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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Peltoniemi, Mikko (2007)
    The increase in global temperature has been attributed to increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG), mainly that of CO2. The threat of severe and complex socio-economic and ecological implications of climate change have initiated an international process that aims to reduce emissions, to increase C sinks, and to protect existing C reservoirs. The famous Kyoto protocol is an offspring of this process. The Kyoto protocol and its accords state that signatory countries need to monitor their forest C pools, and to follow the guidelines set by the IPCC in the preparation, reporting and quality assessment of the C pool change estimates. The aims of this thesis were i) to estimate the changes in carbon stocks vegetation and soil in the forests in Finnish forests from 1922 to 2004, ii) to evaluate the applied methodology by using empirical data, iii) to assess the reliability of the estimates by means of uncertainty analysis, iv) to assess the effect of forest C sinks on the reliability of the entire national GHG inventory, and finally, v) to present an application of model-based stratification to a large-scale sampling design of soil C stock changes. The applied methodology builds on the forest inventory measured data (or modelled stand data), and uses statistical modelling to predict biomasses and litter productions, as well as a dynamic soil C model to predict the decomposition of litter. The mean vegetation C sink of Finnish forests from 1922 to 2004 was 3.3 Tg C a-1, and in soil was 0.7 Tg C a-1. Soil is slowly accumulating C as a consequence of increased growing stock and unsaturated soil C stocks in relation to current detritus input to soil that is higher than in the beginning of the period. Annual estimates of vegetation and soil C stock changes fluctuated considerably during the period, were frequently opposite (e.g. vegetation was a sink but soil was a source). The inclusion of vegetation sinks into the national GHG inventory of 2003 increased its uncertainty from between -4% and 9% to ± 19% (95% CI), and further inclusion of upland mineral soils increased it to ± 24%. The uncertainties of annual sinks can be reduced most efficiently by concentrating on the quality of the model input data. Despite the decreased precision of the national GHG inventory, the inclusion of uncertain sinks improves its accuracy due to the larger sectoral coverage of the inventory. If the national soil sink estimates were prepared by repeated soil sampling of model-stratified sample plots, the uncertainties would be accounted for in the stratum formation and sample allocation. Otherwise, the increases of sampling efficiency by stratification remain smaller. The highly variable and frequently opposite annual changes in ecosystem C pools imply the importance of full ecosystem C accounting. If forest C sink estimates will be used in practice average sink estimates seem a more reasonable basis than the annual estimates. This is due to the fact that annual forest sinks vary considerably and annual estimates are uncertain, and they have severe consequences for the reliability of the total national GHG balance. The estimation of average sinks should still be based on annual or even more frequent data due to the non-linear decomposition process that is influenced by the annual climate. The methodology used in this study to predict forest C sinks can be transferred to other countries with some modifications. The ultimate verification of sink estimates should be based on comparison to empirical data, in which case the model-based stratification presented in this study can serve to improve the efficiency of the sampling design.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Nurminen, Tuula (2006)
    The purpose of this thesis project is to study changes in the physical state of cell membranes during cell entry, including how these changes are connected to the presence of ceramide. The role of enzymatical manipulation of lipids in bacterial internalization is also studied. A novel technique, where a single giant vesicle is chosen under the microscope and an enzyme coupled-particle attached to the micromanipulator pipette towards the vesicle, is used. Thus, the enzymatic reaction on the membrane of the giant vesicle can be followed in real-time. The first aim of this study is to develop a system where the localized sphingomyelinase membrane interaction could be observed on the surface of the giant vesicle and the effects could be monitored with microscopy. Domain formation, which resembles acid sphingomyelinase (ASMase), causes CD95 clustering in the cell membrane due to ceramide production (Grassmé et al., 2001a; Grassmé et al., 2001b) and the formation of small vesicles inside the manipulated giant vesicle is observed. Sphingomyelinase activation has also been found to be an important factor in the bacterial and viral invasion process in nonphagocytic cells (Grassmé et al., 1997; Jan et al., 2000). Accordingly, sphingomyelinase reactions in the cell membrane might also give insight into bacterial or viral cellular entry events. We found sphingomyelinase activity in Chlamydia pneumonia elementarybodies (EBs). Interestingly, the bacterium enters host cells by endocytosis but the internalization mechanism of Chlamydia is unknown. The hypothesis is that sphingomyelin is needed for host cell entry in the infection of C. pneumonia. The second project focuses on this subject. The goal of the third project is to study a role of phosphatidylserine as a target for a membrane binding protein. Phosphatidylserine is chosen because of its importance in fusion processes. This will be another example for the importance of lipids in cell targeting, internalization, and externalization.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Golubtsov, Andrey (Edita, 2008)
    Replication and transcription of the RNA genome of alphaviruses relies on a set of virus-encoded nonstructural proteins. They are synthesized as a long polyprotein precursor, P1234, which is cleaved at three processing sites to yield nonstructural proteins nsP1, nsP2, nsP3 and nsP4. All the four proteins function as constitutive components of the membrane-associated viral replicase. Proteolytic processing of P1234 polyprotein is precisely orchestrated and coordinates the replicase assembly and maturation. The specificity of the replicase is also controlled by proteolytic cleavages. The early replicase is composed of P123 polyprotein intermediate and nsP4. It copies the positive sense RNA genome to complementary minus-strand. Production of new plus-strands requires complete processing of the replicase. The papain-like protease residing in nsP2 is responsible for all three cleavages in P1234. This study addressed the mechanisms of proteolytic processing of the replicase polyprotein in two alphaviruses Semliki Forest virus (SFV) and Sindbis virus (SIN) representing different branches of the genus. The survey highlighted the functional relation of the alphavirus nsP2 protease to the papain-like enzymes. A new structural motif the Cys-His catalytic dyad accompanied with an aromatic residue following the catalytic His was described for nsP2 and a subset of other thiol proteases. Such an architecture of the catalytic center was named the glycine specificity motif since it was implicated in recognition of a specific Gly residue in the substrate. In particular, the presence of the motif in nsP2 makes the appearance of this amino acid at the second position upstream of the scissile bond a necessary condition for the cleavage. On top of that, there were four distinct mechanisms identified, which provide affinity for the protease and specifically direct the enzyme to different sites in the P1234 polyprotein. Three factors RNA, the central domain of nsP3 and the N-terminus of nsP2 were demonstrated to be external modulators of the nsP2 protease. Here I suggest that the basal nsP2 protease specificity is inherited from the ancestral papain-like enzyme and employs the recognition of the upstream amino acid signature in the immediate vicinity of the scissile bond. This mechanism is responsible for the efficient processing of the SFV nsP3/nsP4 junction. I propose that the same mechanism is involved in the cleavage of the nsP1/nsP2 junction of both viruses as well. However, in this case it rather serves to position the substrate, whereas the efficiency of the processing is ensured by the capability of nsP2 to cut its own N-terminus in cis. Both types of cleavages are demonstrated here to be inhibited by RNA, which is interpreted as impairing the basal papain-like recognition of the substrate. In contrast, processing of the SIN nsP3/nsP4 junction was found to be activated by RNA and additionally potentiated by the presence of the central region of nsP3 in the protease. The processing of the nsP2/nsP3 junction in both viruses occurred via another mechanism, requiring the exactly processed N-terminus of nsP2 in the protease and insensitive to RNA addition. Therefore, the three processing events in the replicase polyprotein maturation are performed via three distinct mechanisms in each of two studied alphaviruses. Distinct sets of conditions required for each cleavage ensure sequential maturation of P1234 polyprotein: nsP4 is released first, then the nsP1/nsP2 site is cut in cis, and liberation of the nsP2 N-terminus activates the cleavage of the nsP2/nsP3 junction at last. The first processing event occurs differently in SFV and SIN, whereas the subsequent cleavages are found to be similar in the two viruses and therefore, their mechanisms are suggested to be conserved in the genus. The RNA modulation of the alphavirus nonstructural protease activity, discovered here, implies bidirectional functional interplay between the alphavirus RNA metabolism and protease regulation. The nsP2 protease emerges as a signal transmitting moiety, which senses the replication stage and responds with proteolytic cleavages. A detailed hypothetical model of the alphavirus replicase core was inferred from the data obtained in the study. Similar principles in replicase organization and protease functioning are expected to be employed by other RNA viruses.
  • Koivunen, Minni (Helsingin yliopisto, 2006)
    For most RNA viruses RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RdRPs) encoded by the virus are responsible for the entire RNA metabolism. Thus, RdRPs are critical components in the viral life cycle. However, it is not fully understood how these important enzymes function during viral replication. Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) viruses perform the synthesis of their RNA genome within a proteinacous viral particle containing an RdRP as a minor constituent. The phi6 bacteriophage is the best-studied dsRNA virus, providing an excellent background for studies of its RNA synthesis. The purified recombinant phi6 RdRP is highly active in vitro and it possesses both RNA replication and transcription activities. The crystal structure of the phi6 polymerase, solved in complex with a number of ligands, provides a working model for detailed in vitro studies of RNA-dependent RNA polymerization. In this thesis, the primer-independent initiation of the phi6 RdRP was studied in vitro using biochemical and structural methods. A C-terminal, four-amino-acid-long loop protruding into the central cavity of the phi6 RdRP has been suggested to stabilize the incoming nucleotides of the initiation complex formation through stacking interactions. A similar structural element has been found from several other viral RdRPs. In this thesis, this so-called initiation platform loop was subjected to site-directed mutagenesis to address its role in the initiation. It was found that the initiation mode of the mutants is primer-dependent, requiring either an oligonucleotide primer or a back-priming initiation mechanism for the RNA synthesis. The crystal structure of a mutant RdRP with altered initiation platform revealed a set of contacts important for primer-independent initiation. Since phi6 RdRP is structurally and functionally homologous to several viral RdRPs, among them the hepatitis C virus RdRP, these results provide further general insight to understand primer-independent initiation. In this study it is demonstrated that manganese phasing could be used as a practical tool for solving structures of large proteins with a bound manganese ion. The phi6 RdRP was used as a case study to obtain phases for crystallographic analysis. Manganese ions are naturally bound to the phi6 RdRP at the palm domain of the enzyme. In a crystallographic experiment, X-ray diffraction data from a phi6 RdRP crystal were collected at a wavelength of 1.89 Å, which is the K edge of manganese. With this data an automatically built model of the core region of the protein could be obtained. Finally, in this work terminal nucleotidyl transferase (TNTase) activity of the phi6 RdRP was documented in the isolated polymerase as well as in the viral particle. This is the first time that such an activity has been reported in a polymerase of a dsRNA virus. The phi6 RdRP used uridine triphosphates as the sole substrate in a TNTase reaction but could accept several heterologous templates. The RdRP was able to add one or a few non-templated nucleotides to the 3' end of the single- or double-stranded RNA substrate. Based on the results on particle-mediated TNTase activity and previous structural information of the polymerase, a model for termination of the RNA-dependent RNA synthesis is suggested in this thesis.
  • 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.
  • 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.