Tree shrew biology
The tree shrew (Tupaia belangeri) is a promising laboratory animal that possesses a closer genetic relationship to primates than to rodents. In addition, advantages such as small size, easy breeding, and rapid reproduction make the tree shrew an ideal subject for the study of human disease. Numerous tree shrew disease models have been generated in biological and medical studies in recent years. Here we summarize current tree shrew disease models, including models of infectious diseases, cancers, depressive disorders, drug addiction, myopia, metabolic diseases, and immune-related diseases. With the success of tree shrew transgenic technology, this species will be increasingly used in biological and medical studies in the future.
The Chinese tree shrew (Tupaia belangeri chinensis), a squirrel-like and rat-sized mammal, has a wide distribution in Southeast Asia, South and Southwest China and has many unique characteristics that make it suitable for use as an experimental animal. There have been many studies using the tree shrew (Tupaia belangeri) aimed at increasing our understanding of fundamental biological mechanisms and for the modeling of human diseases and therapeutic responses. The recent release of a publicly available annotated genome sequence of the Chinese tree shrew and its genome database (www.treeshrewdb.org) has offered a solid base from which it is possible to elucidate the basic biological properties and create animal models using this species. The extensive characterization of key factors and signaling pathways in the immune and nervous systems has shown that tree shrews possess both conserved and unique features relative to primates. Hitherto, the tree shrew has been successfully used to create animal models for myopia, depression, breast cancer, alcohol-induced or non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections, to name a few. The recent successful genetic manipulation of the tree shrew has opened a new avenue for the wider usage of this animal in biomedical research. In this opinion paper, I attempt to summarize the recent research advances that have used the Chinese tree shrew, with a focus on the new knowledge obtained by using the biological properties identified using the tree shrew genome, a proposal for the genome-based approach for creating animal models, and the genetic manipulation of the tree shrew. With more studies using this species and the application of cutting-edge gene editing techniques, the tree shrew will continue to be under the spot light as a viable animal model for investigating the basis of many different human diseases.
Brain development and aging are associated with alterations in multiple epigenetic systems, including DNA methylation and demethylation patterns. Here, we observed that the levels of the 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) ten-eleven translocation (TET) enzyme-mediated active DNA demethylation products were dynamically changed and involved in postnatal brain development and aging in tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri chinensis). The levels of 5hmC in multiple anatomic structures showed a gradual increase throughout postnatal development, whereas a significant decrease in 5hmC was found in several brain regions in aged tree shrews, including in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, but not the cerebellum. Active changes in Tet mRNA levels indicated that TET2 and TET3 predominantly contributed to the changes in 5hmC levels. Our findings provide new insight into the dynamic changes in 5hmC levels in tree shrew brains during postnatal development and aging processes.
As a novel experimental animal model, tree shrews have received increasing attention in recent years. Despite this, little is known in regards to the time phases of their embryonic development. In this study, surveillance systems were used to record the behavior and timing of copulations; embryos at different post-copulation stages were collected and cultured in vitro; and the developmental characteristics of both early-stage and in vitro cultured embryos were determined. A total of 163 females were collected following effective copulation, and 150 were used in either unilateral or bilateral oviduct embryo collections, with 307 embryos from 111 females obtained (conception rate=74%). Among them, 237 embryos were collected from 78 females, bilaterally, i.e., the average embryo number per female was 3.04; 172 fertilized eggs collected from 55 females, bilaterally, were cultured for 24-108 h in vitro for developmental observations; finally, 65 embryos from 23 bilateral cases and 70 embryos from 33 unilateral cases were used in embryo transplantation.
Endosymbionts influence many aspects of their hosts' health conditions, including physiology, development, immunity, metabolism, etc. Tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri chinensis) have attracted increasing attention in modeling human diseases and therapeutic responses due to their close relationship with primates. To clarify the situation of symbiotic bacteria from their body surface, oral cavity, and anus, 12 wild and 12 the third generation of captive tree shrews were examined. Based on morphological and cultural characteristics, physiological and biochemical tests, as well as the 16S rDNA full sequence analysis, 12 bacteria strains were isolated and identified from the wild tree shrews: body surface: Bacillus subtilis (detection rate 42%), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (25%), Staphlococcus aureus (33%), S. Epidermidis (75%), Micrococcus luteus (25%), Kurthia gibsonii (17%); oral cavity: Neisseria mucosa (58%), Streptococcus pneumonia (17%); anus: Enterococcus faecalis (17%), Lactococus lactis (33%), Escherichia coli (92%), Salmonella typhosa (17%); whereas, four were indentified from the third generation captive tree shrews: body surface: S. epidermidis (75%); oral cavity: N.mucosa (67%); anus: L. lactis (33%), E. coli (100%). These results indicate that S. epidermidis, N. mucosa, L. lactis and E. coli were major bacteria in tree shrews, whereas, S. aureus, M. luteus, K. gibsonii, E. faecalis and S. typhosa were species-specific flora. This study facilitates the future use of tree shrews as a standard experimental animal and improves our understanding of the relationship between endosymbionts and their hosts.
Coxsackie virus A16 (CA16) is commonly recognized as one of the main human pathogens of hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD). The clinical manifestations of HFMD include vesicles of hand, foot and mouth in young children and severe inflammatory CNS lesions. In this study, experimentally CA16 infected tree shrews(Tupaia belangeri) were used to investigate CA16 pathogenesis. The results showed that both the body temperature and the percentages of blood neutrophilic granulocytes / monocytes of CA16 infected tree shrews increased at 4-7 days post infection. Dynamic distributions of CA16 in different tissues and stools were found at different infection stages. Moreover, the pathological changes in CNS and other organs were also observed. These findings indicate that tree shrews can be used as a viable animal model to study CA16 infection.
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