Answers to Plant and Animal Questions

Answers to Plant and Animal Questions

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1. In general, respiration refers to the process by which organisms undergo gas exchange. More specifically, in order for an organism to complete the process of respiration, a continuous source of oxygen is required, and as such many different organisms have undergone various structural and physiologic alterations for the taking in of oxygen. One specific living organism, which has endured such adaptations for oxygen intake, is a fish. On the notion of structural adaptations, fish have developed gills, which are in effect respiratory organs, that enable fish to extract the dissolved oxygen found in their surrounding aquatic environments. An additional structural adaptation, comes from the presence of a Operculum in various fish species. By definition, the Operculum is a structural flap, composed of bone, that basically covers and protects the gills of the fish. Furthermore, the Operculum is also capable of functioning as a “seal,” to eliminate the occurrence of a reversal in water flow though the gills during respiration. In terms of Physiological adaptations, many fish utilize a countercurrent mechanism of gas exchange. In other words, oxygen exchange in fish simultaneously occurs in two opposing directions of gas flow, as fish exchange oxygen gas through their gills within their aquatic environments. An additional physiological adaptation, comes from how fish utilize the iron rich, protein molecule Hemoglobin, for holding and transferring oxygen throughout their bodies, in their process of gas exchange.

Besides fish, trees have also undergone structural and physiological adaptations for the uptake of oxygen. One example of a structural adaptation, is the presence of stomates on the leaf surfaces of trees. Specifically, stomates are pores, which allow essential gases, namely Carbon Dioxide, to be sufficiently exchanged, and bypass the wax based barrier known as cutin, which exists on many plant surfaces, so that photosynthesis can proceed. Furthermore, stomates are bordered by guard cells, which aids in their functioning. An additional structural adaptation for trees, comes from the tree's epidermis, which is a protective boundary which separates a plant from its exterior surroundings. In terms of gas exchange, this “protective layer” is permeable to oxygen, so that the exchange of oxygen is allowed to proceed as part of photosynthesis. In terms of physiological adaptations, tress have mechanisms by which stomata are regulated. More specifically, the opening of stromata are regulated by light energy conversions, as well as the buildup of Potassium Salts and sugars within the guard cells.

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These phenomena are controlled by proton pumps in the cell membrane. An additional physiological adaptation, comes from how the large, wet interior Mesophyil surfaces in trees, provide for a large surface area for gas exchange to incur.

Finally, structural adaptations for gas exchange have also occurred in mammals. One such structural adaptation, are the presence of lungs, which are the main respiratory organs that are used to inhale oxygen from the surrounding “air environment.” A second structural adaptation, comes with hemoglobin, which is an iron rich, protein molecule, that holds and transfers oxygen throughout a mammals' bodies, in the process of gas exchange. In terms of its location, Hemoglobin is found on the surfaces of Red Blood Cells. In terms of Physiological Adaptations, a region within the brain known by name as the medulla, monitors Carbon Dioxide levels in the blood. As such, the medulla adjusts the gas exchange process in accordance with homeostasis. An additional physiological adaptation, comes from the pumping action of the mammal heart. More specifically, as the heart pumps, blood that is thus rich with oxygen, is allowed to flow throughout the mammals' body, in that the transported blood contains oxygenated oxeyhemoglobin.
2. In Vertebrate organisms, the optimum Homeostatic maintenance of blood glucose levels has been immensely investigated. Firstly, it is known that the hormones of the Pancreas hold influence over the control of glucose levels within the blood. Two such Pancreatic Hormones, which are concerned with the control of glucose levels of the blood, are Insulin and Glucagon. In terms of their effects on blood glucose levels, Insulin lowers one's blood glucose levels, while Glucagon raises one's blood glucose levels.

For both Insulin and Glucagon, each hormone can alter the activities of a variety of target cells. Specifically, for Glucagon, a notable target cell can be the liver cells of the body. In terms of how the targeted liver cells respond to the hormone Glucagon, the hormone adheres to specific “G-protein-coupled receptors” on the surfaces of liver cells. The transduction of the hormone Glucagon, upon its binding to a target liver cell, leads to an alteration of the target protein receptor in some form. In addition, Cyclic AMP is activated as a second messenger, leading to the stimulation of g protein linked phospholipase c enzymes, which in turn release Inositol Triphosphate, and Diglyceride (DAG). The transduction of Glucagon, leads to a particular response. Specifically, the liver cells may be “instructed” into releasing glucose from the liver into the blood. Furthermore, Glucagon can also increase the occurrence of “ gluconeogenesis,” which is the process by which amino acids and glycerol are converted to glucose within the liver. Ultimately, this process results in new glucose entering the bloodstream.

Both Steroid Hormones and Protein Hormones, have particular mechanisms for cell-signaling. Overall, Steroid Hormones change “genetic expression” within a cell. In terms of its cell-signaling mechanisms, steroid hormones act as ligands, which bind to specific cytosol receptors in various target areas. Additionally, the actions of Steroid Hormones, are slow and sustained. In addition to Steroid Hormones, Protein Hormones are able to induce biochemical systems and enzymatic pathways. In contrast to Steroid Hormones, the protein hormone itself is the ligand, as well as the first messenger in biochemical pathways. Furthermore, unlike steroid hormones whose activities are slow moving and ongoing for extensive periods of time, the actions of protein hormones are extremely short, yet highly impacting.

3. The Human Body has various specific and nonspecific responses of defense against the entry and establishment of pathogens. Firstly, several types of nonspecific protections can stop the entry and establishment pathogens in the human body. One particular type of nonspecific defense which can defend the Human Body against Pathogens, is the human skin. More specifically, since the human skin covers one's entire body, it provides an effective “physical: barrier that keeps pathogens, namely viruses and bacteria from entering the body. An additional nonspecific response, comes with an inflammatory response, which is a complex set of bodily responses of one's vascular organs to various harmful pathogens, such as bacteria and other toxins. Specifically, an inflammatory response may involve a raising of one's body temperature, attractions of macrophages, which are large immune cells that engulf foreign substances within the body, as well as the release of histamines. A third nonspecific defense response against pathogens, comes as general “elimination,” namely in the form or coughing or sneezing. In other words, upon the initial contraction of a pathogen, such as the Flu Virus, the body's immune system would stimulate the actions of coughing and sneezing in order to help “force” pathogens out of the human body.

On the eve of initial Pathogenic Exposure, the Immune System utilizes Helper T Cells, to activate B Cells and other Macrophages. B Cells, then convert to Plasma Cells, and ultimately release Antibodies, which are the proteins that will go forth to identify and fight thee pathogenic infection. Macrophages, are large cells which engulf foreign pathogenic substances within the body. In essence, Antibodies destroy Pathogens by binding to surface proteins known as Antigens, on foreign, pathogenic substances such as on viruses and Bacteriophages. Ultimately, this binding could lead to the Pathogen being “neutralized” in that it can no longer bind to healthy human cells, an immune system protein cascade known as complement, which destroys the invading cells, by puncturing it cell membrane, and finally the antigen binding simply “marks” the pathogenic invader for ultimate destruction later on by a White Blood Cell. Overall, once the pathogen has been eliminated from the body, Memory Cells that are produced as a result of this “primary response” to a particular pathogen, will in effect lead to a much more efficient “secondary response” if the same pathogen ever invades that individual again at a later time.

The various activities of the body's Immune System, can also lead to the rejection of transplanted organs. In terms of the biological mechanism which leads to the rejection of a transplanted organ, it involves Major Histocompatability Complexes, or MHC Molecules. Basically, MHC Molecules, being present in every cell, that composes every organ, identify to the immune system, specifically to the macrophages, the kinds of proteins that exist on the surface of each individual cell. MHC Molecules are different for each individual, and as such a transplanted organ from a third party individual will have different MHC Molecules when compared to the recipient. The transplanted organ is deemed to be “incompatible,” when the MHC Molecules of the donor and recipient do not match, and the Immune System of the recipient recognizes the transplanted organ as a “foreign invader,” and basically calls forth macrophages to begin eliminating it. In addition, organ rejection may also be induced, with the activation of Cytotoxic T Cells, which are white blood cells that kill cancer, and other infected or damaged cells. These cells hold specific T-Cell Receptors or TCR's, which are able to bind to specific antigens, which are the particular surface proteins on foreign cells that are capable of inducing an immune response. Antigens within the cells, are bound to MHC Molecules, and if differences are present again between the MHC Molecules that are attached to these antigens, of the transplanted organ, the Killer T-Cells will again identify the organ as “foreign” and take initiative to destroy it.

4. For vertebrate animals, an important type of defense, is the animal's ability to shut off, get rid of, and destroy foreign pathogenic substances and organisms. These capabilities, are made possible through the various activities of the Immune System. Firstly, the Immune System is able to initiate an immediate nonspecific Immune Response, when a foreign substance enters the host's body. One notable example, comes with the animal's thick outer skin layer, which basically acts as a “physical barrier” to prevent harmful pathogenic substances, such as bacteria, virus, parasites, and toxins from every entering the organism's body. In addition, the action of blood clotting also serves as ab initial nonspecific response against foreign materials. Specifically, blood clots form around open wounds, which are penetrable by pathogens, and work to “seal” them up so harmful substances can't easily penetrate wounds/cuts, and enter the body. Thirdly, an animals saliva, mucus, and tears, may aid in “washing off” any nearby pathogenic materials upon initial contact. Furthermore, an Inflammatory Response is another nonspecific immune response to pathogenic materials. Basically, an inflammatory response is a complex series of bodily responses of one's vascular organs to various harmful pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses. Specifically, this response involves blood vessels dilating, or expanding, from the activation of histamines, and blood flow increasing accordingly. In addition, an inflammatory response also leads to a fever, from the inducement of pryogens, redness, and pain for the organism. Ultimately, it results in an increased white blood cell and clotting factor count for the organism, so that it's better prepared to fight off the invading pathogen.

In addition to an initial nonspecific response to a particular pathogen, the immune system is also able to initiate a secondary immune response to the same “infectious agent” if it ever encounters it at a later instance. A secondary immune response, is carried out by Memory B-Cells, and Memory T-Cells, which were both present, when the Immune System previously encountered the now reentering pathogen a while before. As such, these memory cells are specific for the same antigens found on the previously combated pathogen, and their receptors are thus more attracted to the antigens of the familiar pathogenic substance. Ultimately, the fact that respondable memory cells exist for the familiar pathogen, leads to a much faster, and more efficient immune response, that coupled with much more antibody production, thus leading to a higher antibody concentrations against the elimination of the pathogen. In essence, the pathogen is eliminated out of the body that much faster.

Finally, the Immune System is also involved with distinguishing an animal's own, native cells from any outside, or foreign cells. The basis of this task, begins with the fact that all cells within the body of an animal, posses particular markers, or “tags” for identification. Specifically, these markers are known as Major Histocompatability Complexes, or MHC Molecules. MHC Molecules, being present in every cell, allow the immune system to identify, the kinds of proteins that exist on the surface of each individual cell. With this information, the Immune System is thus able to pinpoint and react to any cells which it deems as foreign and “non-self.” More specifically, MHC Marker Molecules originate from combinations of multiple alleles. The binding of MHC Molecules to complementary Antigen Receptors, induces an immune response, and is the very mechanism behind the Immune System's identification of self and non-self cells and organs. Additionally, two separate classifications exist for MHC Molecules, namely MHC I and MHC II. Ultimately, MHC I, are found on all body cells that have a nucleus, while MHC II Molecules are found in B Cells, as well as in dendrite containing neurons.

5. By definition, a skeletal muscle fiber is a muscle that is converged by bone at both ends, and includes elongated, multi-nucleated, striations of myofillaments, coupled along with associated blood vessels, neurons and connective tissue. The major characteristics of skeletal muscle fibers, include a skeletal muscle fiber's ability to contract, or shorten, its relatively excitable nature, in that it is able to initiate a contract in response to electrical and chemical stimuli, its “extensibility,” or ability to stretch, and its elasticity, which refers to a skeletal muscle fiber's ability to rebound back to its original resting position upon the conclusion of a muscle contraction. In terms of how a skeletal muscle fiber contracts, several biochemical, and physical occurrences are involved.

Specifically, the contraction of a skeletal muscle fiber begins at the presynaptic membrane, which must always be a motor neuron. Initially, the action potential travels along the motor neuron, ultimately reaching a skeletal muscle fiber. The point at which the action potential meets the muscle fiber, is known as a neuromuscular junction. Upon the release of the Action Potential transmission, acetylcholine vesicles fuse with the membrane, leading to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, getting released into the membrane. From here, acetylcholine attaches to its specific receptor, located on the sarcolemme, leading to positively charged sodium ions to flow into the muscle fiber, ultimately initiating an impulse inside the muscle fiber. The action potential now continues its passage through the t-tubules, leading to calcium ion channels opening, and allowing calcium ions to get released into the cytoplasm of the muscle cell from the Sarcoplasmic Reticulum. Calcium floods the sarcomere, and binds to the troponin complex on Actin, or thin filaments, leading to cross bridges forming between the now exposed actin and myosin heads. At this step, an ATP is hydrolyzed to serve as an energy source for the process to continue. From here, sarcomeres shorten and contract, as the thin filaments are brought in closer to the sarcomere's center. Finally, during relaxation, ATP is used to pump the previous influx of Calcium Ions back into the Sarcoplasmic Reticulum.

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