July 19, 2019  |  

An improved Plasmodium cynomolgi genome assembly reveals an unexpected methyltransferase gene expansion.

Plasmodium cynomolgi, a non-human primate malaria parasite species, has been an important model parasite since its discovery in 1907. Similarities in the biology of P. cynomolgi to the closely related, but less tractable, human malaria parasite P. vivax make it the model parasite of choice for liver biology and vaccine studies pertinent to P. vivax malaria. Molecular and genome-scale studies of P. cynomolgi have relied on the current reference genome sequence, which remains highly fragmented with 1,649 unassigned scaffolds and little representation of the subtelomeres.  Methods: Using long-read sequence data (Pacific Biosciences SMRT technology), we assembled and annotated a new reference genome sequence, PcyM, sourced from an Indian rhesus monkey. We compare the newly assembled genome sequence with those of several other Plasmodium species, including a re-annotated P. coatneyi assembly.The new PcyM genome assembly is of significantly higher quality than the existing reference, comprising only 56 pieces, no gaps and an improved average gene length. Detailed manual curation has ensured a comprehensive annotation of the genome with 6,632 genes, nearly 1,000 more than previously attributed to P. cynomolgi. The new assembly also has an improved representation of the subtelomeric regions, which account for nearly 40% of the sequence. Within the subtelomeres, we identified more than 1300 Plasmodium interspersed repeat ( pir) genes, as well as a striking expansion of 36 methyltransferase pseudogenes that originated from a single copy on chromosome 9.The manually curated PcyM reference genome sequence is an important new resource for the malaria research community. The high quality and contiguity of the data have enabled the discovery of a novel expansion of methyltransferase in the subtelomeres, and illustrates the new comparative genomics capabilities that are being unlocked by complete reference genomes.


July 19, 2019  |  

Coupling of single molecule, long read sequencing with IMGT/HighV-QUEST analysis expedites identification of SIV gp140-specific antibodies from scFv phage display libraries.

The simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)/macaque model of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome pathogenesis is critical for furthering our understanding of the role of antibody responses in the prevention of HIV infection, and will only increase in importance as macaque immunoglobulin (IG) gene databases are expanded. We have previously reported the construction of a phage display library from a SIV-infected rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) using oligonucleotide primers based on human IG gene sequences. Our previous screening relied on Sanger sequencing, which was inefficient and generated only a few dozen sequences. Here, we re-analyzed this library using single molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing on the Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) platform to generate thousands of highly accurate circular consensus sequencing (CCS) reads corresponding to full length single chain fragment variable. CCS data were then analyzed through the international ImMunoGeneTics information system®(IMGT®)/HighV-QUEST (www.imgt.org) to identify variable genes and perform statistical analyses. Overall the library was very diverse, with 2,569 different IMGT clonotypes called for the 5,238 IGHV sequences assigned to an IMGT clonotype. Within the library, SIV-specific antibodies represented a relatively limited number of clones, with only 135 different IMGT clonotypes called from 4,594 IGHV-assigned sequences. Our data did confirm that the IGHV4 and IGHV3 gene usage was the most abundant within the rhesus antibodies screened, and that these genes were even more enriched among SIV gp140-specific antibodies. Although a broad range of VH CDR3 amino acid (AA) lengths was observed in the unpanned library, the vast majority of SIV gp140-specific antibodies demonstrated a more uniform VH CDR3 length (20 AA). This uniformity was far less apparent when VH CDR3 were classified according to their clonotype (range: 9-25 AA), which we believe is more relevant for specific antibody identification. Only 174 IGKV and 588 IGLV clonotypes were identified within the VL sequences associated with SIV gp140-specific VH. Together, these data strongly suggest that the combination of SMRT sequencing with the IMGT/HighV-QUEST querying tool will facilitate and expedite our understanding of polyclonal antibody responses during SIV infection and may serve to rapidly expand the known scope of macaque V genes utilized during these responses.


July 7, 2019  |  

The genomic sequence of lymphocryptovirus from cynomolgus macaque.

Lymphocryptoviruses such as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) cause persistent infections in human and non-human primates, and suppression of the immune system can increase the risk of lymphocryptovirus (LCV)-associated tumor development in both human and non-human primates. To enable LCV infection as a non-clinical model to study effects of therapeutics on EBV immunity, we determined the genomic DNA sequence of the LCV from cynomolgus macaque, a species commonly used for non-clinical testing. Comparison to rhesus macaque LCV and human EBV sequences indicates that LCV from the cynomolgus macaque has the same genomic arrangement and a high degree of similarity in most genes, especially with rhesus macaque LCV. Genes showing lower similarity were those encoding proteins involved in latency and/or tumor promotion or immune evasion. The genomic sequence of LCV from cynomolgus macaque should aid the development of non-clinical tools for identifying therapeutics that impact LCV immunity and carry potential lymphoma risk. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

Complete genome sequences of Mycobacterium kansasii strains isolated from rhesus macaques.

Mycobacterium kansasii is a nontuberculous mycobacterium. It causes opportunistic infections with pulmonary and extrapulmonary manifestations. We report here the complete genome sequences of two M. kansasii strains isolated from rhesus macaques. We performed genome comparisons with human and environmental isolates of M. kansasii to assess the genomic diversity of this species. Copyright © 2017 Panda et al.


July 7, 2019  |  

Whole genome sequencing predicts novel human disease models in rhesus macaques.

Rhesus macaques are an important pre-clinical model of human disease. To advance our understanding of genomic variation that may influence disease, we surveyed genome-wide variation in 21 rhesus macaques. We employed best-practice variant calling, validated with Mendelian inheritance. Next, we used alignment data from our cohort to detect genomic regions likely to produce inaccurate genotypes, potentially due to either gene duplication or structural variation between individuals. We generated a final dataset of >16 million high confidence variants, including 13 million in Chinese-origin rhesus macaques, an increasingly important disease model. We detected an average of 131 mutations predicted to severely alter protein coding per animal, and identified 45 such variants that coincide with known pathogenic human variants. These data suggest that expanded screening of existing breeding colonies will identify novel models of human disease, and that increased genomic characterization can help inform research studies in macaques. Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

Normocyte-binding protein required for human erythrocyte invasion by the zoonotic malaria parasite Plasmodium knowlesi.

The dominant cause of malaria in Malaysia is now Plasmodium knowlesi, a zoonotic parasite of cynomolgus macaque monkeys found throughout South East Asia. Comparative genomic analysis of parasites adapted to in vitro growth in either cynomolgus or human RBCs identified a genomic deletion that includes the gene encoding normocyte-binding protein Xa (NBPXa) in parasites growing in cynomolgus RBCs but not in human RBCs. Experimental deletion of the NBPXa gene in parasites adapted to growth in human RBCs (which retain the ability to grow in cynomolgus RBCs) restricted them to cynomolgus RBCs, demonstrating that this gene is selectively required for parasite multiplication and growth in human RBCs. NBPXa-null parasites could bind to human RBCs, but invasion of these cells was severely impaired. Therefore, NBPXa is identified as a key mediator of P. knowlesi human infection and may be a target for vaccine development against this emerging pathogen.


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