June 1, 2021  |  

The MHC Diversity in Africa Project (MDAP) pilot – 125 African high resolution HLA types from 5 populations

The major histocompatibility complex (MHC), or human leukocyte antigen (HLA) in humans, is a highly diverse gene family with a key role in immune response to disease; and has been implicated in auto-immune disease, cancer, infectious disease susceptibility, and vaccine response. It has clinical importance in the field of solid organ and bone marrow transplantation, where donors and recipient matching of HLA types is key to transplanted organ outcomes. The Sanger based typing (SBT) methods currently used in clinical practice do not capture the full diversity across this region, and require specific reference sequences to deconvolute ambiguity in HLA types. However, reference databases are based largely on European populations, and the full extent of diversity in Africa remains poorly understood. Here, we present the first systematic characterisation of HLA diversity within Africa in the pilot phase of the MHC Diversity in Africa Project, together with an evaluation of methods to carry out scalable cost-effective, as well as reliable, typing of this region in African populations.To sample a geographically representative panel of African populations we obtained 125 samples, 25 each from the Zulu (South Africa), Igbo (Nigeria), Kalenjin (Kenya), Moroccan and Ashanti (Ghana) groups. For methods validation we included two controls from the International Histocompatibility Working Group (IHWG) collection with known typing information. Sanger typing and Illumina HiSeq X sequencing of these samples indicated potentially novel Class I and Class II alleles; however, we found poor correlation between HiSeq X sequencing and SBT for both classes. Long Range PCR and high resolution PacBio RS-II typing of 4 of these samples identified 7 novel Class II alleles, highlighting the high levels of diversity in these populations, and the need for long read sequencing approaches to characterise this comprehensively. We have now expanded this approach to the entire pilot set of 125 samples. We present these confirmed types and discuss a workflow for scaling this to 5000 individuals across Africa.The large number of new alleles identified in our pilot suggests the high level of African HLA diversity and the utility of high resolution methods. The MDAP project will provide a framework for accurate HLA typing, in addition to providing an invaluable resource for imputation in GWAS, boosting power to identify and resolve HLA disease associations.


September 22, 2019  |  

Periodic pattern of genetic and fitness diversity during evolution of an artificial cell-like system.

Genetic and phenotypic diversity are the basis of evolution. Despite their importance, however, little is known about how they change over the course of evolution. In this study, we analyzed the dynamics of the adaptive evolution of a simple evolvable artificial cell-like system using single-molecule real-time sequencing technology that reads an entire single artificial genome. We found that the genomic RNA population increases in fitness intermittently, correlating with a periodic pattern of genetic and fitness diversity produced by repeated diversification and domination. In the diversification phase, a genomic RNA population spreads within a genetic space by accumulating mutations until mutants with higher fitness are generated, resulting in an increase in fitness diversity. In the domination phase, the mutants with higher fitness dominate, decreasing both the fitness and genetic diversity. This study reveals the dynamic nature of genetic and fitness diversity during adaptive evolution and demonstrates the utility of a simplified artificial cell-like system to study evolution at an unprecedented resolution. © The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.


September 21, 2019  |  

Mistranslation drives the evolution of robustness in TEM-1 ß-lactamase.

How biological systems such as proteins achieve robustness to ubiquitous perturbations is a fundamental biological question. Such perturbations include errors that introduce phenotypic mutations into nascent proteins during the translation of mRNA. These errors are remarkably frequent. They are also costly, because they reduce protein stability and help create toxic misfolded proteins. Adaptive evolution might reduce these costs of protein mistranslation by two principal mechanisms. The first increases the accuracy of translation via synonymous “high fidelity” codons at especially sensitive sites. The second increases the robustness of proteins to phenotypic errors via amino acids that increase protein stability. To study how these mechanisms are exploited by populations evolving in the laboratory, we evolved the antibiotic resistance gene TEM-1 in Escherichia coli hosts with either normal or high rates of mistranslation. We analyzed TEM-1 populations that evolved under relaxed and stringent selection for antibiotic resistance by single molecule real-time sequencing. Under relaxed selection, mistranslating populations reduce mistranslation costs by reducing TEM-1 expression. Under stringent selection, they efficiently purge destabilizing amino acid changes. More importantly, they accumulate stabilizing amino acid changes rather than synonymous changes that increase translational accuracy. In the large populations we study, and on short evolutionary timescales, the path of least resistance in TEM-1 evolution consists of reducing the consequences of translation errors rather than the errors themselves.


July 19, 2019  |  

Stepwise evolution of pandrug-resistance in Klebsiella pneumoniae.

Carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) pose an urgent risk to global human health. CRE that are non-susceptible to all commercially available antibiotics threaten to return us to the pre-antibiotic era. Using Single Molecule Real Time (SMRT) sequencing we determined the complete genome of a pandrug-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae isolate, representing the first complete genome sequence of CRE resistant to all commercially available antibiotics. The precise location of acquired antibiotic resistance elements, including mobile elements carrying genes for the OXA-181 carbapenemase, were defined. Intriguingly, we identified three chromosomal copies of an ISEcp1-blaOXA-181 mobile element, one of which has disrupted the mgrB regulatory gene, accounting for resistance to colistin. Our findings provide the first description of pandrug-resistant CRE at the genomic level, and reveal the critical role of mobile resistance elements in accelerating the emergence of resistance to other last resort antibiotics.


July 19, 2019  |  

Shifting fitness and epistatic landscapes reflect trade-offs along an evolutionary pathway.

Nature repurposes proteins via evolutionary processes. Such adaptation can come at the expense of the original protein’s function, which is a trade-off of adaptation. We sought to examine other potential adaptive trade-offs. We measured the effect on ampicillin resistance of ~12,500 unique single amino acid mutants of the TEM-1, TEM-17, TEM-19, and TEM-15 ß-lactamase alleles, which constitute an adaptive path in the evolution of cefotaxime resistance. These protein fitness landscapes were compared and used to calculate epistatic interactions between these mutations and the two mutations in the pathway (E104K and G238S). This series of protein fitness landscapes provides a systematic, quantitative description of pairwise/tertiary intragenic epistasis involving adaptive mutations. We find that the frequency of mutations exhibiting epistasis increases along the evolutionary pathway. Adaptation moves the protein to a region in the fitness landscape characterized by decreased mutational robustness and increased ruggedness, as measured by fitness effects of mutations and epistatic interactions for TEM-1’s original function. This movement to such a “fitness territory” has evolutionary consequences and is an important adaptive trade-off and cost of adaptation. Our systematic study provides detailed insight into the relationships between mutation, protein structure, protein stability, and epistasis and quantitatively depicts the different costs inherent in the evolution of new functions. Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

A full genomic characterization of the development of a stable Small Colony Variant cell-type by a clinical Staphylococcus aureus strain.

A key to persistent and recurrent Staphylococcus aureus infections is its ability to adapt to diverse and toxic conditions. This ability includes a switch into a biofilm or to the quasi-dormant Small Colony Variant (SCV). The development and molecular attributes of SCVs have been difficult to study due to their rapid reversion to their parental cell-type. We recently described the unique induction of a matrix-embedded and stable SCV cell-type in a clinical S. aureus strain (WCH-SK2) by growing the cells with limiting conditions for a prolonged timeframe. Here we further study their characteristics. They possessed an increased viability in the presence of antibiotics compared to their non-SCV form. Their stability implied that there had been genetic changes; we therefore determined both the genome sequence of WCH-SK2 and its stable SCV form at a single base resolution, employing Single Molecular Real-Time (SMRT) sequencing that enabled the methylome to also be determined. The genetic features of WCH-SK2 have been identified; the SCCmec type, the pathogenicity and genetic islands and virulence factors. The genetic changes that had occurred in the stable SCV form were identified; most notably being in MgrA, a global regulator, and RsbU, a phosphoserine phosphatase within the regulatory pathway of the sigma factor SigB. There was a shift in the methylomes of the non-SCV and stable SCV forms. We have also shown a similar induction of this cell-type in other S. aureus strains and performed a genetic comparison to these and other S. aureus genomes. We additionally map RNAseq data to the WCH-SK2 genome in a transcriptomic analysis of the parental, SCV and stable SCV cells. The results from this study represent the unique identification of a suite of epigenetic, genetic and transcriptional factors that are implicated in the switch in S. aureus to its persistent SCV form. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

RelA mutant Enterococcus faecium with multiantibiotic tolerance arising in an immunocompromised host.

Serious bacterial infections in immunocompromised patients require highly effective antibacterial therapy for cure, and thus, this setting may reveal novel mechanisms by which bacteria circumvent antibiotics in the absence of immune pressure. Here, an infant with leukemia developed vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE) bacteremia that persisted for 26 days despite appropriate antibiotic therapy. Sequencing of 22 consecutive VRE isolates identified the emergence of a single missense mutation (L152F) in relA, which constitutively activated the stringent response, resulting in elevated baseline levels of the alarmone guanosine tetraphosphate (ppGpp). Although the mutant remained susceptible to both linezolid and daptomycin in clinical MIC testing and during planktonic growth, it demonstrated tolerance to high doses of both antibiotics when growing in a biofilm. This biofilm-specific gain in resistance was reflected in the broad shift in transcript levels caused by the mutation. Only an experimental biofilm-targeting ClpP-activating antibiotic was able to kill the mutant strain in an established biofilm. The relA mutation was associated with a fitness trade-off, forming smaller and less-well-populated biofilms on biological surfaces. We conclude that clinically relevant relA mutations can emerge during prolonged VRE infection, causing baseline activation of the stringent response, subsequent antibiotic tolerance, and delayed eradication in an immunocompromised state.The increasing prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacterial pathogens is a major challenge currently facing the medical community. Such pathogens are of particular importance in immunocompromised patients as these individuals may favor emergence of novel resistance determinants due to lack of innate immune defenses and intensive antibiotic exposure. During the course of chemotherapy, a patient developed prolonged bacteremia with vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium that failed to clear despite multiple front-line antibiotics. The consecutive bloodstream isolates were sequenced, and a single missense mutation identified in the relA gene, the mediator of the stringent response. Strains harboring the mutation had elevated baseline levels of the alarmone and displayed heightened resistance to the bactericidal activity of multiple antibiotics, particularly in a biofilm. Using a new class of compounds that modulate ClpP activity, the biofilms were successfully eradicated. These data represent the first clinical emergence of mutations in the stringent response in vancomycin-resistant entereococci. Copyright © 2017 Honsa et al.


July 7, 2019  |  

The unique genomic landscape surrounding the EPSPS gene in glyphosate resistant Amaranthus palmeri: a repetitive path to resistance.

The expanding number and global distributions of herbicide resistant weedy species threaten food, fuel, fiber and bioproduct sustainability and agroecosystem longevity. Amongst the most competitive weeds, Amaranthus palmeri S. Wats has rapidly evolved resistance to glyphosate primarily through massive amplification and insertion of the 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS) gene across the genome. Increased EPSPS gene copy numbers results in higher titers of the EPSPS enzyme, the target of glyphosate, and confers resistance to glyphosate treatment. To understand the genomic unit and mechanism of EPSPS gene copy number proliferation, we developed and used a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) library from a highly resistant biotype to sequence the local genomic landscape flanking the EPSPS gene.By sequencing overlapping BACs, a 297 kb sequence was generated, hereafter referred to as the “EPSPS cassette.” This region included several putative genes, dense clusters of tandem and inverted repeats, putative helitron and autonomous replication sequences, and regulatory elements. Whole genome shotgun sequencing (WGS) of two biotypes exhibiting high and no resistance to glyphosate was performed to compare genomic representation across the EPSPS cassette. Mapping of sequences for both biotypes to the reference EPSPS cassette revealed significant differences in upstream and downstream sequences relative to EPSPS with regard to both repetitive units and coding content between these biotypes. The differences in sequence may have resulted from a compounded-building mechanism such as repetitive transpositional events. The association of putative helitron sequences with the cassette suggests a possible amplification and distribution mechanism. Flow cytometry revealed that the EPSPS cassette added measurable genomic content.The adoption of glyphosate resistant cropping systems in major crops such as corn, soybean, cotton and canola coupled with excessive use of glyphosate herbicide has led to evolved glyphosate resistance in several important weeds. In Amaranthus palmeri, the amplification of the EPSPS cassette, characterized by a complex array of repetitive elements and putative helitron sequences, suggests an adaptive structural genomic mechanism that drives amplification and distribution around the genome. The added genomic content not found in glyphosate sensitive plants may be driving evolution through genome expansion.


July 7, 2019  |  

Mistranslation can enhance fitness through purging of deleterious mutations.

Phenotypic mutations are amino acid changes caused by mistranslation. How phenotypic mutations affect the adaptive evolution of new protein functions is unknown. Here we evolve the antibiotic resistance protein TEM-1 towards resistance on the antibiotic cefotaxime in an Escherichia coli strain with a high mistranslation rate. TEM-1 populations evolved in such strains endow host cells with a general growth advantage, not only on cefotaxime but also on several other antibiotics that ancestral TEM-1 had been unable to deactivate. High-throughput sequencing of TEM-1 populations shows that this advantage is associated with a lower incidence of weakly deleterious genotypic mutations. Our observations show that mistranslation is not just a source of noise that delays adaptive evolution. It could even facilitate adaptive evolution by exacerbating the effects of deleterious mutations and leading to their more efficient purging. The ubiquity of mistranslation and its effects render mistranslation an important factor in adaptive protein evolution.


July 7, 2019  |  

The origin, diversification and adaptation of a major mangrove clade (Rhizophoreae) revealed by whole-genome sequencing

Mangroves invade some very marginal habitats for woody plants—at the interface between land and sea. Since mangroves anchor tropical coastal communities globally, their origin, diversification and adaptation are of scientific significance, particularly at a time of global climate change. In this study, a combination of single-molecule long reads and the more conventional short reads are generated from Rhizophora apiculata for the de novo assembly of its genome to a near chromosome level. The longest scaffold, N50 and N90 for the R. apiculata genome, are 13.3 Mb, 5.4 Mb and 1.0 Mb, respectively. Short reads for the genomes and transcriptomes of eight related species are also generated. We find that the ancestor of Rhizophoreae experienced a whole-genome duplication ~70 Myrs ago, which is followed rather quickly by colonization and species diversification. Mangroves exhibit pan-exome modifications of amino acid (AA) usage as well as unusual AA substitutions among closely related species. The usage and substitution of AAs, unique among plants surveyed, is correlated with the rapid evolution of proteins in mangroves. A small subset of these substitutions is associated with mangroves’ highly specialized traits (vivipary and red bark) thought to be adaptive in the intertidal habitats. Despite the many adaptive features, mangroves are among the least genetically diverse plants, likely the result of continual habitat turnovers caused by repeated rises and falls of sea level in the geologically recent past. Mangrove genomes thus inform about their past evolutionary success as well as portend a possibly difficult future.


July 7, 2019  |  

Recent expansion and adaptive evolution of the carcinoembryonic antigen family in bats of the Yangochiroptera subgroup.

Expansions of gene families are predictive for ongoing genetic adaptation to environmental cues. We describe such an expansion of the carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) gene family in certain bat families. Members of the CEA family in humans and mice are exploited as cellular receptors by a number of pathogens, possibly due to their function in immunity and reproduction. The CEA family is composed of CEA-related cell adhesion molecules (CEACAMs) and secreted pregnancy-specific glycoproteins (PSGs). PSGs are almost exclusively expressed by trophoblast cells at the maternal-fetal interface. The reason why PSGs exist only in a minority of mammals is still unknown.Analysis of the CEA gene family in bats revealed that in certain bat families, belonging to the subgroup Yangochiroptera but not the Yinpterochiroptera subgroup an expansion of the CEA gene family took place, resulting in approximately one hundred CEA family genes in some species of the Vespertilionidae. The majority of these genes encode secreted PSG-like proteins (further referred to as PSG). Remarkably, we found strong evidence that the ligand-binding domain (IgV-like domain) of PSG is under diversifying positive selection indicating that bat PSGs may interact with structurally highly variable ligands. Such ligands might represent bacterial or viral pathogen adhesins. We have identified two distinct clusters of PSGs in three Myotis species. The two PSG cluster differ in the amino acids under positive selection. One cluster was only expanded in members of the Vespertilionidae while the other was found to be expanded in addition in members of the Miniopteridae and Mormoopidae. Thus one round of PSG expansion may have occurred in an ancestry of all three families and a second only in Vespertilionidae. Although maternal ligands of PSGs may exist selective challenges by two distinct pathogens seem to be likely responsible for the expansion of PSGs in Vespertilionidae.The rapid expansion of PSGs in certain bat species together with selection for diversification suggest that bat PSGs could be part of a pathogen defense system by serving as decoy receptors and/or regulators of feto-maternal interactions.


July 7, 2019  |  

Adaptive engineering of a hyperthermophilic archaeon on CO and discovering the underlying mechanism by multi-omics analysis.

The hyperthermophilic archaeon Thermococcus onnurineus NA1 can grow and produce H2 on carbon monoxide (CO) and its H2 production rates have been improved through metabolic engineering. In this study, we applied adaptive evolution to enhance H2 productivity. After over 150 serial transfers onto CO medium, cell density, CO consumption rate and H2 production rate increased. The underlying mechanism for those physiological changes could be explained by using multi-omics approaches including genomic, transcriptomic and epigenomic analyses. A putative transcriptional regulator was newly identified to regulate the expression levels of genes related to CO oxidation. Transcriptome analysis revealed significant changes in the transcript levels of genes belonging to the categories of transcription, translation and energy metabolism. Our study presents the first genome-scale methylation pattern of hyperthermophilic archaea. Adaptive evolution led to highly enhanced H2 productivity at high CO flow rates using synthesis gas produced from coal gasification.


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