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  • Mönttinen, Heli (2015)
    The right-hand-shaped polymerases comprising the DNA/RNA polymerase superfamily represent at least six different protein families containing replicases, transcriptases and repair proteins from all three domains of life as well as from their viruses. All of these polymerases have at least three subdomains: fingers, palm and thumb, which form together a structure resembling a right-hand. The catalytic site is located in the palm subdomain, in which polymerization process is catalysed by two Mg2+ ions. There can also be additional ions such as the non-catalytic ion in the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase of phage φ6, which is located approximately 6 Ångströms from the catalytic site. The phylogeny and common regions of the right-hand-shaped polymerases have been previously studied mainly using amino acid sequence alignments. However, the sequence similarity between polymerases belonging into different protein families is low and therefore, the structure alignment provides a potential alternative because protein structures can retain similarity longer in evolution than amino acid sequences. In this thesis, the common structural features between and within the families of the right-hand-shaped polymerases are described, and based on the structural cores the phylogenetic trees are deduced. In addition, the phylogenetic relationships between the right-hand-shaped polymerases and other structurally related proteins are described. As results, it is shown that a phylogenetic tree following the established boundaries of protein families is possible to construct based on structural core sharing no sequence identity. This tree, illustrating long distance phylogenetic relationships suggests that the known right-hand-shaped polymerase families are not the closest relatives to each other. The phylogenies within polymerase families suggest that the relationships among the polymerases do not always follow the evolution of the corresponding organism, which implies horizontal gene transfer between cells, and cells and viruses. The phylogeny of RNA virus RNA polymerases seem to be dependent on the priming mechanism and it does not follow the virion architecture or the Baltimore classification. In addition, the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerases seem to share a third ion binding site in the proximity of catalytic site.
  • Jaakkola, Salla (Helsingin yliopisto, 2014)
    Extremely saline environments include salt lakes, evaporation ponds, and terrestrial environments, such as salt deserts and underground halite deposits. They are inhabited by halophilic microbes that require salt for living. Cell densities in hypersaline waters can be as high as 107-108 cfu/ml, and most of the cells are archaeal. The number of viruses can be ten times higher than that of the cells. In buried halite, the cell counts are generally low, but viable bacteria and archaea have been isolated from samples up to Permian in age (250-280 million years). Icosahedral tailless virus types seem to be common in hypersaline waters, based on microscopic studies. However, only few such viruses have been isolated and studied. In this thesis Haloarcula hispanica icosahedral virus 2 (HHIV-2) was studied using virological, biochemical, sequencing, lipidomic, and cryo-electron microscopy methods. HHIV-2 infects a halophilic euryarchaeal host and is virulent. It is icosahedral, tailless, and contains an inner membrane. The properties of HHIV-2 were compared to two structurally related viruses: haloarchaeal virus SH1 and thermophilic phage P23-77. The comparison revealed the evolutionary stability of the virion capsid structure, in contrast to the host-interacting structures of viruses. It was also established that different virus capsid assembly pathways can lead to identical capsid architecture. Drill core samples from deeply buried halite deposits were used for isolating halophilic microbes. Nine novel unique archaeal strains belonging to Halobacterium and Halolamina were obtained. No bacteria or viruses could be isolated. Three archaeal isolates from 40 million years old halite were found to be polyploid. Polyploidy is connected to higher mutation resistance, which might positively affect the survival of cells inside halite deposits. One unique isolate was obtained from 123 million years old halite. The complete genomic sequence of this isolate was resolved. Based on sequence data and DNA-DNA hybridization, the isolate represented a novel species, and was named Halobacterium hubeiense. The isolate was found to be closely related to halophilic archaea residing in surface habitats.
  • Dopie, Joseph (2014)
    Actin controls numerous nuclear events including transcription factor activity, chromatin remodeling and RNA polymerase activity. As a component of the cytoskeleton in the cytoplasm, actin traditionally influences cell motility, cell division, cell shape and intracellular transport. In the cytoplasm, actin-binding proteins (ABPs) regulate the dynamic interplay between actin polymerization into filaments and depolymerization into monomers, a process that is central to the cytoplasmic functions of actin. Details of the nuclear functions of actin are unclear and it remains unknown whether actin polymerization and depolymerization in the nucleus is directly linked to the nuclear functions of actin. Many cytoplasmic ABPs have also been identified in the nucleus and shown to influence gene expression, yet their nuclear function in relation to actin is not clear. Actin utilizes an active mechanism to exit the nucleus, however, the nuclear import mechanism for actin has not been characterized. This work provides evidence to support an active nuclear shuttling mechanism for actin and identify novel regulators of nuclear actin. Our live cell imaging data show that actin actively and constantly shuttles between the nucleus and the cytoplasm. Using RNA interference (RNAi) mediated loss-of-function analysis, we show that unphosphorylated cofilin, an ABP, and importin 9, a member of the karyopherin β family of transport receptors, are required for nuclear localization of actin. Protein interaction experiments show that importin 9, cofilin and actin form an import complex that mediates nuclear localization of actin to promote efficient transcriptional activity. Our genome-wide RNAi screens have identified novel and conserved regulators of nucleocytoplasmic transport of actin. Notably, we identified cell division cycle (CDC)73, also known as parafibromin, a component of the RNA polymerase II associated factor homolog (PAF)1 complex and cyclin-dependent kinase 13 (CDK13), a protein that controls cell fate, as regulators of nuclear export of actin. On the other hand our data implicate protein kinase activated gamma subunit 1 (PRKAG1), a regulatory subunit of the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and RAB18, a member of the ras-related protein family, as factors that promote nuclear import of actin. Also, we identify novel regulators of cofilin phosphorylation that influence nuclear localization of actin. These include; Capping protein B (CPB), an actin filament barbed end capping protein; shibire (SHI)/dynamin, involved in endocytosis; BTB and CNC homology 2 (BACH2), a Pox virus and Zinc finger domain-containing transcriptional regulator; receptor for protein kinase C 1 (RACK1) and structure-specific recognition protein (SSRP), a member of the facilitates chromatin transcription (FACT) complex. BACH2 promotes cofilin dephosphorylation via repression of Lim kinase (LIMK) and testis-specific kinase (TESK) expression, while CPB promotes cofilin dephosphorylation via activation of the expression of slingshot. This study has thus provided essential insights into the regulatory mechanism of nuclear actin and identified several routes through which nuclear actin levels could be regulated.
  • Yuan, Qiang (Qiang Yuan, 2012)
    SNARE Complex Regulation in Membrane Fusion SNAREs are membrane associated proteins essential for intracellular protein trafficking and membrane fusion. There are at least 24 SNAREs in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and more than 35 SNAREs in mammalian cells. Syntaxin1, SNAP25 and VAMP in mammalian cells can form a SNARE complex and function for the synaptic vesicle docking and fusion at neuronal synapses. The yeast cells contain two syntaxin homologous SNAREs, Sso1p and Sso2p that together with Sec9p and Snc1/2pmediate membrane fusion during exocytosis at the plasma membrane. Based on new phosphorylation mass spectrometry data, the contribution of phosphorylation on Sso protein in vivo function was assessed. Basal or overexpression of phosphomimicking or putative non-phosphorylated Sso1p or Sso2p mutants resulted in no obvious growth phenotype. Sso1p is specifically required for de novo formation of the prospore membrane during meiosis in sporulating cells. Cells expressing only mutant versions of Sso1p, however, did not display any detectable sporulation defects. In addition to sporulation, pseudohyphal and invasive growth modes are regulated by the availability of nutrients. Deletion of SSO1 or SSO2, or expression of the phospho-mutant versions of SSO1 or SSO2 as the sole copies of SSO genes caused no defects in haploid or diploid pseudohyphal and invasive growth. The results indicate that the tested phosphorylation sites in Sso1p or Sso2p are not functional in vivo. In addition to the SNAREs, the Sec1/Munc18 (SM) protein family and other proteins also function in the membrane fusion by facilitating the SNARE complex assembly. However, the molecular interactions for these proteins are not well understood. This study shows that Mso1p, a yeast Sec1p binding protein, interacts with cellular membranes through two biochemically distinct sites. The N-terminal region can insert into the lipid bilayer whereas the C-terminal region of the protein binds phospholipids mainly through electrostatic interactions and may associate with secretory vesicles. Mso1p lipid binding is essential for the plasma membrane localization of the Mso1p-Sec1p complex and for the function of Mso1p in membrane fusion in vivo. The results suggest the existence of a conserved mode of molecular interactions between SM protein binding proteins, Rab GTPases and lipid binding in SNARE mediated membrane fusion. We used a novel Sec1p mutant to study how Sec1p interacts with other proteins involved in SNARE assembly. The results indicate that Sec9p displays a novel type of interaction mode with Sec1p. In addition, the results suggest that Sec1p is required for the plasma membrane interaction of Sec9p-Sec4p-Sro7p complexes. Collectively, the results in the thesis suggest novel interaction modes and previously unknown regulation for the SNARE complex formation for exocytosis in yeast.
  • Aalto, Antti (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    Double-stranded RNA and associated proteins are known to regulate the gene expression of most eukaryotic organisms. These regulation pathways have different components, outcomes and distinct nomenclature depending on the model system, and often they are referred to collectively as RNA silencing. In many cases, RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RdRPs) are found to be involved in the RNA silencing, but their targets, activities, interaction partners and reaction products remain enigmatic. In the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa, the RdRP QDE-1 is critical for silencing of transgenes a phenomenon known as quelling. In this thesis the structure, biochemical activities and biological functions of QDE-1 were extensively studied. This dimeric RdRP was shown to possess five distinct catalytic in vitro activities that could be dissected by mutagenesis and by altering reaction conditions. The biochemical characterization implied that QDE-1 is actually an active DNA-dependent RNA polymerase that has additional RdRP activity. It also provided a structural explanation for the dimerization and suggested a biological framework for the functions of QDE-1 in vivo. (I) QDE-1 was also studied in a broader context along with the other components of the quelling pathway. It was shown that DNA damage in Neurospora causes a dramatic increase in the expression level of the Argonaute protein QDE-2 as well as the synthesis of a novel class of small RNAs known as qiRNAs. The accumulation of qiRNAs was shown to be dependent on several quelling components, and particularly to be derived from an aberrant ssRNA (aRNA) molecule that is synthesized by QDE-1 in the nucleus. The genomic distribution of qiRNA targets was analyzed and the possible biological significance of qiRNAs was studied. Importantly, qiRNAs are the first class of small RNAs that are induced by DNA damage. (II) After establishing that QDE-1 is a multifunctional RNA polymerase with several activities, template specificities and subcellular locations, the focus was turned onto its interaction partners. It had been previously known that QDE-1 associates with Replication Protein A (RPA), but the RecQ helicase QDE-3 was now shown to regulate this interaction. RPA was also observed to promote QDE-1 dependent dsRNA synthesis in vitro. By characterizing the interplay between QDE-1, QDE-3 and RPA, a working model of quelling and qiRNA pathways in Neurospora was presented. (III) This work sheds light on the complexity of the various RNA silencing pathways of a fungal model system. It shows how an RdRP can regulate gene expression on many levels, and suggests novel lines of research in other eukaryotic organisms.
  • Vidgren, Virve (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    Maltose and maltotriose are the two most abundant sugars in brewer s wort, and thus brewer s yeast s ability to utilize them efficiently is of major importance in the brewing process. The increasing tendency to utilize high and very-high-gravity worts containing increased concentrations of maltose and maltotriose renders the need for efficient transport of these sugars even more pronounced. Residual maltose and especially maltotriose are quite often present especially after high and very-high-gravity fermentations. Sugar uptake capacity has been shown to be the rate limiting factor for maltose and maltotriose utilization. The main aim of the present study was to find novel ways to improve maltose and maltotriose utilization during the main fermentation. Maltose and maltotriose uptake characteristics of several ale and lager strains were studied. Genotype determination of the genes needed for maltose and maltotriose utilization was performed. Maltose uptake inhibition studies were performed to reveal the dominant transporter types actually functioning in each of the strains. Temperature-dependence of maltose transport was studied for ale and for lager strains as well as for each of the single sugar transporter proteins Agt1p, Malx1p and Mtt1p. The AGT1 promoter regions of one ale and two lager strains were sequenced by chromosome walking and the promoter elements were searched for using computational methods. The results showed that ale and lager strains predominantly use different maltose and maltotriose transporter types for maltose and maltotriose uptake. Agt1 transporter was found to be the dominant maltose/maltotriose transporter in the ale strains whereas Malx1 and Mtt1- type transporters dominated in the lager strains. All lager strains studied were found to possess a non-functional Agt1 transporter. The ale strains were observed to be more sensitive to temperature decrease in their maltose uptake compared to the lager strains. Single transporters were observed to differ in their sensitivity to temperature decrease and their temperature-dependence was shown to decrease in the order Agt1≥Malx1>Mtt1. The different temperature-dependence between the ale and lager strains was observed to be due to the different dominant maltose/maltotriose transporters ale and lager strains possessed. The AGT1 promoter regions of ale and lager strains were found to differ markedly from the corresponding regions of laboratory strains. The ale strain was found to possess an extra MAL-activator binding site compared to the lager strains. Improved maltose and maltotriose uptake capacity was obtained with a modified lager strain where the AGT1 gene was repaired and put under the control of a strong promoter. Modified strains fermented wort faster and more completely, producing beers containing more ethanol and less residual maltose and maltotriose. Significant savings in the main fermentation time were obtained when modified strains were used. In high-gravity wort fermentations 8 20% and in very-high-gravity wort fermentations even 11 37% time savings were obtained. These are economically significant changes and would cause a marked increase in annual output from the same-size of brewhouse and fermentor facilities.
  • Sarin, Peter (2010)
    Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) viruses encode only a single protein species that contains RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP) motifs. This protein is a central component in the life cycle of a dsRNA virus, carrying out both RNA transcription and replication. The architecture of viral RdRPs resembles that of a 'cupped right hand' with fingers, palm and thumb domains. Those applying de novo initiation have additional structural features, including a flexible C-terminal domain that constitutes the priming platform. Moreover, viral RdRPs must be able to interact with the incoming 3'-terminus of the template and position it so that a productive binary complex is formed. Bacteriophage phi6 of the Cystoviridae family is to date one of the best studied dsRNA viruses. The purified recombinant phi6 RdRP is highly active in vitro and possesses both RNA replication and transcription activities. The extensive biochemical observations and the atomic level crystal structure of the phi6 RdRP provides an excellent platform for in-depth studies of RNA replication in vitro. In this thesis, targeted structure-based mutagenesis, enzymatic assays and molecular mapping of phi6 RdRP and its RNA were used to elucidate the formation of productive RNA-polymerase binary complexes. The positively charged rim of the template tunnel was shown to have a significant role in the engagement of highly structured ssRNA molecules, whereas specific interactions further down in the template tunnel promote ssRNA entry to the catalytic site. This work demonstrated that by aiding the formation of a stable binary complex with optimized RNA templates, the overall polymerization activity of the phi6 RdRP can be greatly enhanced. Furthermore, proteolyzed phi6 RdRPs that possess a nick in the polypeptide chain at the hinge region, which is part of the extended loop, were better suited for catalysis at higher temperatures whilst favouring back-primed initiation. The clipped C-terminus remains associated with the main body of the polymerase and the hinge region, although structurally disordered, is involved in the control of C-terminal domain displacement. The accumulated knowhow on bacteriophage phi6 was utilized in the development of two technologies for the production of dsRNA: (i) an in vitro system that combines the T7 RNA polymerase and the phi6 RdRP to generate dsRNA molecules of practically unlimited length, and (ii) an in vivo RNA replication system based on restricted infection with phi6 polymerase complexes in bacterial cells to produce virtually unlimited amounts of dsRNA. The pools of small interfering RNAs derived from dsRNA produced by these systems were validated and shown to efficiently decrease the expression of both exogenous and endogenous targets.
  • Sirkiä, Saija (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    The Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus L.) is often used as a focal species for landscape ecological studies: the minimum size for its lekking area is 300 ha, and the annual home range for an individual may cover 30 80 km2. In Finland, Capercaillie populations have decreased by approximately 40 85%, with the declines likely to have started in the 1940s. Although the declines have partly stabilized from the 1990s onwards, it is obvious that the negative population trend was at least partly caused by changes in human land use. The aim of this thesis was to study the connections between human land use and Capercaillie populations in Finland, using several spatial and temporal scales. First, the effect of forest age structure on Capercaillie population trends was studied in 18 forestry board districts in Finland, during 1965 1988. Second, the abundances of Capercaillie and Moose (Alces alces L.) were compared in terms of several land-use variables on a scale of 50 × 50 km grids and in five regions in Finland. Third, the effects of forest cover and fine-grain forest fragmentation on Capercaillie lekking area persistence were studied in three study locations in Finland, on 1000 and 3000 m spatial scales surrounding the leks. The analyses considering lekking areas were performed with two definitions for forest: > 60 and > 152 m3ha 1 of timber volume. The results show that patterns and processes at large spatial scales strongly influence Capercaillie in Finland. In particular, in southwestern and eastern Finland, high forest cover and low human impact were found to be beneficial for this species. Forest cover (> 60 m3ha 1 of timber) surrounding the lekking sites positively affected lekking area persistence only at the larger landscape scale (3000 m radius). The effects of older forest classes were hard to assess due to scarcity of older forests in several study areas. Young and middle-aged forest classes were common in the vicinity of areas with high Capercaillie abundances especially in northern Finland. The increase in the amount of younger forest classes did not provide a good explanation for Capercaillie population decline in 1965 1988. In addition, there was no significant connection between mature forests (> 152 m3ha 1 of timber) and lekking area persistence in Finland. It seems that in present-day Finnish landscapes, area covered with old forest is either too scarce to efficiently explain the abundance of Capercaillie and the persistence of the lekking areas, or the effect of forest age is only important when considering smaller spatial scales than the ones studied in this thesis. In conclusion, larger spatial scales should be considered for assessing the future Capercaillie management. According to the proposed multi-level planning, the first priority should be to secure the large, regional-scale forest cover, and the second priority should be to maintain fine-grained, heterogeneous structure within the separate forest patches. A management unit covering hundreds of hectares, or even tens or hundreds of square kilometers, should be covered, which requires regional-level land-use planning and co-operation between forest owners.
  • Reijonen, Sami (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    This thesis clarifies important molecular pathways that are activated during the cell death observed in Huntington’s disease. Huntington’s disease is one of the most common inherited neurodegenerative diseases, which is primarily inherited in an autosomal dominant manner. HD is caused by an expansion of CAG repeats in the first exon of the IT15 gene. IT15 encodes the production of a Huntington’s disease protein huntingtin. Mutation of the IT15 gene results in a long stretch of polyQ residues close to the amino-terminal region of huntingtin. Huntington’s disease is a fatal autosomal neurodegenerative disorder. Despite the current knowledge of HD, the precise mechanism behind the selective neuronal death, and how the disease propagates, still remains an enigma. The studies mainly focused on the control of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress triggered by the mutant huntingtin proteins. The ER is a delicate organelle having essential roles in protein folding and calcium regulation. Even the slightest perturbations on ER homeostasis are effective enough to trigger ER stress and its adaptation pathways, called unfolded protein response (UPR). UPR is essential for cellular homeostasis and it adapts ER to the changing environment and decreases ER stress. If adaptation processes fail and stress is excessive and prolonged; irreversible cell death pathways are engaged. The results showed that inhibition of ER stress with chemical agents are able to decrease cell death and formation of toxic cell aggregates caused by mutant huntingtin proteins. The study concentrated also to the NF-κB (nuclear factor-kappaB) pathway, which is activated during ER stress. NF-κB pathway is capable to regulate the levels of important cellular antioxidants. Cellular antioxidants provide a first line of defence against excess reactive oxygen species. Excess accumulation of reactive oxygen species and subsequent activation of oxidative stress damages motley of vital cellular processes and induce cell degeneration. Data showed that mutant huntingtin proteins downregulate the expression levels of NF-κB and vital antioxidants, which was followed by increased oxidative stress and cell death. Treatment with antioxidants and inhibition of oxidative stress were able to counteract these adverse effects. In addition, thesis connects ER stress caused by mutant huntingtin to the cytoprotective autophagy. Autophagy sustains cellular balance by degrading potentially toxic cell proteins and components observed in Huntington’s disease. The results revealed that cytoprotective autophagy is active at the early points (24h) of ER stress after expression of mutant huntingtin proteins. GADD34 (growth arrest and DNA damage-inducible gene 34), which is previously connected to the regulation of translation during cell stress, was shown to control the stimulation of autophagy. However, GADD34 and autophagy were downregulated at later time points (48h) during mutant huntingtin proteins induced ER stress, and subsequently cell survival decreased. Overexpression GADD34 enhanced autophagy and decreased cell death, indicating that GADD34 plays a critical role in cell protection. The thesis reveales new interesting data about the neuronal cell death pathways seen in Huntington’s disease, and how cell degeneration is partly counteracted by various therapeutic agents. Expression of mutant huntingtin proteins is shown to alter signaling events that control ER stress, oxidative stress and autophagy. Despite that Huntington’s disease is mainly an untreatable disorder; these findings offer potential targets and neuroprotective strategies in designing novel therapies for Huntington’s disease.
  • Mattsson, Tuija (2010)
    The terrestrial export of dissolved organic matter (DOM) is associated with climate, vegetation and land use, and thus is under the influence of climatic variability and human interference with terrestrial ecosystems, their soils and hydrological cycles. The present study provides an assessment of spatial variation of DOM concentrations and export, and interactions between DOM, catchment characteristics, land use and climatic factors in boreal catchments. The influence of catchment characteristics, land use and climatic drivers on the concentrations and export of total organic carbon (TOC), total organic nitrogen (TON) and dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP) was estimated using stream water quality, forest inventory and climatic data from 42 Finnish pristine forested headwater catchments, and water quality monitoring, GIS land use, forest inventory and climatic data from the 36 main Finnish rivers (and their sub-catchments) flowing to the Baltic Sea. Moreover, the export of DOM in relation to land use along a European climatic gradient was studied using river water quality and land use data from four European areas. Additionally, the role of organic and minerogenic acidity in controlling pH levels in Finnish rivers and pristine streams was studied by measuring organic anion, sulphate (SO4) and base cation (Ca, Mg, K and Na) concentrations. In all study catchments, TOC was a major fraction of DOM, with much lower proportions of TON and DOP. Moreover, most of TOC and TON was in a dissolved form. The correlation between TOC and TON concentrations was strong and TOC concentrations explained 78% of the variation in TON concentrations in pristine headwater streams. In a subgroup of 20 headwater catchments with similar climatic conditions and low N deposition in eastern Finland, the proportion of peatlands in the catchment and the proportion of Norway spruce (Picea abies Karsten) of the tree stand had the strongest correlation with the TOC and TON concentrations and export. In Finnish river basins, TOC export increased with the increasing proportion of peatland in the catchment, whereas TON export increased with increasing extent of agricultural land. The highest DOP concentrations and export were recorded in river basins with a high extent of agricultural land and urban areas, reflecting the influence of human impact on DOP loads. However, the most important predictor for TOC, TON and DOP export in Finnish rivers was the proportion of upstream lakes in the catchment. The higher the upstream lake percentage, the lower the export indicating organic matter retention in lakes. Molar TOC:TON ratio decreased from headwater catchments covered by forests and peatlands to the large river basins with mixed land use, emphasising the effect of the land use gradient on the stoichiometry of rivers. This study also demonstrated that the land use of the catchments is related to both organic and minerogenic acidity in rivers and pristine headwater streams. Organic anion dominated in rivers and streams situated in northern Finland, reflecting the higher extent of peatlands in these areas, whereas SO4 dominated in southern Finland and on western coastal areas, where the extent of fertile areas, agricultural land, urban areas, acid sulphate soils, and sulphate deposition is highest. High TOC concentrations decreased pH values in the stream and river water, whereas no correlation between SO4 concentrations and pH was observed. This underlines the importance of organic acids in controlling pH levels in Finnish pristine headwater streams and main rivers. High SO4 concentrations were associated with high base cation concentrations and fertile areas, which buffered the effects of SO4 on pH.
  • Peltoniemi, Krista (Finnish Society of Forest Science, 2010)
    Boreal peatlands represent a considerable portion of the global carbon (C) pool. Water-level drawdown (WLD) causes peatland drying and induces a vegetation change, which affects the decomposition of soil organic matter and the release of greenhouse gases (CO2 and CH4). The objective of this thesis was to study the microbial communities related to the C cycle and their response to WLD in two boreal peatlands. Both sampling depth and site type had a strong impact on all microbial communities. In general, bacteria dominated the deeper layers of the nutrient-rich fen and the wettest surfaces of the nutrient-poor bog sites, whereas fungi seemed more abundant in the drier surfaces of the bog. WLD clearly affected the microbial communities but the effect was dependent on site type. The fungal and methane-oxidizing bacteria (MOB) community composition changed at all sites but the actinobacterial community response was apparent only in the fen after WLD. Microbial communities became more similar among sites after long-term WLD. Litter quality had a large impact on community composition, whereas the effects of site type and WLD were relatively minor. The decomposition rate of fresh organic matter was influenced slightly by actinobacteria, but not at all by fungi. Field respiration measurements in the northern fen indicated that WLD accelerates the decomposition of soil organic matter. In addition, a correlation between activity and certain fungal sequences indicated that community composition affects the decomposition of older organic matter in deeper peat layers. WLD had a negative impact on CH4 oxidation, especially in the oligotrophic fen. Fungal sequences were matched to taxa capable of utilizing a broad range of substrates. Most of the actinobacterial sequences could not be matched to characterized taxa in reference databases. This thesis represents the first investigation of microbial communities and their response to WLD among a variety of boreal peatland habitats. The results indicate that microbial community responses to WLD are complex but dependent on peatland type, litter quality, depth, and variable among microbes.
  • Rantakari, Miitta (2010)
    Lakes are an important component of ecosystem carbon cycle through both organic carbon sequestration and carbon dioxide and methane emissions, although they cover only a small fraction of the Earth's surface area. Lake sediments are considered to be one of rather perma-nent sinks of carbon in boreal regions and furthermore, freshwater ecosystems process large amounts of carbon originating from terrestrial sources. These carbon fluxes are highly uncer-tain especially in the changing climate. -- The present study provides a large-scale view on carbon sources and fluxes in boreal lakes situated in different landscapes. We present carbon concentrations in water, pools in lake se-diments, and carbon gas (CO2 and CH4) fluxes from lakes. The study is based on spatially extensive and randomly selected Nordic Lake Survey (NLS) database with 874 lakes. The large database allows the identification of the various factors (lake size, climate, and catchment land use) determining lake water carbon concentrations, pools and gas fluxes in different types of lakes along a latitudinal gradient from 60oN to 69oN. Lakes in different landscapes vary in their carbon quantity and quality. Carbon (C) content (total organic and inorganic carbon) in lakes is highest in agriculture and peatland dominated areas. In peatland rich areas organic carbon dominated in lakes but in agricultural areas both organic and inorganic C concentrations were high. Total inorganic carbon in the lake water was strongly dependent on the bedrock and soil quality in the catchment, especially in areas where human influence in the catchment is low. In inhabited areas both agriculture and habitation in the catchment increase lake TIC concentrations, since in the disturbed soils both weathering and leaching are presumably more efficient than in pristine areas. TOC concentrations in lakes were related to either catchment sources, mainly peatlands, or to retention in the upper watercourses. Retention as a regulator of the TOC concentrations dominated in southern Finland, whereas the peatland sources were important in northern Finland. The homogeneous land use in the north and the restricted catchment sources of TOC contribute to the close relationship between peatlands and the TOC concentrations in the northern lakes. In southern Finland the more favorable climate for degradation and the multiple sources of TOC in the mixed land use highlight the importance of retention. Carbon processing was intensive in the small lakes. Both CO2 emission and the Holocene C pool in sediments per square meter of the lake area were highest in the smallest lakes. How-ever, because the total area of the small lakes on the areal level is limited, the large lakes are important units in C processing in the landscape. Both CO2 and CH4 concentrations and emissions were high in eutrophic lakes. High availability of nutrients and the fresh organic matter enhance degradation in these lakes. Eutrophic lakes are often small and shallow, enabling high contact between the water column and the sediment. At the landscape level, the lakes in agricultural areas are often eutrophic due to fertile soils and fertilization of the catchments, and therefore they also showed the highest CO2 and CH4 concentrations. Export from the catchments and in-lake degradation were suggested to be equally important sources of CO2 and CH4 in fall when the lake water column was intensively mixed and the transport of sub-stances from the catchment was high due to the rainy season. In the stagnant periods, especially in the winter, in-lake degradation as a gas source was highlighted due to minimal mixing and limited transport of C from the catchment. The strong relationship between the annual CO2 level of lakes and the annual precipitation suggests that climate change can have a major impact on C cycling in the catchments. Increase in precipitation enhances DOC export from the catchments and leads to increasing greenhouse gas emissions from lakes. The total annual CO2 emission from Finnish lakes was estimated to be 1400 Gg C a-1. The total lake sediment C pool in Finland was estimated to be 0.62 Pg, giving an annual sink in Finnish lakes of 65 Gg C a-1.
  • Kolari, Pasi (2010)
    The forest vegetation takes up atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) in photosynthesis. Part of the fixed carbon is released back into the atmosphere during plant respiration but a substantial part is stored as plant biomass, especially in the stems of trees. Carbon also accumulates in the soil as litter and via the roots. CO2 is released into the atmosphere from these carbon stocks in the decomposition of dead biomass. Carbon balance of a forest stand is the difference between the CO2 uptake and CO2 efflux. This study quantifies and analyses the dynamics of carbon balance and component CO2 fluxes in four Southern Finnish Scots pine stands that covered the typical economic rotation time of 80 years. The study was based on direct flux measurements with chambers and eddy covariance (EC), and modelling of component CO2 fluxes. The net CO2 exchange of the stand was partitioned into component fluxes: photosynthesis of trees and ground vegetation, respiration of tree foliage and stems, and CO2 efflux from the soil. The relationships between the component fluxes and the environmental factors (light, temperature, atmospheric CO2, air humidity and soil moisture) were studied with mathematical modelling. The annual CO2 balance varied from a source of about 400 g C/m2 at a recently clearcut site to net CO2 uptake of 200 300 g C/m2 in a middle-aged (40-year-old) and a mature (75-year-old) stand. A 12-year-old sapling site was at the turning point from source to a sink of CO2. In the middle-aged stand, photosynthetic production was dominated by trees. Under closed pine canopies, ground vegetation accounted for 10 20% of stand photosynthesis whereas at the open sites the proportion and also the absolute photosynthesis of ground vegetation was much higher. The aboveground respiration was dominated by tree foliage which accounted for one third of the ecosystem respiration. Rate of wood respiration was in the order of 10% of total ecosystem respiration. CO2 efflux from the soil dominated the ecosystem respiratory fluxes in all phases of stand development. Instantaneous and delayed responses to the environmental driving factors could predict well within-year variability in photosynthetic production: In the short term and during the growing season photosynthesis follows primarily light while the seasonal variation is more strongly connected to temperature. The temperature relationship of the annual cycle of photosynthesis was found to be almost equal in the southern boreal zone and at the timberline in the northern boreal zone. The respiratory fluxes showed instantaneous and seasonal temperature relationships but they could also be connected to photosynthesis at an annual timescale.
  • Koskinen, Sanna (Nuorisotutkimusseura, 2010)
    Children and young people as environmental citizens the environmental education perspective to participation This doctoral thesis examines the participation of children and young people in developing their own environment at school, as a part of environmental education. The aim of the research is to assess and consider children and young people s environmentally responsible participation and its effectiveness in relation to the participants own learning and the end results of the participation. The research combines the perspectives of environmental education and citizenship education through the concept of environmental citizenship. Environmental education, which enhances environmental citizenship, offers children and young people the possibility to be active citizens and learn about citizenship in their own lives by taking action themselves. The research is made up of two parts which complement each other. The first part consists of an action research carried out in the Joensuu Lyseo Upper Secondary School, where an environmental education course with a traffic-related theme was planned, developed and evaluated. The second part is made up of an interview survey carried out in Helsinki. In the survey actors from schools and various city offices, who were involved in development projects of school environments, were interviewed. According to the research results, all-round cooperation and more open relations with those outside of the school environment are important ways to support environmental citizenship in schools. Thus, environmentally responsible participation offers a chance to learn competence that an environmental citizen needs the knowledge, skills and willingness to act that have not been successfully taught through traditional school education. The research introduces a model of environmentally responsible participation as a learning process, in which learning is studied through the development of competence, self-empowerment and social empowerment. The model makes the context of environmental education visible and puts emphasis on reflection in the learning process. A central factor in children and young people s self-empowerment is the sense of being heard and taken into consideration. At the moment children and young people s rights to participate are strong, due to legislation, school curricula, and several national and international agreements. Despite this, involving them in developing their own immediate surroundings has not become a part of schools and planning organisations daily life and established methods. Reasons for this situation can be found in the lack of regard and resources for these matters, in the complex nature of planning and a long time frame, and the problems of ownership and of reaching each other. Central to overcoming these obstacles are a gradual change in conduct and mentalities and the strengthening of teachers and officials competence. Children and young people need different ways and methods of varying levels of involvement, structures and arenas which enable participation and in which environmental citizenship can be realized. Key words: environmental citizenship, environmental education, citizenship education, children and young people s participation, social learning, self-empowerment, social empowerment, school, community planning
  • Tselykh, Timofey (2009)
    Cell proliferation, transcription and metabolism are regulated by complex partly overlapping signaling networks involving proteins in various subcellular compartments. The objective of this study was to increase our knowledge on such regulatory networks and their interrelationships through analysis of MrpL55, Vig, and Mat1 representing three gene products implicated in regulation of cell cycle, transcription, and metabolism. Genome-wide and biochemical in vitro studies have previously revealed MrpL55 as a component of the large subunit of the mitochondrial ribosome and demonstrated a possible role for the protein in cell cycle regulation. Vig has been implicated in heterochromatin formation and identified as a constituent of the RNAi-induced silencing complex (RISC) involved in cell cycle regulation and RNAi-directed transcriptional gene silencing (TGS) coupled to RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) transcription. Mat1 has been characterized as a regulatory subunit of cyclin-dependent kinase 7 (Cdk7) complex phosphorylating and regulating critical targets involved in cell cycle progression, energy metabolism and transcription by RNAPII. The first part of the study explored whether mRpL55 is required for cell viability or involved in a regulation of energy metabolism and cell proliferation. The results revealed a dynamic requirement of the essential Drosophila mRpL55 gene during development and suggested a function of MrpL55 in cell cycle control either at the G1/S or G2/M transition prior to cell differentiation. This first in vivo characterization of a metazoan-specific constituent of the large subunit of mitochondrial ribosome also demonstrated forth compelling evidence of the interconnection of nuclear and mitochondrial genomes as well as complex functions of the evolutionarily young metazoan-specific mitochondrial ribosomal proteins. In studies on the Drosophila RISC complex regulation, it was noted that Vig, a protein involved in heterochromatin formation, unlike other analyzed RISC associated proteins Argonaute2 and R2D2, is dynamically phosphorylated in a dsRNA-independent manner. Vig displays similarity with a known in vivo substrate for protein kinase C (PKC), human chromatin remodeling factor Ki-1/57, and is efficiently phosphorylated by PKC on multiple sites in vitro. These results suggest that function of the RISC complex protein Vig in RNAi-directed TGS and chromatin modification may be regulated through dsRNA-independent phosphorylation by PKC. In the third part of this study the role of Mat1 in regulating RNAPII transcription was investigated using cultured murine immortal fibroblasts with a conditional allele of Mat1. The results demonstrated that phosphorylation of the carboxy-terminal domain (CTD) of the large subunit of RNAPII in the heptapeptide YSPTSPS repeat in Mat-/- cells was over 10-fold reduced on Serine-5 and subsequently on Serine-2. Occupancy of the hypophosphorylated RNAPII in gene bodies was detectably decreased, whereas capping, splicing, histone methylation and mRNA levels were generally not affected. However, a subset of transcripts in absence of Mat1 was repressed and associated with decreased occupancy of RNAPII at promoters as well as defective capping. The results identify the Cdk7-CycH-Mat1 kinase submodule of TFIIH as a stimulatory non-essential regulator of transcriptional elongation and a genespecific essential factor for stable binding of RNAPII at the promoter region and capping. The results of these studies suggest important roles for both MrpL55 and Mat1 in cell cycle progression and their possible interplay at the G2/M stage in undifferentiated cells. The identified function of Mat1 and of TFIIH kinase complex in gene-specific transcriptional repression is challenging for further studies in regard to a possible link to Vig and RISC-mediated transcriptional gene silencing.
  • Hallikas, Outi (National Institute for Health and Welfare, 2009)
    Growth is a fundamental aspect of life cycle of all organisms. Body size varies highly in most animal groups, such as mammals. Moreover, growth of a multicellular organism is not uniform enlargement of size, but different body parts and organs grow to their characteristic sizes at different times. Currently very little is known about the molecular mechanisms governing this organ-specific growth. The genome sequencing projects have provided complete genomic DNA sequences of several species over the past decade. The amount of genomic sequence information, including sequence variants within species, is constantly increasing. Based on the universal genetic code, we can make sense of this sequence information as far as it codes proteins. However, less is known about the molecular mechanisms that control expression of genes, and about the variations in gene expression that underlie many pathological states in humans. This is caused in part by lack of information about the second genetic code that consists of the binding specificities of transcription factors and the combinatorial code by which transcription factor binding sites are assembled to form tissue-specific and/or ligand-regulated enhancer elements. This thesis presents a high-throughput assay for identification of transcription factor binding specificities, which were then used to measure the DNA binding profiles of transcription factors involved in growth control. We developed ‘enhancer element locator’, a computational tool, which can be used to predict functional enhancer elements. A genome-wide prediction of human and mouse enhancer elements generated a large database of enhancer elements. This database can be used to identify target genes of signaling pathways, and to predict activated transcription factors based on changes in gene expression. Predictions validated in transgenic mouse embryos revealed the presence of multiple tissue-specific enhancers in mouse c- and N-Myc genes, which has implications to organ specific growth control and tumor type specificity of oncogenes. Furthermore, we were able to locate a variation in a single nucleotide, which carries a susceptibility to colorectal cancer, to an enhancer element and propose a mechanism by which this SNP might be involved in generation of colorectal cancer.
  • Norrmén, Camilla (Helsingin yliopisto, 2009)
    The blood vascular system is a closed circulatory system, responsible for delivering oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. In contrast, the lymphatic vascular system is a blind-ended transport system that collects the extravasated tissue fluid from the capillary beds, and transports it back to the blood circulation. Failure in collecting or transporting the lymph, due to defects in the lymphatic vasculature, leads to accumulation of extra fluid in the tissues, and consequently to tissue swelling lymphedema. The two vascular systems function in concert. They are structurally related, but their development is regulated by separate, however overlapping, molecular mechanisms. During embryonic development, blood vessels are formed by vasculogenesis and angiogenesis, processes largely mediated by members of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) family and their tyrosine kinase receptors. The lymphatic vessels are formed after the cardiovascular system is already functional. This process, called lymphangiogenesis, is controlled by distinct members of the VEGF family, together with the transcription factors Prox1 and Sox18. After the primary formation of the vessels, the vasculature needs to mature and remodel into a functional network of hierarchically organized vessels: the blood vasculature into arteries, capillaries and veins; and the lymphatic vasculature into lymphatic capillaries, responsible for the uptake of the extravasated fluid from the tissues, and collecting vessels, responsible for the transport of the lymph back to the blood circulation. A major event in the maturation of the lymphatic vasculature is the formation of collecting lymphatic vessels. These vessels are characterized by the presence of intraluminal valves, preventing backflow of the lymph, and a sparse coverage of smooth muscle cells, which help in pumping the lymph forward. In our study, we have characterized the molecular and morphological events leading to formation of collecting lymphatic vessels. We found that this process is regulated cooperatively by the transcription factors Foxc2 and NFATc1. Mice lacking either Foxc2 or active NFATc1 fail to remodel the primary lymphatic plexus into functional lymphatic capillaries and collecting vessels. The resulting vessels lack valves, display abnormal expression of lymphatic molecules, and are hyperplastic. Moreover, the lymphatic capillaries show aberrant sprouting, and are abnormally covered with smooth muscle cells. In humans, mutations in FOXC2 lead to Lymphedema-Distichiasis (LD), a disabling disease characterized by swelling of the limbs due to insufficient lymphatic function. Our results from Foxc2 mutant mice and LD patients indicate that the underlying cause for lymphatic failure in LD is agenesis of collecting lymphatic valves and aberrant recruitment of periendothelial cells and basal lamina components to lymphatic capillaries. Furthermore, we show that liprin β1, a poorly characterized member of the liprin family of cytoplasmic proteins, is highly expressed in lymphatic endothelial cells in vivo, and is required for lymphatic vessel integrity. These data highlight the important role of FOXC2, NFATc1 and liprin β1 in the regulation of lymphatic development, specifically in the maturation and formation of the collecting lymphatic vessels. As damage to collecting vessels is a major cause of lymphatic dysfunction in humans, our results also suggest that FOXC2 and NFATc1 are potential targets for therapeutic intervention.
  • Jaatinen, Silja (Silja Jaatinen, 2009)
    In this thesis three icosahedral lipid-containing double-stranded (ds) deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) bacteriophages have been studied: PRD1, Bam35 and P23-77. The work focuses on the entry, exit and structure of the viruses. PRD1 is the type member of the Tectiviridae family, infecting a variety of Gram-negative bacteria. The PRD1 receptor binding complex, consisting of the penton protein P31, the spike protein P5 and the receptor binding protein P2 recognizes a specific receptor on the host surface. In this study we found that the transmembrane protein P16 has an important stabilization function as the fourth member of the receptor binding complex and protein P16 may have a role in the formation of a tubular membrane structure, which is needed in the ejection of the genome into the cell. Phage Bam35 (Tectiviridae), which infects Gram-positive hosts, has been earlier found to resemble PRD1 in morphology and genome organization The uncharacterized early and late events in the Bam35 life cycle were studied by electrochemical methods. Physiological changes in the beginning of the infection were found to be similar in both lysogenic and nonlysogenic cell lines, Bam35 inducing a temporal decrease of membrane voltage and K+ efflux. At the end of the infection cycle physiological changes were observed only in the nonlysogenic cell line. The strong K+ efflux 40 min after infection and the induced premature cell lysis propose that Bam35 has a similar holin-endolysin lysis system to that of PRD1. Thermophilic icosahedral dsDNA Thermus phages P23-65H, P23-72 and P23-77 have been proposed to belong to the Tectiviridae family. In this study these phages were compared to each other. Analysis of structural protein patterns and stability revealed these phages to be very similar but not identical. The most stable of the studied viruses, P23-77, was further analyzed in more detail. Cryo-electron microscopy and three-dimensional image reconstruction was used to determine the structure of virus to 14 Å resolution. Results of thin layer chromatography for neutral lipids together with analysis of the three dimensional reconstruction of P23-77 virus particle revealed the presence of an internal lipid membrane. The overall capsid architecture of P23-77 is similar to PRD1 and Bam35, but most closely it resembles the structure of the capsid of archaeal virus SH1. This complicates the classification of dsDNA, internal lipid-containing icosahedral viruses.
  • Paveliev, Mikhail (2008)
    Neurotrophic factors (NTFs) and the extracellular matrix (ECM) are important regulators of axonal growth and neuronal survival in mammalian nervous system. Understanding of the mechanisms of this regulation is crucial for the development of posttraumatic therapies and drug intervention in the injured nervous system. NTFs act as soluble, target-derived extracellular regulatory molecules for a wide range of physiological functions including axonal guidance and the regulation of programmed cell death in the nervous system. The ECM determines cell adhesion and regulates multiple physiological functions via short range cell-matrix interactions. The present work focuses on the mechanisms of the action of NTFs and the ECM on axonal growth and survival of cultured sensory neurons from dorsal root ganglia (DRG). We first examined signaling mechanisms of the action of the glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) family ligands (GFLs) on axonal growth. GDNF, neurturin (NRTN) and artemin (ART) but not persephin (PSPN) promoted axonal initiation in cultured DRG neurons from young adult mice. This effect required Src family kinase (SFK) activity. In neurons from GFRalpha2-deficient mice, NRTN did not significantly promote axonal initiation. GDNF and NRTN induced extensive lamellipodia formation on neuronal somata and growth cones. This study suggested that GDNF, NRTN and ARTN may serve as stimulators of nerve regeneration under posttraumatic conditions. Consequently we studied the convergence of signaling pathways induced by NTFs and the ECM molecule laminin in the intracellular signaling network that regulates axonal growth. We demonstrated that co-stimulation of DRG neurons with NTFs (GDNF, NRTN or nerve growth factor (NGF)) and laminin leads to axonal growth that requires activation of SFKs. A different, SFK-independent signaling pathway evoked axonal growth on laminin in the absence of the NTFs. In contrast, axonal branching was regulated by SFKs both in the presence and in the absence of NGF. We proposed and experimentally verified a Boolean model of the signaling network triggered by NTFs and laminin. Our results put forward an approach for predictable, Boolean logics-driven pharmacological manipulation of a complex signaling network. Finally we found that N-syndecan, the receptor for the ECM component HB-GAM was required for the survival of neonatal sensory neurons in vitro. We demonstrated massive cell death of cultured DRG neurons from mice deficient in the N-syndecan gene as compared to wild type controls. Importantly, this cell death could not be prevented by NGF the neurotrophin which activates multiple anti-apoptotic cascades in DRG neurons. The survival deficit was observed during first postnatal week. By contrast, DRG neurons from young adult N-syndecan knock-out mice exhibited normal survival. This study identifies a completely new syndecan-dependent type of signaling that regulates cell death in neurons.