In this paper, we systematically investigate three different routes of synthesizing 2% Na-doped PbTe after melting the elements: (i) quenching followed by hot-pressing (QH), (ii) annealing followed by hot-pressing, and (iii) quenching and annealing followed by hot-pressing. We found that the thermoelectric figure of merit, zT, strongly depends on the synthesis condition and that its value can be enhanced to ? 2.0 at 773 K by optimizing the size distribution of the nanostructures in the material. Based on our theoretical analysis on both electron and thermal transport, this zT enhancement is attributed to the reduction of both the lattice and electronic thermal conductivities; the smallest sizes (2 ? 6 nm) of nanostructures in the QH sample are responsible for effectively scattering the wide range of phonon wavelengths to minimize the lattice thermal conductivity to ? 0.5 W/m K. The reduced electronic thermal conductivity associated with the suppressed electrical conductivity by nanostructures also helped reduce the total thermal conductivity. In addition to the high zT of the QH sample, the mechanical hardness is higher than the other samples by a factor of around 2 due to the smaller grain sizes. Overall, this paper suggests a guideline on how to achieve high zT and mechanical strength of a thermoelectric material by controlling nano- and microstructures of the material.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the antioxidant effects of grape seed proanthocyanidin extract (GSPE). The generation of free radicals and the ensuing apoptosis may contribute to the pathogenesis of epilepsy; therefore, in the present study, we examined the effects of GSPE on cognitive impairment and neuronal damage induced by chronic seizures in rats. Seizures were induced by a daily intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection of pentylenetetrazole (PTZ; 35 mg/kg/day, 36 days). Two other groups were treated with GSPE (100 or 200 mg/kg/day, orally) for 24 days and then for 36 days prior to each PTZ injection. After the final PTZ injection, hippocampus-dependent spatial learning was assessed using the Morris water maze (MWM). The rats were then sacrificed for the measurement of hippocampal malondialdehyde (MDA, a measure of lipid peroxidation) and glutathione (GSH, a measure of endogenous antioxidant capacity) levels, and for the expression of pro-apoptotic factors [cytochrome c (Cyt c), caspase?9 and caspase?3]. The mitochondrial generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), degree of mitochondrial swelling, neuronal damage and mitochondrial ultrastructure were also examined. Performance in the MWM was markedly impaired by PTZ-induced seizures, as evidenced by longer escape latencies during training and fewer platform crossings during the probe trial. This cognitive decline was accompanied by oxidative stress (MDA accumulation, ROS generation, reduced GSH activity), an increased expression of pro-apoptotic proteins, as well as damage to CA1 pyramidal neurons and the mitochondria. Pre-treatment with GSPE dose?dependently reversed PTZ-induced impaired performance in the MWM, oxidative stress, mitochondrial ROS generation, the expression of pro-apoptotic proteins and neuronal and mitochondrial damage. Thus, GSPE may reverse the hippocampal dysfunction induced by chronic seizures, by reducing oxidative stress and preserving mitochondrial function.
Epilepsy remains a major medical problem for which there is no effective treatment. Oxidative damage plays an important role in epilepsy pathogenesis and may represent a target for treatment of epilepsy. Recent studies have suggested that nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) binds to antioxidant response element (ARE) to induce antioxidant and phase II detoxification enzymes under conditions of oxidative stress, which reduces oxidative damage and accumulation of toxic metabolites. This study evaluated the role of Nrf2-ARE signal pathway in protecting the brain from seizure-mediated damage. Wistar rats and Nrf2-deficient or control mice were chronic kindled in the amygdala. Sulforaphane (SF) was used to activate Nrf2-ARE signal pathway. The progression of kindling, the cognitive impairment and oxidative stress parameters were assessed to determine the extent of seizure-mediated brain damage. Our results indicate that activation Nrf2-ARE signal pathway with SF in hippocampus suppressed the progression of amygdala kindling, and also ameliorated the cognitive impairment and oxidative stress induced by epileptic seizure. These observations suggest that Nrf2-ARE signal pathway may represent a strategic target for epilepsy therapies.
Mortierella alpina is a filamentous fungus commonly found in soil that is able to produce lipids in the form of triacylglycerols that account for up to 50% of its dry weight. Analysis of the M. alpina genome suggests that there is a phenylalanine-hydroxylating system for the catabolism of phenylalanine, which has never been found in fungi before. We characterized the phenylalanine-hydroxylating system in M. alpina to explore its role in phenylalanine metabolism and its relationship to lipid biosynthesis. Significant changes were found in the profile of fatty acids in M. alpina grown on medium containing an inhibitor of the phenylalanine-hydroxylating system compared to M. alpina grown on medium without inhibitor. Genes encoding enzymes involved in the phenylalanine-hydroxylating system (phenylalanine hydroxylase [PAH], pterin-4?-carbinolamine dehydratase, and dihydropteridine reductase) were expressed heterologously in Escherichia coli, and the resulting proteins were purified to homogeneity. Their enzymatic activity was investigated by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) or visible (Vis)-UV spectroscopy. Two functional PAH enzymes were observed, encoded by distinct gene copies. A novel role for tetrahydrobiopterin in fungi as a cofactor for PAH, which is similar to its function in higher life forms, is suggested. This study establishes a novel scheme for the fungal degradation of an aromatic substance (phenylalanine) and suggests that the phenylalanine-hydroxylating system is functionally significant in lipid metabolism.
Mortierella alpina is an oleaginous fungus which can produce lipids accounting for up to 50% of its dry weight in the form of triacylglycerols. It is used commercially for the production of arachidonic acid. Using a combination of high throughput sequencing and lipid profiling, we have assembled the M. alpina genome, mapped its lipogenesis pathway and determined its major lipid species. The 38.38 Mb M. alpina genome shows a high degree of gene duplications. Approximately 50% of its 12,796 gene models, and 60% of genes in the predicted lipogenesis pathway, belong to multigene families. Notably, M. alpina has 18 lipase genes, of which 11 contain the class 2 lipase domain and may share a similar function. M. alpinas fatty acid synthase is a single polypeptide containing all of the catalytic domains required for fatty acid synthesis from acetyl-CoA and malonyl-CoA, whereas in many fungi this enzyme is comprised of two polypeptides. Major lipids were profiled to confirm the products predicted in the lipogenesis pathway. M. alpina produces a complex mixture of glycerolipids, glycerophospholipids and sphingolipids. In contrast, only two major sterol lipids, desmosterol and 24(28)-methylene-cholesterol, were detected. Phylogenetic analysis based on genes involved in lipid metabolism suggests that oleaginous fungi may have acquired their lipogenic capacity during evolution after the divergence of Ascomycota, Basidiomycota, Chytridiomycota and Mucoromycota. Our study provides the first draft genome and comprehensive lipid profile for M. alpina, and lays the foundation for possible genetic engineering of M. alpina to produce higher levels and diverse contents of dietary lipids.
We characterized the de novo biosynthetic pathway of tetrahydrobiopterin (BH?) in the lipid-producing fungus Mortierella alpina. The BH? cofactor is essential for various cell processes, and is probably present in every cell or tissue of higher organisms. Genes encoding two copies of GTP cyclohydrolase I (GTPCH-1 and GTPCH-2) for the conversion of GTP to dihydroneopterin triphosphate (H?-NTP), 6-pyruvoyltetrahydropterin synthase (PTPS) for the conversion of H?-NTP to 6-pyruvoyltetrahydropterin (PPH?), and sepiapterin reductase (SR) for the conversion of PPH? to BH?, were expressed heterologously in Escherichia coli. The recombinant enzymes were produced as His-tagged fusion proteins and were purified to homogeneity to investigate their enzymic activities. Enzyme products were analysed by HPLC and electrospray ionization-MS. Kinetic parameters and other properties of GTPCH, PTPS and SR were investigated. Physiological roles of BH? in M. alpina are discussed, and comparative analyses between GTPCH, PTPS and SR proteins and other homologous proteins were performed. The presence of two functional GTPCH enzymes has, as far as we are aware, not been reported previously, reflecting the unique ability of this fungus to synthesize both BH? and folate, using the GTPCH product as a common substrate. To our knowledge, this study is the first to report the comprehensive characterization of a BH? biosynthesis pathway in a fungus.
Plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) plays a role in regulating levels of some cytokines and cell migration in addition to its classic role in inhibiting fibrinolysis. PAI-1 levels in induced-sputum of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients were elevated significantly and correlated negatively with pulmonary function. To study the role of PAI-1 in inflammatory process in COPD, the authors transfected alveolar epithelial cells (AECs) with siRNA-targeted PAI-1 and stimulated the cells by cigarette smoke extraction (CSE) or lipopolysaccharides (LPS). The expression of inflammatory factors, interleukin-8 (IL-8) and leukotriene B4 (LTB4), and the monocyte migration were detected. The exposure to CSE or LPS induced the expression of PAI-1, IL-8, and LTB4 in AECs and monocyte migration to AECs. However, they were attenuated after transfection with siRNA-targeted PAI-1. In conclusion, PAI-1 stimulates inflammation induced by CSE or LPS in AECs through up-regulation of inflammatory factors and promoting inflammatory cell migration. PAI-1 may play a proinflammatory role in the pathogenesis of COPD.
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