• Chromera velia, endosymbioses and the rhodoplex hypothesis--plastid evolution in cryptophytes, alveolates, stramenopiles, and haptophytes (CASH lineages).

      Petersen, Jörn; Ludewig, Ann-Kathrin; Michael, Victoria; Bunk, Boyke; Jarek, Michael; Baurain, Denis; Brinkmann, Henner (2014-03)
      The discovery of Chromera velia, a free-living photosynthetic relative of apicomplexan pathogens, has provided an unexpected opportunity to study the algal ancestry of malaria parasites. In this work, we compared the molecular footprints of a eukaryote-to-eukaryote endosymbiosis in C. velia to their equivalents in peridinin-containing dinoflagellates (PCD) to reevaluate recent claims in favor of a common ancestry of their plastids. To this end, we established the draft genome and a set of full-length cDNA sequences from C. velia via next-generation sequencing. We documented the presence of a single coxI gene in the mitochondrial genome, which thus represents the genetically most reduced aerobic organelle identified so far, but focused our analyses on five "lucky genes" of the Calvin cycle. These were selected because of their known support for a common origin of complex plastids from cryptophytes, alveolates (represented by PCDs), stramenopiles, and haptophytes (CASH) via a single secondary endosymbiosis with a red alga. As expected, our broadly sampled phylogenies of the nuclear-encoded Calvin cycle markers support a rhodophycean origin for the complex plastid of Chromera. However, they also suggest an independent origin of apicomplexan and dinophycean (PCD) plastids via two eukaryote-to-eukaryote endosymbioses. Although at odds with the current view of a common photosynthetic ancestry for alveolates, this conclusion is nonetheless in line with the deviant plastome architecture in dinoflagellates and the morphological paradox of four versus three plastid membranes in the respective lineages. Further support for independent endosymbioses is provided by analysis of five additional markers, four of them involved in the plastid protein import machinery. Finally, we introduce the "rhodoplex hypothesis" as a convenient way to designate evolutionary scenarios where CASH plastids are ultimately the product of a single secondary endosymbiosis with a red alga but were subsequently horizontally spread via higher-order eukaryote-to-eukaryote endosymbioses.
    • Clinical and Biological Manifestation of RNF168 Deficiency in Two Polish Siblings.

      Pietrucha, Barbara; Heropolitańska-Pliszka, Edyta; Geffers, Robert; Enßen, Julia; Wieland, Britta; Bogdanova, Natalia Valerijevna; Dörk, Thilo; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017)
      Germline mutations in the RING finger protein gene RNF168 have been identified in a combined immunodeficiency disorder called RIDDLE syndrome. Since only two patients have been described with somewhat different phenotypes, there is need to identify further patients. Here, we report on two Polish siblings with RNF168 deficiency due to homozygosity for a novel frameshift mutation, c.295delG, that was identified through exome sequencing. Both patients presented with immunoglobulin deficiency, telangiectasia, cellular radiosensitivity, and increased alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) levels. The younger sibling had a more pronounced neurological and morphological phenotype, and she also carried an ATM gene mutation in the heterozygous state. Immunoblot analyses showed absence of RNF168 protein, whereas ATM levels and function were proficient in lymphoblastoid cells from both patients. Consistent with the absence of RNF168 protein, 53BP1 recruitment to DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) after irradiation was undetectable in lymphoblasts or primary fibroblasts from either of the two patients. γH2AX foci accumulated normally but they disappeared with significant delay, indicating a severe defect in DSB repair. A comparison with the two previously identified patients indicates immunoglobulin deficiency, cellular radiosensitivity, and increased AFP levels as hallmarks of RNF168 deficiency. The variability in its clinical expression despite similar cellular phenotypes suggests that some manifestations of RNF168 deficiency may be modified by additional genetic or epidemiological factors.
    • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat-Dependent, Biofilm-Specific Death of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Mediated by Increased Expression of Phage-Related Genes.

      Heussler, Gary E; Cady, Kyle C; Koeppen, Katja; Bhuju, Sabin; Stanton, Bruce A; O'Toole, George A (2015)
      The clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated (CRISPR/Cas) system is an adaptive immune system present in many archaea and bacteria. CRISPR/Cas systems are incredibly diverse, and there is increasing evidence of CRISPR/Cas systems playing a role in cellular functions distinct from phage immunity. Previously, our laboratory reported one such alternate function in which the type 1-F CRISPR/Cas system of the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain UCBPP-PA14 (abbreviated as P. aeruginosa PA14) inhibits both biofilm formation and swarming motility when the bacterium is lysogenized by the bacteriophage DMS3. In this study, we demonstrated that the presence of just the DMS3 protospacer and the protospacer-adjacent motif (PAM) on the P. aeruginosa genome is necessary and sufficient for this CRISPR-dependent loss of these group behaviors, with no requirement of additional DMS3 sequences. We also demonstrated that the interaction of the CRISPR system with the DMS3 protospacer induces expression of SOS-regulated phage-related genes, including the well-characterized pyocin operon, through the activity of the nuclease Cas3 and subsequent RecA activation. Furthermore, our data suggest that expression of the phage-related genes results in bacterial cell death on a surface due to the inability of the CRISPR-engaged strain to downregulate phage-related gene expression, while these phage-related genes have minimal impact on growth and viability under planktonic conditions. Deletion of the phage-related genes restores biofilm formation and swarming motility while still maintaining a functional CRISPR/Cas system, demonstrating that the loss of these group behaviors is an indirect effect of CRISPR self-targeting.
    • Coculture of Staphylococcus aureus with Pseudomonas aeruginosa Drives S. aureus towards Fermentative Metabolism and Reduced Viability in a Cystic Fibrosis Model.

      Filkins, Laura M; Graber, Jyoti A; Olson, Daniel G; Dolben, Emily L; Lynd, Lee R; Bhuju, Sabin; O'Toole, George A (2015-07-15)
      The airways of patients with cystic fibrosis are colonized with diverse bacterial communities that change dynamically during pediatric years and early adulthood. Staphylococcus aureus is the most prevalent pathogen during early childhood, but during late teens and early adulthood, a shift in microbial composition occurs leading to Pseudomonas aeruginosa community predominance in ∼50% of adults. We developed a robust dual-bacterial in vitro coculture system of P. aeruginosa and S. aureus on monolayers of human bronchial epithelial cells homozygous for the ΔF508 cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) mutation to better model the mechanisms of this interaction. We show that P. aeruginosa drives the S. aureus expression profile from that of aerobic respiration to fermentation. This shift is dependent on the production of both 2-heptyl-4-hydroxyquinoline N-oxide (HQNO) and siderophores by P. aeruginosa. Furthermore, S. aureus-produced lactate is a carbon source that P. aeruginosa preferentially consumes over medium-supplied glucose. We find that initially S. aureus and P. aeruginosa coexist; however, over extended coculture P. aeruginosa reduces S. aureus viability, also in an HQNO- and P. aeruginosa siderophore-dependent manner. Interestingly, S. aureus small-colony-variant (SCV) genetic mutant strains, which have defects in their electron transport chain, experience reduced killing by P. aeruginosa compared to their wild-type parent strains; thus, SCVs may provide a mechanism for persistence of S. aureus in the presence of P. aeruginosa. We propose that the mechanism of P. aeruginosa-mediated killing of S. aureus is multifactorial, requiring HQNO and P. aeruginosa siderophores as well as additional genetic, environmental, and nutritional factors.
    • Community richness of amphibian skin bacteria correlates with bioclimate at the global scale.

      Kueneman, Jordan G; Bletz, Molly C; McKenzie, Valerie J; Becker, C Guilherme; Joseph, Maxwell B; Abarca, Juan G; Archer, Holly; Arellano, Ana Lisette; Bataille, Arnaud; Becker, Matthew; et al. (Dpringer-Nature, 2019-03-01)
      Animal-associated microbiomes are integral to host health, yet key biotic and abiotic factors that shape host-associated microbial communities at the global scale remain poorly understood. We investigated global patterns in amphibian skin bacterial communities, incorporating samples from 2,349 individuals representing 205 amphibian species across a broad biogeographic range. We analysed how biotic and abiotic factors correlate with skin microbial communities using multiple statistical approaches. Global amphibian skin bacterial richness was consistently correlated with temperature-associated factors. We found more diverse skin microbiomes in environments with colder winters and less stable thermal conditions compared with environments with warm winters and less annual temperature variation. We used bioinformatically predicted bacterial growth rates, dormancy genes and antibiotic synthesis genes, as well as inferred bacterial thermal growth optima to propose mechanistic hypotheses that may explain the observed patterns. We conclude that temporal and spatial characteristics of the host's macro-environment mediate microbial diversity.
    • COMPEL: a database on composite regulatory elements providing combinatorial transcriptional regulation

      Kel-Margoulis, Olga V.; Romashchenko, Aida G.; Kolchanov, Nikolay A.; Wingender, Edgar; Kel, Alexander E. (Oxford University Press, 2000-01-01)
    • Complete Genome Sequence and Manual Reannotation of Mycobacterium avium subsp. Strain DSM 44135.

      Goethe, Ralph; Basler, Tina; Meissner, Thorsten; Goethe, Elke; Spröer, Cathrin; Swiderski, Jolantha; Gerlach, Gerald-F; Weiss, Siegfried; Jarek, Michael; Bunk, Boyke; et al. (ASM, 2020-08-13)
      Here, we report the complete genome sequence of the Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis reference strain DSM 44135, amended with a manual genome reannotation. The strain was originally described as M. paratuberculosis strain 6783. It was isolated from feces from a dairy cow in northern Germany.
    • Complete Genome Sequence of JII-1961, a Bovine Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis Field Isolate from Germany.

      Möbius, Petra; Nordsiek, Gabriele; Hölzer, Martin; Jarek, Michael; Marz, Manja; Köhler, Heike; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-08-24)
      Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis causes Johne's disease in ruminants and was also detected in nonruminant species, including human beings, and in milk products. We announce here the 4.829-Mb complete genome sequence of the cattle-type strain JII-1961 from Germany, which is very similar to cattle-type strains recovered from different continents.
    • Complete Genome Sequences of Three Multidrug-Resistant Clinical Isolates of Streptococcus pneumoniae Serotype 19A with Different Susceptibilities to the Myxobacterial Metabolite Carolacton.

      Donner, Jannik; Bunk, Boyke; Schober, Isabel; Spröer, Cathrin; Bergmann, Simone; Jarek, Michael; Overmann, Jörg; Wagner-Döbler, Irene; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-02-16)
      The full-genome sequences of three drug- and multidrug-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae clinical isolates of serotype 19A were determined by PacBio single-molecule real-time sequencing, in combination with Illumina MiSeq sequencing. A comparison to the genomes of other pneumococci indicates a high nucleotide sequence identity to strains Hungary19A-6 and TCH8431/19A.
    • Complete Sequence of Probiotic Symbioflor 2 Escherichia coli Strain G3/10 and Draft Sequences of Symbioflor 2 E. coli Strains G1/2, G4/9, G5, G6/7, and G8.

      Zschüttig, Anke; Auerbach, Christian; Meltke, Simone; Eichhorn, Christin; Brandt, Manuela; Blom, Jochen; Goesmann, Alexander; Jarek, Michael; Scharfe, Maren; Zimmermann, Kurt; et al. (2015)
      The complete genome of probiotic Escherichia coli strain G3/10 is presented here. In addition, the probiotic E. coli strains G1/2, G4/9, G5, G6/7, and G8 are presented in draft form. These six strains together comprise the probiotic product Symbioflor 2 (DSM 17252).
    • Comprehensive insights in the Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis genome using new WGS data of sheep strain JIII-386 from Germany.

      Möbius, Petra; Hölzer, Martin; Felder, Marius; Nordsiek, Gabriele; Groth, Marco; Köhler, Heike; Reichwald, Kathrin; Platzer, Matthias; Marz, Manja; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2015-09-17)
      Mycobacterium avium (M. a.) subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) - the etiologic agent of Johne's disease - affects cattle, sheep and other ruminants worldwide. To decipher phenotypic differences among sheep and cattle strains (belonging to MAP-S [Type-I/III] respectively MAP-C [Type-II]) comparative genome analysis needs data from diverse isolates originating from different geographic regions of the world. The current study presents the so far best assembled genome of a MAP-S-strain: sheep isolate JIII-386 from Germany. One newly sequenced cattle isolate (JII-1961, Germany), four published MAP strains of MAP-C and MAP-S from U.S. and Australia and M. a. subsp. hominissuis (MAH) strain 104 were used for assembly improvement and comparisons. All genomes were annotated by BacProt and results compared with NCBI annotation. Corresponding protein-coding sequences (CDSs) were detected, but also CDSs that were exclusively determined either by NCBI or BacProt. A new Shine-Dalgarno sequence motif (5'AGCTGG3') was extracted. Novel CDSs including PE-PGRS family protein genes and about 80 non-coding RNAs exhibiting high sequence conservation are presented. Previously found genetic differences between MAP-types are partially revised. Four out of ten assumed MAP-S-specific large sequence polymorphism regions (LSP(S)s) are still present in MAP-C strains; new LSP(S)s were identified. Independently of the regional origin of the strains, the number of individual CDSs and single nucleotide variants confirm the strong similarity of MAP-C strains and show higher diversity among MAP-S strains. This study gives ambiguous results regarding the hypothesis that MAP-S is the evolutionary intermediate between MAH and MAP-C, but it clearly shows a higher similarity of MAP to MAH than to M. intracellulare.
    • Databases on transcriptional regulation: TRANSFAC, TRRD and COMPEL.

      Heinemeyer, T; Wingender, E; Reuter, I; Hermjakob, H; Kel, A E; Kel, O V; Ignatieva, E V; Ananko, E A; Podkolodnaya, O A; Kolpakov, F A; et al. (1998-01-01)
    • Day and Night: Metabolic Profiles and Evolutionary Relationships of Six Axenic Non-Marine Cyanobacteria.

      Will, Sabine Eva; Henke, Petra; Boedeker, Christian; Huang, Sixing; Brinkmann, Henner; Rohde, M; Jarek, Michael; Friedl, Thomas; Seufert, Steph; Schumacher, Martin; et al. (Oxford Academic, 2019-01-01)
      Cyanobacteria are dominant primary producers of various ecosystems and they colonize marine as well as freshwater and terrestrial habitats. On the basis of their oxygenic photosynthesis they are known to synthesize a high number of secondary metabolites, which makes them promising for biotechnological applications. State-of-the-art sequencing and analytical techniques and the availability of several axenic strains offer new opportunities for the understanding of the hidden metabolic potential of cyanobacteria beyond those of single model organisms. Here, we report comprehensive genomic and metabolic analyses of five non-marine cyanobacteria, that is, Nostoc sp. DSM 107007, Anabaena variabilis DSM 107003, Calothrix desertica DSM 106972, Chroococcidiopsis cubana DSM 107010, Chlorogloeopsis sp. PCC 6912, and the reference strain Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. Five strains that are prevalently belonging to the order Nostocales represent the phylogenetic depth of clade B1, a morphologically highly diverse sister lineage of clade B2 that includes strain PCC 6803. Genome sequencing, light and scanning electron microscopy revealed the characteristics and axenicity of the analyzed strains. Phylogenetic comparisons showed the limits of the 16S rRNA gene for the classification of cyanobacteria, but documented the applicability of a multilocus sequence alignment analysis based on 43 conserved protein markers. The analysis of metabolites of the core carbon metabolism showed parts of highly conserved metabolic pathways as well as lineage specific pathways such as the glyoxylate shunt, which was acquired by cyanobacteria at least twice via horizontal gene transfer. Major metabolic changes were observed when we compared alterations between day and night samples. Furthermore, our results showed metabolic potential of cyanobacteria beyond Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 as model organism and may encourage the cyanobacterial community to broaden their research to related organisms with higher metabolic activity in the desired pathways.
    • Dealing with salinity extremes and nitrogen limitation - an unexpected strategy of the marine bacterium Dinoroseobacter shibae.

      Kleist, Sarah; Ulbrich, Marcus; Bill, Nelli; Schmidt-Hohagen, Kerstin; Geffers, Robert; Schomburg, Dietmar; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-03)
      Having the right coping strategy for changes in osmolarity or desiccation is essential for the survival of every cell. So far, nothing is known about compatible solutes and the salt adaptation of the marine Rhodobacteraceae. The family member Dinoroseobacter shibae DFL12(T) is shown here to form the compatible solutes α-glucosylglycerol (GG) and α-glucosylglycerate (GGA). To our knowledge, this is the first experimental evidence for GGA formation within the α-proteobacteria. Together with glutamate and putrescine, these substances enable good growth in salinity ranging from 0.3% to 5%. A salinity of 5% leads to a biomass share of 7.6% of compatible solutes and the very low salt level of 0.3% results in an 18-fold increased putrescine concentration compared with environmental conditions. Additionally, the substitution of glutamate by GGA has been shown during exposure to nitrogen limitation and in the stationary growth phase of the organism. Salt shock transcriptome analysis of D. shibae has revealed the essential role of its 153 kb chromid, which carries the genes for GG biosynthesis and several transport and exchange systems. Within the family of Rhodobacteraceae, the genomic capability of forming GG and GGA is strictly restricted to marine family members.
    • Decreased production of class-switched antibodies in neonatal B cells is associated with increased expression of miR-181b.

      Glaesener, Stephanie; Jaenke, Christine; Habener, Anika; Geffers, Robert; Hagendorff, Petra; Witzlau, Katrin; Imelmann, Esther; Krueger, Andreas; Meyer-Bahlburg, Almut; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2018)
      The increased susceptibility to infections of neonates is caused by an immaturity of the immune system as a result of both qualitative and quantitative differences between neonatal and adult immune cells. With respect to B cells, neonatal antibody responses are known to be decreased. Accountable for this is an altered composition of the neonatal B cell compartment towards more immature B cells. However, it remains unclear whether the functionality of individual neonatal B cell subsets is altered as well. In the current study we therefore compared phenotypical and functional characteristics of corresponding neonatal and adult B cell subpopulations. No phenotypic differences could be identified with the exception of higher IgM expression in neonatal B cells. Functional analysis revealed differences in proliferation, survival, and B cell receptor signaling. Most importantly, neonatal B cells showed severely impaired class-switch recombination (CSR) to IgG and IgA. This was associated with increased expression of miR-181b in neonatal B cells. Deficiency of miR-181b resulted in increased CSR. With this, our results highlight intrinsic differences that contribute to weaker B cell antibody responses in newborns.
    • The degree of liver injury determines the role of p21 in liver regeneration and hepatocarcinogenesis in mice.

      Buitrago-Molina, Laura Elisa; Marhenke, Silke; Longerich, Thomas; Sharma, Amar Deep; Boukouris, Aristeidis E; Geffers, Robert; Guigas, Bruno; Manns, Michael P; Vogel, Arndt; Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrinology, Medical School Hannover, Hannover, Germany. (2013-09)
      Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) frequently arises in the context of chronic injury that promotes DNA damage and chromosomal aberrations. The cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21 is an important transcriptional target of several tumor suppressors, which promotes cell cycle arrest in response to many stimuli. The aim of this study was to further delineate the role of p21 in the liver during moderate and severe injury and to specify its role in the initiation and progression of HCC. Deletion of p21 led to continuous hepatocyte proliferation in mice with severe injury allowing animal survival but also facilitated rapid tumor development, suggesting that control of compensatory proliferation by high levels of p21 is critical to the prevention of tumor development. Unexpectedly, however, liver regeneration and hepatocarcinogenesis was impaired in p21-deficient mice with moderate injury. Mechanistically, loss of p21 was compensated by activation of Sestrin2, which impaired mitogenic mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling and activated cytoprotective Nrf2 signaling. Conclusion: The degree of liver injury and the strength of p21 activation determine its effects on liver regeneration and tumor development in the liver. Moreover, our data uncover a molecular link in the complex mTOR, Nrf2, and p53/p21-signaling network through activation of Sestrin2, which regulates hepatocyte proliferation and tumor development in mice with liver injury. (Hepatology 2013;53:1143-1152).
    • Deletion of Irf3 and Irf7 Genes in Mice Results in Altered Interferon Pathway Activation and Granulocyte-Dominated Inflammatory Responses to Influenza A Infection.

      Hatesuer, Bastian; Hoang, Hang Thi Thu; Riese, Peggy; Trittel, Stephanie; Gerhauser, Ingo; Elbahesh, Husni; Geffers, Robert; Wilk, Esther; Schughart, Klaus; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr.7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017)
      The interferon (IFN) pathway plays an essential role in the innate immune response following viral infections and subsequent shaping of adaptive immunity. Infections with influenza A viruses (IAV) activate the IFN pathway after the recognition of pathogen-specific molecular patterns by respective pattern recognition receptors. The IFN regulatory factors IRF3 and IRF7 are key players in the regulation of type I and III IFN genes. In this study, we analyzed the role of IRF3 and IRF7 for the host response to IAV infections in Irf3-/-, Irf7-/-, and Irf3-/-Irf7-/- knockout mice. While the absence of IRF3 had only a moderate impact on IFN expression, deletion of IRF7 completely abolished IFNα production after infection. In contrast, lack of both IRF3 and IRF7 resulted in the absence of both IFNα and IFNβ after IAV infection. In addition, IAV infection of double knockout mice resulted in a strong increase of mortality associated with a massive influx of granulocytes in the lung and reduced activation of the adaptive immune response.
    • Development of Long Noncoding RNA-Based Strategies to Modulate Tissue Vascularization.

      Fiedler, Jan; Breckwoldt, Kaja; Remmele, Christian W; Hartmann, Dorothee; Dittrich, Marcus; Pfanne, Angelika; Just, Annette; Xiao, Ke; Kunz, Meik; Müller, Tobias; et al. (2015-11-03)
      Long noncoding ribonucleic acids (lncRNAs) are a subclass of regulatory noncoding ribonucleic acids for which expression and function in human endothelial cells and angiogenic processes is not well studied.
    • Differential gene expression from genome-wide microarray analyses distinguishes Lohmann Selected Leghorn and Lohmann Brown layers.

      Habig, Christin; Geffers, Robert; Distl, Ottmar; Institute for Animal Breeding and Genetics, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (Foundation), Hannover, Germany. (2012)
      The Lohmann Selected Leghorn (LSL) and Lohmann Brown (LB) layer lines have been selected for high egg production since more than 50 years and belong to the worldwide leading commercial layer lines. The objectives of the present study were to characterize the molecular processes that are different among these two layer lines using whole genome RNA expression profiles. The hens were kept in the newly developed small group housing system Eurovent German with two different group sizes. Differential expression was observed for 6,276 microarray probes (FDR adjusted P-value <0.05) among the two layer lines LSL and LB. A 2-fold or greater change in gene expression was identified on 151 probe sets. In LSL, 72 of the 151 probe sets were up- and 79 of them were down-regulated. Gene ontology (GO) enrichment analysis accounting for biological processes evinced 18 GO-terms for the 72 probe sets with higher expression in LSL, especially those taking part in immune system processes and membrane organization. A total of 32 enriched GO-terms were determined among the 79 down-regulated probe sets of LSL. Particularly, these terms included phosphorus metabolic processes and signaling pathways. In conclusion, the phenotypic differences among the two layer lines LSL and LB are clearly reflected in their gene expression profiles of the cerebrum. These novel findings provide clues for genes involved in economically important line characteristics of commercial laying hens.