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    ABSTRACT: Odour signals used in competitive and aggressive interactions between males are well studied in the context of sexual selection. By contrast, relatively little is known about comparable signals used by females, despite current interest in the evolution of female ornaments and weaponry. Available evidence suggests that odour signals are important in competitive interactions between female mammals, with reductions or reversals of male-biased sexual dimorphism in signalling where female competition is intense. Scent marking is often associated with conflict between females over access to resources or reproductive opportunities. Female scent marks may therefore provide reliable signals of competitive ability that could be used both by competitors and potential mates. Consistent with this hypothesis, we report that aggressive behaviour of female house mice is correlated with the amount of major urinary protein (MUP) excreted in their urine, a polymorphic set of proteins that are used in scent mark signalling. Under semi-natural conditions, females with high MUP output are more likely to produce offspring sired by males that have high reproductive success, and less likely to produce offspring by multiple different sires, suggesting that females with strong MUP signals are monopolized by males of particularly high quality. We conclude that odour signals are worthy of more detailed investigation as mediators of female competition.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2013 · Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: Mascara is a mild irritant that causes a range of medical problems. Animal models to predict ocular irritation have, however, been questioned at a number of levels, and there is a continued need to develop in vitro testing methods. Methods: We assess changes in an easily quantifiable attribute, ciliated protozoan growth rate, as a sensitive, sublethal measure. Specifically, we test six, randomly chosen, commercial mascara products against a control (as treatments) and reveal through ANOVA (n = 6, α = 0.05) significant differences in the specific growth rate to treatments (for both protozoa). Results: We provide evidence that two easily cultured protozoa (Paramecium caudatum, Blepharisma japonicum) should be considered as models to assess ocular irritancy (and possibly cosmetics in general) and establish the groundwork for such studies to be applied at a more commercial level. We do this by developing a bioassay for mascara toxicity and indicate the low cost (after equipment is purchased, on the order of $100s) and the ease of performing such tests (able to be conducted by undergraduate students), as a consideration for their future commercial application. We first examined dose dependence of responses, revealing that there was a need to conduct preliminary work to determine appropriate levels for sublethal responses. We then show that some products resulted in mortality at high concentrations, others decreased growth rate by >50% (compared with the control), whereas others had no significant effect, compared with the control. Conclusion: We have provided a novel, quick and inexpensive means to assess mascara; the next step is to validate these ciliate bioassays by comparison with animal testing and epidemiological studies, which is beyond the scope of this fundamental 'proof-of-concept' study.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2013 · International journal of cosmetic science
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    ABSTRACT: AMPLE is a program developed for clustering and truncating ab initio protein structure predictions into search models for molecular replacement. Here, it is shown that its core cluster-and-truncate methods also work well for processing NMR ensembles into search models. Rosetta remodelling helps to extend success to NMR structures bearing low sequence identity or high structural divergence from the target protein. Potential future routes to improved performance are considered and practical, general guidelines on using AMPLE are provided.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2013 · Acta Crystallographica Section D Biological Crystallography
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