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  |  

Simultaneous non-contiguous deletions using large synthetic DNA and site-specific recombinases.

Toward achieving rapid and large scale genome modification directly in a target organism, we have developed a new genome engineering strategy that uses a combination of bioinformatics aided design, large synthetic DNA and site-specific recombinases. Using Cre recombinase we swapped a target 126-kb segment of the Escherichia coli genome with a 72-kb synthetic DNA cassette, thereby effectively eliminating over 54 kb of genomic DNA from three non-contiguous regions in a single recombination event. We observed complete replacement of the native sequence with the modified synthetic sequence through the action of the Cre recombinase and no competition from homologous recombination. Because of the versatility and high-efficiency of the Cre-lox system, this method can be used in any organism where this system is functional as well as adapted to use with other highly precise genome engineering systems. Compared to present-day iterative approaches in genome engineering, we anticipate this method will greatly speed up the creation of reduced, modularized and optimized genomes through the integration of deletion analyses data, transcriptomics, synthetic biology and site-specific recombination. © The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


October 23, 2019  |  

Short DNA hairpins compromise recombinant adeno-associated virus genome homogeneity.

Short hairpin (sh)RNAs delivered by recombinant adeno-associated viruses (rAAVs) are valuable tools to study gene function in vivo and a promising gene therapy platform. Our data show that incorporation of shRNA transgenes into rAAV constructs reduces vector yield and produces a population of truncated and defective genomes. We demonstrate that sequences with hairpins or hairpin-like structures drive the generation of truncated AAV genomes through a polymerase redirection mechanism during viral genome replication. Our findings reveal the importance of genomic secondary structure when optimizing viral vector designs. We also discovered that shDNAs could be adapted to act as surrogate mutant inverted terminal repeats (mTRs), sequences that were previously thought to be required for functional self-complementary AAV vectors. The use of shDNAs as artificial mTRs opens the door to engineering a new generation of AAV vectors with improved potency, genetic stability, and safety for both preclinical studies and human gene therapy. Published by Elsevier Inc.


October 23, 2019  |  

Gene editing and genetic engineering approaches for advanced probiotics: A review.

The applications of probiotics are significant and thus resulted in need of genome analysis of probiotic strains. Various omics methods and systems biology approaches enables us to understand and optimize the metabolic processes. These techniques have increased the researcher’s attention towards gut microbiome and provided a new source for the revelation of uncharacterized biosynthetic pathways which enables novel metabolic engineering approaches. In recent years, the broad and quantitative analysis of modified strains relies on systems biology tools such as in silico design which are commonly used methods for improving strain performance. The genetic manipulation of probiotic microorganisms is crucial for defining their role in intestinal microbiota and exploring their beneficial properties. This review describes an overview of gene editing and systems biology approaches, highlighting the advent of omics methods which allows the study of new routes for studying probiotic bacteria. We have also summarized gene editing tools like TALEN, ZFNs and CRISPR-Cas that edits or cleave the specific target DNA. Furthermore, in this review an overview of proposed design of advanced customized probiotic is also hypothesized to improvise the probiotics.


October 23, 2019  |  

Bioengineered viral platform for intramuscular passive vaccine delivery to human skeletal muscle.

Skeletal muscle is ideal for passive vaccine administration as it is easily accessible by intramuscular injection. Recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) vectors are in consideration for passive vaccination clinical trials for HIV and influenza. However, greater human skeletal muscle transduction is needed for therapeutic efficacy than is possible with existing serotypes. To bioengineer capsids with therapeutic levels of transduction, we utilized a directed evolution approach to screen libraries of shuffled AAV capsids in pools of surgically resected human skeletal muscle cells from five patients. Six rounds of evolution were performed in various muscle cell types, and evolved variants were validated against existing muscle-tropic serotypes rAAV1, 6, and 8. We found that evolved variants NP22 and NP66 had significantly increased primary human and rhesus skeletal muscle fiber transduction from surgical explants ex vivo and in various primary and immortalized myogenic lines in vitro. Importantly, we demonstrated reduced seroreactivity compared to existing serotypes against normal human serum from 50 adult donors. These capsids represent powerful tools for human skeletal muscle expression and secretion of antibodies from passive vaccines.


October 23, 2019  |  

Nuclease-mediated gene editing by homologous recombination of the human globin locus.

Tal-effector nucleases (TALENs) are engineered proteins that can stimulate precise genome editing through specific DNA double-strand breaks. Sickle cell disease and ß-thalassemia are common genetic disorders caused by mutations in ß-globin, and we engineered a pair of highly active TALENs that induce modification of 54% of human ß-globin alleles near the site of the sickle mutation. These TALENS stimulate targeted integration of therapeutic, full-length beta-globin cDNA to the endogenous ß-globin locus in 19% of cells prior to selection as quantified by single molecule real-time sequencing. We also developed highly active TALENs to human ?-globin, a pharmacologic target in sickle cell disease therapy. Using the ß-globin and ?-globin TALENs, we generated cell lines that express GFP under the control of the endogenous ß-globin promoter and tdTomato under the control of the endogenous ?-globin promoter. With these fluorescent reporter cell lines, we screened a library of small molecule compounds for their differential effect on the transcriptional activity of the endogenous ß- and ?-globin genes and identified several that preferentially upregulate ?-globin expression.


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.


October 23, 2019  |  

Adeno-associated virus type 2 wild-type and vector-mediated genomic integration profiles of human diploid fibroblasts analyzed by third-generation PacBio DNA sequencing.

Genome-wide analysis of adeno-associated virus (AAV) type 2 integration in HeLa cells has shown that wild-type AAV integrates at numerous genomic sites, including AAVS1 on chromosome 19q13.42. Multiple GAGY/C repeats, resembling consensus AAV Rep-binding sites are preferred, whereas rep-deficient AAV vectors (rAAV) regularly show a random integration profile. This study is the first study to analyze wild-type AAV integration in diploid human fibroblasts. Applying high-throughput third-generation PacBio-based DNA sequencing, integration profiles of wild-type AAV and rAAV are compared side by side. Bioinformatic analysis reveals that both wild-type AAV and rAAV prefer open chromatin regions. Although genomic features of AAV integration largely reproduce previous findings, the pattern of integration hot spots differs from that described in HeLa cells before. DNase-Seq data for human fibroblasts and for HeLa cells reveal variant chromatin accessibility at preferred AAV integration hot spots that correlates with variant hot spot preferences. DNase-Seq patterns of these sites in human tissues, including liver, muscle, heart, brain, skin, and embryonic stem cells further underline variant chromatin accessibility. In summary, AAV integration is dependent on cell-type-specific, variant chromatin accessibility leading to random integration profiles for rAAV, whereas wild-type AAV integration sites cluster near GAGY/C repeats.Adeno-associated virus type 2 (AAV) is assumed to establish latency by chromosomal integration of its DNA. This is the first genome-wide analysis of wild-type AAV2 integration in diploid human cells and the first to compare wild-type to recombinant AAV vector integration side by side under identical experimental conditions. Major determinants of wild-type AAV integration represent open chromatin regions with accessible consensus AAV Rep-binding sites. The variant chromatin accessibility of different human tissues or cell types will have impact on vector targeting to be considered during gene therapy. Copyright © 2014, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

Bypassing the Restriction System To Improve Transformation of Staphylococcus epidermidis.

Staphylococcus epidermidis is the leading cause of infections on indwelling medical devices worldwide. Intrinsic antibiotic resistance and vigorous biofilm production have rendered these infections difficult to treat and, in some cases, require the removal of the offending medical prosthesis. With the exception of two widely passaged isolates, RP62A and 1457, the pathogenesis of infections caused by clinical S. epidermidis strains is poorly understood due to the strong genetic barrier that precludes the efficient transformation of foreign DNA into clinical isolates. The difficulty in transforming clinical S. epidermidis isolates is primarily due to the type I and IV restriction-modification systems, which act as genetic barriers. Here, we show that efficient plasmid transformation of clinical S. epidermidis isolates from clonal complexes 2, 10, and 89 can be realized by employing a plasmid artificial modification (PAM) in Escherichia coli DC10B containing a ?dcm mutation. This transformative technique should facilitate our ability to genetically modify clinical isolates of S. epidermidis and hence improve our understanding of their pathogenesis in human infections.IMPORTANCEStaphylococcus epidermidis is a source of considerable morbidity worldwide. The underlying mechanisms contributing to the commensal and pathogenic lifestyles of S. epidermidis are poorly understood. Genetic manipulations of clinically relevant strains of S. epidermidis are largely prohibited due to the presence of a strong restriction barrier. With the introductions of the tools presented here, genetic manipulation of clinically relevant S. epidermidis isolates has now become possible, thus improving our understanding of S. epidermidis as a pathogen. Copyright © 2017 American Society for Microbiology.


September 22, 2019  |  

Mosaicism diminishes the value of pre-implantation embryo biopsies for detecting CRISPR/Cas9 induced mutations in sheep.

The production of knock-out (KO) livestock models is both expensive and time consuming due to their long gestational interval and low number of offspring. One alternative to increase efficiency is performing a genetic screening to select pre-implantation embryos that have incorporated the desired mutation. Here we report the use of sheep embryo biopsies for detecting CRISPR/Cas9-induced mutations targeting the gene PDX1 prior to embryo transfer. PDX1 is a critical gene for pancreas development and the target gene required for the creation of pancreatogenesis-disabled sheep. We evaluated the viability of biopsied embryos in vitro and in vivo, and we determined the mutation efficiency using PCR combined with gel electrophoresis and digital droplet PCR (ddPCR). Next, we determined the presence of mosaicism in?~?50% of the recovered fetuses employing a clonal sequencing methodology. While the use of biopsies did not compromise embryo viability, the presence of mosaicism diminished the diagnostic value of the technique. If mosaicism could be overcome, pre-implantation embryo biopsies for mutation screening represents a powerful approach that will streamline the creation of KO animals.


July 19, 2019  |  

Complex interplay among DNA modification, noncoding RNA expression and protein-coding RNA expression in Salvia miltiorrhiza chloroplast genome.

Salvia miltiorrhiza is one of the most widely used medicinal plants. As a first step to develop a chloroplast-based genetic engineering method for the over-production of active components from S. miltiorrhiza, we have analyzed the genome, transcriptome, and base modifications of the S. miltiorrhiza chloroplast. Total genomic DNA and RNA were extracted from fresh leaves and then subjected to strand-specific RNA-Seq and Single-Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) sequencing analyses. Mapping the RNA-Seq reads to the genome assembly allowed us to determine the relative expression levels of 80 protein-coding genes. In addition, we identified 19 polycistronic transcription units and 136 putative antisense and intergenic noncoding RNA (ncRNA) genes. Comparison of the abundance of protein-coding transcripts (cRNA) with and without overlapping antisense ncRNAs (asRNA) suggest that the presence of asRNA is associated with increased cRNA abundance (p<0.05). Using the SMRT Portal software (v1.3.2), 2687 potential DNA modification sites and two potential DNA modification motifs were predicted. The two motifs include a TATA box-like motif (CPGDMM1, "TATANNNATNA"), and an unknown motif (CPGDMM2 "WNYANTGAW"). Specifically, 35 of the 97 CPGDMM1 motifs (36.1%) and 91 of the 369 CPGDMM2 motifs (24.7%) were found to be significantly modified (p<0.01). Analysis of genes downstream of the CPGDMM1 motif revealed the significantly increased abundance of ncRNA genes that are less than 400 bp away from the significantly modified CPGDMM1motif (p<0.01). Taking together, the present study revealed a complex interplay among DNA modifications, ncRNA and cRNA expression in chloroplast genome.


July 19, 2019  |  

Quantifying genome-editing outcomes at endogenous loci with SMRT sequencing.

Targeted genome editing with engineered nucleases has transformed the ability to introduce precise sequence modifications at almost any site within the genome. A major obstacle to probing the efficiency and consequences of genome editing is that no existing method enables the frequency of different editing events to be simultaneously measured across a cell population at any endogenous genomic locus. We have developed a novel method for quantifying individual genome editing outcomes at any site of interest using single molecule real time (SMRT) DNA sequencing. We show that this approach can be applied at various loci, using multiple engineered nuclease platforms including TALENs, RNA guided endonucleases (CRISPR/Cas9), and ZFNs, and in different cell lines to identify conditions and strategies in which the desired engineering outcome has occurred. This approach facilitates the evaluation of new gene editing technologies and permits sensitive quantification of editing outcomes in almost every experimental system used.


July 19, 2019  |  

Complete bypass of restriction systems for major Staphylococcus aureus lineages.

Staphylococcus aureus is a prominent global nosocomial and community-acquired bacterial pathogen. A strong restriction barrier presents a major hurdle for the introduction of recombinant DNA into clinical isolates of S. aureus. Here, we describe the construction and characterization of the IMXXB series of Escherichia coli strains that mimic the type I adenine methylation profiles of S. aureus clonal complexes 1, 8, 30, and ST93. The IMXXB strains enable direct, high-efficiency transformation and streamlined genetic manipulation of major S. aureus lineages.The genetic manipulation of clinical S. aureus isolates has been hampered due to the presence of restriction modification barriers that detect and subsequently degrade inappropriately methylated DNA. Current methods allow the introduction of plasmid DNA into a limited subset of S. aureus strains at high efficiency after passage of plasmid DNA through the restriction-negative, modification-proficient strain RN4220. Here, we have constructed and validated a suite of E. coli strains that mimic the adenine methylation profiles of different clonal complexes and show high-efficiency plasmid DNA transfer. The ability to bypass RN4220 will reduce the cost and time involved for plasmid transfer into S. aureus. The IMXXB series of E. coli strains should expedite the process of mutant construction in diverse genetic backgrounds and allow the application of new techniques to the genetic manipulation of S. aureus. Copyright © 2015 Monk et al.


July 19, 2019  |  

TAL effectors and activation of predicted host targets distinguish Asian from African strains of the rice pathogen Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzicola while strict conservation suggests universal importance of five TAL effectors.

Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzicola (Xoc) causes the increasingly important disease bacterial leaf streak of rice (BLS) in part by type III delivery of repeat-rich transcription activator-like (TAL) effectors to upregulate host susceptibility genes. By pathogen whole genome, single molecule, real-time sequencing and host RNA sequencing, we compared TAL effector content and rice transcriptional responses across 10 geographically diverse Xoc strains. TAL effector content is surprisingly conserved overall, yet distinguishes Asian from African isolates. Five TAL effectors are conserved across all strains. In a prior laboratory assay in rice cv. Nipponbare, only two contributed to virulence in strain BLS256 but the strict conservation indicates all five may be important, in different rice genotypes or in the field. Concatenated and aligned, TAL effector content across strains largely reflects relationships based on housekeeping genes, suggesting predominantly vertical transmission. Rice transcriptional responses did not reflect these relationships, and on average, only 28% of genes upregulated and 22% of genes downregulated by a strain are up- and down- regulated (respectively) by all strains. However, when only known TAL effector targets were considered, the relationships resembled those of the TAL effectors. Toward identifying new targets, we used the TAL effector-DNA recognition code to predict effector binding elements in promoters of genes upregulated by each strain, but found that for every strain, all upregulated genes had at least one. Filtering with a classifier we developed previously decreases the number of predicted binding elements across the genome, suggesting that it may reduce false positives among upregulated genes. Applying this filter and eliminating genes for which upregulation did not strictly correlate with presence of the corresponding TAL effector, we generated testable numbers of candidate targets for four of the five strictly conserved TAL effectors.


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