisms. In summary, histological and molecular studies on different model animals and transgenic mouse models were used to investigate tooth replacement. This thesis work has significantly contributed to the knowledge on the physiological mechanisms and molecular regulation of tooth replacement and its evolutionary suppression in mammals.
  • Helmy, Mohamed (Helsingin yliopisto, 2014)
    Birth asphyxia is a major cause of infant and childhood death, disability and neurodevelopmental delay worldwide. During birth, impairment of respiration is reflected in elevated levels of CO2 and diminished levels of O2 in the neonate. The fundamental presentation and diagnostic criterion of birth asphyxia is severe acidosis, most commonly measured in umbilical blood. Resuscitation is associated with normalization of blood pH values and arterial blood gases. Within hours of a moderate or severe asphyxic insult during birth, severe seizures are triggered. In the present study, asphyxic conditions during birth are modeled as an induced hypoxia and hypercapnia in postnatal day 6 rat pups. Respiratory conditions are altered so that pups breathe 20 % CO2 with either 9 % O2 or 4 % O2 (N2 balanced) for 60 or 45 minutes, respectively. Brain extracellular and intraneuronal pH became rapidly acidotic during asphyxic conditions. After experimental asphyxia, immediate restoration of normoxia and normocapnia was associated with a large seizure burden. Seizures in the postasphyxia period were tightly correlated with a recovery and alkaline overshoot in brain pH. Enhanced acid extrusion from the brain was attributed to increased Na/H exchange across the blood-brain barrier. Pharmacologic blockade of Na/H exchange in the blood-brain barrier with amiloride or its analog abolished brain alkalosis and seizures. These findings suggest that a brain-confined alkalosis is generated by Na/H exchangers in the blood-brain barrier when normocapnic conditions are immediately restored after experimental birth asphyxia. A putative therapeutic strategy was tested, where the CO2 level of inhaled air in the postasphyxic period was reduced in steps, so that normocapnic conditions are gradually restored. This graded restoration of normocapnia was achieved by exposing the pup to 10 % CO2 in air for 30 minutes, followed by 5 % CO2 in air for a further 30 minutes, and finally with room air. A dramatic attenuation of brain alkalosis and seizures was induced by graded restoration of normocapnia. Immediate restoration of normocapnia after asphyxia was associated with adverse outcome in juvenile and adult rats, manifest as compromised sensorimotor coordination, altered emotional reactivity to acute stress, diminished inhibition of fear-motivated behavior, impaired memory and learning, abnormal social interaction, and increased seizure susceptibility. Graded restoration of normocapnia after asphyxia was associated with significant and favorable improvement of outcome, such that behavioral deficits were rescued, and seizure threshold was not significantly different from control animals. The findings of the this study suggest a central role for Na/H exchange in the blood-brain barrier in mediating the postasphyxia brain alkalosis as measured in the present study as well as in human babies. Importantly, the findings also suggest a putative therapeutic strategy in which recovery from acidosis during neonatal resuscitation is controlled through a graded restoration of normocapnia.
  • Ludwig, Anastasia (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) acting through ionotropic GABAA receptors plays a crucial role in the activity of the central nervous system (CNS). It triggers Ca2+ rise providing trophic support in developing neurons and conducts fast inhibitory function in mature neuronal networks. There is a developmental change in the GABAA reversal potential towards more negative levels during the first two postnatal weeks in rodent hippocampus. This change provides the basis for mature GABAergic activity and is attributable to the developmental expression of the neuron-specific potassium chloride cotransporter 2 (KCC2). In this work we have studied the mechanisms responsible for the control of KCC2 developmental expression. As a model system we used hippocampal dissociated cultures plated from embryonic day (E) 17 mice embryos before the onset of KCC2 expression. We showed that KCC2 was significantly up-regulated during the first two weeks of culture development. Interestingly, the level of KCC2 upregulation was not altered by chronic pharmacological blockage of action potentials as well as GABAergic and glutamatergic synaptic transmission. By in silico analysis of the proximal KCC2 promoter region we identified 10 candidate transcription factor binding sites that are highly conserved in mammalian KCC2 genes. One of these transcription factors, namely early growth response factor 4 (Egr4), had similar developmental profile as KCC2 and considerably increased the activity of mouse KCC2 gene in neuronal cells. Next we investigated the involvement of neurotrophic factors in regulation of Egr4 and KCC2 expression. We found that in immature hippocampal cultures Egr4 and KCC2 levels were strongly up-regulated by brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)and neurturin. The effect of neurotrophic factors was dependent on the activation of a mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) signal transduction pathway. Intact Egr4-binding site in proximal KCC2 promoter was required for BDNF-induced KCC2 transcription. In vitro data were confirmed by several in vivo experiments where we detected an upregulation of KCC2 protein levels after intrahippocampal administration of BDNF or neurturin. Importantly, a MAPK-dependent rise in Egr4 and KCC2 expression levels was also observed after a period of kainic acid-induced seizure activity in neonatal rats suggesting that neuronal activity might be involved in Egr4-mediated regulation of KCC2 expression. Finally we demonstrated that the mammalian KCC2 gene (alias Slc12a5) generated two neuron-specific isoforms by using alternative promoters and first exons. A novel isoform of KCC2, termed KCC2a, differed from the previously known KCC2b isoform by 40 unique N-terminal amino acid residues. KCC2a expression was restricted to CNS,remained relatively constant during postnatal development, and contributed 20 50% of total KCC2 mRNA expression in the neonatal mouse brainstem and spinal cord. In summary, our data provide insight into the complex regulation of KCC2 expression during early postnatal development. Although basal KCC2 expression seems to be intrinsically regulated, it can be further augmented by neurotrophic factors or by enhanced activity triggering MAPK phosphorylation and Egr4 induction. Additional KCC2a isoform, regulated by another promoter, provides basal KCC2 level in neonatal brainstem and spinal cord required for survival of KCC2b knockout mice.
  • Kangas, Nuutti (Helsingin yliopisto, 2000)
  • Yabal, Monica (Helsingin yliopisto, 2006)
    The correct localization of proteins is essential for cell viability. In order to achieve correct protein localization to cellular membranes, conserved membrane targeting and translocation mechanisms have evolved. The focus of this work was membrane targeting and translocation of a group of proteins that circumvent the known targeting and translocation mechanisms, the C-tail anchored protein family. Members of this protein family carry out a wide range of functions, from protein translocation and recognition events preceding membrane fusion, to the regulation of programmed cell death. In this work, the mechanisms of membrane insertion and targeting of two C-tail anchored proteins were studied utilizing in vivo and in vitro methods, in yeast and mammalian cell systems. The proteins studied were cytochrome b(5), a well characterized C-tail anchored model protein, and N-Bak, a novel member of the Bcl-2 family of regulators of programmed cell death. Membrane insertion of cytochrome b(5) into the endoplasmic reticulum membrane was found to occur independently of the known protein conducting channels, through which signal peptide-containing polypeptides are translocated. In fact, the membrane insertion process was independent of any protein components and did not require energy. Instead membrane insertion was observed to be dependent on the lipid composition of the membrane. The targeting of N-Bak was found to depend on the cellular context. Either the mitochondrial or endoplasmic reticulum membranes were targeted, which resulted in morphological changes of the target membranes. These findings indicate the existence of a novel membrane insertion mechanism for C-tail anchored proteins, in which membrane integration of the transmembrane domain, and the translocation of C-terminal fragments, appears to be spontaneous. This mode of membrane insertion is regulated by the target membrane fluidity, which depends on the lipid composition of the bilayer, and the hydrophobicity of the transmembrane domain of the C-tail anchored protein, as well as by the availability of the C-tail for membrane integration. Together these mechanisms enable the cell to achieve spatial and temporal regulation of sub-cellular localization of C-tail anchored proteins.
  • Galand, Pierre E. (Helsingin yliopisto, 2004)
  • Kerttula, Anne-Marie (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    Staphylococcus aureus is one of the most important bacteria that cause disease in humans, and methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) has become the most commonly identified antibiotic-resistant pathogen in many parts of the world. MRSA rates have been stable for many years in the Nordic countries and the Netherlands with a low MRSA prevalence in Europe, but in the recent decades, MRSA rates have increased in those low-prevalence countries as well. MRSA has been established as a major hospital pathogen, but has also been found increasingly in long-term facilities (LTF) and in communities of persons with no connections to the health-care setting. In Finland, the annual number of MRSA isolates reported to the National Infectious Disease Register (NIDR) has constantly increased, especially outside the Helsinki metropolitan area. Molecular typing has revealed numerous outbreak strains of MRSA, some of which have previously been associated with community acquisition. In this work, data on MRSA cases notified to the NIDR and on MRSA strain types identified with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), multilocus sequence typing (MLST), and staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec (SCCmec) typing at the National Reference Laboratory (NRL) in Finland from 1997 to 2004 were analyzed. An increasing trend in MRSA incidence in Finland from 1997 to 2004 was shown. In addition, non-multi-drug resistant (NMDR) MRSA isolates, especially those resistant only to methicillin/oxacillin, showed an emerging trend. The predominant MRSA strains changed over time and place, but two internationally spread epidemic strains of MRSA, FIN-16 and FIN-21, were related to the increase detected most recently. Those strains were also one cause of the strikingly increasing invasive MRSA findings. The rise of MRSA strains with SCCmec types IV or V, possible community-acquired MRSA was also detected. With questionnaires, the diagnostic methods used for MRSA identification in Finnish microbiology laboratories and the number of MRSA screening specimens studied were reviewed. Surveys, which focused on the MRSA situation in long-term facilities in 2001 and on the background information of MRSA-positive persons in 2001-2003, were also carried out. The rates of MRSA and screening practices varied widely across geographic regions. Part of the NMDR MRSA strains could remain undetected in some laboratories because of insufficient diagnostic techniques used. The increasing proportion of elderly population carrying MRSA suggests that MRSA is an emerging problem in Finnish long-term facilities. Among the patients, 50% of the specimens were taken on a clinical basis, 43% on a screening basis after exposure to MRSA, 3% on a screening basis because of hospital contact abroad, and 4% for other reasons. In response to an outbreak of MRSA possessing a new genotype that occurred in a health care ward and in an associated nursing home of a small municipality in Northern Finland in autumn 2003, a point-prevalence survey was performed six months later. In the same study, the molecular epidemiology of MRSA and methicillin-sensitive S. aureus (MSSA) strains were also assessed, the results to the national strain collection compared, and the difficulties of MRSA screening with low-level oxacillin-resistant isolates encountered. The original MRSA outbreak in LTF, which consisted of isolates possessing a nationally new PFGE profile (FIN-22) and internationally rare MLST type (ST-27), was confined. Another previously unrecognized MRSA strain was found with additional screening, possibly indicating that current routine MRSA screening methods may be insufficiently sensitive for strains possessing low-level oxacillin resistance. Most of the MSSA strains found were genotypically related to the epidemic MRSA strains, but only a few of them had received the SCCmec element, and all those strains possessed the new SCCmec type V. In the second largest nursing home in Finland, the colonization of S. aureus and MRSA, and the role of screening sites along with broth enrichment culture on the sensitivity to detect S. aureus were studied. Combining the use of enrichment broth and perineal swabbing, in addition to nostrils and skin lesions swabbing, may be an alternative for throat swabs in the nursing home setting, especially when residents are uncooperative. Finally, in order to evaluate adequate phenotypic and genotypic methods needed for reliable laboratory diagnostics of MRSA, oxacillin disk diffusion and MIC tests to the cefoxitin disk diffusion method at both +35°C and +30°C, both with or without an addition of sodium chloride (NaCl) to the Müller Hinton test medium, and in-house PCR to two commercial molecular methods (the GenoType® MRSA test and the EVIGENETM MRSA Detection test) with different bacterial species in addition to S. aureus were compared. The cefoxitin disk diffusion method was superior to that of oxacillin disk diffusion and to the MIC tests in predicting mecA-mediated resistance in S. aureus when incubating at +35°C with or without the addition of NaCl to the test medium. Both the Geno Type® MRSA and EVIGENETM MRSA Detection tests are usable, accurate, cost-effective, and sufficiently fast methods for rapid MRSA confirmation from a pure culture.
  • Haimi, Perttu (Helsingin yliopisto, 2011)
    The analysis of lipid compositions from biological samples has become increasingly important. Lipids have a role in cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. They also participate in cellular processes such as signalling, inflammatory response, aging and apoptosis. Also, the mechanisms of regulation of cell membrane lipid compositions are poorly understood, partially because a lack of good analytical methods. Mass spectrometry has opened up new possibilities for lipid analysis due to its high resolving power, sensitivity and the possibility to do structural identification by fragment analysis. The introduction of Electrospray ionization (ESI) and the advances in instrumentation revolutionized the analysis of lipid compositions. ESI is a soft ionization method, i.e. it avoids unwanted fragmentation the lipids. Mass spectrometric analysis of lipid compositions is complicated by incomplete separation of the signals, the differences in the instrument response of different lipids and the large amount of data generated by the measurements. These factors necessitate the use of computer software for the analysis of the data. The topic of the thesis is the development of methods for mass spectrometric analysis of lipids. The work includes both computational and experimental aspects of lipid analysis. The first article explores the practical aspects of quantitative mass spectrometric analysis of complex lipid samples and describes how the properties of phospholipids and their concentration affect the response of the mass spectrometer. The second article describes a new algorithm for computing the theoretical mass spectrometric peak distribution, given the elemental isotope composition and the molecular formula of a compound. The third article introduces programs aimed specifically for the analysis of complex lipid samples and discusses different computational methods for separating the overlapping mass spectrometric peaks of closely related lipids. The fourth article applies the methods developed by simultaneously measuring the progress curve of enzymatic hydrolysis for a large number of phospholipids, which are used to determine the substrate specificity of various A-type phospholipases. The data provides evidence that the substrate efflux from bilayer is the key determining factor for the rate of hydrolysis.