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    ABSTRACT: Classically, sperm were seen as transcriptionally inactive vehicles for delivering the paternal haplotype to an egg. Yet, it has become apparent that sperm also carry thousands of different RNAs, and the functions of most of these are unknown. Here, we make four novel suggestions for sperm RNA function. First, they could act as relatedness markers facilitating sperm cooperation. Second, they could act as paternally imposed suppressors of haploid interests. Third, they could act as a nuptial gift, providing the female with resources that entice her to fertilise ova using the sperm of the gift-provider. Fourth, they could represent the contents of a Trojan horse, delivered by males to manipulate female reproduction. We discuss these ideas and suggest how they might be tested.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · Trends in Ecology & Evolution
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    ABSTRACT: Members of animal societies compete over resources and reproduction, but the extent to which such conflicts of interest are resolved peacefully (without recourse to costly or wasteful acts of aggression) varies widely. Here, we describe two theoretical mechanisms that can help to understand variation in the incidence of overt behavioural conflict: (i) destruction competition and (ii) the use of threats. The two mechanisms make different assumptions about the degree to which competitors are socially sensitive (responsive to real-time changes in the behaviour of their social partners). In each case, we discuss how the model assumptions relate to biological reality and highlight the genetic, ecological and informational factors that are likely to promote peaceful conflict resolution, drawing on empirical examples. We suggest that, relative to males, reproductive conflict among females may be more frequently resolved peacefully through threats of punishment, rather than overt acts of punishment, because (i) offspring are more costly to produce for females and (ii) reproduction is more difficult to conceal. The main need now is for empirical work to test whether the mechanisms described here can indeed explain how social conflict can be resolved without overt aggression.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2013 · Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences
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    ABSTRACT: We present a novel method implementing unbiased high content morphometric cell analysis to classify bacterial effector phenotypes. This clustering methodology represents a significant advance over more qualitative visual approaches and can also be used to classify, and therefore predict the likely function of, unknown effector genes from any microbial genome. As a proof of concept, we use this approach to investigate twenty-three genetic regions predicted to encode anti-macrophage effectors located across the genome of the insect and human pathogen Photorhabdus asymbiotica. Statistical cluster analysis using multiple cellular measures categorised treated macrophage phenotypes into three major groups relating to their putative functionality: a) adhesins b) cytolethal toxins and c) cytomodulating toxins. Further investigation into their effects on phagocytosis revealed that several effectors also modulate this function and the nature of this modulation (increased or decreased phagocytosis) is linked to the phenotype cluster group. Categorising potential functionalities in this way allows rapid functional follow-up of key candidates for more directed cell biological or biochemical investigation. Such an unbiased approach to the classification of candidate effectors will be useful for describing virulence-related regions in a wide range of genomes and will be useful in assigning putative functions to the growing number of microbial genes whose function remains unclear from homology searching.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2013 · Applied and Environmental Microbiology
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