April 21, 2020  |  

A new full-length circular DNA sequencing method for viral-sized genomes reveals that RNAi transgenic plants provoke a shift in geminivirus populations in the field.

We present a new method, CIDER-Seq (Circular DNA Enrichment sequencing) for the unbiased enrichment and long-read sequencing of viral-sized circular DNA molecules. We used CIDER-Seq to produce single-read full-length virus genomes for the first time. CIDER-Seq combines PCR-free virus enrichment with Single Molecule Real Time sequencing and a new sequence de-concatenation algorithm. We apply our technique to produce >1200 full-length, highly accurate geminivirus genomes from RNAi-transgenic and control plants in a field trial in Kenya. Using CIDER-Seq we can demonstrate for the first time that the expression of antiviral double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) in transgenic plants causes a consistent shift in virus populations towards species sharing low homology to the transgene derived dsRNA. Our method and its application in an economically important crop plant opens new possibilities in periodic virus sequence surveillance and accurate profiling of diverse circular DNA elements.

April 21, 2020  |  

Snf2 controls pulcherriminic acid biosynthesis and antifungal activity of the biocontrol yeast Metschnikowia pulcherrima.

Metschnikowia pulcherrima synthesises the pigment pulcherrimin, from cyclodileucine (cyclo(Leu-Leu)) as a precursor, and exhibits strong antifungal activity against notorious plant pathogenic fungi. This yeast therefore has great potential for biocontrol applications against fungal diseases; particularly in the phyllosphere where this species is frequently found. To elucidate the molecular basis of the antifungal activity of M. pulcherrima, we compared a wild-type strain with a spontaneously occurring, pigmentless, weakly antagonistic mutant derivative. Whole genome sequencing of the wild-type and mutant strains identified a point mutation that creates a premature stop codon in the transcriptional regulator gene SNF2 in the mutant. Complementation of the mutant strain with the wild-type SNF2 gene restored pigmentation and recovered the strong antifungal activity. Mass spectrometry (UPLC HR HESI-MS) proved the presence of the pulcherrimin precursors cyclo(Leu-Leu) and pulcherriminic acid and identified new precursor and degradation products of pulcherriminic acid and/or pulcherrimin. All of these compounds were identified in the wild-type and complemented strain, but were undetectable in the pigmentless snf2 mutant strain. These results thus identify Snf2 as a regulator of antifungal activity and pulcherriminic acid biosynthesis in M. pulcherrima and provide a starting point for deciphering the molecular functions underlying the antagonistic activity of this yeast. © 2019 The Authors. Molecular Microbiology Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

April 21, 2020  |  

Social genes are selection hotspots in kin groups of a soil microbe.

The composition of cooperative systems, including animal societies, organismal bodies, and microbial groups, reflects their past and shapes their future evolution. However, genomic diversity within many multiunit systems remains uncharacterized, limiting our ability to understand and compare their evolutionary character. We have analyzed genomic and social-phenotype variation among 120 natural isolates of the cooperative bacterium Myxococcus xanthus derived from six multicellular fruiting bodies. Each fruiting body was composed of multiple lineages radiating from a unique recent ancestor. Genomic evolution was concentrated in selection hotspots associated with evolutionary change in social phenotypes. Synonymous mutations indicated that kin lineages within the same fruiting body often first diverged from a common ancestor more than 100 generations ago. Thus, selection appears to promote endemic diversification of kin lineages that remain together over long histories of local interaction, thereby potentiating social coevolution. Copyright © 2019 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works.

April 21, 2020  |  

Petunia-and Arabidopsis-Specific Root Microbiota Responses to Phosphate Supplementation

Phosphorus (P) is a limiting element for plant growth. Several root microbes, including arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), have the capacity to improve plant nutrition and their abundance is known to depend on P fertility. However, how complex root-associated bacterial and fungal communities respond to various levels of P supplementation remains ill-defined. Here we investigated the responses of the root-associated bacteria and fungi to varying levels of P supply using 16S rRNA gene and internal transcribed spacer amplicon sequencing. We grew Petunia, which forms symbiosis with AMF, and the nonmycorrhizal model species Arabidopsis as a control in a soil that is limiting in plant-available P and we then supplemented the plants with complete fertilizer solutions that varied only in their phosphate concentrations. We searched for microbes, whose abundances varied by P fertilization, tested whether a core microbiota responding to the P treatments could be identified and asked whether bacterial and fungal co-occurrence patterns change in response to the varying P levels. Root microbiota composition varied substantially in response to the varying P application. A core microbiota was not identified as different bacterial and fungal groups responded to low-P conditions in Arabidopsis and Petunia. Microbes with P-dependent abundance patterns included Mortierellomycotina in Arabidopsis, while in Petunia, they included AMF and their symbiotic endobacteria. Of note, the P-dependent root colonization by AMF was reliably quantified by sequencing. The fact that the root microbiotas of the two plant species responded differently to low-P conditions suggests that plant species specificity would need to be considered for the eventual development of microbial products that improve plant P nutrition.

April 21, 2020  |  

Phenotypic and Genomic Analyses of Burkholderia stabilis Clinical Contamination, Switzerland.

A recent hospital outbreak related to premoistened gloves used to wash patients exposed the difficulties of defining Burkholderia species in clinical settings. The outbreak strain displayed key B. stabilis phenotypes, including the inability to grow at 42°C; we used whole-genome sequencing to confirm the pathogen was B. stabilis. The outbreak strain genome comprises 3 chromosomes and a plasmid, sharing an average nucleotide identity of 98.4% with B. stabilis ATCC27515 BAA-67, but with 13% novel coding sequences. The genome lacks identifiable virulence factors and has no apparent increase in encoded antimicrobial drug resistance, few insertion sequences, and few pseudogenes, suggesting this outbreak was an opportunistic infection by an environmental strain not adapted to human pathogenicity. The diversity among outbreak isolates (22 from patients and 16 from washing gloves) is only 6 single-nucleotide polymorphisms, although the genome remains plastic, with large elements stochastically lost from outbreak isolates.

April 21, 2020  |  

Discovery and Characterization of Mycobacterium basiliense sp. nov., a Nontuberculous Mycobacterium Isolated From Human Lungs.

Bacteria belonging to the genus Mycobacterium are predominantly responsible for pulmonary diseases; most notably Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes granulomatous pulmonary infections. Here we describe a novel slow growing mycobacterial species isolated from respiratory samples from five patients, four with underlying pulmonary disease. The isolates were characterized by biochemical and molecular techniques, including whole genome sequencing. Biochemical characteristics generally match those of M. marinum and M. ulcerans; however, the most striking difference of the new species is its ability to grow at 37°C. The new species was found to grow in human macrophages, but not amoebae, suggesting a pathogenic rather than an environmental lifestyle. Phylogenetic analysis reveals a deep-rooting relationship to M. marinum and M. ulcerans. A complete genome sequence was obtained through combining short and long-read sequencing, providing a genome of 5.6 Mb. The genome appears to be highly intact, syntenic with that of M. marinum, with very few insertion sequences. A vast array of virulence factors includes 283 PE/PPE surface-associated proteins, making up 10% of the coding capacity, and 22 non-ribosomal peptide synthase clusters. A comparison of six clinical isolates from the five patients shows that they differ by up to two single nucleotide polymorphisms, suggesting a common source of infection. Our findings are in accordance with the recognition of a new taxonomic entity. We propose the name M. basiliense, as all isolates were found in patients from the Basel area of Switzerland.

April 21, 2020  |  

Differential transcriptome analysis of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli strains reveals differences in response to plant-derived compounds.

Several serious vegetable-associated outbreaks of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) infections have occurred during the last decades. In this context, vegetables have been suggested to function as secondary reservoirs for EHEC strains. Increased knowledge about the interaction of EHEC with plants including gene expression patterns in response to plant-derived compounds is required. In the current study, EHEC O157:H7 strain Sakai, EHEC O157:H- strain 3072/96, and the EHEC/enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC) hybrid O104:H4 strain C227-11fcu were grown in lamb’s lettuce medium and in M9 minimal medium to study the differential transcriptional response of these strains to plant-derived compounds with RNA-Seq technology.Many genes involved in carbohydrate degradation and peptide utilization were similarly upregulated in all three strains, suggesting that the lamb’s lettuce medium provides sufficient nutrients for proliferation. In particular, the genes galET and rbsAC involved in galactose metabolism and D-ribose catabolism, respectively, were uniformly upregulated in the investigated strains. The most prominent differences in shared genome transcript levels were observed for genes involved in the expression of flagella. Transcripts of all three classes of the flagellar hierarchy were highly abundant in strain C227-11fcu. Strain Sakai expressed only genes encoding the basal flagellar structure. In addition, both strains showed increased motility in presence of lamb’s lettuce extract. Moreover, strain 3072/96 showed increased transcription activity for genes encoding the type III secretion system (T3SS) including effectors, and was identified as a powerful biofilm-producer in M9 minimal medium.The current study provides clear evidence that EHEC and EHEC/EAEC strains are able to adjust their gene expression patterns towards metabolization of plant-derived compounds, demonstrating that they may proliferate well in a plant-associated environment. Moreover, we propose that flagella and other surface structures play a fundamental role in the interaction of EHEC and EHEC/EAEC with plants.

April 21, 2020  |  

Linking CRISPR-Cas9 interference in cassava to the evolution of editing-resistant geminiviruses.

Geminiviruses cause damaging diseases in several important crop species. However, limited progress has been made in developing crop varieties resistant to these highly diverse DNA viruses. Recently, the bacterial CRISPR/Cas9 system has been transferred to plants to target and confer immunity to geminiviruses. In this study, we use CRISPR-Cas9 interference in the staple food crop cassava with the aim of engineering resistance to African cassava mosaic virus, a member of a widespread and important family (Geminiviridae) of plant-pathogenic DNA viruses.Our results show that the CRISPR system fails to confer effective resistance to the virus during glasshouse inoculations. Further, we find that between 33 and 48% of edited virus genomes evolve a conserved single-nucleotide mutation that confers resistance to CRISPR-Cas9 cleavage. We also find that in the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana the replication of the novel, mutant virus is dependent on the presence of the wild-type virus.Our study highlights the risks associated with CRISPR-Cas9 virus immunity in eukaryotes given that the mutagenic nature of the system generates viral escapes in a short time period. Our in-depth analysis of virus populations also represents a template for future studies analyzing virus escape from anti-viral CRISPR transgenics. This is especially important for informing regulation of such actively mutagenic applications of CRISPR-Cas9 technology in agriculture.

October 23, 2019  |  

CRISPR/Cas9-generated p47(phox)-deficient cell line for Chronic Granulomatous Disease gene therapy vector development.

Development of gene therapy vectors requires cellular models reflecting the genetic background of a disease thus allowing for robust preclinical vector testing. For human p47(phox)-deficient chronic granulomatous disease (CGD) vector testing we generated a cellular model using clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/Cas9 to introduce a GT-dinucleotide deletion (?GT) mutation in p47(phox) encoding NCF1 gene in the human acute myeloid leukemia PLB-985 cell line. CGD is a group of hereditary immunodeficiencies characterized by impaired respiratory burst activity in phagocytes due to a defective phagocytic nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase. In Western countries autosomal-recessive p47(phox)-subunit deficiency represents the second largest CGD patient cohort with unique genetics, as the vast majority of p47(phox) CGD patients carries ?GT deletion in exon two of the NCF1 gene. The established PLB-985 NCF1 ?GT cell line reflects the most frequent form of p47(phox)-deficient CGD genetically and functionally. It can be differentiated to granulocytes efficiently, what creates an attractive alternative to currently used iPSC models for rapid testing of novel gene therapy approaches.

September 22, 2019  |  

Community profiling of Fusarium in combination with other plant associated fungi in different crop species using SMRT Sequencing.

Fusarium head blight, caused by fungi from the genus Fusarium, is one of the most harmful cereal diseases, resulting not only in severe yield losses but also in mycotoxin contaminated and health-threatening grains. Fusarium head blight is caused by a diverse set of species that have different host ranges, mycotoxin profiles and responses to agricultural practices. Thus, understanding the composition of Fusarium communities in the field is crucial for estimating their impact and also for the development of effective control measures. Up to now, most molecular tools that monitor Fusarium communities on plants are limited to certain species and do not distinguish other plant associated fungi. To close these gaps, we developed a sequencing-based community profiling methodology for crop-associated fungi with a focus on the genus Fusarium. By analyzing a 1600 bp long amplicon spanning the highly variable segments ITS and D1-D3 of the ribosomal operon by PacBio SMRT sequencing, we were able to robustly quantify Fusarium down to species level through clustering against reference sequences. The newly developed methodology was successfully validated in mock communities and provided similar results as the culture-based assessment of Fusarium communities by seed health tests in grain samples from different crop species. Finally, we exemplified the newly developed methodology in a field experiment with a wheat-maize crop sequence under different cover crop and tillage regimes. We analyzed wheat straw residues, cover crop shoots and maize grains and we could reveal that the cover crop hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) acts as a potent alternative host for Fusarium (OTU F.ave/tri) showing an eightfold higher relative abundance compared with other cover crop treatments. Moreover, as the newly developed methodology also allows to trace other crop-associated fungi, we found that vetch and green fallow hosted further fungal plant pathogens including Zymoseptoria tritici. Thus, besides their beneficial traits, cover crops can also entail phytopathological risks by acting as alternative hosts for Fusarium and other noxious plant pathogens. The newly developed sequencing based methodology is a powerful diagnostic tool to trace Fusarium in combination with other fungi associated to different crop species.

September 22, 2019  |  

Genomic imprinting mediates dosage compensation in a young plant XY system.

Sex chromosomes have repeatedly evolved from a pair of autosomes. Consequently, X and Y chromosomes initially have similar gene content, but ongoing Y degeneration leads to reduced expression and eventual loss of Y genes1. The resulting imbalance in gene expression between Y genes and the rest of the genome is expected to reduce male fitness, especially when protein networks have components from both autosomes and sex chromosomes. A diverse set of dosage compensating mechanisms that alleviates these negative effects has been described in animals2-4. However, the early steps in the evolution of dosage compensation remain unknown, and dosage compensation is poorly understood in plants5. Here, we describe a dosage compensation mechanism in the evolutionarily young XY sex determination system of the plant Silene latifolia. Genomic imprinting results in higher expression from the maternal X chromosome in both males and females. This compensates for reduced Y expression in males, but results in X overexpression in females and may be detrimental. It could represent a transient early stage in the evolution of dosage compensation. Our finding has striking resemblance to the first stage proposed by Ohno6 for the evolution of X inactivation in mammals.

September 22, 2019  |  

High-resolution community profiling of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.

Community analyses of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) using ribosomal small subunit (SSU) or internal transcribed spacer (ITS) DNA sequences often suffer from low resolution or coverage. We developed a novel sequencing based approach for a highly resolving and specific profiling of AMF communities. We took advantage of previously established AMF-specific PCR primers that amplify a c. 1.5-kb long fragment covering parts of SSU, ITS and parts of the large ribosomal subunit (LSU), and we sequenced the resulting amplicons with single molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing. The method was applicable to soil and root samples, detected all major AMF families and successfully discriminated closely related AMF species, which would not be discernible using SSU sequences. In inoculation tests we could trace the introduced AMF inoculum at the molecular level. One of the introduced strains almost replaced the local strain(s), revealing that AMF inoculation can have a profound impact on the native community. The methodology presented offers researchers a powerful new tool for AMF community analysis because it unifies improved specificity and enhanced resolution, whereas the drawback of medium sequencing throughput appears of lesser importance for low-diversity groups such as AMF.© 2016 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2016 New Phytologist Trust.

September 22, 2019  |  

The genomes of Crithidia bombi and C. expoeki, common parasites of bumblebees.

Trypanosomatids (Trypanosomatidae, Kinetoplastida) are flagellated protozoa containing many parasites of medical or agricultural importance. Among those, Crithidia bombi and C. expoeki, are common parasites in bumble bees around the world, and phylogenetically close to Leishmania and Leptomonas. They have a simple and direct life cycle with one host, and partially castrate the founding queens greatly reducing their fitness. Here, we report the nuclear genome sequences of one clone of each species, extracted from a field-collected infection. Using a combination of Roche 454 FLX Titanium, Pacific Biosciences PacBio RS, and Illumina GA2 instruments for C. bombi, and PacBio for C. expoeki, we could produce high-quality and well resolved sequences. We find that these genomes are around 32 and 34 MB, with 7,808 and 7,851 annotated genes for C. bombi and C. expoeki, respectively-which is somewhat less than reported from other trypanosomatids, with few introns, and organized in polycistronic units. A large fraction of genes received plausible functional support in comparison primarily with Leishmania and Trypanosoma. Comparing the annotated genes of the two species with those of six other trypanosomatids (C. fasciculata, L. pyrrhocoris, L. seymouri, B. ayalai, L. major, and T. brucei) shows similar gene repertoires and many orthologs. Similar to other trypanosomatids, we also find signs of concerted evolution in genes putatively involved in the interaction with the host, a high degree of synteny between C. bombi and C. expoeki, and considerable overlap with several other species in the set. A total of 86 orthologous gene groups show signatures of positive selection in the branch leading to the two Crithidia under study, mostly of unknown function. As an example, we examined the initiating glycosylation pathway of surface components in C. bombi, finding it deviates from most other eukaryotes and also from other kinetoplastids, which may indicate rapid evolution in the extracellular matrix that is involved in interactions with the host. Bumble bees are important pollinators and Crithidia-infections are suspected to cause substantial selection pressure on their host populations. These newly sequenced genomes provide tools that should help better understand host-parasite interactions in these pollinator pathogens.

September 22, 2019  |  

Pangenome analyses of the wheat pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici reveal the structural basis of a highly plastic eukaryotic genome.

Structural variation contributes substantially to polymorphism within species. Chromosomal rearrangements that impact genes can lead to functional variation among individuals and influence the expression of phenotypic traits. Genomes of fungal pathogens show substantial chromosomal polymorphism that can drive virulence evolution on host plants. Assessing the adaptive significance of structural variation is challenging, because most studies rely on inferences based on a single reference genome sequence.We constructed and analyzed the pangenome of Zymoseptoria tritici, a major pathogen of wheat that evolved host specialization by chromosomal rearrangements and gene deletions. We used single-molecule real-time sequencing and high-density genetic maps to assemble multiple genomes. We annotated the gene space based on transcriptomics data that covered the infection life cycle of each strain. Based on a total of five telomere-to-telomere genomes, we constructed a pangenome for the species and identified a core set of 9149 genes. However, an additional 6600 genes were exclusive to a subset of the isolates. The substantial accessory genome encoded on average fewer expressed genes but a larger fraction of the candidate effector genes that may interact with the host during infection. We expanded our analyses of the pangenome to a worldwide collection of 123 isolates of the same species. We confirmed that accessory genes were indeed more likely to show deletion polymorphisms and loss-of-function mutations compared to core genes.The pangenome construction of a highly polymorphic eukaryotic pathogen showed that a single reference genome significantly underestimates the gene space of a species. The substantial accessory genome provides a cradle for adaptive evolution.

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