Publications by authors named "Ido Izhaki"

80 Publications

Investigation of glucosinolates in the desert plant Ochradenus baccatus (Brassicales: Resedaceae). Unveiling glucoochradenin, a new arabinosylated glucosinolate.

Phytochemistry 2021 Jul 8;187:112760. Epub 2021 Apr 8.

Department of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa, Haifa, 3498838, Israel; Oranim College, Campus Oranim, Kiryat Tivon, 36006, Israel. Electronic address:

Here we describe the structure elucidation and quantification of six glucosinolates (GSLs) from the roots of the desert plant Ochradenus baccatus, Delile 1813 (family Resedaceae; order Brassicales). The structure elucidation was established on the corresponding enzymatically desulfated derivatives of the native GSLs of the plant. Among these GSLs we describe the previously undescribed 2″-O-(α-L-arabinopyranosyloxy)benzylglucosinolate (1a), for which we propose the name glucoochradenin. The other five glucosinolates (2a-6a) were (2S)-2-hydroxy-2-phenylethylglucosinolate (2a; glucobarbarin), 2″-O-(α-L-rhamnopyranosyloxy)benzylglucosinolate (3a), benzylglucosinolate (4a; glucotropaeolin), indol-3-ylmethylglucosinolate (5a; glucobrassicin) and phenethylglucosinolate (6a; gluconasturtiin), all elucidated as their desulfo-derivatives, 2b-6b respectively). Structures were elucidated by MS and 1D and 2D-NMR techniques, the identity of the arabinose verified by ion chromatography, and the absolute configuration of the sugar units determined by hydrolysis, coupling to cysteine methyl-ester and phenyl isothiocyanate followed by HPLC-MS analysis of the resulted diastereomers. Response factors were generated for desulfo-2″-O-(α-L-arabinopyranosyloxy)benzylglucosinolate and for desulfo-2″-O-(α-L-rhamnopyranosyloxy)benzylglucosinolate and all six GSLs were quantified, indicating that the root of O. baccatus is rich in GSLs (Avg. 61.3 ± 10.0 μmol/g DW and up to 337.2 μmol/g DW).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.phytochem.2021.112760DOI Listing
July 2021

Direct Evidence That Sunbirds' Gut Microbiota Degrades Floral Nectar's Toxic Alkaloids.

Front Microbiol 2021 11;12:639808. Epub 2021 Mar 11.

Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

Orange-tufted sunbirds () feed on the nectar of the tobacco tree () which contains toxic pyridine alkaloids characterized by high concentrations of anabasine and much lower concentrations of nicotine. We aimed at determining whether the gut microbiota of sunbirds harbors bacterial species that enable the birds to cope with these toxic alkaloids. An experiment that included 12 birds showed that inducing dysbiosis in sunbirds' guts by the addition of sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim, significantly reduced the birds' ability to degrade anabasine ( = 3) compared to control birds ( = 3) with undisturbed microbiota. Sunbirds whose gut bacterial communities were altered by the antibacterial agents and who were fed with added nicotine, also showed a lower percentage of nicotine degradation ( = 3) in their excreta compared to the sunbirds with undisturbed microbiota ( = 3), though this difference was not significant. In an experiment, we studied the ability of , , , , and that were isolated from sunbirds' excreta, to degrade anabasine and nicotine. By using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis, we successfully demonstrated, for the first time, the ability of these species to degrade the focal secondary metabolites. Our findings demonstrate the role of gut bacteria in detoxifying toxic secondary metabolites found in the nectar. The degradation products may supply the birds with nitrogen which is scarce in nectar-rich diets. These findings support another role of bacteria in mediating the interactions between plants and their pollinators.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2021.639808DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8018289PMC
March 2021

Proof of concept use of progesterone/estradiol ratio to investigate late follicular progesterone in women with low number of pre-ovulatory follicles.

Minerva Endocrinol (Torino) 2021 Apr 1. Epub 2021 Apr 1.

Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

Background: To investigate late follicular progesterone (P) serum level in women with low number of pre-ovulatory follicles in the assisted reproductive technologies (ART) setting.

Methods: Fifty-five consecutive women having four or less pre-ovulatory follicles of >14 mm on the day of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) administration were prospectively evaluated. Spearman correlation tests between serum estradiol (E2) level, serum P level, P/E2 ratio, number of pre-ovulatory follicles, oocytes and embryos were performed. Women enrolled were further divided into two groups in accordance with the P/E2 ratio on the day of hCG administration and compared.

Results: Serum E2 level correlated positively with P serum level (rs = 0.36, P < 0.01), number of mature follicles (rs = 0.50, P < 0.01) and number of oocytes retrieved (rs = 0.36, P < 0.05), whereas negatively with P/E2 ratio (rs = - 0.68, P < 0.01). Likewise, number of pre-ovulatory follicles correlated positively with E2 level (rs = 0.50, P < 0.01), P level (rs = 0.27, P < 0.05) and number of oocytes retrieved (rs = 0.33, P < 0.05), while it correlated negatively with P/E2 ratio (rs = - 0.33, P < 0.05). Furthermore, women with P/E2 ratio > 1 on the day of hCG administration received considerably higher total follicular stimulating hormone (FSH) dosage and achieved significantly lower number of oocytes and embryos as compared to controls.

Conclusions: The reverse relationship between number of pre-ovulatory follicles and P/E2 ratio implies that P rise is not only the result of increased steroidogenic activity but other oocytefollicle disrupted mechanisms seems to be involved. An exaggerated FSH stimulation appears to disrupt further these mechanisms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.23736/S2724-6507.21.03328-9DOI Listing
April 2021

Protein C global assay evaluation in naturally conceived vs. assisted reproduction-achieved twin pregnancies: a prospective longitudinal study.

Arch Gynecol Obstet 2021 Jun 9;303(6):1549-1555. Epub 2021 Feb 9.

Hematology Laboratory, Rambam Health Care Campus, Haifa, Israel.

Purpose: Protein C global assay tests the global function of the protein C pathway, the most clinically significant anticoagulant pathway in humans. The objective of this study is to assess the difference in protein C global assay levels, throughout twin gestation, in naturally conceiving and ART-treated women.

Methods: This is a prospective cohort longitudinal study of pregnant women with twin gestation. Protein C Global evaluation was performed on frozen blood samples. Ninety-eight women with twin pregnancy, thirty-eight naturally conceived and sixty following ART, were evaluated on four occasions: during the first, second, and third trimesters, and 6 weeks or later after delivery (baseline).

Results: Protein C global assay levels were lower throughout pregnancy as compared to basal levels in both the naturally conceived and ART-conceived groups. However, protein C global assay levels were similar between the ART-conceived and naturally conceived twin pregnancies in all three trimesters. Perinatal complications were associated with decreased protein C global assay levels during the third trimester, although no difference was encountered between naturally conceived and ART-complicated twin pregnancies.

Conclusion: While protein C global assay levels drop during twin pregnancy, there is no difference between ART-conceived and naturally conceived gestations. Decreased levels of protein C global assay during the third trimester were similarly associated with perinatal complications in both groups. Our results imply that twin pregnancy of itself is a more dominant factor for perinatal complications as compared to other factors, such as subfertility or the exposure to ART per se.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00404-020-05959-8DOI Listing
June 2021

Geographic partitioning or environmental selection: What governs the global distribution of bacterial communities inhabiting floral nectar?

Sci Total Environ 2020 Dec 12;749:142305. Epub 2020 Sep 12.

Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa, Haifa 3498838, Israel.

Floral nectar harbors microbial communities which have significant impacts on its chemistry, volatiles, nutritional contents, and attractiveness for pollinators. Yet, fundamental knowledge regarding the structure and composition of nectar-associated microbiomes remains largely unknown. Especially elusive are the environmental factors and spatial effects that shape nectar-inhabiting microbial communities. The aim of this study was to explore and analyze the role of geographical and environmental factors affecting the composition and global distribution of floral nectar microbiota. We explored and compared the structure of bacterial communities inhabiting the floral nectar of the widely spread and invasive tobacco tree (Nicotiana glauca) in six continents: South and North America, Australia, Europe, Africa, and Asia, using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Environmental abiotic data for each sampled plant was obtained from the Worldclim database and applied for inferring the effects of environmental conditions on bacterial community structure and diversity. Most abundant in the nectar were the Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, and Actinobacteria phyla, with Acinetobacter and Rosenbergiella (Proteobacteria) being the dominant bacterial genera that contributed most to the dissimilarities between sites. Acinetobacter and Rosenbergiella abundances were negatively correlated and significantly higher in the Mediterranean regions (Greece, Israel, and the Canary Islands) compared to Argentina and Australia. Temperature, site-elevation, rainfall, and density of vegetation were found to have significant effects on the structure and diversity of these bacterial communities in the nectar. Vegetation density was positively correlated with microbial diversity, while increased temperatures and elevation reduced the diversity and evenness of bacterial communities. Mantel's test showed that the similarity between the bacterial communities' composition significantly decreased as distances between them increased. We conclude that both geographical distance and local environmental abiotic conditions affect and shape the composition and diversity of nectar inhabiting bacterial communities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142305DOI Listing
December 2020

Identification of chironomid species as natural reservoirs of toxigenic Vibrio cholerae strains with pandemic potential.

PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2020 12 23;14(12):e0008959. Epub 2020 Dec 23.

Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

Vibrio cholerae causes the fatal cholera diarrhea. Chironomids (Diptera; Chironomidae) are abundant in freshwater aquatic habitats and estuaries and are natural reservoirs of V. cholerae. Until now, only the non-O1/O139 serogroups of V. cholerae were identified in chironomids. Here, we explored whether chironomids are natural reservoirs of V. cholerae O1/O139 serogroups, which are associated with cholera endemics and pandemics. All four life stages of chironomids were sampled from two rivers, and a laboratory culture in Pune, India, and from a pond in Israel. In total, we analyzed 223 chironomid samples. The presence of V. cholerae O1/O139 serogroups was verified using molecular tools. Nine chironomid species were identified; of them, Chironomus circumdatus was the most abundant. The presence of V. cholerae serogroup O1 and the cholera toxin genes were detected in samples from all chironomid species. However, serogroup O139 was detected in only two chironomid species. Besides PCR to detect specific genes, a metagenomic analysis that was performed in three selected C. ramosus larvae, identified a list of virulence genes associated with V. cholerae. The findings provide evidence that chironomids are natural reservoirs of toxigenic V. cholerae O1/O139. Chironomid populations and V. cholerae show biannual peak patterns. A similar pattern is found for cholera epidemics in the Bengal Delta region. Thus, we hypothesize that monitoring chironomids in endemic areas of the disease may provide a novel tool for predicting and preventing cholera epidemics. Moreover, serogroup O139 was detected only in two chironomid species that have a restricted distribution in the Indian subcontinent, possibly explaining why the distribution of the O139 serogroup is limited.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0008959DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7757795PMC
December 2020

The effect of toxic pyridine-alkaloid secondary metabolites on the sunbird gut microbiome.

NPJ Biofilms Microbiomes 2020 11 13;6(1):53. Epub 2020 Nov 13.

Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel.

Sunbirds feed on tobacco tree nectar which contains toxic nicotine and anabasine secondary metabolites. Our aim was to understand the effect of nicotine and anabasine on the gut microbiota composition of sunbirds. Sixteen captive sunbirds were randomly assigned to two diets: artificial nectar either with (treatment) or without (control) added nicotine and anabasine. Excreta were collected at 0, 2, 4 and 7 weeks of treatment and samples were processed for bacterial culture and high-throughput amplicon sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene. The gut microbiome diversity of the treated and control birds changed differently along the seven-week experiment. While the diversity decreased in the control group along the first three samplings (0, 2 and 4 weeks), it increased in the treatment group. The microbiota composition analyses demonstrated that a diet with nicotine and anabasine, significantly changed the birds' gut microbiota composition compared to the control birds. The abundance of nicotine- and anabasine- degrading bacteria in the excreta of the treated birds, was significantly higher after four and seven weeks compared to the control group. Furthermore, analysis of culturable isolates, including Lactococcus, showed that sunbirds' gut-associated bacteria were capable of degrading nicotine and anabasine, consistent with their hypothesised role as detoxifying and nutritional symbionts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41522-020-00161-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7666580PMC
November 2020

Is there a difference in ovarian reserve biomarkers and ovarian response between the right and left ovaries?

Reprod Biomed Online 2020 Sep 20;41(3):416-424. Epub 2020 Jun 20.

The Azrieli Faculty of Medicine in the Galilee, Bar-Ilan University, Safed, Israel. Electronic address:

Research Question: Is there a difference in ovarian reserve biomarkers and ovarian response between the right and left ovaries of infertile women undergoing IVF treatments?

Design: A total of 100 infertile women aged 27 to 37 years, diagnosed with either unexplained male factor or mechanical factor infertility, participated in the study. All women had both ovaries intact, and regular menstrual cycles with no previous diagnosis of polycystic ovaries or endometriosis. The data were collected separately for each ovary, and included parameters of basal sonographic ovarian reserve, as well as ovarian response to ovarian stimulation.

Results: Basal sonographic ovarian reserve markers were similar between the two ovaries. The right and left ovaries did not differ in their basal antral follicle count (AFC) (6.9 ± 3.9 versus 6.8 ± 3.8, respectively, P = 0.672), nor did they differ in their ovarian volume (10.3 ± 6.7 versus 9.8 ± 8.0 cm, respectively, P = 0.636). Nevertheless, a superior right-sided ovarian response to ovarian stimulation was observed, with a significantly higher total number of follicles in the right compared with the left ovary (7.8 ± 4.3 versus 6.8 ± 4.2 follicles, respectively, P = 0.006), and a higher number of follicles ≥14 mm on the day of human chorionic gonadotrophin administration (4.9 ± 3.2 versus 3.8 ± 2.4 follicles, respectively, P = 0.002).

Conclusions: Despite comparable basal AFC and ovarian volume, the two ovaries are distinguishable in their response to ovarian stimulation with a clear right-side preference. These findings imply that the superiority of right ovarian response may be derived from local pelvic factors, presumably a more efficient vascularization.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.rbmo.2020.06.007DOI Listing
September 2020

Does an association exist between menstrual cycle length within the normal range and ovarian reserve biomarkers during the reproductive years? A systematic review and meta-analysis.

Hum Reprod Update 2020 11;26(6):904-928

Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, University of Haifa, Haifa 3498838, Israel.

Background: Regular menstrual cycling during the reproductive years is an indicator of spontaneous ovulation but sometimes falsely perceived as an indicator of preserved fertility. In contrast, menstrual cycle shortening, a physiologic occurrence preceding the menopausal transition, is not usually perceived as an indicator of decreased ovarian reserve in the general population.

Objective And Rationale: The individual decrease in menstrual cycle length (MCL) might represent a sensitive biomarker of diminishing ovarian reserve. The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis is to examine the possible association between MCL in regularly cycling women (21-35 days) and ovarian reserve tests (ORT), fecundability in natural cycles and IVF outcomes.

Search Methods: An electronic database search employing PubMed, Web of Science, Trip, EBSCO, ClinicalTrials.gov and the Cochrane library was performed to identify research articles, only on human, published between January 1978 and August 2019. Search terms were pregnancy OR fertility OR fecundity OR fecundability, anti-Müllerian hormone OR AMH OR antral follicle count OR AFC OR ovarian reserve OR ovarian reserve test, in vitro fertilization OR ART OR assisted reproductive therapy OR assisted reproductive treatment OR assisted reproductive technology OR IVF OR ICSI, menstrual cycle length OR menstrual cycle characteristics. We combined these terms to complete the search. All prospective and retrospective studies exploring an association between MCL and proxies of ovarian reserve were included. The exclusions included studies of PCOS, ovarian failure, oral contraception treatment, prior chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy or ovarian surgery. The Newcastle-Ottawa scale was used to assess the quality of studies that were eligible for meta-analysis.

Outcomes: Eleven studies were eligible for meta-analysis, including 12 031 women. The included studies had a low risk of bias. Short MCL (21-27 days) was associated with lower ORT values as compared to normal (28-31 days), long (32-35 days) and all other (28-35 days) MCL sets. The estimated weighted mean difference (WMD) of AMH level was -1.3 ng/mL (95% CI: -1.75 to -0.86, P < 0.001) between the short and normal MCL sets. The estimated WMD of AFC values was -5.17 (95% CI: -5.96 to -4.37, P < 0.001) between the short and normal MCL sets. The weighted overall odds ratio (OR) of fecundability in natural cycles between women with short versus normal MCL sets was statistically significant (overall OR 0.81; 95% CI 0.72-0.91, P < 0.001). In the IVF setting, fewer oocytes were retrieved in short MCL in comparison to normal, long and all other MCL sets, with an estimated WMD of -1.8 oocytes (95% CI: -2.5 to -1.1, P < 0.001) in the short versus normal MCL sets. The weighted overall OR of clinical pregnancy rate between women with short versus all other MCL sets was statistically significant (overall OR 0.76; 95% CI: 0.60 to 0.96, P = 0.02). Low levels of heterogeneity were found in most meta-analyses of MCL and qualitative ovarian reserve biomarkers, while heterogeneity was high in meta-analyses performed for quantitative measures.

Wider Implications: MCL in regularly cycling women is closely related to ovarian reserve biomarkers during the reproductive years. A short MCL, as compared to normal, is significantly associated with lower ORT values, reduced fecundability and inferior IVF outcomes, independent of age. The results imply that short MCL may be a sign of ovarian aging, combining the quantitative and qualitative facets of ovarian reserve. Educational efforts ought to be designed to guide women with short MCL at a young age, who desire children in the future, to seek professional counselling.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/humupd/dmaa013DOI Listing
November 2020

Draft genome of strain 8N4 provides insights into the potential role of this species in its plant host.

PeerJ 2020 6;8:e8822. Epub 2020 Apr 6.

Department of Biology and Environment, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa, Oranim, Kiryat Tivon, Israel.

Background: strain 8N4, the type species of the genus , was isolated from (almond) floral nectar. Other strains of this species were isolated from the floral nectar of (grapefruit), (tobacco tree) and from strain 8N4 is a Gram-negative, oxidase-negative, facultatively anaerobic bacterium in the family .

Results: Here we describe features of this organism, together with its genome sequence and annotation. The DNA GC content is 47.38%, the assembly size is 3,294,717 bp, and the total number of genes are 3,346. The genome discloses the possible role that this species may play in the plant. The genome contains both virulence genes, like pectin lyase and hemolysin, that may harm plant cells and genes that are predicted to produce volatile compounds that may impact the visitation rates by nectar consumers, such as pollinators and nectar thieves.

Conclusions: The genome of strain 8N4 reveals a mutualistic interaction with the plant host and a possible effect on plant pollination and fitness.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj.8822DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7144588PMC
April 2020

Increased songbird nest depredation due to Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) encroachment in Mediterranean shrubland.

BMC Ecol 2019 12 17;19(1):52. Epub 2019 Dec 17.

School of Zoology, The George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.

Background: In recent decades, a decrease of passerine densities was documented in Mediterranean shrublands. At the same time, a widespread encroachment of Aleppo pines (Pinus halepensis) to Mediterranean shrubland occurred. Such changes in vegetation structure may affect passerine predator assemblage and densities, and in turn impact passerine densities. Depredation during the nesting season is an important factor to influence passerine population size. Understanding the effects of changes in vegetation structure (pine encroachment) on passerine nesting success is the main objective of this study. We do so by assessing the effects of Aleppo pine encroachment on Sardinian warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) nest depredation in Mediterranean shrublands. We examined direct and indirect predation pressures through a gradients of pine density, using four methods: (1) placing dummy nests; (2) acoustic monitoring of mobbing events; (3) direct observations on nest predation using cameras; and (4) observation of Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius) behaviour as indirect evidence of predation risk.

Results: We found that Aleppo pine encroachment to Mediterranean shrublands increased nest predation by Eurasian jays. Nest predation was highest in mixed shrubland and pines. These areas are suitable for warblers but had high occurrence rate of Eurasian jays.

Conclusions: Encroaching pines directly increase activity of Eurasian jays in shrubland habitats, which reduced the nesting success of Sardinian warblers. These findings are supported by multiple methodologies, illustrating different predation pressures along a gradient of pine densities in natural shrublands. Management of Aleppo pine seedlings and removal of unwanted trees in natural shrubland might mitigate arrival and expansion of predators and decrease the predation pressure on passerine nests.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12898-019-0270-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6918703PMC
December 2019

Comparative Analysis of Intestine Microbiota of Four Wild Waterbird Species.

Front Microbiol 2019 20;10:1911. Epub 2019 Aug 20.

Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

Waterbirds are ubiquitous and globally distributed. Yet, studies on wild waterbirds' gut microbiota are still rare. Our aim was to explore and compare the gut microbial community composition of wild waterbird species. Four wild waterbird species that are either wintering or all-year residents in Israel were studied: great cormorants, little egrets, black-crowned night herons and black-headed gulls. For each bird, three intestinal sections were sampled; anterior, middle and posterior. No significant differences were found among the microbiota compositions in the three intestine sections of each individual bird. Each waterbird species had a unique microbial composition. The gut microbiota of the black-headed gulls' fundamentally deviated from that of the other bird species, probably due to a very high abundance (58.8%) of the genus (). Our results suggest a correlation between the waterbird species' phylogeny and their intestine microbial community hierarchical tree, which evinced phylosymbiosis. This recent coinage stands for eco-evolutionary patterns between the host phylogeny and its microbiota composition. We conclude that eco-evolutionary processes termed phylosymbiosis may occur between wild waterbird species and their gut microbial community composition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2019.01911DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6711360PMC
August 2019

Accumulating evidence suggests that some waterbird species are potential vectors of Vibrio cholerae.

PLoS Pathog 2019 08 22;15(8):e1007814. Epub 2019 Aug 22.

Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

Vibrio cholerae is the causative agent of cholera, a life-threatening diarrheal disease. Cholera causes epidemics and pandemics, but the ways this disease spreads worldwide is still unclear. This review highlights a relatively new hypothesis regarding the way V. cholerae can be globally dispersed. Copepods and chironomids are natural reservoirs of V. cholerae and are part of different fish species' diet. Furthermore, V. cholerae inhabits marine and freshwater fish species. Waterbird species feed on fish or on small invertebrates such as copepods and chironomids. Waterbirds have also been found to carry living copepods and/or chironomids internally or externally from one waterbody to another. All of the above points to the fact that some waterbird species might be vectors of V. cholerae. Indeed, we and others have found evidence for the presence of V. cholerae non-O1 as well as O1 in waterbird cloacal swabs, feces, and intestine samples. Moreover, hand-reared cormorants that were fed on tilapia, a fish that naturally carries V. cholerae, became infected with this bacterial species, demonstrating that V. cholerae can be transferred to cormorants from their fish prey. Great cormorants as well as other waterbird species can cover distances of up to 1,000 km/day and thus may potentially transfer V. cholerae in a short time across and between continents. We hope this review will inspire further studies regarding the understanding of the waterbirds' role in the global dissemination of V. cholerae.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1007814DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6706228PMC
August 2019

Do young women with unexplained infertility show manifestations of decreased ovarian reserve?

J Assist Reprod Genet 2019 Jun 21;36(6):1143-1152. Epub 2019 May 21.

The Azrieli Faculty of Medicine in the Galilee, Bar-Ilan University, Safed, Israel.

Purpose: To investigate whether unexplained infertility at a young age demonstrates manifestations of decreased ovarian reserve.

Methods: A total of 100 women were divided into two equally sized groups. The study group comprised women aged ≤ 37 years diagnosed with unexplained infertility, and the control group included age-matched women with either mechanical factor or severe male factor infertility.

Results: Both groups were comparable in their basic characteristics. Overall, women with unexplained infertility presented with inferior ovarian reserve results set against women of the control group. The number of ≥ 14-mm follicles on the day of hCG administration was significantly lower in the study compared with the control group (7.0 ± 4.5 vs. 10.4 ± 4.1 follicles, respectively, P < 0.001). Likewise, basal serum FSH was higher in the study compared with the control group (8.4 ± 5.5 vs. 6.4 ± 1.7 IU/L, respectively, P = 0.015), while antral follicle count was lower (10.9 ± 6.6 vs. 16.2 ± 6.6 follicles, respectively, P < 0.001). Furthermore, women with unexplained infertility required a higher total dose of FSH for ovarian stimulation (2,923 ± 1,701 vs. 2,196 ± 941 IU/L, respectively, P = 0.010), but exhibited a lower number of retrieved oocytes (9.3 ± 6.3 vs. 15.6 ± 7.9 oocytes, respectively, P < 0.001), alongside a lower number of achieved embryos (5.3 ± 4.0 vs. 8.0 ± 4.7 embryos, respectively, P = 0.002). Interestingly, the cumulative clinical pregnancy rate was not significantly different between the two groups (44% vs. 58%, respectively, P = 0.163).

Conclusions: Young women ≤ 37 years of age with unexplained infertility have clear manifestations of sub-optimal ovarian reserve set against controls. Our findings suggest that unexplained infertility at a young age may be a risk factor for developing poor ovarian response, specifically as a quantitative, rather than a qualitative, risk factor.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10815-019-01467-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6603106PMC
June 2019

Impact of unilateral versus bilateral ovarian endometriotic cystectomy on ovarian reserve: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Hum Reprod Update 2019 05;25(3):375-391

Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

Background: Ovarian endometrioma is a frequent manifestation of endometriosis in women of reproductive age. Several issues related to its space occupying effects, local reactions and surgical removal continue to be actively debated today. The impact of ovarian endometrioma per se on ovarian reserve is still controversial and the effect of ovarian surgery is still actively discussed. Furthermore, the optimal biomarker of ovarian reserve estimation in women with ovarian endometrioma is still under examination. Additionally, there is no consistent agreement on the effect of endometrioma bilaterality on ovarian reserve.

Objective And Rationale: The objective of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to study the impact of unilateral versus bilateral ovarian endometrioma on ovarian reserve biomarkers before and after endometrioma cystectomy.

Search Methods: We performed an extensive electronic database search employing PubMed, EBSCO, Web of Science, ClinicalTrials.gov and the Cochrane Library, to identify published research articles published between January 2000 and October 2018. Search terms included endometriotic cyst OR endometrioma OR endometriomata, cystectomy OR resection OR stripping OR removal OR excision and infertility OR subfertility. Only prospective controlled studies that compared the impact of unilateral versus bilateral ovarian endometriotic cystectomy on ovarian reserve tests in the same setting were included. Studies which included cases with PCOS, ovarian failure, early menopause, oral contraception treatment, or prior chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy or ovarian surgery, were excluded from evaluation. We used the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale for assessing the quality of studies found eligible for meta-analysis. We registered the systematic review on PROSPERO and its number is CRD42018117170.

Outcomes: Twelve studies were eligible for meta-analysis including collectively 783 women: 489 and 294 in the unilateral and bilateral groups, respectively. The included studies had a low risk of bias. The pre-operative weighted mean difference (WMD) showed that serum AMH levels did not differ significantly between the groups. Conversely, AMH levels were significantly (P < 0.05) lower in bilateral groups than in unilateral groups at the early, intermediate and late post-operative periods, corresponding WMDs of 0.78 ng/ml (95% CI: 0.41-1.15), 0.59 ng/ml (95% CI: 0.14-1.04) and 1.08 ng/ml (95% CI: 0.63 to 1.52), respectively. Heterogeneity among eligible studies reporting on before the operation and at the early and intermediate post-operative periods was high. Pre-operative and post-operative AFC values were not significantly different between the groups. The heterogeneity among the studies reporting on AFC was high. Analysis of each of the unilateral and bilateral groups separately showed a significant and sustained serum AMH drop by 39.5% and 57.0%, respectively from baseline to after the operation.

Wider Implications: Our results challenge the concept that endometrioma per se adversely affects ovarian reserve, whereas endometrioma cystectomy, especially as bilateral operation, has a deleterious and sustained effect on ovarian reserve. AMH seems to be a more appropriate biomarker of ovarian reserve than AFC in cases with endometrioma. Since low AMH implies a shorter reproductive lifespan, excision of endometrioma should be cautiously considered, especially in bilateral cases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/humupd/dmy049DOI Listing
May 2019

The effects of long-distance migration on the evolution of moult strategies in Western-Palearctic passerines.

Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc 2019 04 18;94(2):700-720. Epub 2018 Oct 18.

Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology and Institute of Evolution, University of Haifa 199 Aba Khoushy Avenue, Mount Carmel 3498838, Haifa, Israel.

Although feathers are the unifying characteristic of all birds, our understanding of the causes, mechanisms, patterns and consequences of the feather moult process lags behind that of other major avian life-history phenomena such as reproduction and long-distance migration. Migration, which evolved in many species of the temperate and arctic zones, requires high energy expenditure to endure long-distance journeys. About a third of Western-Palearctic passerines perform long-distance migrations of thousands of kilometres each year using various morphological, physiological, biomechanical, behavioural and life-history adaptations. The need to include the largely non-overlapping breeding, long-distance migration and feather moult processes within the annual cycle imposes a substantial constraint on the time over which the moult process can take place. Here, we review four feather-moult-related adaptations which, likely due to time constraints, evolved among long-distance Western-Palearctic migrants: (i) increased moult speed; (ii) increased overlap between moult and breeding or migration; (iii) decreased extent of plumage moult; and (iv) moult of part or all of the plumage during the over-wintering period in the tropics rather than in the breeding areas. We suggest that long-distance migration shaped the evolution of moult strategies and increased the diversity of these strategies among migratory passerines. In contrast to this variation, all resident passerines in the Western Palearctic moult immediately after breeding by renewing the entire plumage of adults and in some species also juveniles, while in other species juvenile moult is partial. We identify important gaps in our current understanding of the moult process that should be addressed in the future. Notably, previous studies suggested that the ancestral moult strategy is a post-breeding summer moult in the Western Palearctic breeding areas and that moult during the winter evolved due to the scheduling of long-distance migration immediately after breeding. We offer an alternative hypothesis based on the notion of southern ancestry, proposing that the ancestral moult strategy was a complete moult during the 'northern winter' in the Afro-tropical region in these species, for both adults and juveniles. An important aspect of the observed variation in moult strategies relates to their control mechanisms and we suggest that there is insufficient knowledge regarding the physiological mechanisms that are involved, and whether they are genetically fixed or shaped by environmental factors. Finally, research effort is needed on how global climate changes may influence avian annual routines by altering the scheduling of major processes such as long-distance migration and feather moult.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/brv.12474DOI Listing
April 2019

Does the empty follicle syndrome occur in cases of low number of maturing follicles in assisted reproduction?

Gynecol Endocrinol 2019 Apr 10;35(4):305-308. Epub 2018 Oct 10.

a Reproductive Medicine Unit, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology , Poriya Medical Center , Tiberias , Israel.

The pathophysiology of the genuine empty follicle syndrome (EFS) is still debated. Ovarian aging has been contested as a cause of this condition. Our aim was to investigate the occurrence of the genuine EFS in cases of a low number of mature follicles in a prospective manner. Ninety-five infertile women were recruited and evaluated following conventional controlled ovarian stimulation (COS) with ≤ six follicles of ≥14 mm diameter on the day of hCG administration. Enrolled women were 37.5 ± 5.2 years of age with basal FSH level of 9.1 ± 3.7 mIU/L, antral follicle count (AFC) of 6.9 ± 4.6, and number of ≥14 mm follicles (on the day of hCG) of 3.4 ± 1.5. Among the 95 women, four were complicated by the genuine EFS (4.2%) with features of the depleted ovarian reserve. Comparison between these four cases and the 91 controls revealed significant differences between age, AFC, number of ≥14 mm follicles, and serum E level corresponding to 41.8 ± 1.7 versus 37.4 ± 5.2 years, 1.7 ± 0.6 versus 7.1 ± 4.5, 2.0 ± 0.8 versus 3.4 ± 1.5 follicles, and 356 ± 200 versus 975 ± 557 pg/mL, respectively. Post hoc analysis revealed that 56 among the 95 women fulfilled the Bologna criteria for poor ovarian response and all four cases matched the definition of the genuine EFS raising its incidence to 7.1% in this group. A logistic regression analysis showed that AFC was a significant factor in the development of the genuine EFS. We conclude that the genuine EFS complicates infertile women characterized by a low number of mature follicles. Our findings suggest that the mechanism behind this occurrence is associated with a more exhausted ovarian reserve.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09513590.2018.1519793DOI Listing
April 2019

Antimicrobial Susceptibility of Environmental Non-O1/Non-O139 Isolates.

Front Microbiol 2018 2;9:1726. Epub 2018 Aug 2.

Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, The Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

serogroups O1 and O139 are the causative agents of cholera disease. There are more than 200 serogroups in this species that are termed non-O1/non-O139. Non-O1/non-O139 strains can cause gastroenteritis and cholera like diarrhea, wound infections, external otitis, and bacteraemia that may lead to mortality. Previous antimicrobial susceptibility studies were conducted mainly on O1/O139 serogroups and on clinical isolates. Our aim was to study and compare the antimicrobial susceptibilities of non-O1/non-O139 environmental strains isolated from chironomids, fish, and waterfowl. Significant differences were found in the antimicrobial susceptibilities between the environmental strains that were isolated from three different reservoir habitats. Significant increase in minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of ampicillin and chloramphenicol was found in chironomid isolates from 2009 compared to those from 2005. isolates from different waterfowl species displayed the highest MIC values to chloramphenicol and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (SXT), while chironomid isolates demonstrated the highest MIC values toward ampicillin. Isolates from fish and waterfowl showed high MIC values toward doxycycline. No significant differences were found between the MICs of isolates from the different waterfowl species. The percentage of antimicrobial resistance among isolates from waterfowl was the highest compared to the abundance of antimicrobial resistant isolates from chironomids or fish. The antimicrobial resistance genes can be carried on mobile genetic elements, thus, waterfowl may act as reservoirs for these elements and may spread them all over the globe. Data regarding treatment with antimicrobial agents toward non-O1/non-O139 serogroups is lacking and therefore further studies are needed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2018.01726DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6083052PMC
August 2018

Wild waterfowl as potential vectors of Vibrio cholerae and Aeromonas species.

Trop Med Int Health 2018 07 30;23(7):758-764. Epub 2018 May 30.

Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

Objective: To study the hypothesis that migratory waterfowl are possible disseminators of Vibrio cholerae and Aeromonas.

Methods: We monitored the presence of V. cholerae and Aeromonas in three wild waterfowl species.

Results: V. cholerae and Aeromonas species were isolated and identified from intestine samples of little egrets and black-crowned night herons. Only Aeromonas species were isolated from black-headed gulls. The majority of Aeromonas isolates were A. veronii. Twenty-three V. cholerae serogroups were identified. V. cholerae serogroup O1 was found in the intestine DNA extractions from four little egrets and black-crowned night herons; six birds carried cholera toxin subunit A gene.

Conclusion: Wild waterfowl species may carry pathogenic V. cholerae O1 and non-O1 serogroups and Aeromonas species in their intestine. The migration of waterfowl is a potential mechanism for global distribution of V. cholerae and Aeromonas.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/tmi.13069DOI Listing
July 2018

The "vanishing follicle" in women with low number of developing follicles during assisted reproduction.

Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol 2018 Jan 3;220:6-11. Epub 2017 Nov 3.

Reproductive Medicine Unit, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Poriya Medical Center, Tiberias, Israel; Faculty of Medicine in Galilee, Bar-Ilan University, Israel.

Objective: To investigate the occurrence of the "vanishing follicle" phenomenon in women with low number of developing follicles in assisted reproduction.

Study Design: Women with ≤ 6 follicles on the day of hCG administration with ≥ 14mm diameter were prospectively studied. Primary outcome measures were disappearance of ≥14mm and all-diameter follicles on the day of oocyte pick-up compared to the day of hCG administration.

Results: Among the 120 women recruited, 95 were found eligible and completed the study. The "vanishing follicle" phenomenon occurred in 3.1% (95% confidence level: 0.7%-9.0%) and 18.9% (95% confidence level: 11.6%-28.3%) of cases affecting ≥14mm and all-diameter follicles, respectively. In all cases, mid-late follicular serum LH and P levels remained within normal follicular phase range and trans-vaginal scan did not show signs of ovulation. Markedly, the main significant difference between the study and control groups in the ≥14mm follicle group was serum E level on the day of hCG administration; median (Interquartile range), corresponding to 395 (382.0-405.5) versus 823.0 (544.5-1291.0) pg/mL, respectively (P=0.04). The same trend was encountered in all-diameter vanishing follicles group but it did not reach significance. Interestingly, in all-diameter vanishing group, chronic smoking and the P/E ratio on the hCG day were significantly higher than controls. Post hoc multiple logistic regression analysis of data in accordance with the Bologna criteria reveled that antral follicle count was found to significantly affect the development of the "vanishing follicle" phenomenon.

Conclusions: The "vanishing follicle" phenomenon occasionally occurs in women with low number of developing follicles during assisted reproduction with no signs of ovulation. Our preliminary findings suggest that this phenomenon may be related to exhausted ovarian reserve however, an early-unrecognized LH elevation could not be ruled out.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejogrb.2017.11.001DOI Listing
January 2018

Great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) as potential vectors for the dispersal of Vibrio cholerae.

Sci Rep 2017 08 11;7(1):7973. Epub 2017 Aug 11.

Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel.

Vibrio cholerae is the cause of cholera, a devastating epidemic and pandemic disease. Despite its importance, the way of its global dissemination is unknown. V. cholerae is abundant in aquatic habitats and is known to be borne by copepods, chironomids and fishes. Our aim was to determine if fish-eating birds act as vectors in the spread of V. cholerae by consuming infected fish. We determined the existence of V. cholerae in the microbiome of 5/7 wild cormorants' intestine. In three of these V. cholerae-positive wild cormorants, the presence of a gene for cholera toxin (ctxA) was detected. We subsequently tested eight captive, hand-reared cormorants, divided into two equal groups. Prior to the experiment, the feces of the cormorants were V. cholerae-negative. One group was fed exclusively on tilapias, which are naturally infected with V. cholerae, and the other was fed exclusively on goldfish or on koi that were V. cholerae-negative. We detected V. cholerae in the feces of the tilapia-fed, but not in the goldfish/koi-fed, cormorants. Hence, we demonstrate that fish-eating birds can be infected with V. cholerae from their fish prey. The large-scale movements of many fish-eating birds provide a potential mechanism for the global distribution of V. cholerae.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-08434-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5554209PMC
August 2017

Fish as Hosts of .

Front Microbiol 2017 28;8:282. Epub 2017 Feb 28.

Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa Haifa, Israel.

, the causative agent of pandemic cholera, is abundant in marine and freshwater environments. Copepods and chironomids are natural reservoirs of this species. However, the ways is globally disseminated are as yet unknown. Here we review the scientific literature that provides evidence for the possibility that some fish species may be reservoirs and vectors of . So far, has been isolated from 30 fish species (22 freshwater; 9 marine). O1 was reported in a few cases. In most cases was isolated from fish intestines, but it has also been detected in gills, skin, kidney, liver and brain tissue. In most cases the fish were healthy but in some, they were diseased. Nevertheless, Koch postulates were not applied to prove that and not another agent was the cause of the disease in the fish. Evidence from the literature correlates raw fish consumption or fish handling to a few cholera cases or cholera epidemics. Thus, we can conclude that inhabits some marine and freshwater fish species. It is possible that fish may protect the bacteria in unfavorable habitats while the bacteria may assist the fish to digest its food. Also, fish may disseminate the bacteria in the aquatic environment and may transfer it to waterbirds that consume them. Thus, fish are reservoirs of and may play a role in its global dissemination.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2017.00282DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5328977PMC
February 2017

From Microhabitat of Floral Nectar Up to Biogeographic Scale: Novel Insights on Neutral and Niche Bacterial Assemblies.

Microb Ecol 2017 07 20;74(1):128-139. Epub 2017 Jan 20.

Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel.

Microbial model systems are very useful in addressing macro-ecological questions. Two major theories exist to date, to explain the community structure of organisms: (1) the dispersal (neutral) assembly theory which predicts that community similarity decreases with increasing geographic distance, independent of any environmental variables, and (2) the niche assembly theory which predicts that the communities' compositions are more homogeneous among sites characterized by similar environmental conditions. Our study system offered a unique opportunity to investigate the relative role of environmental conditions and spatial factors in shaping community composition. We explored the bacterial community composition (BCC) of Nicotiana glauca floral nectar using the Illumina MiSeq technique at three spatial scales (plants, site, and region) and two taxonomic levels. Floral nectar samples were collected from 69 N. glauca plants at 11 different sites along a 200-km transect in Israel, along three biogeographic regions. A distance decay of BCC was found among all plants throughout Israel, but such pattern was not found among either sites or biogeographical regions. The BCC was also governed by environmental conditions in all examined scales (from the plant up to the biogeographical region). We also found that taxonomic resolution (89 and 97% sequence identity for clustering operational taxonomic units) affected the results of these BCC analyses. Hence, our study revealed that the BCC in N. glauca floral nectar is shaped by both the environmental conditions and the distance between plants, depending on the sampling scale under examination as well as by taxonomic resolution.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00248-017-0935-9DOI Listing
July 2017

Convex recoloring as an evolutionary marker.

Mol Phylogenet Evol 2017 02 3;107:209-220. Epub 2016 Nov 3.

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Haifa, Israel.

With the availability of enormous quantities of genetic data it has become common to construct very accurate trees describing the evolutionary history of the species under study, as well as every single gene of these species. These trees allow us to examine the evolutionary compliance of given markers (characters). A marker compliant with the history of the species investigated, has undergone mutations along the species tree branches, such that every subtree of that tree exhibits a different state. Convex recoloring (CR) uses combinatorial representation to measure the adequacy of a taxonomic classifier to a given tree. Despite its biological origins, research on CR has been almost exclusively dedicated to mathematical properties of the problem, or variants of it with little, if any, relationship to taxonomy. In this work we return to the origins of CR. We put CR in a statistical framework and introduce and learn the notion of the statistical significance of a character. We apply this measure to two data sets - Passerine birds and prokaryotes, and four examples. These examples demonstrate various applications of CR, from evolutionary relatedness, through lateral evolution, to supertree construction. The above study was done with a new software that we provide, containing algorithmic improvement with a graphical output of a (optimally) recolored tree.

Availability: A code implementing the features and a README is available at http://research.haifa.ac.il/ssagi/software/convexrecoloring.zip.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2016.10.018DOI Listing
February 2017

Multidimensional differentiation in foraging resource use during breeding of two sympatric top predators.

Sci Rep 2016 10 11;6:35031. Epub 2016 Oct 11.

Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa, Israel.

Ecologically-similar species were found to develop specific strategies to partition their resources, leading to niche differentiation and divergence, in order to avoid interspecific competition. Our study determines multi-dimensional differentiation of two sympatric top-predators, long-legged buzzards (LLB) and short-toed eagles (STE), which recently became sympatric during their breeding season in the Judean Foothills, Israel. By combining information from comprehensive diet and movement analyses we found four dimensions of differentiation: (1) Geographic foraging area: LLB tended to forage relatively close to their nests (2.35 ± 0.62 km), while STE forage far from their nest (13.03 ± 2.20 km); (2) Foraging-habitat type: LLBs forage at low natural vegetation, avoiding cultivated fields, whereas STEs forage in cultivated fields, avoiding low natural vegetation; (3) Diurnal dynamics of foraging: LLBs are uniformly active during daytime, whereas STEs activity peaks in the early afternoon; and (4) Food-niche: while both species largely rely on reptiles (47.8% and 76.3% for LLB and STE, respectively), LLB had a more diverse diet and consumed significantly higher percentages of lizards, while STE consumed significantly higher percentages of snakes. Our results suggest that this multidimensional differentiation allows the spatial coexistence of these two dense populations in the study area.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep35031DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5057159PMC
October 2016

Nest-site competition between invasive and native cavity nesting birds and its implication for conservation.

J Environ Manage 2016 Oct 21;181:129-134. Epub 2016 Jun 21.

The Biodiversity Research Group, The School of Biological Sciences, ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) and NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia.

Nesting cavities are often a limited resource that multiple species use. There is an ongoing discussion on whether invasive cavity nesting birds restrict the availability of this key limited resource. While the answer to this question has important conservation implications, little experimental work has been done to examine it. Here, we aimed to experimentally test whether alien cavity nesting birds affect the occupancy of cavities and the resulting breeding success of native cavity breeders in a large urban park located in Tel Aviv, Israel. Over three breeding seasons, we manipulated the entry size of nest boxes and compared the occupancy and breeding success of birds in nest boxes of two treatments. These included nest boxes with large-entrance and small-entrance holes. The large-entrance holes allowed access for both the native and invasive birds (the two main aliens in the park are the common mynas and rose-ringed parakeets). The smaller-entrance boxes, on the other hand, allowed only the smaller sized native cavity breeders (great tits and house sparrows) to enter the boxes but prevented the alien species from entering. We found that the large-entrance nest boxes were occupied by five different bird species, comprising three natives (great tit, house sparrow, Scops owl) and two invasive species (common myna, rose-ringed parakeet) while the small-entrance boxes were only occupied by the two native species. The alien common mynas and rose-ringed parakeets occupied 77.5% of the large-entrance nest boxes whereas native species, mainly great tits, occupied less than 9% of the large-entrance boxes and 36.5% of the small-entrance boxes. When examining the occupancy of those cavities that were not occupied by the aliens, natives occupied both the small and large-entrance nest boxes equally. Three quarters (78%) of the great tits breeding in the large-entrance boxes were usurped by common mynas during the breeding season and as a result breeding success was significantly lower for great tits breeding in the large-entrance boxes compared with the small-entrance boxes. The results of this study suggests that the invasive alien species can reduce the breeding potential of native cavity breeders both by exploiting the limited breeding resource (nest cavities) and by directly usurping cavities already occupied by the native species. Since the majority of large-entrance nest boxes were occupied by the larger alien birds, less native species bred in the limited number of unoccupied large-entrance nest boxes because of exploitation competition. We propose that for management purposes, nest-box programs that alter the entrance size of available natural cavities may be a practical approach, reducing the competition between native cavity breeders and alien invasive birds, and especially benefiting the smaller native cavity breeders.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2016.06.021DOI Listing
October 2016

The association between multinucleated blastomeres and poor ovarian response under the Bologna criteria.

J Assist Reprod Genet 2016 Jul 12;33(7):885-92. Epub 2016 May 12.

Reproductive Medicine Unit, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Poriya Medical Center, Tiberias, 15208, Israel.

Purpose: To investigate the occurrence of multinucleated blastomeres (MNB) in poor ovarian response (POR) women defined under the Bologna criteria.

Methods: This observational study was designed in a prospective controlled manner. Among 380 cases evaluated for eligibility, 102 women were found suitable and recruited; 51 with POR in accordance with the Bologna criteria defined as the study group and 51 with normal ovarian response defined as the control group.

Results: Among the 51 women in each group, 8 and 2 did not achieve embryos in the study and control group, respectively (P < 0.05). The percentage of women that had at least one embryo with one MNB was significantly higher in the study as compared to the control group, corresponding to 49 and 29 %, respectively. The total number of embryos evaluated was 416; 167 in the study and 249 in the control groups. Among these embryos, the MNB rate was significantly higher in the study as compared to the control group, corresponding to 19 and 8 %, respectively.

Conclusions: Blastomere multinuclearity is significantly more common in women and embryos of POR cases, defined under the Bologna criteria. Future studies are warranted to substantiate our observation that has the potential to be clinically implemented in this sub-group of women undergoing assisted reproductive technologies (ART) treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10815-016-0731-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4930787PMC
July 2016

Effects of Fruit Toxins on Intestinal and Microbial β-Glucosidase Activities of Seed-Predating and Seed-Dispersing Rodents (Acomys spp.).

Physiol Biochem Zool 2016 May-Jun;89(3):198-205. Epub 2016 Feb 17.

Plant secondary compounds (PSCs) have profound influence on the ecological interaction between plants and their consumers. Glycosides, a class of PSC, are inert in their intact form and become toxic on activation by either plant β-glucosidase enzymes or endogenous β-glucosidases produced by the intestine of the plant-predator or its microbiota. Many insect herbivores decrease activities of endogenous β-glucosidases to limit toxin exposure. However, such an adaptation has never been investigated in nonmodel mammals. We studied three species of spiny mice (Acomys spp.) that vary in their feeding behavior of the glycoside-rich fruit of Ochradenus baccatus. Two species, the common (Acomys cahirinus) and Crete (Acomys minous) spiny mice, behaviorally avoid activating glycosides, while the golden spiny mouse (Acomys russatus) regularly consumes activated glycosides. We fed each species a nontoxic diet of inert glycosides or a toxic diet of activated fruit toxins and investigated the responses of intestinal and microbial β-glucosidase activities. We found that individuals feeding on activated toxins had lower intestinal β-glucosidase activity and that the species that behaviorally avoid activating glycosides also had lower intestinal β-glucosidase activity regardless of treatment. The microbiota represented a larger source of toxin liberation, and the toxin-adapted species (golden spiny mouse) exhibited almost a fivefold increase in microbial β-glucosidase when fed activated toxins, while other species showed slight decreases. These results are contrary to those in insects, where glycoside-adapted species have lower β-glucosidase activity. The glycoside-adapted golden spiny mouse may have evolved tolerance mechanisms such as enhanced detoxification rather than avoidance mechanisms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/685546DOI Listing
March 2017

Moult Strategies Affect Age Differences in Autumn Migration Timing in East Mediterranean Migratory Passerines.

PLoS One 2016 21;11(1):e0147471. Epub 2016 Jan 21.

Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

Adult passerines renew their flight feathers at least once every year. This complete moult occurs either in the breeding areas, just after breeding (summer moult), or, in some long-distance migratory species, at the non-breeding areas, after arrival to the southern wintering area at the end of autumn migration (winter moult). The aim of this study was to relate moult strategies with the DMD, the difference in median migration date, through Israel, between juveniles and adults. Our data on autumn migration timing in juveniles and adults was based on ringing data of 49,125 individuals belonging to 23 passerine species that breed in Europe and Western Asia and migrate through Israel. We found that DMD was associated with moult timing. In all species that perform a winter moult, adults preceded juveniles during autumn. Among migrants who perform a summer moult, we found evidence of both migration timing patterns: juveniles preceding adults or adults preceding juveniles. In addition, in summer moulters, we found a significant, positive correlation between mean breeding latitude and DMD. Although previous studies described that moult duration and extent can be affected by migration, we suggest that moult strategies affect both migration timing and migration strategy. These two moult strategies (summer or winter moult) also represent two unique migration strategies. Our findings highlight the evolutionary interplay between moult and migration strategies.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0147471PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4721648PMC
August 2016

High quality permanent draft genome sequence of Phaseolibacter flectens ATCC 12775(T), a plant pathogen of French bean pods.

Stand Genomic Sci 2016 13;11. Epub 2016 Jan 13.

Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel ; Department of Biology and Environment, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa, Oranim, Kiryat Tivon, Israel.

Phaseolibacter flectens strain ATCC 12775(T) (Halpern et al., Int J Syst Evol Microbiol 63:268-273, 2013) is a Gram-negative, rod shaped, motile, aerobic, chemoorganotroph bacterium. Ph. flectens is as a plant-pathogenic bacterium on pods of French bean and was first identified by Johnson (1956) as Pseudomonas flectens. After its phylogenetic position was reexamined, Pseudomonas flectens was transferred to the family Enterobacteriaceae as Phaseolibacter flectens gen. nov., comb. nov. Here we describe the features of this organism, together with the draft genome sequence and annotation. The DNA GC content is 44.34 mol%. The chromosome length is 2,748,442 bp. It encodes 2,437 proteins and 89 RNA genes. Ph. flectens genome is part of the Genomic Encyclopedia of Type Strains, Phase I: the one thousand microbial genomes study.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40793-015-0127-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4710985PMC
January 2016