Macropodid herpesviruses 1 and 2 occupy unexpected molecular phylogenic positions within the Alphaherpesvirinae.
The molecular phylogeny of macropodid herpesviruses 1 and 2 (MaHV-1 and -2) has been investigated by cloning and sequencing the genes encoding glycoprotein B from both viruses. Phylogenetic reconstructions based on the putative amino acid sequences of glycoprotein B indicate that MaHV-1 and -2 are most closely related to the subfamily Alphaherpesvirinae. Within the Alphaherpesvirinae, MaHV-1 and -2 are closely associated with those herpesviruses that infect primates. This phylogenetic relationship does not fit the constraints of the proposed co-evolution theory described for other members of the Alphaherpesvirinae which have mammalian hosts. (+info
Cyclical changes in epithelial cells of the vaginal cul-de-sac of brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula).
The aim of this study was to describe and quantify the changes that occur in cul-de-sac tissue, in particular to epithelial cells and their constituents, at specific stages of the estrous cycle in the brushtail possum. Stereological techniques were used to quantify changes in cul-de-sac epithelial cells collected at four stages of the estrous cycle; the time of removal of pouch young (RPY; n = 5), of initial follicle development (n = 5), of preovulatory follicle formation (n = 5), of midluteal stage (n = 4), and again at RPY (n = 5) after completion of the experiment to examine for any effects due to season or time. Tissue was weighed and processed for light microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and stereological analysis. Cul-de-sac epithelial cell volume increased approximately 17-fold at the time of preovulatory follicle formation compared with that at the time of RPY, before declining (approximately four-fold greater than at RPY) during the midluteal phase. Epithelial cell volume enlargement was correlated strongly with the size of the preovulatory follicle present, and maximum size was coincidental with the formation of extracellular spaces and projection of cell processes between lateral cell membranes. Maximum cell volume was associated with an approximate 25-fold and six-fold increase in cytoplasmic and nuclear volume, respectively. Enlargement of the epithelial cells coincided with an increase in cytoplasmic organelle numbers, microvilli prominence, and accumulation of secretory vesicles. In the possum, the cul-de-sac epithelial cell undergoes phenomenal remodelling during the estrous cycle to accommodate an approximate 17-fold increase in volume. This increase in cell volume is coincident with morphological changes characteristic of secretory activity and appears to be under estrogen regulation. (+info
The mitochondrial DNA molecule of the aardvark, Orycteropus afer, and the position of the Tubulidentata in the eutherian tree.
An outstanding problem in mammal phylogeny is the relationship of the aardvark (Orycteropus afer), the only living species of the order Tubulidentata, to the extant eutherian lineages. In order to examine this problem the complete mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) molecule of the aardvark was sequenced and analysed. The aardvark tRNA-Ser (UCN) differs from that of other mammalian mtDNAs reported and appears to have reversed to the ancestral secondary structure of non-mammalian vertebrates and mitochondrial tRNAs in general. Phylogenetic analysis of 12 concatenated protein-coding genes (3325 amino acids) included the aardvark and 15 additional eutherians, two marsupials and a monotreme. The most strongly supported tree identified the aardvark as a sister group of a clade including the armadillo (Xenarthra) and the Cetferungulata (carnivores, perissodactyls, artiodactyls and cetaceans). By applying three molecular calibration points the divergence between the aardvark and armadillo-cetferungulates was estimated at ca. 90 million years before present. (+info
Sperm transport and storage in the agile antechinus (Antechinus agilis).
This study was an examination of the timing of ejaculation and the dynamics of sperm transport in the female reproductive tract of the agile Antechinus (Antechinus agilis) and the relationship of these parameters to single and multiple matings. Mating in this species is characteristically long compared with that of other mammals, lasting for up to 8-12 h during which time the pair remain locked together. After the first hour of mating, only approximately 40% of males had ejaculated, but by the third hour all males had ejaculated. The total number of spermatozoa extracted from the female tract remained at approximately 30 x 10(3) spermatozoa per side over the next 9 h of copulation. After completion of male/female access (12 h), approximately 56% of spermatozoa extracted were located in the lower isthmic region of the oviduct where specialized sperm storage crypts are located. The number of spermatozoa extracted from the female reproductive tract did not decline over the next 3 days, but there was a change in the distribution of spermatozoa with an increase in the proportion of extracted spermatozoa stored in the lower isthmus (approximately 76%). However, 7 to 14 days after mating, only approximately 30% of the stored spermatozoa ( approximately 9.4 x 10(3) spermatozoa per side) were still present in the isthmus. When females were mated with a second male on a consecutive day, the sperm numbers extracted from the tract were about twice that deposited during single mating, with sperm transport to the lower isthmus occurring over a similar time frame. Although the occurrence of extended copulations in the wild has not yet been confirmed, these laboratory results suggest that similar periods of copulation are likely, since completion of the ejaculation process requires at least 3 h. The extended copulation in A. agilis reduces the possibility of an early second mating, which might interfere with the normal transport and crypt colonization of spermatozoa through competition. (+info
Molecular evolution of the nuclear von Willebrand factor gene in mammals and the phylogeny of rodents.
Nucleotide sequences of exon 28 of the von Willebrand Factor (vWF) were analyzed for a representative sampling of rodent families and eutherian orders, with one marsupial sequence as outgroup. The aim of this study was to test if inclusion of an increased taxonomic diversity in molecular analyses would shed light on three uncertainties concerning rodent phylogeny: (1) relationships between rodent families, (2) Rodentia monophyly, and (3) the sister group relationship of rodents and lagomorphs. The results did not give evidence of any particular rodent pattern of molecular evolution relative to a general eutherian pattern. Base compositions and rates of evolution of vWF sequences of rodents were in the range of placental variation. The 10 rodent families studied here cluster in five clades: Hystricognathi, Sciuridae and Aplodontidae (Sciuroidea), Muridae, Dipodidae, and Gliridae. Among hystricognaths, the following conclusions are drawn: a single colonization event in South America by Caviomorpha, a paraphyly of Old World and New World porcupines, and an African origin for Old World porcupines. Despite a broader taxonomic sampling diversity, we did not obtain a robust answer to the question of Rodentia monophyly, but in the absence of any other alternative, we cannot reject the hypothesis of a single origin of rodents. Moreover, the phylogenetic position of Lagomorpha remains totally unsettled. (+info
Acrosome formation during sperm transit through the epididymis in two marsupials, the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) and the brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula).
In certain Australian marsupials including the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) and the brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), formation of the acrosome is not completed in the testis but during a complex differentiation process as spermatozoa pass through the epididymis. Using transmission and scanning electron microscopy this paper defined the process of acrosome formation in the epididymis, providing temporal and spatial information on the striking reorganisation of the acrosomal membranes and matrix and of the overlying sperm surface involved. On leaving the testis wallaby and possum spermatozoa had elongated 'scoop'-shaped acrosomes projecting from the dorsal surface of the head. During passage down the epididymis, this structure condensed into the compact button-like organelle found on ejaculated spermatozoa. This condensation was achieved by a complex process of infolding and fusion of the lateral projections of the 'scoop'. In the head of the epididymis the rims of the lateral scoop projections became shorter and thickened and folded inwards, to eventually meet midway along the longitudinal axis of the acrosome. As spermatozoa passed through the body of the epididymis the lateral projections fused together. Evidence of this fusion of the immature outer acrosomal membrane is the presence of vesicles within the acrosomal matrix which persist even in ejaculated spermatozoa. When spermatozoa have reached the tail of the epididymis the acrosome condenses into its mature form, as a small button-like structure contained within the depression on the anterior end of the nucleus. During the infolding process, the membranes associated with the immature acrosome are either engulfed into the acrosomal matrix (outer acrosomal membrane), or eliminated from the sperm head as tubular membrane elements (cytoplasmic membrane). Thus the surface and organelles of the testicular sperm head are transient structures in those marsupials with posttesticular acrosome formation and this must be taken into consideration in attempts to dissect the cell and molecular biology of fertilisation. (+info
Expression of the spermatid-specific Hsp70 antigen is conserved in mammals including marsupials.
The anatomical location of testes in mammals ranges from a location close to that observed in the embryo to a lower position usually involving a pendant scrotum. In scrotal mammals, the abdominal position of the cryptorchid testis, which elevates its temperature, is detrimental to spermatogenesis and causes infertility. Spermatocytes are sensitive but late spermatids are relatively resistant to thermal stress suggesting that the latter might be protected in some way. In general, most organisms express Hsp70 proteins, which play a crucial role in the protection of cells against thermal stress. We have found previously that the Hsc70t protein, a member of the Hsp70 family of proteins, is constitutively expressed in the late spermatids of mice. Here, we have utilized immunohistochemistry with anti-mouse Hsc70t antiserum to examine the expression of the spermatid-specific Hsp70 antigen in the testes of several mammalian species with different degrees of testes migration. Our data indicate that the antigen is conserved in the mammals including marsupials. We also examined whether antigens of Hsp70-related proteins were expressed in non-mammalian vertebrates including not only homoiothermal but also poikilothermal animals. The spermatid-specific Hsp70 antigens were not detectable in the testes of the animals examined. From results of immunohistochemistry with BRM22 monoclonal antibody which reacts broadly with Hsp70 family proteins, however, we revealed constitutive expression of antigens of Hsp70-related proteins in spermatogenic cells of the vertebrates. These results suggest that the expression of spermatid-specific Hsp70 protein may be involved in the developmental pathway during spermiogenesis in mammals rather than in thermotolerance. (+info
Mammalian Y chromosome evolution and the male-specific functions of Y chromosome-borne genes.
All mammals have an XY chromosomal sex determining system, in which a small Y chromosome triggers male development, and contains genes required for spermatogenesis. The X and Y chromosomes were originally homologous, but diverged during evolution as the Y chromosome was degraded progressively. Comparisons among the sex chromosomes of different mammal groups indicate that the X and Y chromosomes received additions of material from other chromosomes. Genes on the Y chromosome originated from the ancient X-Y pair, or from these additions, or were copies of genes on one of the autosomes. Only genes with important male-specific functions, such as sex determination and spermatogenesis, are selected for and retained on the differential region of the Y chromosome. The mammalian sex determining gene, SRY, controls the testis determination pathway, which includes at least one related gene. Several candidate spermatogenesis genes have been identified, but so far the only one that is conserved on the Y chromosome of all therian mammals is RBM (RNA-binding motif gene, Y chromosome). (+info