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.
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.
A new species of the genus Amolops Cope, 1865 is described from Xinduqiao, Kangding, Sichuan. It was previously identified as Amolops kangtingensis, which is synonymized to Amolops mantzorum in this study. The new species, Amolops xinduqiao sp. nov., is distinguished from all other congeners by the following combination of characters: (1) medium body size, adult males SVL 41.2–47.5 mm (n=15, average 43.9 mm), adult females SVL 48.5–56.6 mm (n=15, average 52.5 mm); (2) head length equal to width or slightly wider than long; (3) tympanum small, but distinct; (4) vomerine teeth in two tiny rows, separated by a space about one vomerine teeth row; (5) bony projections on lower jaw absent; (6) dorsolateral folds usually absent; (7) tarsal folds or glands on tarsus absent; (8) circummarginal groove on disc of finger I absent; (9) tibiotarsal articulation reaching nostril or beyond; (10) webs of toe IV reaching to distal articulation, other toes fully webbed to disc; and (11) vocal sac absent in males.
Respirovirus infection can cause viral pneumonia and acute lung injury (ALI). The interleukin-1 (IL-1) family consists of proinflammatory cytokines that play essential roles in regulating immune and inflammatory responses in vivo. IL-1 signaling is associated with protection against respiratory influenza virus infection by mediation of the pulmonary anti-viral immune response and inflammation. We analyzed the infiltration lung immune leukocytes and cytokines that contribute to inflammatory lung pathology and mortality of fatal H1N1 virus-infected IL-1 receptor 1 (IL-1R1) deficient mice. Results showed that early innate immune cells and cytokine/chemokine dysregulation were observed with significantly decreased neutrophil infiltration and IL-6, TNF-α, G-CSF, KC, and MIP-2 cytokine levels in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid of infected IL-1R1-/- mice in comparison with that of wild type infected mice. The adaptive immune response against the H1N1 virus in IL-1R1-/- mice was impaired with downregulated anti-viral Th1 cell, CD8+ cell, and antibody functions, which contributes to attenuated viral clearance. Histological analysis revealed reduced lung inflammation during early infection but severe lung pathology in late infection in IL-1R1-/- mice compared with that in WT infected mice. Moreover, the infected IL-1R1-/- mice showed markedly reduced neutrophil generation in bone marrow and neutrophil recruitment to the inflamed lung. Together, these results suggest that IL-1 signaling is associated with pulmonary anti-influenza immune response and inflammatory lung injury, particularly via the influence on neutrophil mobilization and inflammatory cytokine/chemokine production.
Tibetans are well adapted to high-altitude hypoxia. Previous genome-wide scans have reported many candidate genes for this adaptation, but only a few have been studied. Here we report on a hypoxia gene (GCH1, GTP-cyclohydrolase I), involved in maintaining nitric oxide synthetase (NOS) function and normal blood pressure, that harbors many potentially adaptive variants in Tibetans. We resequenced an 80.8 kb fragment covering the entire gene region of GCH1 in 50 unrelated Tibetans. Combined with previously published data, we demonstrated many GCH1 variants showing deep divergence between highlander Tibetans and lowlander Han Chinese. Neutrality tests confirmed a signal of positive Darwinian selection on GCH1 in Tibetans. Moreover, association analysis indicated that the Tibetan version of GCH1 was significantly associated with multiple physiological traits in Tibetans, including blood nitric oxide concentration, blood oxygen saturation, and hemoglobin concentration. Taken together, we propose that GCH1 plays a role in the genetic adaptation of Tibetans to high altitude hypoxia.
The genetic adaptation of Tibetans to high altitude hypoxia likely involves a group of genes in the hypoxic pathway, as suggested by earlier studies. To test the adaptive role of the previously reported candidate gene EP300 (histone acetyltransferase p300), we conducted resequencing of a 108.9 kb gene region of EP300 in 80 unrelated Tibetans. The allele-frequency and haplotype-based neutrality tests detected signals of positive Darwinian selection on EP300 in Tibetans, with a group of variants showing allelic divergence between Tibetans and lowland reference populations, including Han Chinese, Europeans, and Africans. Functional prediction suggested the involvement of multiple EP300 variants in gene expression regulation. More importantly, genetic association tests in 226 Tibetans indicated significant correlation of the adaptive EP300 variants with blood nitric oxide (NO) concentration. Collectively, we propose that EP300 harbors adaptive variants in Tibetans, which might contribute to high-altitude adaptation through regulating NO production.
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