• Combination of Sanger and target-enrichment markers supports revised generic delimitation in the problematic ‘Urera clade’ of the nettle family (Urticaceae)

      Wells, Tom; Maurin, Olivier; Dodsworth, Steven; Friis, Ib; Cowan, Robyn S.; Epitawalage, Niroshini; Brewer, Grace E.; Forest, Felix; Baker, William; Monro, Alexandre; et al. (Elsevier, 2020-11-05)
      Urera Gaudich, s.l. is a pantropical genus comprising c. 35 species of trees, shrubs, and vines. It has a long history of taxonomic uncertainty, and is repeatedly recovered as polyphyletic within a poorly resolved complex of genera in the Urticeae tribe of the nettle family (Urticaceae). To provide generic delimitations concordant with evolutionary history, we use increased taxonomic and genomic sampling to investigate phylogenetic relationships among Urera and associated genera. A cost-effective two-tier genome-sampling approach provides good phylogenetic resolution by using (i) a taxon-dense sample of Sanger sequence data from two barcoding regions to recover clades of putative generic rank, and (ii) a genome-dense sample of target-enrichment data for a subset of representative species from each well-supported clade to resolve relationships among them. The results confirm the polyphyly of Urera s.l. with respect to the morphologically distinct genera Obetia, Poikilospermum and Touchardia. Afrotropic members of Urera s.l. are recovered in a clade sister to the xerophytic African shrubs Obetia; and Hawaiian ones with Touchardia, also from Hawaii. Combined with distinctive morphological differences between Neotropical and African members of Urera s.l., these results lead us to resurrect the previously synonymised name Scepocarpus Wedd. for the latter. The new species epiphet Touchardia oahuensis T.Wells & A.K. Monro is offered as a replacement name for Touchardia glabra non H.St.John, and subgenera are created within Urera s.s. to account for the two morphologically distinct Neotropical clades. This new classification minimises taxonomic and nomenclatural disruption, while more accurately reflecting evolutionary relationships within the group.
    • COVID-19 in Wuhan, China: pressing realities and city management

      Li, Rita Yi Man; Yue, Xiao-Guang; Crabbe, M. James C.; Hong Kong Shue Yan University; European University of Cyprus; Oxford University; University of Bedfordshire; Shanxi University (Frontiers, 2021-02-17)
      To most economists around the World, Covid-19 has provided an objective lesson in market failure. In the absence of complete information and sometimes even fake news, nobody knew what kind of pandemic it was at the beginning. Yet, there were 32,583 patients with laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 in Wuhan between December 8, 2019, and 8 March 8, 2020. The pandemic crippled and continues to cripple many health systems and has created unprecedented pressure on the psychological and physical aspects of millions of people's lives around the world. Over 200 countries and territories suffer from an acute shortage of medical personnel and medical equipment. The responses of different countries to Covid-19 has involved a range of measures that reflect national values, politics, and variations in scientific advice provided by local experts. Political considerations have often become more important than science. The Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan was one of the most serious cases amongst all cities in the world, yet Wuhan managed and gain control of this pandemic. Health care systems and policies are important aspects that affect the control of infectious diseases like Covid-19. In China, 98% of primary health-care is complemented by traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) with allopathic approaches. Previous research has found that the cure rate increased by 33% among mild cases after adopting TCM with allopathic approaches. The hospital stay of severe patients with TCM's and nucleic acid turning negative was shortened by over 2 days. Prior to Covid-19, the government's Healthy China 2030 plan was already addressing chronic diseases in the aging population by raising healthcare expenditure. This is in sharp contrast to other countries with aging population problems such as Italy, where the government cut the healthcare budget substantially after the economic downturn. Hospital bed allocation went down from a maximum of four for every thousand inhabitants to a maximum of 3.7, despite the fact that 23.1% of the Italian population were aged 65 years and older in 2020. Likewise, the post-2008 financial crisis in Spain forced severe cuts to healthcare costs, which caused pressure on the system when there was an increase in demand for healthcare services. These measures particularly affected the elderly and disabled who are more vulnerable to Covid-19. Healthcare costs become underfunded at the level of 6.4% of GDP. Apart from scientific evidence on the effectiveness of TCM in curing covid, financial expenditures on health care is an important distal factor that helped Wuhan overcome Covid-19 quickly. In the following sections of this paper, we review the three city management stages adopted in Wuhan, to study proximal causes of success in combating the virus: (1) strong government intervention early in the outbreak; (2) the city lockdown; and, (3) the use of digital measures, such as a health code, when the city reopened.
    • Evaluation of genetic diversity and population structure of Fragaria nilgerrensis using EST-SSR markers

      Liu, Jie; Zhang, Yichen; Diao, Xia; Yu, Kun; Dai, Xiongwei; Qu, Peng; Crabbe, M. James C.; Zhang, Ti-Cao; Qiao, Qin; Yunnan University; et al. (Elsevier, 2021-06-25)
      Fragaria nilgerrensis is a diploid wild strawberry widely distributed in Southwest China. Its white color and “peach-like” fragrance of fruits are valuable characters for the genetic improvement of cultivated strawberry plants. Its strong biotic and abiotic resistance and tolerance also enable it to survive in different habitats in the field. In this study, we evaluated the level of genetic variation within and between 16 populations with 169 individuals of F. nilgerrensis using 16 newly developed EST-SSR (expressed sequence tag-simple sequence repeats) markers. The results show that the genetic diversity of this species was high, based on Nei’s genetic diversity (0.26) and polymorphic loci (0.41), although it is self-compatible and has clonal propagation. Significant genetic differentiation among populations was also detected by AMOVA analysis (Fst = 0.34), which could be indicative of little gene flow (Nm = 0.43) in F. nilgerrensis. The phylogenetic tree indicates that most of individuals from the same population have clustered together. These populations were not grouped based on the geographical distance, consistent with the Mantel test result (R2 = 0.0063, P > 0.05). All the populations were assigned into two ancestral groups, with some individuals admixed, suggesting ancestral gene flow had occurred between these two groups. Our developed EST-SSR markers as well as the genetic diversity and population structure analysis of F. nilgerrensis are important for genetic improvement in the breeding process. Moreover, the populations that contain high genetic diversity would be a priority for collection and conservation.
    • Extreme climate response to marine cloud brightening in the arid Sahara-Sahel-Arabian Peninsula zone

      Zhu, Yuanzhuo; Zhang, Zhihua; Crabbe, M. James C.; Shandong University; Beijing Normal University; Oxford University; University of Bedfordshire; Shanxi University (Emerald, 2021-02-08)
      Purpose Climatic extreme events are predicted to occur more frequently and intensely and will significantly threat the living of residents in arid and semi-arid regions. Therefore, this study aims to assess climatic extremes’ response to the emerging climate change mitigation strategy using a marine cloud brightening (MCB) scheme. Design/methodology/approach Based on Hadley Centre Global Environmental Model version 2-Earth System model simulations of a MCB scheme, this study used six climatic extreme indices [i.e. the hottest days (TXx), the coolest nights (TNn), the warm spell duration (WSDI), the cold spell duration (CSDI), the consecutive dry days (CDD) and wettest consecutive five days (RX5day)] to analyze spatiotemporal evolution of climate extreme events in the arid Sahara-Sahel-Arabian Peninsula Zone with and without MCB implementation. Findings Compared with a Representative Concentration Pathways 4.5 scenario, from 2030 to 2059, implementation of MCB is predicted to decrease the mean annual TXx and TNn indices by 0.4–1.7 and 0.3–2.1°C, respectively, for most of the Sahara-Sahel-Arabian Peninsula zone. It would also shorten the mean annual WSDI index by 118–183 days and the mean annual CSDI index by only 1–3 days, especially in the southern Sahara-Sahel-Arabian Peninsula zone. In terms of extreme precipitation, MCB could also decrease the mean annual CDD index by 5–25 days in the whole Sahara and Sahel belt and increase the mean annual RX5day index by approximately 10 mm in the east part of the Sahel belt during 2030–2059. Originality/value The results provide the first insights into the impacts of MCB on extreme climate in the arid Sahara-Sahel-Arabian Peninsula zone.
    • Identification of new antibacterial targets in RNA polymerase of Mycobacterium tuberculosis by detecting positive selection sites

      Wang, QingBiao; Xu, Yiqin; Gu, Zhuoya; Liu, Nian; Jin, Ke; Li, Yao; Crabbe, M. James C.; Zhong, Yang; Fudan University; Oxford University; et al. (Elsevier, 2017-11-21)
      Bacterial RNA polymerase (RNAP) is an effective target for antibacterial treatment. In order to search new potential targets in RNAP of Mycobacterium, we detected adaptive selections of RNAP related genes in 13 strains of Mycobacterium by phylogenetic analysis. We first collected sequences of 17 genes including rpoA, rpoB, rpoC, rpoZ, and sigma factor A-M. Then maximum likelihood trees were constructed, followed by positive selection detection. We found that sigG shows positive selection along the clade (M. tuberculosis, M. bovis), suggesting its important evolutionary role and its potential to be a new antibacterial target. Moreover, the regions near 933Cys and 935His on the rpoB subunit of M. tuberculosis showed significant positive selection, which could also be a new attractive target for anti-tuberculosis drugs.
    • Risk management analysis for novel Coronavirus in Wuhan, China

      Yue, Xiao-Guang; Shao, Xue-Feng; Li, Rita Yi Man; Crabbe, M. James C.; Mi, Lili; Hu, Siyan; Baker, Julien S.; Liang, Gang; European University Cyprus; Polytechnic Institute of Porto; et al. (MDPI, 2020-02-03)
      Recently, a novel coronavirus pneumonia (2019–nCoV) outbreak occurred in Wuhan, China, rapidly spreading first to the whole country, and then globally, causing widespread concern. From the perspectives of early warning and identification of risk, risk monitoring, and analysis, as well as risk management and handling, we propose corresponding solutions and recommendations, which include institutional cooperation, and to inform national and international policy-makers.
    • Risk prediction and assessment: duration, infections, and death toll of the COVID-19 and its impact on China’s economy

      Yue, Xiao-Guang; Shao, Xue-Feng; Li, Rita Yi Man; Crabbe, M. James C.; Mi, Lili; Hu, Siyan; Baker, Julien S.; Liu, Liting; Dong, Kechen; University of Bedfordshire; et al. (MDPI, 2020-04-03)
      This study first analyzes the national and global infection status of the Coronavirus Disease that emerged in 2019 (COVID-19). It then uses the trend comparison method to predict the inflection point and Key Point of the COVID-19 virus by comparison with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) graphs, followed by using the Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average model, Autoregressive Moving Average model, Seasonal Autoregressive Integrated Moving-Average with Exogenous Regressors, and Holt Winter’s Exponential Smoothing to predict infections, deaths, and GDP in China. Finally, it discusses and assesses the impact of these results. This study argues that even if the risks and impacts of the epidemic are significant, China’s economy will continue to maintain steady development.
    • Spatial genetic and epigenetic structure of Thlaspi arvense (field pennycress) in China

      Guan, Yabin; Qu, Peng; Lu, Shugang; Crabbe, M. James C.; Zhang, Ti-Cao; Geng, Yu-peng; Yunnan University; Oxford University; Shanxi University; University of Bedfordshire; et al. (Genetics Society of Japan, 2020-11-11)
      (Received 13 May 2020, accepted 15 July 2020; J-STAGE Advance published date: 11 November 2020) Thlaspi arvense (field pennycress) is widespread in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. We estimated the genetic and epigenetic structure of eight T. arvense populations (131 individuals) in China using amplified fragment length polymorphism and methylation-sensitive amplified polymorphism molecularmarker techniques. We detected low diversity at both genetic (mean = 0.03; total = 0.07) and epigenetic (mean = 0.04; total = 0.07) levels, while significant genetic (FST = 0.42, P < 0.001) and epigenetic (FST = 0.32, P < 0.001) divergence was found across the distribution range. Using Mantel testing, we found spatial genetic and epigenetic differentiation, consistent with isolation-by-distance models. We also identified a strong correlation between genetic and epigenetic differentiation (r = 0.7438, P < 0.001), suggesting genetic control of the epigenetic variation. Our results indicate that mating system, natural selection and gene flow events jointly structure spatial patterns of genetic and epigenetic variation. Moreover, epigenetic variation may serve as a basis of natural selection and ecological evolution to enable species to adapt to heterogeneous habitats. Our study provides novel clues for the adaptation of T. arvense.
    • Targeted editing of SlMAPK6 using CRISPR/Cas9 technology to promote the development of axillary buds in tomato plants

      Li, Yunzhou; Yue, Ningbo; Basit, Abdul; Li, Yulong; Zhang, Dalong; Qin, Lei; Crabbe, M. James C.; Xu, Wen; Wang, Yong; Yan, Jianmin; et al. (Canadian Center of Science and Education, 2021-01-15)
      The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade signaling system has been relatively conserved throughout the evolution of eukaryotes and is involved in the regulation of growth and development and metabolism. In this study, dwarf tomato plants were used as the research material. First, the tissue-specific expression of SlMAPK6 was measured in wild-type plants by quantitative RT-PCR. The results showed that SlMAPK6 was highly expressed in the tissues of the stems, leaves and flowers but was expressed at low levels in the tissues of the roots, sepals and fruits. Second, SlMAPK6-knockout lines CRISPR-3 and CRISPR-7 were obtained by CRISPR-Cas9 technology and Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. Compared with wild-type, the mutant lines CRISPR-3 and CRISPR-7 showed significant phenotypic characteristics, such as increased numbers of axillary buds and true leaves, thickened stems, and longer leaflets. In addition, to explore the molecular mechanism by which MAPK regulates axillary bud growth, we also showed that SlMAPK6 positively regulates the strigolactone synthesis genes SlCCD7 and SlCCD8 and the gibberellin (GA) synthesis genes GA20ox3 and GA3ox1 and negatively regulates the axillary bud development-related genes Ls, BL and BRC1b/TCP8 and the GA synthesis inhibitory gene GAI. Therefore, SlMAPK6 appears to regulate the synthesis of strigolactone and GA to induce the growth and development of tomato axillary buds.