October 23, 2019  |  

AAV-mediated delivery of zinc finger nucleases targeting hepatitis B virus inhibits active replication.

Despite an existing effective vaccine, hepatitis B virus (HBV) remains a major public health concern. There are effective suppressive therapies for HBV, but they remain expensive and inaccessible to many, and not all patients respond well. Furthermore, HBV can persist as genomic covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) that remains in hepatocytes even during otherwise effective therapy and facilitates rebound in patients after treatment has stopped. Therefore, the need for an effective treatment that targets active and persistent HBV infections remains. As a novel approach to treat HBV, we have targeted the HBV genome for disruption to prevent viral reactivation and replication. We generated 3 zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) that target sequences within the HBV polymerase, core and X genes. Upon the formation of ZFN-induced DNA double strand breaks (DSB), imprecise repair by non-homologous end joining leads to mutations that inactivate HBV genes. We delivered HBV-specific ZFNs using self-complementary adeno-associated virus (scAAV) vectors and tested their anti-HBV activity in HepAD38 cells. HBV-ZFNs efficiently disrupted HBV target sites by inducing site-specific mutations. Cytotoxicity was seen with one of the ZFNs. scAAV-mediated delivery of a ZFN targeting HBV polymerase resulted in complete inhibition of HBV DNA replication and production of infectious HBV virions in HepAD38 cells. This effect was sustained for at least 2 weeks following only a single treatment. Furthermore, high specificity was observed for all ZFNs, as negligible off-target cleavage was seen via high-throughput sequencing of 7 closely matched potential off-target sites. These results show that HBV-targeted ZFNs can efficiently inhibit active HBV replication and suppress the cellular template for HBV persistence, making them promising candidates for eradication therapy.


October 23, 2019  |  

Vector design Tour de Force: integrating combinatorial and rational approaches to derive novel adeno-associated virus variants.

Methodologies to improve existing adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors for gene therapy include either rational approaches or directed evolution to derive capsid variants characterized by superior transduction efficiencies in targeted tissues. Here, we integrated both approaches in one unified design strategy of “virtual family shuffling” to derive a combinatorial capsid library whereby only variable regions on the surface of the capsid are modified. Individual sublibraries were first assembled in order to preselect compatible amino acid residues within restricted surface-exposed regions to minimize the generation of dead-end variants. Subsequently, the successful families were interbred to derive a combined library of ~8?×?10(5) complexity. Next-generation sequencing of the packaged viral DNA revealed capsid surface areas susceptible to directed evolution, thus providing guidance for future designs. We demonstrated the utility of the library by deriving an AAV2-based vector characterized by a 20-fold higher transduction efficiency in murine liver, now equivalent to that of AAV8.


October 23, 2019  |  

Function-based identification of mammalian enhancers using site-specific integration.

The accurate and comprehensive identification of functional regulatory sequences in mammalian genomes remains a major challenge. Here we describe site-specific integration fluorescence-activated cell sorting followed by sequencing (SIF-seq), an unbiased, medium-throughput functional assay for the discovery of distant-acting enhancers. Targeted single-copy genomic integration into pluripotent cells, reporter assays and flow cytometry are coupled with high-throughput DNA sequencing to enable parallel screening of large numbers of DNA sequences. By functionally interrogating >500 kilobases (kb) of mouse and human sequence in mouse embryonic stem cells for enhancer activity we identified enhancers at pluripotency loci including NANOG. In in vitro-differentiated cardiomyocytes and neural progenitor cells, we identified cardiac enhancers and neuronal enhancers, respectively. SIF-seq is a powerful and flexible method for de novo functional identification of mammalian enhancers in a potentially wide variety of cell types.


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  |  

Alternative splice variants of AID are not stoichiometrically present at the protein level in chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Activation-induced deaminase (AID) is a DNA-mutating enzyme that mediates class-switch recombination as well as somatic hypermutation of antibody genes in B cells. Due to off-target activity, AID is implicated in lymphoma development by introducing genome-wide DNA damage and initiating chromosomal translocations such as c-myc/IgH. Several alternative splice transcripts of AID have been reported in activated B cells as well as malignant B cells such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). As most commercially available antibodies fail to recognize alternative splice variants, their abundance in vivo, and hence their biological significance, has not been determined. In this study, we assessed the protein levels of AID splice isoforms by introducing an AID splice reporter construct into cell lines and primary CLL cells from patients as well as from WT and TCL1(tg) C57BL/6 mice (where TCL1 is T-cell leukemia/lymphoma 1). The splice construct is 5′-fused to a GFP-tag, which is preserved in all splice isoforms and allows detection of translated protein. Summarizing, we show a thorough quantification of alternatively spliced AID transcripts and demonstrate that the corresponding protein abundances, especially those of splice variants AID-ivs3 and AID-?E4, are not stoichiometrically equivalent. Our data suggest that enhanced proteasomal degradation of low-abundance proteins might be causative for this discrepancy. © 2013 The Authors. European Journal of Immunology published by WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.


September 21, 2019  |  

A flexible and efficient template format for circular consensus sequencing and SNP detection.

A novel template design for single-molecule sequencing is introduced, a structure we refer to as a SMRTbell template. This structure consists of a double-stranded portion, containing the insert of interest, and a single-stranded hairpin loop on either end, which provides a site for primer binding. Structurally, this format resembles a linear double-stranded molecule, and yet it is topologically circular. When placed into a single-molecule sequencing reaction, the SMRTbell template format enables a consensus sequence to be obtained from multiple passes on a single molecule. Furthermore, this consensus sequence is obtained from both the sense and antisense strands of the insert region. In this article, we present a universal method for constructing these templates, as well as an application of their use. We demonstrate the generation of high-quality consensus accuracy from single molecules, as well as the use of SMRTbell templates in the identification of rare sequence variants.


July 19, 2019  |  

Germinal center centroblasts transition to a centrocyte phenotype according to a timed program and depend on the dark zone for effective selection.

Germinal center (GC) B cells cycle between the dark zone (DZ) and light zone (LZ) during antibody affinity maturation. Whether this movement is necessary for GC function has not been tested. Here we show that CXCR4-deficient GC B cells, which are restricted to the LZ, are gradually outcompeted by WT cells indicating an essential role for DZ access. Remarkably, the transition between DZ centroblast and LZ centrocyte phenotypes occurred independently of positioning. However, CXCR4-deficient cells carried fewer mutations and were overrepresented in the CD73(+) memory compartment. These findings are consistent with a model where GC B cells change from DZ to LZ phenotype according to a timed cellular program but suggest that spatial separation of DZ cells facilitates more effective rounds of mutation and selection. Finally, we identify a network of DZ CXCL12-expressing reticular cells that likely support DZ functions. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


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  |  

Deletion-bias in DNA double-strand break repair differentially contributes to plant genome shrinkage.

In order to prevent genome instability, cells need to be protected by a number of repair mechanisms, including DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair. The extent to which DSB repair, biased towards deletions or insertions, contributes to evolutionary diversification of genome size is still under debate. We analyzed mutation spectra in Arabidopsis thaliana and in barley (Hordeum vulgare) by PacBio sequencing of three DSB-targeted loci each, uncovering repair via gene conversion, single strand annealing (SSA) or nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ). Furthermore, phylogenomic comparisons between A. thaliana and two related species were used to detect naturally occurring deletions during Arabidopsis evolution. Arabidopsis thaliana revealed significantly more and larger deletions after DSB repair than barley, and barley displayed more and larger insertions. Arabidopsis displayed a clear net loss of DNA after DSB repair, mainly via SSA and NHEJ. Barley revealed a very weak net loss of DNA, apparently due to less active break-end resection and easier copying of template sequences into breaks. Comparative phylogenomics revealed several footprints of SSA in the A. thaliana genome. Quantitative assessment of DNA gain and loss through DSB repair processes suggests deletion-biased DSB repair causing ongoing genome shrinking in A. thaliana, whereas genome size in barley remains nearly constant.© 2017 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2017 New Phytologist Trust.


July 19, 2019  |  

An integrated strategy combining DNA walking and NGS to detect GMOs.

Recently, we developed a DNA walking system for the detection and characterization of a broad spectrum of GMOs in routine analysis of food/feed matrices. Here, we present a new version with improved throughput and sensitivity by coupling the DNA walking system to Pacific Bioscience® Next-generation sequencing technology. The performance of the new strategy was thoroughly assessed through several assays. First, we tested its detection and identification capability on grains with high or low GMO content. Second, the potential impacts of food processing were investigated using rice noodle samples. Finally, GMO mixtures and a real-life sample were analyzed to illustrate the applicability of the proposed strategy in routine GMO analysis. In all tested samples, the presence of multiple GMOs was unambiguously proven by the characterization of transgene flanking regions and the combinations of elements that are typical for transgene constructs. Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.


July 19, 2019  |  

Re-sequencing transgenic plants revealed rearrangements at T-DNA inserts, and integration of a short T-DNA fragment, but no increase of small mutations elsewhere.

Transformation resulted in deletions and translocations at T-DNA inserts, but not in genome-wide small mutations. A tiny T-DNA splinter was detected that probably would remain undetected by conventional techniques. We investigated to which extent Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transformation is mutagenic, on top of inserting T-DNA. To prevent mutations due to in vitro propagation, we applied floral dip transformation of Arabidopsis thaliana. We re-sequenced the genomes of five primary transformants, and compared these to genomic sequences derived from a pool of four wild-type plants. By genome-wide comparisons, we identified ten small mutations in the genomes of the five transgenic plants, not correlated to the positions or number of T-DNA inserts. This mutation frequency is within the range of spontaneous mutations occurring during seed propagation in A. thaliana, as determined earlier. In addition, we detected small as well as large deletions specifically at the T-DNA insert sites. Furthermore, we detected partial T-DNA inserts, one of these a tiny 50-bp fragment originating from a central part of the T-DNA construct used, inserted into the plant genome without flanking other T-DNA. Because of its small size, we named this fragment a T-DNA splinter. As far as we know this is the first report of such a small T-DNA fragment insert in absence of any T-DNA border sequence. Finally, we found evidence for translocations from other chromosomes, flanking T-DNA inserts. In this study, we showed that next-generation sequencing (NGS) is a highly sensitive approach to detect T-DNA inserts in transgenic plants.


July 7, 2019  |  

Broad CTL response is required to clear latent HIV-1 due to dominance of escape mutations.

Despite antiretroviral therapy (ART), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 persists in a stable latent reservoir, primarily in resting memory CD4(+) T cells. This reservoir presents a major barrier to the cure of HIV-1 infection. To purge the reservoir, pharmacological reactivation of latent HIV-1 has been proposed and tested both in vitro and in vivo. A key remaining question is whether virus-specific immune mechanisms, including cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs), can clear infected cells in ART-treated patients after latency is reversed. Here we show that there is a striking all or none pattern for CTL escape mutations in HIV-1 Gag epitopes. Unless ART is started early, the vast majority (>98%) of latent viruses carry CTL escape mutations that render infected cells insensitive to CTLs directed at common epitopes. To solve this problem, we identified CTLs that could recognize epitopes from latent HIV-1 that were unmutated in every chronically infected patient tested. Upon stimulation, these CTLs eliminated target cells infected with autologous virus derived from the latent reservoir, both in vitro and in patient-derived humanized mice. The predominance of CTL-resistant viruses in the latent reservoir poses a major challenge to viral eradication. Our results demonstrate that chronically infected patients retain a broad-spectrum viral-specific CTL response and that appropriate boosting of this response may be required for the elimination of the latent reservoir.


July 7, 2019  |  

Strategies for optimizing algal biology for enhanced biomass production

One of the most environmentally sustainable ways to produce high-energy density (oils) feed stocks for the production of liquid transportation fuels is from biomass. Photosynthetic carbon capture combined with biomass combustion (point source) and subsequent carbon capture and sequestration has also been proposed in the intergovernmental panel on climate change report as one of the most effective and economical strategies to remediate atmospheric greenhouse gases. To maximize photosynthetic carbon capture efficiency and energy-return-on-investment, we must develop biomass production systems that achieve the greatest yields with the lowest inputs. Numerous studies have demonstrated that microalgae have among the greatest potentials for biomass production. This is in part due to the fact that all alga cells are photoautotrophic, they have active carbon concentrating mechanisms to increase photosynthetic productivity, and all the biomass is harvestable unlike plants. All photosynthetic organisms, however, convert only a fraction of the solar energy they capture into chemical energy (reduced carbon or biomass). To increase aerial carbon capture rates and biomass productivity, it will be necessary to identify the most robust algal strains and increase their biomass production efficiency often by genetic manipulation. We review recent large-scale efforts to identify the best biomass producing strains and metabolic engineering strategies to improve aerial productivity. These strategies include optimization of photosynthetic light-harvesting antenna size to increase energy capture and conversion efficiency and the potential development of advanced molecular breeding techniques. To date, these strategies have resulted in up to twofold increases in biomass productivity.


July 7, 2019  |  

Identification of the genomic insertion site of the thyroid peroxidase promoter-Cre recombinase transgene using a novel, efficient, next-generation DNA sequencing method.

It can be useful to know the transgene insertion site in transgenic mice for a variety of reasons, but determining the insertion site generally is a time consuming, expensive, and laborious task.A simple method is presented to determine transgene insertion sites that combines the enrichment of a sequencing library by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for sequences containing the transgene, followed by next-generation sequencing of the enriched library. This method was applied to determine the site of integration of the thyroid peroxidase promoter-Cre recombinase mouse transgene that is commonly used to create thyroid-specific gene deletions.The insertion site was found to be between bp 12,372,316 and 12,372,324 on mouse chromosome 9, with the nearest characterized genes being Cntn5 and Jrkl, ~1.5 and 0.9?Mbp from the transgene, respectively. One advantage of knowing a transgene insertion site is that it facilitates distinguishing hemizygous from homozygous transgenic mice. Although this can be accomplished by real-time quantitative PCR, the expected Ct difference is only one cycle, which is challenging to assess accurately. Therefore, the transgene insertion site information was used to develop a 3-primer qualitative PCR assay that readily distinguishes wild type, hemizygous, and homozygous TPO-Cre mice based upon size differences of the wild type and transgenic allele PCR products.Identification of the genomic insertion site of the thyroid peroxidase promoter-Cre mouse transgene should facilitate the use of these mice in studies of thyroid biology.


July 7, 2019  |  

The genus Brachypodium as a model for perenniality and polyploidy

The genus Brachypodium contains annual and perennial species with both diploid and polyploid genomes. Like the annual species B. distachyon, some of the perennial and polyploid species have traits compatible with use as a model system (e.g. small genomes, rapid generation time, self-fertile and easy to grow). Thus, there is an opportunity to leverage the resources and knowledge developed for B. distachyon to use other Brachypodium species as models for perenniality and the regulation and evolution of polyploid genomes. There are two factors driving an increased interest in perenniality. First, several perennial grasses are being developed as biomass crops for the sustainable production of biofuel and it would be useful to have a perennial model system to rapidly test biotechnological crop improvement strategies for undesirable impacts on perenniality and winter hardiness. In addition, a deeper understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying perenniality could be used to design strategies for improving energy crops, for example, by changing resource allocation during growth or by altering the onset of dormancy. The second factor driving increased interest in perenniality is the potential environmental benefits of developing perennial grain crops. B. sylvaticum is a perennial with attributes suitable for use as a perennial model system. A high efficiency transformation system has been developed and a genome sequencing project is underway. Since many important crops, including emerging biomass crops, are polyploid, there is a pressing need to understand the rules governing the evolution and regulation of polyploid genomes. Unfortunately, it is difficult to study polyploid crop genomes because of their size and the difficulty of manipulating those plants in the laboratory. By contrast, B. hybridum has a small polyploid genome and is easy to work with in the laboratory. In addition, analysis of the B. hybridum genome, will be greatly aided by the genome sequences of the two extant diploid species (B. distachyon and B. stacei) that apparently gave rise to B. hybridum. Availability of high quality reference genomes for these three species will be a powerful resource for the study of polyploidy.


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