Publications by authors named "Francisca Leal"

13 Publications

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Más Fuertes Juntos: Attachment relationship quality, but not demographic risk, predicts psychopathology in Latinx mother-youth dyads.

J Community Psychol 2021 Feb 26. Epub 2021 Feb 26.

University of California, Irvine, California, USA.

Latinx families are increasing in the population in the United States and have documented mental health concerns. Much remains to be understood about mental health predictors within this population. The present study aimed to help fill this gap and offer an in-depth assessment of psychopathology within a large (N = 330) sample of Latinx mothers and youth by exploring associations between sociodemographic risk, attachment relationship quality, and mental health. Demographic risk was not associated with youth or maternal psychopathology, but attachment relationship quality was associated with all indices of psychopathology in youth and mothers. The interaction between demographic risk and psychopathology only added to the prediction of maternal depression, revealing a pattern wherein maternal closeness was associated with lower depression at low and mean but not high levels of demographic risk. We discuss these findings in terms of the importance of supporting parent-child relationships in this population.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jcop.22535DOI Listing
February 2021

Parallel evolution of placental calcium transfer in the lizard and eutherian mammals.

J Exp Biol 2021 Mar 15;224(Pt 6). Epub 2021 Mar 15.

Grupo de Estudios en Biodiversidad, Escuela de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Industrial de Santander, Bucaramanga, Santander, Colombia

An exceptional case of parallel evolution between lizards and eutherian mammals occurs in the evolution of viviparity. In the lizard genus , viviparity provided the environment for the evolution of yolk-reduced eggs and obligate placentotrophy. One major event that favored the evolution of placentation was the reduction of the eggshell. As with all oviparous reptiles, lizard embryos obtain calcium from both the eggshell and egg yolk. Therefore, the loss of the eggshell likely imposes a constraint for the conservation of the egg yolk, which can only be obviated by the evolution of alternative mechanisms for the transport of calcium directly from the mother. The molecular and cellular mechanisms employed to solve these constraints, in a lizard with only a rudimentary eggshell such as , are poorly understood. Here, we used RT-qPCR on placental and uterine samples during different stages of gestation in , and demonstrate that transcripts of the calcium transporters , , and are expressed and gradually increase in abundance through pregnancy stages, reaching their maximum expression when bone mineralization occurs. Furthermore, CABP28K/9K proteins were studied by immunofluorescence, demonstrating expression in specific regions of the mature placenta. Our results indicate that the machinery for calcium transportation in the placenta was co-opted from other tissues elsewhere in the vertebrate bodyplan. Thus, the calcium transportation machinery in the placenta of evolved in parallel with the mammalian placenta by redeploying the expression of similar calcium transporter genes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/jeb.237891DOI Listing
March 2021

Confía en mí, Confío en ti: Applying developmental theory to mitigate sociocultural risk in Latinx families.

Dev Psychopathol 2021 05;33(2):581-597

Department of Psychological Science, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA.

Ed Zigler was a champion for underprivileged youth, one who worked alongside communities to fight for long-lasting systemic changes that were informed by his lifespan and ecological perspective on the development of the whole child. This paper reports on the development, implementation, and preliminary outcomes of an intervention that embodied the Zigler approach by adopting a community participatory research lens to integrate complementary insights across community-based providers (promotoras), Latinx immigrant families, and developmental psychologists in the service of promoting parent-child relationship quality and preventing youth aggression and violence. Analyses from the first 112 Latinx mother-youth dyad participants (46% female children, ages 8-17) in the resultant, Confía en mí, Confío en ti, eight-week intervention revealed significant pre-post increases in purported mechanisms of change (i.e., attachment security, reflective functioning) and early intervention outcomes (i.e., depressive, anxiety, and externalizing problems). Treatment responses varied by youth age. A case analysis illustrated the lived experiences of the women and children served by this intervention. We discuss future directions for the program, as well as challenges to its sustainability. Finally, we consider Ed's legacy as we discuss the contributions of this work to developmental science and our understanding of attachment relationships among low-income immigrant Latinx families.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579420001364DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8105258PMC
May 2021

An endogenous retroviral envelope syncytin and its cognate receptor identified in the viviparous placental lizard.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2017 12 21;114(51):E10991-E11000. Epub 2017 Nov 21.

Unité Physiologie et Pathologie Moléculaires des Rétrovirus Endogènes et Infectieux, CNRS UMR 9196, Gustave Roussy, Villejuif, F-94805, France;

Syncytins are envelope genes from endogenous retroviruses that have been captured during evolution for a function in placentation. They have been found in all placental mammals in which they have been searched, including marsupials. Placental structures are not restricted to mammals but also emerged in some other vertebrates, most frequently in lizards, such as the viviparous Scincidae. Here, we performed high-throughput RNA sequencing of a placenta transcriptome and screened for the presence of retroviral genes with a full-length ORF. We identified one such gene, which we named "," that has all the characteristics expected for a syncytin gene. It encodes a membrane-bound envelope protein with fusogenic activity ex vivo, is expressed at the placental level as revealed by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, and is conserved in all species tested, spanning over 25 My of evolution. Its cognate receptor, required for its fusogenic activity, was searched for by a screening assay using the GeneBridge4 human/Chinese hamster radiation hybrid panel and found to be the MPZL1 gene, previously identified in mammals as a signal-transducing transmembrane protein involved in cell migration. Together, these results show that syncytin capture is not restricted to placental mammals, but can also take place in the rare nonmammalian vertebrates in which a viviparous placentotrophic mode of reproduction emerged. It suggests that similar molecular tools have been used for the convergent evolution of placentation in independently evolved and highly distant vertebrates.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1714590114DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5754801PMC
December 2017

Developmental, genetic, and genomic insights into the evolutionary loss of limbs in snakes.

Genesis 2018 01 2;56(1). Epub 2017 Nov 2.

Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 32610.

The evolution of snakes involved dramatic modifications to the ancestral lizard body plan. Limb loss and elongation of the trunk are hallmarks of snakes, although convergent evolution of limb-reduced and trunk-elongated forms occurred multiple times in snake-like lizards. Advanced snakes are completely limbless, but intermediate and basal snakes have retained rudiments of hindlimbs and pelvic girdles. Moreover, the snake fossil record indicates that complete legs were re-acquired at least once, suggesting that the potential for limb development was retained in some limb-reduced taxa. Recent work has shown that python embryos initiate development of a transitory distal leg skeleton, including a footplate, and that the limb-specific enhancer of the Sonic hedgehog gene, known as the zone of polarizing activity regulatory sequence (ZRS), underwent gradual degeneration during snake evolution. In this article, we review historical and recent investigations into squamate limblessness, and we discuss how new genomic and functional genetic experiments have improved our understanding of the evolution of limblessness in snakes. Finally, we explore the idea that pleiotropy of cis-regulatory elements may illuminate the convergent genetic changes that occurred in snake-like lizards, and we discuss a number of challenges that remain to be addressed in future studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dvg.23077DOI Listing
January 2018

Loss and Re-emergence of Legs in Snakes by Modular Evolution of Sonic hedgehog and HOXD Enhancers.

Curr Biol 2016 11 20;26(21):2966-2973. Epub 2016 Oct 20.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, UF Genetics Institute, University of Florida, P.O. Box 103610, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA; Department of Biology, UF Genetics Institute, University of Florida, P.O. Box 103610, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA; Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, UF Genetics Institute, University of Florida, P.O. Box 103610, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA. Electronic address:

Limb reduction and loss are hallmarks of snake evolution. Although advanced snakes are completely limbless, basal and intermediate snakes retain pelvic girdles and small rudiments of the femur. Moreover, legs may have re-emerged in extinct snake lineages [1-5], suggesting that the mechanisms of limb development were not completely lost in snakes. Here we report that hindlimb development arrests in python embryos as a result of mutations that abolish essential transcription factor binding sites in the limb-specific enhancer of Sonic hedgehog (SHH). Consequently, SHH transcription is weak and transient in python hindlimb buds, leading to early termination of a genetic circuit that drives limb outgrowth. Our results suggest that degenerate evolution of the SHH limb enhancer played a role in reduction of hindlimbs during snake evolution. By contrast, HOXD digit enhancers are conserved in pythons, and HOXD gene expression in the hindlimb buds progresses to the distal phase, forming an autopodial (digit) domain. Python hindlimb buds then develop transitory pre-chondrogenic condensations of the tibia, fibula, and footplate, raising the possibility that re-emergence of hindlimbs during snake evolution did not require de novo re-evolution of lost structures but instead could have resulted from persistence of embryonic legs. VIDEO ABSTRACT.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2016.09.020DOI Listing
November 2016

Oct4 Is a Key Regulator of Vertebrate Trunk Length Diversity.

Dev Cell 2016 08 21;38(3):262-74. Epub 2016 Jul 21.

Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Rua da Quinta Grande 6, 2780-156 Oeiras, Portugal. Electronic address:

Vertebrates exhibit a remarkably broad variation in trunk and tail lengths. However, the evolutionary and developmental origins of this diversity remain largely unknown. Posterior Hox genes were proposed to be major players in trunk length diversification in vertebrates, but functional studies have so far failed to support this view. Here we identify the pluripotency factor Oct4 as a key regulator of trunk length in vertebrate embryos. Maintaining high Oct4 levels in axial progenitors throughout development was sufficient to extend trunk length in mouse embryos. Oct4 also shifted posterior Hox gene-expression boundaries in the extended trunks, thus providing a link between activation of these genes and the transition to tail development. Furthermore, we show that the exceptionally long trunks of snakes are likely to result from heterochronic changes in Oct4 activity during body axis extension, which may have derived from differential genomic rearrangements at the Oct4 locus during vertebrate evolution.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.devcel.2016.06.021DOI Listing
August 2016

Evolution of external genitalia: insights from reptilian development.

Sex Dev 2014 7;8(5):311-26. Epub 2014 Aug 7.

Department of Biology, UF Genetics Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., USA.

External genitalia are found in each of the major clades of amniotes. The phallus is an intromittent organ that functions to deliver sperm into the female reproductive tract for internal fertilization. The cellular and molecular genetic mechanisms of external genital development have begun to be elucidated from studies of the mouse genital tubercle, an embryonic appendage adjacent to the cloaca that is the precursor of the penis and clitoris. Progress in this area has improved our understanding of genitourinary malformations, which are among the most common birth defects in humans, and created new opportunities for comparative studies of other taxa. External genitalia evolve rapidly, which has led to a striking diversity of anatomical forms. Within the past year, studies of external genital development in non-mammalian amniotes, including birds, lizards, snakes, alligators, and turtles, have begun to shed light on the molecular and morphogenetic mechanisms underlying the diversification of phallus morphology. Here, we review recent progress in the comparative developmental biology of external genitalia and discuss the implications of this work for understanding external genital evolution. We address the question of the deep homology (shared common ancestry) of genital structures and of developmental mechanisms, and identify new areas of investigation that can be pursued by taking a comparative approach to studying development of the external genitalia. We propose an evolutionary interpretation of hypospadias, a congenital malformation of the urethra, and discuss how investigations of non-mammalian species can provide novel perspectives on human pathologies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000365771DOI Listing
July 2015

Development of hemipenes in the ball python snake Python regius.

Sex Dev 2015 20;9(1):6-20. Epub 2014 Jun 20.

Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., USA.

Within amniotes, external copulatory organs have undergone extensive morphological diversification. One of the most extreme examples is squamate (lizards and snakes) hemipenes, which are paired copulatory organs that extend from the lateral margins of the cloaca. Here, we describe the development of hemipenes in a basal snake, the ball python (Python regius). Snake hemipenes arise as a pair of lateral swellings on either side of the caudal part of the cloaca, and these paired outgrowths persist to form the left and right hemipenes. In non-squamate amniotes, external genitalia form from paired swellings that arise on the anterior side of the cloaca, which then fuse medially to form a single genital tubercle, the anlagen of the penis or clitoris. Whereas in non-squamate amniotes, Sonic hedgehog (Shh)-expressing cells of the cloacal endoderm form the urethral or sulcus epithelium and are required for phallus outgrowth, the hemipenes of squamates lack an endodermal contribution, and the sulcus does not express Shh. Thus, snake hemipenes differ from the genital tubercles of non-squamate amniotes both in their embryonic origins and in at least part of patterning mechanisms, which raises the possibility that hemipenes may not be direct homologs of the unpaired amniote penis. Nonetheless, we find that some developmental genes show similar expression patterns in snake hemipenes buds and non-squamate genital tubercles, suggesting that homologous developmental mechanisms are involved in aspects of external genital development across amniotes, even when these structures may have different developmental origins and may have arisen independently during evolution.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000363758DOI Listing
September 2015

Mediator subunit18 controls flowering time and floral organ identity in Arabidopsis.

PLoS One 2013 11;8(1):e53924. Epub 2013 Jan 11.

Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, United States of America.

Mediator is a conserved multi-protein complex that plays an important role in regulating transcription by mediating interactions between transcriptional activator proteins and RNA polymerase II. Much evidence exists that Mediator plays a constitutive role in the transcription of all genes transcribed by RNA polymerase II. However, evidence is mounting that specific Mediator subunits may control the developmental regulation of specific subsets of RNA polymerase II-dependent genes. Although the Mediator complex has been extensively studied in yeast and mammals, only a few reports on Mediator function in flowering time control of plants, little is known about Mediator function in floral organ identity. Here we show that in Arabidopsis thaliana, MEDIATOR SUBUNIT 18 (MED18) affects flowering time and floral organ formation through FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC) and AGAMOUS (AG). A MED18 loss-of-function mutant showed a remarkable syndrome of later flowering and altered floral organ number. We show that FLC and AG mRNA levels and AG expression patterns are altered in the mutant. Our results support parallels between the regulation of FLC and AG and demonstrate a developmental role for Mediator in plants.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0053924PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3543355PMC
July 2013

Typology of chronic pain among overweight Mexican Americans.

J Health Care Poor Underserved 2011 Aug;22(3):1030-47

California State University, Fullerton, CA 92834, USA.

Having a better understanding of the intersection between chronic pain and obesity in the Mexican American community can be valuable for pain management specialists in determining treatment, service, and prevention strategies. The objectives of this study were (1) to describe the type and severity of chronic pain among overweight/obese Hispanic adults aged 40 years and older, and (2) to determine the association between chronic pain indices and key demographic variables, including excessive weight. Hispanic adults (N=101) were interviewed using validated questionnaires and measured for BMI and waist circumference. Data analyses revealed that most participants had widespread pain; 60% were suffering severe pain (including back, knee, and shoulder pain); the most common pain location was head (headache, 80%), followed by knee and upper back (75-76%), shoulder (73%) and lower back (73%). Greater obesity was associated with some negative pain outcomes. Results are relevant for pain management with this at-risk population.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/hpu.2011.0092DOI Listing
August 2011

Limb development in the gekkonid lizard Gonatodes albogularis: A reconsideration of homology in the lizard carpus and tarsus.

J Morphol 2010 Nov;271(11):1328-41

Laboratorio de Biología Reproductiva de Vertebrados, Grupo de Estudios en Biodiversidad, Escuela de Biología, Universidad Industrial de Santander, Bucaramanga, Colombia.

Despite the attention squamate lizards have received in the study of digit and limb loss, little is known about limb morphogenesis in pentadactyl lizards. Recent developmental studies have provided a basis for understanding lizard autopodial element homology based on developmental and comparative anatomy. In addition, the composition and identity of some carpal and tarsal elements of lizard limbs, and reptiles in general, have been the theme of discussions about their homology compared to non-squamate Lepidosauromorpha and basal Amniota. The study of additional embryonic material from different lizard families may improve our understanding of squamate limb evolution. Here, we analyze limb morphogenesis in the gekkonid lizard Gonatodes albogularis describing patterns of chondrogenesis and ossification from early stages of embryonic development to hatchlings. Our results are in general agreement with previous developmental studies, but we also show that limb development in squamates probably involves more chondrogenic elements for carpal and tarsal morphogenesis, as previously recognized on the grounds of comparative anatomy. We provide evidence for the transitory presence of distal carpale 1 and intermedium in the carpus and tibiale, intermedium, distal centralia, and distal tarsale 2 in the tarsus. Hence, we demonstrate that some elements that were believed to be lost in squamate evolution are conserved as transitory elements during limb development. However, these elements do not represent just phylogenetic burden but may be important for the morphogenesis of the lizard autopodium.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jmor.10875DOI Listing
November 2010

Morphological variation in the allantoplacenta within the genus Mabuya (squamata: Scincidae).

Anat Rec (Hoboken) 2008 Sep;291(9):1124-39

Laboratorio de Biología Reproductiva de Vertebrados, Escuela de Biología, Universidad Industrial de Santander, Bucaramanga, Colombia.

The type IV allantoplacenta has been described for the New World tropical scincids lizards of the genus Mabuya; it possesses the greatest morphological complexity known among viviparous squamates. Although a common morphological pattern has been observed in the few species of this lineage in which the allantoplacental morphology has been studied, some morphological variations may be present among species and populations. Here, we report morphological variation of the allantoplacenta of twelve populations of the genus Mabuya distributed in different geographical areas in northern South America using light microscopy. It is found that all the populations/species conserve a general arrangement of the placental structures. In the embryonic hemisphere there are a placentome, paraplacentome, and chorionic areolas; these structures are related to histotrophic nutrition. At the abembryonic hemisphere, there are absorptive plaques for histotrophic transfer and respiratory segments for gas exchange. However, in some populations some distinctive features in the placentome were found. The presence in the uterine syncytium of non syncytialized columnar cell groups, and invasive cells and apical projections of the chorionic cells directed toward the uterine syncytium, constitute a localized endotheliochorial placenta. Likewise, variations found in the abembryonic region include a greater morphological complexity, such as the folded and delimited absorptive plaques, and highly folded regions at the abembryonic pole (folded respiratory segments integrated with folded absorptive plaques). These specializations allow a larger surface for the passage of nutrients and respiratory exchange. Replication and the regionalized differentiation of the absorptive plaques were probably instrumental in the emergence of specialized structures for nutrient transport such as the placentome and the different types of absorptive plaques. These developmental processes appear to underlie the evolution of the placental complexity within thegenus Mabuya by the morphological variation of serial homologous structures.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ar.20733DOI Listing
September 2008