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Background: Exposure to arsenic is a critical risk factor in the complex interplay among genetics, the environment, and human disease. Despite the potential for in utero exposure, the mechanism of arsenic action on vertebrate development and disease is unknown.
Objectives: The objective of this study was to identify genes and gene networks perturbed by arsenic during development in order to enhance understanding of the molecular mechanisms of arsenic action.
Methods: We exposed zebrafish embryos at 0.25–1.25 hr postfertilization to 10 or 100 ppb arsenic for 24 or 48 hr. We then used total RNA to interrogate genome microarrays and to test levels of gene expression changes by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (QPCR). Computational analysis was used to identify gene expression networks perturbed by arsenic during vertebrate development.
Results: We identified a set of 99 genes that responded to low levels of arsenic. Nineteen of these genes were predicted to function in a common regulatory network that was significantly associated with immune response and cancer (p < 10). Arsenic-mediated expression changes were validated by QPCR.
Conclusions: In this study we demonstrated that arsenic significantly down-regulates expression levels of multiple genes potentially critical for regulating the establishment of an immune response. The data also provide molecular evidence consistent with phenotypic observations reported in other model systems. Additional mechanistic studies will help explain molecular events regulating early stages of the immune system and long-term consequences of arsenic-mediated perturbation of this system during development.
Objective: The biological effects of the herbicide atrazine on freshwater vertebrates are highly controversial. In an effort to resolve the controversy, we conducted a qualitative meta-analysis on the effects of ecologically relevant atrazine concentrations on amphibian and fish survival, behavior, metamorphic traits, infections, and immune, endocrine, and reproductive systems.
Data sources: We used published, peer-reviewed research and applied strict quality criteria for inclusion of studies in the meta-analysis.
Data synthesis: We found little evidence that atrazine consistently caused direct mortality of fish or amphibians, but we found evidence that it can have indirect and sublethal effects. The relationship between atrazine concentration and timing of amphibian metamorphosis was regularly nonmonotonic, indicating that atrazine can both accelerate and delay metamorphosis. Atrazine reduced size at or near metamorphosis in 15 of 17 studies and 14 of 14 species. Atrazine elevated amphibian and fish activity in 12 of 13 studies, reduced antipredator behaviors in 6 of 7 studies, and reduced olfactory abilities for fish but not for amphibians. Atrazine was associated with a reduction in 33 of 43 immune function end points and with an increase in 13 of 16 infection end points. Atrazine altered at least one aspect of gonadal morphology in 7 of 10 studies and consistently affected gonadal function, altering spermatogenesis in 2 of 2 studies and sex hormone concentrations in 6 of 7 studies. Atrazine did not affect vitellogenin in 5 studies and increased aromatase in only 1 of 6 studies. Effects of atrazine on fish and amphibian reproductive success, sex ratios, gene frequencies, populations, and communities remain uncertain.
Conclusions: Although there is much left to learn about the effects of atrazine, we identified several consistent effects of atrazine that must be weighed against any of its benefits and the costs and benefits of alternatives to atrazine use.
Background: Despite the significant disease burden of the influenza virus in humans, our understanding of the basis for its pronounced seasonality remains incomplete. Past observations that influenza epidemics occur in the winter across temperate climates, combined with insufficient knowledge about the epidemiology of influenza in the tropics, led to the perception that cool and dry conditions were a necessary, and possibly sufficient, driver of influenza epidemics. Recent reports of substantial levels of influenza virus activity and well-defined seasonality in tropical regions, where warm and humid conditions often persist year-round, have rendered previous hypotheses insufficient for explaining global patterns of influenza.
Objective: In this review, we examined the scientific evidence for the seasonal mechanisms that potentially explain the complex seasonal patterns of influenza disease activity observed globally.
Methods: In this review we assessed the strength of a range of hypotheses that attempt to explain observations of influenza seasonality across different latitudes and how they relate to each other. We reviewed studies describing population-scale observations, mathematical models, and ecological, laboratory, and clinical experiments pertaining to influenza seasonality. The literature review includes studies that directly mention the topic of influenza seasonality, as well as other topics we believed to be relevant. We also developed an analytical framework that highlights the complex interactions among environmental stimuli, mediating mechanisms, and the seasonal timing of influenza epidemics and identify critical areas for further research.
Conclusions: The central questions in influenza seasonality remain unresolved. Future research is particularly needed in tropical localities, where our understanding of seasonality remains poor, and will require a combination of experimental and observational studies. Further understanding of the environmental factors that drive influenza circulation also may be useful to predict how dynamics will be affected at regional levels by global climate change.
Background: Contaminants have been implicated in declines of amphibians, a taxon with vital systems similar to those of humans. However, many chemicals have not been thoroughly tested on amphibians or do not directly kill them.
Objective: Our goal in this study was to quantify amphibian responses to chlorothalonil, the most commonly used synthetic fungicide in the United States.
Methods: We reared Rana sphenocephala (southern leopard frog) and Osteopilus septentrionalis (Cuban treefrog) in outdoor mesocosms with or without 1 time (1×) and 2 times (2×) the expected environmental concentration (EEC) of chlorothalonil (~ 164 μg/L). We also conducted two dose–response experiments on O. septentrionalis, Hyla squirella (squirrel treefrog), Hyla cinerea (green treefrog), and R. sphenocephala and evaluated the effects of chlorothalonil on the stress hormone corticosterone.
Results: For both species in the mesocosm experiment, the 1× and 2× EEC treatments were associated with > 87% and 100% mortality, respectively. In the laboratory experiments, the approximate EEC caused 100% mortality of all species within 24 hr; 82 μg/L killed 100% of R. sphenocephala, and 0.0164 μg/L caused significant tadpole mortality of R. sphenocephala and H. cinerea. Three species showed a nonmonotonic dose response, with low and high concentrations causing significantly greater mortality than did intermediate concentrations or control treatments. For O. septentrionalis, corticosterone exhibited a similar nonmonotonic dose response and chlorothalonil concentration was inversely associated with liver tissue and immune cell densities (< 16.4 μg/L).
Conclusions: Chlorothalonil killed nearly every amphibian at the approximate EEC; at concentrations to which humans are commonly exposed, it increased mortality and was associated with elevated corticosterone levels and changes in immune cells. Future studies should directly quantify the effects of chlorothalonil on amphibian populations and human health.
As the barriers to access to routine vaccines for children in the poorest countries in the world are eroded by the contributions of a range of donors, these successes expose other factors that can impact the value of these interventions. This is especially so in those communities that are concurrently experiencing rapid industrial growth. Such growth is frequently associated with escalating environmental contamination that even the lowest levels is known to significantly impair fundamental immune functions. Maximizing the value of this new access to vaccines also must address the effects of existing and future environmental contamination. However, there remains a gap between science, public health policy and community access in understanding how this might impact a community and how best to deliver on creating an environment that optimizes the value of this improved access to new vaccines for children.