September 22, 2019  |  

Survey of Ixodes pacificus ticks in California reveals a diversity of microorganisms and a novel and widespread Anaplasmataceae species.

Ixodes pacificus ticks can harbor a wide range of human and animal pathogens. To survey the prevalence of tick-borne known and putative pathogens, we tested 982 individual adult and nymphal I. pacificus ticks collected throughout California between 2007 and 2009 using a broad-range PCR and electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (PCR/ESI-MS) assay designed to detect a wide range of tick-borne microorganisms. Overall, 1.4% of the ticks were found to be infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, 2.0% were infected with Borrelia miyamotoi and 0.3% were infected with Anaplasma phagocytophilum. In addition, 3.0% were infected with Babesia odocoilei. About 1.2% of the ticks were co-infected with more than one pathogen or putative pathogen. In addition, we identified a novel Anaplasmataceae species that we characterized by sequencing of its 16S rRNA, groEL, gltA, and rpoB genes. Sequence analysis indicated that this organism is phylogenetically distinct from known Anaplasma species with its closest genetic near neighbors coming from Asia. The prevalence of this novel Anaplasmataceae species was as high as 21% at one site, and it was detected in 4.9% of ticks tested statewide. Based upon this genetic characterization we propose that this organism be called ‘Candidatus Cryptoplasma californiense’. Knowledge of this novel microbe will provide awareness for the community about the breadth of the I. pacificus microbiome, the concept that this bacterium could be more widely spread; and an opportunity to explore whether this bacterium also contributes to human or animal disease burden.


September 22, 2019  |  

The bacterial microbiome of Dermacentor andersoni ticks influences pathogen susceptibility.

Ticks are of medical importance owing to their ability to transmit pathogens to humans and animals. The Rocky Mountain wood tick, Dermacentor andersoni, is a vector of a number of pathogens, including Anaplasma marginale, which is the most widespread tick-borne pathogen of livestock. Although ticks host pathogenic bacteria, they also harbor bacterial endosymbionts that have a role in tick physiology, survival, as well as pathogen acquisition and transmission. The goal of this study was to characterize the bacterial microbiome and examine the impact of microbiome disruption on pathogen susceptibility. The bacterial microbiome of two populations of D. andersoni with historically different susceptibilities to A. marginale was characterized. In this study, the microbiome was disrupted and then ticks were exposed to A. marginale or Francisella novicida to determine whether the microbiome correlated with pathogen susceptibility. Our study showed that an increase in proportion and quantity of Rickettsia bellii in the microbiome was negatively correlated to A. marginale levels in ticks. Furthermore, a decrease in Francisella endosymbionts was associated with lower F. novicida infection levels, demonstrating a positive pathogen-endosymbiont relationship. We demonstrate that endosymbionts and pathogens have varying interactions, and suggest that microbiome manipulation may provide a possible method for biocontrol by decreasing pathogen susceptibility of ticks.


September 22, 2019  |  

Antagonism between Staphylococcus epidermidis and Propionibacterium acnes and its genomic basis.

Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus epidermidis live in close proximity on human skin, and both bacterial species can be isolated from normal and acne vulgaris-affected skin sites. The antagonistic interactions between the two species are poorly understood, as well as the potential significance of bacterial interferences for the skin microbiota. Here, we performed simultaneous antagonism assays to detect inhibitory activities between multiple isolates of the two species. Selected strains were sequenced to identify the genomic basis of their antimicrobial phenotypes.First, we screened 77 P. acnes strains isolated from healthy and acne-affected skin, and representing all known phylogenetic clades (I, II, and III), for their antimicrobial activities against 12?S. epidermidis isolates. One particular phylogroup (I-2) exhibited a higher antimicrobial activity than other P. acnes phylogroups. All genomes of type I-2 strains carry an island encoding the biosynthesis of a thiopeptide with possible antimicrobial activity against S. epidermidis. Second, 20?S. epidermidis isolates were examined for inhibitory activity against 25 P. acnes strains. The majority of S. epidermidis strains were able to inhibit P. acnes. Genomes of S. epidermidis strains with strong, medium and no inhibitory activities against P. acnes were sequenced. Genome comparison underlined the diversity of S. epidermidis and detected multiple clade- or strain-specific mobile genetic elements encoding a variety of functions important in antibiotic and stress resistance, biofilm formation and interbacterial competition, including bacteriocins such as epidermin. One isolate with an extraordinary antimicrobial activity against P. acnes harbors a functional ESAT-6 secretion system that might be involved in the antimicrobial activity against P. acnes via the secretion of polymorphic toxins.Taken together, our study suggests that interspecies interactions could potentially jeopardize balances in the skin microbiota. In particular, S. epidermidis strains possess an arsenal of different mechanisms to inhibit P. acnes. However, if such interactions are relevant in skin disorders such as acne vulgaris remains questionable, since no difference in the antimicrobial activity against, or the sensitivity towards S. epidermidis could be detected between health- and acne-associated strains of P. acnes.


September 22, 2019  |  

Gene activity in primary T cells infected with HIV89.6: intron retention and induction of genomic repeats.

HIV infection has been reported to alter cellular gene activity, but published studies have commonly assayed transformed cell lines and lab-adapted HIV strains, yielding inconsistent results. Here we carried out a deep RNA-Seq analysis of primary human T cells infected with the low passage HIV isolate HIV89.6.Seventeen percent of cellular genes showed altered activity 48 h after infection. In a meta-analysis including four other studies, our data differed from studies of HIV infection in cell lines but showed more parallels with infections of primary cells. We found a global trend toward retention of introns after infection, suggestive of a novel cellular response to infection. HIV89.6 infection was also associated with activation of several human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) and retrotransposons, of interest as possible novel antigens that could serve as vaccine targets. The most highly activated group of HERVs was a subset of the ERV-9. Analysis showed that activation was associated with a particular variant of ERV-9 long terminal repeats that contains an indel near the U3-R border. These data also allowed quantification of >70 splice forms of the HIV89.6 RNA and specified the main types of chimeric HIV89.6-host RNAs. Comparison to over 100,000 integration site sequences from the same infected cell populations allowed quantification of authentic versus artifactual chimeric reads, showing that 5′ read-in, splicing out of HIV89.6 from the D4 donor and 3′ read-through were the most common HIV89.6-host cell chimeric RNA forms.Analysis of RNA abundance after infection of primary T cells with the low passage HIV89.6 isolate disclosed multiple novel features of HIV-host interactions, notably intron retention and induction of transcription of retrotransposons and endogenous retroviruses.


September 22, 2019  |  

Distinguishing highly similar gene isoforms with a clustering-based bioinformatics analysis of PacBio single-molecule long reads.

Gene isoforms are commonly found in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Since each isoform may perform a specific function in response to changing environmental conditions, studying the dynamics of gene isoforms is important in understanding biological processes and disease conditions. However, genome-wide identification of gene isoforms is technically challenging due to the high degree of sequence identity among isoforms. Traditional targeted sequencing approach, involving Sanger sequencing of plasmid-cloned PCR products, has low throughput and is very tedious and time-consuming. Next-generation sequencing technologies such as Illumina and 454 achieve high throughput but their short read lengths are a critical barrier to accurate assembly of highly similar gene isoforms, and may result in ambiguities and false joining during sequence assembly. More recently, the third generation sequencer represented by the PacBio platform offers sufficient throughput and long reads covering the full length of typical genes, thus providing a potential to reliably profile gene isoforms. However, the PacBio long reads are error-prone and cannot be effectively analyzed by traditional assembly programs.We present a clustering-based analysis pipeline integrated with PacBio sequencing data for profiling highly similar gene isoforms. This approach was first evaluated in comparison to de novo assembly of 454 reads using a benchmark admixture containing 10 known, cloned msg genes encoding the major surface glycoprotein of Pneumocystis jirovecii. All 10 msg isoforms were successfully reconstructed with the expected length (~1.5 kb) and correct sequence by the new approach, while 454 reads could not be correctly assembled using various assembly programs. When using an additional benchmark admixture containing 22 known P. jirovecii msg isoforms, this approach accurately reconstructed all but 4 these isoforms in their full-length (~3 kb); these 4 isoforms were present in low concentrations in the admixture. Finally, when applied to the original clinical sample from which the 22 known msg isoforms were cloned, this approach successfully identified not only all known isoforms accurately (~3 kb each) but also 48 novel isoforms.PacBio sequencing integrated with the clustering-based analysis pipeline achieves high-throughput and high-resolution discrimination of highly similar sequences, and can serve as a new approach for genome-wide characterization of gene isoforms and other highly repetitive sequences.


September 22, 2019  |  

Long-term microbiota and virome in a Zürich patient after fecal transplantation against Clostridium difficile infection.

Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is an emerging therapeutic option for Clostridium difficile infections that are refractory to conventional treatment. FMT introduces fecal microbes into the patient’s intestine that prevent the recurrence of C. difficile, leading to rapid expansion of bacteria characteristic of healthy microbiota. However, the long-term effects of FMT remain largely unknown. The C. difficile patient described in this paper revealed protracted microbiota adaptation processes from 6 to 42 months post-FMT. Ultimately, bacterial communities were donor similar, suggesting sustainable stool engraftment. Since little is known about the consequences of transmitted viruses during C. difficile infection, we also interrogated virome changes. Our approach allowed identification of about 10 phage types per sample that represented larger viral communities, and phages were found to be equally abundant in the cured patient and donor. The healthy microbiota appears to be characterized by low phage abundance. Although viruses were likely transferred, the patient established a virome distinct from the donor. Surprisingly, the patient had sequences of algal giant viruses (chloroviruses) that have not previously been reported for the human gut. Chloroviruses have not been associated with intestinal disease, but their presence in the oropharynx may influence cognitive abilities. The findings suggest that the virome is an important indicator of health or disease. A better understanding of the role of viruses in the gut ecosystem may uncover novel microbiota-modulating therapeutic strategies.© 2016 New York Academy of Sciences.


September 22, 2019  |  

Characterization of novel transcripts in pseudorabies virus.

In this study we identified two 3′-coterminal RNA molecules in the pseudorabies virus. The highly abundant short transcript (CTO-S) proved to be encoded between the ul21 and ul22 genes in close vicinity of the replication origin (OriL) of the virus. The less abundant long RNA molecule (CTO-L) is a transcriptional readthrough product of the ul21 gene and overlaps OriL. These polyadenylated RNAs were characterized by ascertaining their nucleotide sequences with the Illumina HiScanSQ and Pacific Biosciences Real-Time (PacBio RSII) sequencing platforms and by analyzing their transcription kinetics through use of multi-time-point Real-Time RT-PCR and the PacBio RSII system. It emerged that transcription of the CTOs is fully dependent on the viral transactivator protein IE180 and CTO-S is not a microRNA precursor. We propose an interaction between the transcription and replication machineries at this genomic location, which might play an important role in the regulation of DNA synthesis.


September 22, 2019  |  

Metataxonomic and metagenomic approaches vs. culture-based techniques for clinical pathology.

Diagnoses that are both timely and accurate are critically important for patients with life-threatening or drug resistant infections. Technological improvements in High-Throughput Sequencing (HTS) have led to its use in pathogen detection and its application in clinical diagnoses of infectious diseases. The present study compares two HTS methods, 16S rRNA marker gene sequencing (metataxonomics) and whole metagenomic shotgun sequencing (metagenomics), in their respective abilities to match the same diagnosis as traditional culture methods (culture inference) for patients with ventilator associated pneumonia (VAP). The metagenomic analysis was able to produce the same diagnosis as culture methods at the species-level for five of the six samples, while the metataxonomic analysis was only able to produce results with the same species-level identification as culture for two of the six samples. These results indicate that metagenomic analyses have the accuracy needed for a clinical diagnostic tool, but full integration in diagnostic protocols is contingent on technological improvements to decrease turnaround time and lower costs.


September 22, 2019  |  

Next generation multilocus sequence typing (NGMLST) and the analytical software program MLSTEZ enable efficient, cost-effective, high-throughput, multilocus sequencing typing.

Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) has become the preferred method for genotyping many biological species, and it is especially useful for analyzing haploid eukaryotes. MLST is rigorous, reproducible, and informative, and MLST genotyping has been shown to identify major phylogenetic clades, molecular groups, or subpopulations of a species, as well as individual strains or clones. MLST molecular types often correlate with important phenotypes. Conventional MLST involves the extraction of genomic DNA and the amplification by PCR of several conserved, unlinked gene sequences from a sample of isolates of the taxon under investigation. In some cases, as few as three loci are sufficient to yield definitive results. The amplicons are sequenced, aligned, and compared by phylogenetic methods to distinguish statistically significant differences among individuals and clades. Although MLST is simpler, faster, and less expensive than whole genome sequencing, it is more costly and time-consuming than less reliable genotyping methods (e.g. amplified fragment length polymorphisms). Here, we describe a new MLST method that uses next-generation sequencing, a multiplexing protocol, and appropriate analytical software to provide accurate, rapid, and economical MLST genotyping of 96 or more isolates in single assay. We demonstrate this methodology by genotyping isolates of the well-characterized, human pathogenic yeast Cryptococcus neoformans. Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

Full-length isoform sequencing reveals novel transcripts and substantial transcriptional overlaps in a herpesvirus.

Whole transcriptome studies have become essential for understanding the complexity of genetic regulation. However, the conventionally applied short-read sequencing platforms cannot be used to reliably distinguish between many transcript isoforms. The Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) RS II platform is capable of reading long nucleic acid stretches in a single sequencing run. The pseudorabies virus (PRV) is an excellent system to study herpesvirus gene expression and potential interactions between the transcriptional units. In this work, non-amplified and amplified isoform sequencing protocols were used to characterize the poly(A+) fraction of the lytic transcriptome of PRV, with the aim of a complete transcriptional annotation of the viral genes. The analyses revealed a previously unrecognized complexity of the PRV transcriptome including the discovery of novel protein-coding and non-coding genes, novel mono- and polycistronic transcription units, as well as extensive transcriptional overlaps between neighboring and distal genes. This study identified non-coding transcripts overlapping all three replication origins of the PRV, which might play a role in the control of DNA synthesis. We additionally established the relative expression levels of gene products. Our investigations revealed that the whole PRV genome is utilized for transcription, including both DNA strands in all coding and intergenic regions. The genome-wide occurrence of transcript overlaps suggests a crosstalk between genes through a network formed by interacting transcriptional machineries with a potential function in the control of gene expression.


September 22, 2019  |  

Identification of putative coffee rust mycoparasites using single molecule DNA sequencing of infected pustules.

The interaction of crop pests with their natural enemies is a fundament to their control. Natural enemies of fungal pathogens of crops are poorly known relative to those of insect pests despite the diversity of fungal pathogens and their economic importance. Currently, many regions across Latin America are experiencing unprecedented epidemics of coffee rust (Hemileia vastatrix). Identification of natural enemies of coffee rust could aid in developing management strategies or in pinpointing species that could be used for biocontrol. Here we characterize fungal communities associated with coffee rust lesions by single molecule DNA sequencing of fungal ribosomal RNA barcodes from leaf discs (˜28 mm(2)) containing rust lesions and control discs with no rust lesions. The leaf disc communities were hyper-diverse in fungi, with up to 57 taxa per control disc, and the diversity was only slightly reduced in rust-infected discs. However, geography had a greater influence on the fungal community than whether the disk was infected by coffee rust. Through comparisons between control and rust-infected leaf discs, as well as taxonomic criteria, we identified 15 putative mycoparasitic fungi. These fungi are concentrated in fungal family Cordycipitaceae and order Tremellales. These data emphasize the complexity of fungal diversity of unknown ecological function within a leaf that might influence plant disease epidemics or lead to the development of species for biocontrol of fungal disease. Copyright © 2015, 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  |  

Avian transcriptomics: opportunities and challenges

Recent developments in next-generation sequencing technologies have greatly facilitated the study of whole transcriptomes in model and non-model species. Studying the transcriptome and how it changes across a variety of biological conditions has had major implications for our understanding of how the genome is regulated in different contexts, and how to interpret adaptations and the phenotype of an organism. The aim of this review is to highlight the potential of these new technologies for the study of avian transcriptomics, and to summarise how transcriptomics has been applied in ornithology. A total of 81 peer-reviewed scientific articles that used transcriptomics to answer questions within a broad range of study areas in birds are used as examples throughout the review. We further provide a quick guide to highlight the most important points which need to be take into account when planning a transcriptomic study in birds, and discuss how researchers with little background in molecular biology can avoid potential pitfalls. Suggestions for further reading are supplied throughout. We also discuss possible future developments in the technology platforms used for ribonucleic acid sequencing. By summarising how these novel technologies can be used to answer questions that have long been asked by ornithologists, we hope to bridge the gap between traditional ornithology and genomics, and to stimulate more interdisciplinary research.


September 22, 2019  |  

Single-molecule long-read 16S sequencing to characterize the lung microbiome from mechanically ventilated patients with suspected pneumonia.

In critically ill patients, the development of pneumonia results in significant morbidity and mortality and additional health care costs. The accurate and rapid identification of the microbial pathogens in patients with pulmonary infections might lead to targeted antimicrobial therapy with potentially fewer adverse effects and lower costs. Major advances in next-generation sequencing (NGS) allow culture-independent identification of pathogens. The present study used NGS of essentially full-length PCR-amplified 16S ribosomal DNA from the bronchial aspirates of intubated patients with suspected pneumonia. The results from 61 patients demonstrated that sufficient DNA was obtained from 72% of samples, 44% of which (27 samples) yielded PCR amplimers suitable for NGS. Out of the 27 sequenced samples, only 20 had bacterial culture growth, while the microbiological and NGS identification of bacteria coincided in 17 (85%) of these samples. Despite the lack of bacterial growth in 7 samples that yielded amplimers and were sequenced, the NGS identified a number of bacterial species in these samples. Overall, a significant diversity of bacterial species was identified from the same genus as the predominant cultured pathogens. The numbers of NGS-identifiable bacterial genera were consistently higher than identified by standard microbiological methods. As technical advances reduce the processing and sequencing times, NGS-based methods will ultimately be able to provide clinicians with rapid, precise, culture-independent identification of bacterial, fungal, and viral pathogens and their antimicrobial sensitivity profiles. Copyright © 2014, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

Comparative genome and transcriptome analysis reveals distinctive surface characteristics and unique physiological potentials of Pseudomonas aeruginosa ATCC 27853.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa ATCC 27853 was isolated from a hospital blood specimen in 1971 and has been widely used as a model strain to survey antibiotics susceptibilities, biofilm development, and metabolic activities of Pseudomonas spp.. Although four draft genomes of P. aeruginosa ATCC 27853 have been sequenced, the complete genome of this strain is still lacking, hindering a comprehensive understanding of its physiology and functional genome.Here we sequenced and assembled the complete genome of P. aeruginosa ATCC 27853 using the Pacific Biosciences SMRT (PacBio) technology and Illumina sequencing platform. We found that accessory genes of ATCC 27853 including prophages and genomic islands (GIs) mainly contribute to the difference between P. aeruginosa ATCC 27853 and other P. aeruginosa strains. Seven prophages were identified within the genome of P. aeruginosa ATCC 27853. Of the predicted 25 GIs, three contain genes that encode monoxoygenases, dioxygenases and hydrolases that could be involved in the metabolism of aromatic compounds. Surveying virulence-related genes revealed that a series of genes that encode the B-band O-antigen of LPS are lacking in ATCC 27853. Distinctive SNPs in genes of cellular adhesion proteins such as type IV pili and flagella biosynthesis were also observed in this strain. Colony morphology analysis confirmed an enhanced biofilm formation capability of ATCC 27853 on solid agar surface compared to Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1. We then performed transcriptome analysis of ATCC 27853 and PAO1 using RNA-seq and compared the expression of orthologous genes to understand the functional genome and the genomic details underlying the distinctive colony morphogenesis. These analyses revealed an increased expression of genes involved in cellular adhesion and biofilm maturation such as type IV pili, exopolysaccharide and electron transport chain components in ATCC 27853 compared with PAO1. In addition, distinctive expression profiles of the virulence genes lecA, lasB, quorum sensing regulators LasI/R, and the type I, III and VI secretion systems were observed in the two strains.The complete genome sequence of P. aeruginosa ATCC 27853 reveals the comprehensive genetic background of the strain, and provides genetic basis for several interesting findings about the functions of surface associated proteins, prophages, and genomic islands. Comparative transcriptome analysis of P. aeruginosa ATCC 27853 and PAO1 revealed several classes of differentially expressed genes in the two strains, underlying the genetic and molecular details of several known and yet to be explored morphological and physiological potentials of P. aeruginosa ATCC 27853.


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