October 23, 2019  |  

SAPTA: a new design tool for improving TALE nuclease activity.

Transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) have become a powerful tool for genome editing due to the simple code linking the amino acid sequences of their DNA-binding domains to TALEN nucleotide targets. While the initial TALEN-design guidelines are very useful, user-friendly tools defining optimal TALEN designs for robust genome editing need to be developed. Here we evaluated existing guidelines and developed new design guidelines for TALENs based on 205 TALENs tested, and established the scoring algorithm for predicting TALEN activity (SAPTA) as a new online design tool. For any input gene of interest, SAPTA gives a ranked list of potential TALEN target sites, facilitating the selection of optimal TALEN pairs based on predicted activity. SAPTA-based TALEN designs increased the average intracellular TALEN monomer activity by >3-fold, and resulted in an average endogenous gene-modification frequency of 39% for TALENs containing the repeat variable di-residue NK that favors specificity rather than activity. It is expected that SAPTA will become a useful and flexible tool for designing highly active TALENs for genome-editing applications. SAPTA can be accessed via the website at http://baolab.bme.gatech.edu/Research/BioinformaticTools/TAL_targeter.html.


October 23, 2019  |  

TALENs facilitate targeted genome editing in human cells with high specificity and low cytotoxicity.

Designer nucleases have been successfully employed to modify the genomes of various model organisms and human cell types. While the specificity of zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs) and RNA-guided endonucleases has been assessed to some extent, little data are available for transcription activator-like effector-based nucleases (TALENs). Here, we have engineered TALEN pairs targeting three human loci (CCR5, AAVS1 and IL2RG) and performed a detailed analysis of their activity, toxicity and specificity. The TALENs showed comparable activity to benchmark ZFNs, with allelic gene disruption frequencies of 15-30% in human cells. Notably, TALEN expression was overall marked by a low cytotoxicity and the absence of cell cycle aberrations. Bioinformatics-based analysis of designer nuclease specificity confirmed partly substantial off-target activity of ZFNs targeting CCR5 and AAVS1 at six known and five novel sites, respectively. In contrast, only marginal off-target cleavage activity was detected at four out of 49 predicted off-target sites for CCR5- and AAVS1-specific TALENs. The rational design of a CCR5-specific TALEN pair decreased off-target activity at the closely related CCR2 locus considerably, consistent with fewer genomic rearrangements between the two loci. In conclusion, our results link nuclease-associated toxicity to off-target cleavage activity and corroborate TALENs as a highly specific platform for future clinical translation. © The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


October 23, 2019  |  

Codon swapping of zinc finger nucleases confers expression in primary cells and in vivo from a single lentiviral vector.

Zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) are promising tools for genome editing for biotechnological as well as therapeutic purposes. Delivery remains a major issue impeding targeted genome modification. Lentiviral vectors are highly efficient for delivering transgenes into cell lines, primary cells and into organs, such as the liver. However, the reverse transcription of lentiviral vectors leads to recombination of homologous sequences, as found between and within ZFN monomers.We used a codon swapping strategy to both drastically disrupt sequence identity between ZFN monomers and to reduce sequence repeats within a monomer sequence. We constructed lentiviral vectors encoding codon-swapped ZFNs or unmodified ZFNs from a single mRNA transcript. Cell lines, primary hepatocytes and newborn rats were used to evaluate the efficacy of integrative-competent (ICLV) and integrative-deficient (IDLV) lentiviral vectors to deliver ZFNs into target cells.We reduced total identity between ZFN monomers from 90.9% to 61.4% and showed that a single ICLV allowed efficient expression of functional ZFNs targeting the rat UGT1A1 gene after codon-swapping, leading to much higher ZFN activity in cell lines (up to 7-fold increase compared to unmodified ZFNs and 60% activity in C6 cells), as compared to plasmid transfection or a single ICLV encoding unmodified ZFN monomers. Off-target analysis located several active sites for the 5-finger UGT1A1-ZFNs. Furthermore, we reported for the first time successful ZFN-induced targeted DNA double-strand breaks in primary cells (hepatocytes) and in vivo (liver) after delivery of a single IDLV encoding two ZFNs.These results demonstrate that a codon-swapping approach allowed a single lentiviral vector to efficiently express ZFNs and should stimulate the use of this viral platform for ZFN-mediated genome editing of primary cells, for both ex vivo or in vivo applications.


October 23, 2019  |  

Controlled delivery of ß-globin-targeting TALENs and CRISPR/Cas9 into mammalian cells for genome editing using microinjection.

Tal-effector nucleases (TALEN) and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) with CRISPR-associated (Cas) proteins are genome editing tools with unprecedented potential. However, the ability to deliver optimal amounts of these nucleases into mammalian cells with minimal toxicity poses a major challenge. Common delivery approaches are transfection- and viral-based methods; each associated with significant drawbacks. An alternative method for directly delivering genome-editing reagents into single living cells with high efficiency and controlled volume is microinjection. Here, we characterize a glass microcapillary-based injection system and demonstrate controlled co-injection of TALENs or CRISPR/Cas9 together with donor template into single K562 cells for targeting the human ß-globin gene. We quantified nuclease induced insertions and deletions (indels) and found that, with ß-globin-targeting TALENs, similar levels of on- and off-target activity in cells could be achieved by microinjection compared with nucleofection. Furthermore, we observed 11% and 2% homology directed repair in single K562 cells co-injected with a donor template along with CRISPR/Cas9 and TALENs respectively. These results demonstrate that a high level of targeted gene modification can be achieved in human cells using glass-needle microinjection of genome editing reagents.


October 23, 2019  |  

An online bioinformatics tool predicts zinc finger and TALE nuclease off-target cleavage.

Although engineered nucleases can efficiently cleave intracellular DNA at desired target sites, major concerns remain on potential ‘off-target’ cleavage that may occur throughout the genome. We developed an online tool: predicted report of genome-wide nuclease off-target sites (PROGNOS) that effectively identifies off-target sites. The initial bioinformatics algorithms in PROGNOS were validated by predicting 44 of 65 previously confirmed off-target sites, and by uncovering a new off-target site for the extensively studied zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) targeting C-C chemokine receptor type 5. Using PROGNOS, we rapidly interrogated 128 potential off-target sites for newly designed transcription activator-like effector nucleases containing either Asn-Asn (NN) or Asn-Lys (NK) repeat variable di-residues (RVDs) and 3- and 4-finger ZFNs, and validated 13 bona fide off-target sites for these nucleases by DNA sequencing. The PROGNOS algorithms were further refined by incorporating additional features of nuclease-DNA interactions and the newly confirmed off-target sites into the training set, which increased the percentage of bona fide off-target sites found within the top PROGNOS rankings. By identifying potential off-target sites in silico, PROGNOS allows the selection of more specific target sites and aids the identification of bona fide off-target sites, significantly facilitating the design of engineered nucleases for genome editing applications.


September 22, 2019  |  

Role of clinicogenomics in infectious disease diagnostics and public health microbiology.

Clinicogenomics is the exploitation of genome sequence data for diagnostic, therapeutic, and public health purposes. Central to this field is the high-throughput DNA sequencing of genomes and metagenomes. The role of clinicogenomics in infectious disease diagnostics and public health microbiology was the topic of discussion during a recent symposium (session 161) presented at the 115th general meeting of the American Society for Microbiology that was held in New Orleans, LA. What follows is a collection of the most salient and promising aspects from each presentation at the symposium. Copyright © 2016, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

Multi-platform assessment of transcriptome profiling using RNA-seq in the ABRF next-generation sequencing study.

High-throughput RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) greatly expands the potential for genomics discoveries, but the wide variety of platforms, protocols and performance capabilitites has created the need for comprehensive reference data. Here we describe the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities next-generation sequencing (ABRF-NGS) study on RNA-seq. We carried out replicate experiments across 15 laboratory sites using reference RNA standards to test four protocols (poly-A-selected, ribo-depleted, size-selected and degraded) on five sequencing platforms (Illumina HiSeq, Life Technologies PGM and Proton, Pacific Biosciences RS and Roche 454). The results show high intraplatform (Spearman rank R > 0.86) and inter-platform (R > 0.83) concordance for expression measures across the deep-count platforms, but highly variable efficiency and cost for splice junction and variant detection between all platforms. For intact RNA, gene expression profiles from rRNA-depletion and poly-A enrichment are similar. In addition, rRNA depletion enables effective analysis of degraded RNA samples. This study provides a broad foundation for cross-platform standardization, evaluation and improvement of RNA-seq.


September 22, 2019  |  

KIR3DL01 upregulation on gut natural killer cells in response to SIV infection of KIR- and MHC class I-defined rhesus macaques.

Natural killer cells provide an important early defense against viral pathogens and are regulated in part by interactions between highly polymorphic killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) on NK cells and their MHC class I ligands on target cells. We previously identified MHC class I ligands for two rhesus macaque KIRs: KIR3DL01 recognizes Mamu-Bw4 molecules and KIR3DL05 recognizes Mamu-A1*002. To determine how these interactions influence NK cell responses, we infected KIR3DL01+ and KIR3DL05+ macaques with and without defined ligands for these receptors with SIVmac239, and monitored NK cell responses in peripheral blood and lymphoid tissues. NK cell responses in blood were broadly stimulated, as indicated by rapid increases in the CD16+ population during acute infection and sustained increases in the CD16+ and CD16-CD56- populations during chronic infection. Markers of proliferation (Ki-67), activation (CD69 & HLA-DR) and antiviral activity (CD107a & TNFa) were also widely expressed, but began to diverge during chronic infection, as reflected by sustained CD107a and TNFa upregulation by KIR3DL01+, but not by KIR3DL05+ NK cells. Significant increases in the frequency of KIR3DL01+ (but not KIR3DL05+) NK cells were also observed in tissues, particularly in the gut-associated lymphoid tissues, where this receptor was preferentially upregulated on CD56+ and CD16-CD56- subsets. These results reveal broad NK cell activation and dynamic changes in the phenotypic properties of NK cells in response to SIV infection, including the enrichment of KIR3DL01+ NK cells in tissues that support high levels of virus replication.


September 22, 2019  |  

Plasmodium knowlesi: a superb in vivo nonhuman primate model of antigenic variation in malaria.

Antigenic variation in malaria was discovered in Plasmodium knowlesi studies involving longitudinal infections of rhesus macaques (M. mulatta). The variant proteins, known as the P. knowlesi Schizont Infected Cell Agglutination (SICA) antigens and the P. falciparum Erythrocyte Membrane Protein 1 (PfEMP1) antigens, expressed by the SICAvar and var multigene families, respectively, have been studied for over 30 years. Expression of the SICA antigens in P. knowlesi requires a splenic component, and specific antibodies are necessary for variant antigen switch events in vivo. Outstanding questions revolve around the role of the spleen and the mechanisms by which the expression of these variant antigen families are regulated. Importantly, the longitudinal dynamics and molecular mechanisms that govern variant antigen expression can be studied with P. knowlesi infection of its mammalian and vector hosts. Synchronous infections can be initiated with established clones and studied at multi-omic levels, with the benefit of computational tools from systems biology that permit the integration of datasets and the design of explanatory, predictive mathematical models. Here we provide an historical account of this topic, while highlighting the potential for maximizing the use of P. knowlesi – macaque model systems and summarizing exciting new progress in this area of research.


September 22, 2019  |  

The non-specific adenine DNA methyltransferase M.EcoGII.

We describe the cloning, expression and characterization of the first truly non-specific adenine DNA methyltransferase, M.EcoGII. It is encoded in the genome of the pathogenic strain Escherichia coli O104:H4 C227-11, where it appears to reside on a cryptic prophage, but is not expressed. However, when the gene encoding M.EcoGII is expressed in vivo – using a high copy pRRS plasmid vector and a methylation-deficient E. coli host-extensive in vivo adenine methylation activity is revealed. M.EcoGII methylates adenine residues in any DNA sequence context and this activity extends to dA and rA bases in either strand of a DNA:RNA-hybrid oligonucleotide duplex and to rA bases in RNAs prepared by in vitro transcription. Using oligonucleotide and bacteriophage M13mp18 virion DNA substrates, we find that M.EcoGII also methylates single-stranded DNA in vitro and that this activity is only slightly less robust than that observed using equivalent double-stranded DNAs. In vitro assays, using purified recombinant M.EcoGII enzyme, demonstrate that up to 99% of dA bases in duplex DNA substrates can be methylated thereby rendering them insensitive to cleavage by multiple restriction endonucleases. These properties suggest that the enzyme could also be used for high resolution mapping of protein binding sites in DNA and RNA substrates.© The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


September 22, 2019  |  

Sooty mangabey genome sequence provides insight into AIDS resistance in a natural SIV host.

In contrast to infections with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in humans and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) in macaques, SIV infection of a natural host, sooty mangabeys (Cercocebus atys), is non-pathogenic despite high viraemia. Here we sequenced and assembled the genome of a captive sooty mangabey. We conducted genome-wide comparative analyses of transcript assemblies from C. atys and AIDS-susceptible species, such as humans and macaques, to identify candidates for host genetic factors that influence susceptibility. We identified several immune-related genes in the genome of C. atys that show substantial sequence divergence from macaques or humans. One of these sequence divergences, a C-terminal frameshift in the toll-like receptor-4 (TLR4) gene of C. atys, is associated with a blunted in vitro response to TLR-4 ligands. In addition, we found a major structural change in exons 3-4 of the immune-regulatory protein intercellular adhesion molecule 2 (ICAM-2); expression of this variant leads to reduced cell surface expression of ICAM-2. These data provide a resource for comparative genomic studies of HIV and/or SIV pathogenesis and may help to elucidate the mechanisms by which SIV-infected sooty mangabeys avoid AIDS.


September 22, 2019  |  

Emergence of an extensively drug-resistant Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi clone harboring a promiscuous plasmid encoding resistance to fluoroquinolones and third-generation cephalosporins.

Antibiotic resistance is a major problem in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi, the causative agent of typhoid. Multidrug-resistant (MDR) isolates are prevalent in parts of Asia and Africa and are often associated with the dominant H58 haplotype. Reduced susceptibility to fluoroquinolones is also widespread, and sporadic cases of resistance to third-generation cephalosporins or azithromycin have also been reported. Here, we report the first large-scale emergence and spread of a novel S. Typhi clone harboring resistance to three first-line drugs (chloramphenicol, ampicillin, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole) as well as fluoroquinolones and third-generation cephalosporins in Sindh, Pakistan, which we classify as extensively drug resistant (XDR). Over 300 XDR typhoid cases have emerged in Sindh, Pakistan, since November 2016. Additionally, a single case of travel-associated XDR typhoid has recently been identified in the United Kingdom. Whole-genome sequencing of over 80 of the XDR isolates revealed remarkable genetic clonality and sequence conservation, identified a large number of resistance determinants, and showed that these isolates were of haplotype H58. The XDR S. Typhi clone encodes a chromosomally located resistance region and harbors a plasmid encoding additional resistance elements, including the blaCTX-M-15 extended-spectrum ß-lactamase, and carrying the qnrS fluoroquinolone resistance gene. This antibiotic resistance-associated IncY plasmid exhibited high sequence identity to plasmids found in other enteric bacteria isolated from widely distributed geographic locations. This study highlights three concerning problems: the receding antibiotic arsenal for typhoid treatment, the ability of S. Typhi to transform from MDR to XDR in a single step by acquisition of a plasmid, and the ability of XDR clones to spread globally. IMPORTANCE Typhoid fever is a severe disease caused by the Gram-negative bacterium Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi. Antibiotic-resistant S. Typhi strains have become increasingly common. Here, we report the first large-scale emergence and spread of a novel extensively drug-resistant (XDR) S. Typhi clone in Sindh, Pakistan. The XDR S. Typhi is resistant to the majority of drugs available for the treatment of typhoid fever. This study highlights the evolving threat of antibiotic resistance in S. Typhi and the value of antibiotic susceptibility testing and whole-genome sequencing in understanding emerging infectious diseases. We genetically characterized the XDR S. Typhi to investigate the phylogenetic relationship between these isolates and a global collection of S. Typhi isolates and to identify multiple genes linked to antibiotic resistance. This S. Typhi clone harbored a promiscuous antibiotic resistance plasmid previously identified in other enteric bacteria. The increasing antibiotic resistance in S. Typhi observed here adds urgency to the need for typhoid prevention measures.


September 22, 2019  |  

Genomic analysis of a pan-resistant isolate of Klebsiella pneumoniae, United States 2016.

Antimicrobial resistance is a threat to public health globally and leads to an estimated 23,000 deaths annually in the United States alone. Here, we report the genomic characterization of an unusualKlebsiella pneumoniae, nonsusceptible to all 26 antibiotics tested, that was isolated from a U.S.The isolate harbored four known beta-lactamase genes, including plasmid-mediatedblaNDM-1andblaCMY-6, as well as chromosomalblaCTX-M-15andblaSHV-28, which accounted for resistance to all beta-lactams tested. In addition, sequence analysis identified mechanisms that could explain all other reported nonsusceptibility results, including nonsusceptibility to colistin, tigecycline, and chloramphenicol. Two plasmids, IncA/C2 and IncFIB, were closely related to mobile elements described previously and isolated from Gram-negative bacteria from China, Nepal, India, the United States, and Kenya, suggesting possible origins of the isolate and plasmids. This is one of the firstK. pneumoniaeisolates in the United States to have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as nonsusceptible to all drugs tested, including all beta-lactams, colistin, and tigecycline. IMPORTANCE Antimicrobial resistance is a major public health threat worldwide. Bacteria that are nonsusceptible or resistant to all antimicrobials available are of major concern to patients and the public because of lack of treatment options and potential for spread. AKlebsiella pneumoniaestrain that was nonsusceptible to all tested antibiotics was isolated from a U.S.Mechanisms that could explain all observed phenotypic antimicrobial resistance phenotypes, including resistance to colistin and beta-lactams, were identified through whole-genome sequencing. The large variety of resistance determinants identified demonstrates the usefulness of whole-genome sequencing for detecting these genes in an outbreak response. Sequencing of isolates with rare and unusual phenotypes can provide information on how these extremely resistant isolates develop, including whether resistance is acquired on mobile elements or accumulated through chromosomal mutations. Moreover, this provides further insight into not only detecting these highly resistant organisms but also preventing their spread.


September 22, 2019  |  

Computational comparison of availability in CTL/gag epitopes among patients with acute and chronic HIV-1 infection.

Recent studies indicate that there is selection bias for transmission of viral polymorphisms associated with higher viral fitness. Furthermore, after transmission and before a specific immune response is mounted in the recipient, the virus undergoes a number of reversions which allow an increase in their replicative capacity. These aspects, and others, affect the viral population characteristic of early acute infection.160 singlegag-gene amplifications were obtained by limiting-dilution RT-PCR from plasma samples of 8 ARV-naïve patients with early acute infection (<30?days, 22?days average) and 8 ARV-naive patients with approximately a year of infection (10 amplicons per patient). Sanger sequencing and NGS SMRT technology (Pacific Biosciences) were implemented to sequence the amplicons. Phylogenetic analysis was performed by using MEGA 6.06. HLA-I (A and B) typing was performed by SSOP-PCR method. The chromatograms were analyzed with Sequencher 4.10. Epitopes and immune-proteosomal cleavages prediction was performed with CBS prediction server for the 30 HLA-A and -B alleles most prevalent in our population with peptide lengths from 8 to 14 mer. Cytotoxic response prediction was performed by using IEDB Analysis Resource.After implementing epitope prediction analysis, we identified a total number of 325 possible viral epitopes present in two or more acute or chronic patients. 60.3% (n?=?196) of them were present only in acute infection (prevalent acute epitopes) while 39.7% (n?=?129) were present only in chronic infection (prevalent chronic epitopes). Within p24, the difference was equally dramatic with 59.4% (79/133) being acute epitopes (p?


September 21, 2019  |  

PacBio assembly of a Plasmodium knowlesi genome sequence with Hi-C correction and manual annotation of the SICAvar gene family.

Plasmodium knowlesi has risen in importance as a zoonotic parasite that has been causing regular episodes of malaria throughout South East Asia. The P. knowlesi genome sequence generated in 2008 highlighted and confirmed many similarities and differences in Plasmodium species, including a global view of several multigene families, such as the large SICAvar multigene family encoding the variant antigens known as the schizont-infected cell agglutination proteins. However, repetitive DNA sequences are the bane of any genome project, and this and other Plasmodium genome projects have not been immune to the gaps, rearrangements and other pitfalls created by these genomic features. Today, long-read PacBio and chromatin conformation technologies are overcoming such obstacles. Here, based on the use of these technologies, we present a highly refined de novo P. knowlesi genome sequence of the Pk1(A+) clone. This sequence and annotation, referred to as the ‘MaHPIC Pk genome sequence’, includes manual annotation of the SICAvar gene family with 136 full-length members categorized as type I or II. This sequence provides a framework that will permit a better understanding of the SICAvar repertoire, selective pressures acting on this gene family and mechanisms of antigenic variation in this species and other pathogens.


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