April 21, 2020  |  

A chromosomal-scale genome assembly of Tectona grandis reveals the importance of tandem gene duplication and enables discovery of genes in natural product biosynthetic pathways.

Teak, a member of the Lamiaceae family, produces one of the most expensive hardwoods in the world. High demand coupled with deforestation have caused a decrease in natural teak forests, and future supplies will be reliant on teak plantations. Hence, selection of teak tree varieties for clonal propagation with superior growth performance is of great importance, and access to high-quality genetic and genomic resources can accelerate the selection process by identifying genes underlying desired traits.To facilitate teak research and variety improvement, we generated a highly contiguous, chromosomal-scale genome assembly using high-coverage Pacific Biosciences long reads coupled with high-throughput chromatin conformation capture. Of the 18 teak chromosomes, we generated 17 near-complete pseudomolecules with one chromosome present as two chromosome arm scaffolds. Genome annotation yielded 31,168 genes encoding 46,826 gene models, of which, 39,930 and 41,155 had Pfam domain and expression evidence, respectively. We identified 14 clusters of tandem-duplicated terpene synthases (TPSs), genes central to the biosynthesis of terpenes, which are involved in plant defense and pollinator attraction. Transcriptome analysis revealed 10 TPSs highly expressed in woody tissues, of which, 8 were in tandem, revealing the importance of resolving tandemly duplicated genes and the quality of the assembly and annotation. We also validated the enzymatic activity of four TPSs to demonstrate the function of key TPSs.In summary, this high-quality chromosomal-scale assembly and functional annotation of the teak genome will facilitate the discovery of candidate genes related to traits critical for sustainable production of teak and for anti-insecticidal natural products. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press.


April 21, 2020  |  

CD8 T cells targeting adapted epitopes in chronic HIV infection promote dendritic cell maturation and CD4 T cell trans-infection.

HIV-1 frequently escapes from CD8 T cell responses via HLA-I restricted adaptation, leading to the accumulation of adapted epitopes (AE). We previously demonstrated that AE compromise CD8 T cell responses during acute infection and are associated with poor clinical outcomes. Here, we examined the impact of AE on CD8 T cell responses and their biological relevance in chronic HIV infection (CHI). In contrast to acute infection, the majority of AE are immunogenic in CHI. Longitudinal analyses from acute to CHI showed an increased frequency and magnitude of AE-specific IFN? responses compared to NAE-specific ones. These AE-specific CD8 T cells also were more cytotoxic to CD4 T cells. In addition, AE-specific CD8 T cells expressed lower levels of PD1 and CD57, as well as higher levels of CD28, suggesting a more activated and less exhausted phenotype. During CHI, viral sequencing identified AE-encoding strains as the dominant quasispecies. Despite increased CD4 T cell cytotoxicity, CD8 T cells responding to AE promoted dendritic cell (DC) maturation and CD4 T cell trans-infection perhaps explaining why AE are predominant in CHI. Taken together, our data suggests that the emergence of AE-specific CD8 T cell responses in CHI confers a selective advantage to the virus by promoting DC-mediated CD4 T cell trans-infection.


April 21, 2020  |  

Analyses of four new Caulobacter Phicbkviruses indicate independent lineages.

Bacteriophages with genomes larger than 200 kbp are considered giant phages, and the giant Phicbkviruses are the most frequently isolated Caulobacter crescentus phages. In this study, we compare six bacteriophage genomes that differ from the genomes of the majority of Phicbkviruses. Four of these genomes are much larger than those of the rest of the Phicbkviruses, with genome sizes that are more than 250 kbp. A comparison of 16 Phicbkvirus genomes identified a ‘core genome’ of 69 genes that is present in all of these Phicbkvirus genomes, as well as shared accessory genes and genes that are unique for each phage. Most of the core genes are clustered into the regions coding for structural proteins or those involved in DNA replication. A phylogenetic analysis indicated that these 16 CaulobacterPhicbkvirus genomes are related, but they represent four distinct branches of the Phicbkvirus genomic tree with distantly related branches sharing little nucleotide homology. In contrast, pairwise comparisons within each branch of the phylogenetic tree showed that more than 80?% of the entire genome is shared among phages within a group. This conservation of the genomes within each branch indicates that horizontal gene transfer events between the groups are rare. Therefore, the Phicbkvirus genus consists of at least four different phylogenetic branches that are evolving independently from one another. One of these branches contains a 27-gene inversion relative to the other three branches. Also, an analysis of the tRNA genes showed that they are relatively mobile within the Phicbkvirus genus.


September 22, 2019  |  

Improved performance of the PacBio SMRT technology for 16S rDNA sequencing.

Improved sequencing accuracy was obtained with 16S amplicons from environmental samples and a known pure culture when upgraded Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) hardware and enzymes were used for the single molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing platform. The new PacBio RS II system with P4/C2 chemistry, when used with previously constructed libraries (Mosher et al., 2013) surpassed the accuracy of Roche/454 pyrosequencing platform. With accurate read lengths of >1400 base pairs, the PacBio system opens up the possibility of identifying microorganisms to the species level in environmental samples. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

PHASIS: A computational suite for de novo discovery and characterization of phased, siRNA-generating loci and their miRNA triggers

Phased, secondary siRNAs (phasiRNAs) are found widely in plants, from protein-coding transcripts and long, non-coding RNAs; animal piRNAs are also phased. Integrated methods characterizing textquotedblleftPHAStextquotedblright loci are unavailable, and existing methods are quite limited and inefficient in handling large volumes of sequencing data. The PHASIS suite described here provides complete tools for the computational characterization of PHAS loci, with an emphasis on plants, in which these loci are numerous. Benchmarked comparisons demonstrate that PHASIS is sensitive, highly scalable and fast. Importantly, PHASIS eliminates the requirement of a sequenced genome and PARE/degradome data for discovery of phasiRNAs and their miRNA triggers.


September 22, 2019  |  

Localized electron transfer rates and microelectrode-based enrichment of microbial communities within a phototrophic microbial mat.

Phototrophic microbial mats frequently exhibit sharp, light-dependent redox gradients that regulate microbial respiration on specific electron acceptors as a function of depth. In this work, a benthic phototrophic microbial mat from Hot Lake, a hypersaline, epsomitic lake located near Oroville in north-central Washington, was used to develop a microscale electrochemical method to study local electron transfer processes within the mat. To characterize the physicochemical variables influencing electron transfer, we initially quantified redox potential, pH, and dissolved oxygen gradients by depth in the mat under photic and aphotic conditions. We further demonstrated that power output of a mat fuel cell was light-dependent. To study local electron transfer processes, we deployed a microscale electrode (microelectrode) with tip size ~20 µm. To enrich a subset of microorganisms capable of interacting with the microelectrode, we anodically polarized the microelectrode at depth in the mat. Subsequently, to characterize the microelectrode-associated community and compare it to the neighboring mat community, we performed amplicon sequencing of the V1-V3 region of the 16S gene. Differences in Bray-Curtis beta diversity, illustrated by large changes in relative abundance at the phylum level, suggested successful enrichment of specific mat community members on the microelectrode surface. The microelectrode-associated community exhibited substantially reduced alpha diversity and elevated relative abundances of Prosthecochloris, Loktanella, Catellibacterium, other unclassified members of Rhodobacteraceae, Thiomicrospira, and Limnobacter, compared with the community at an equivalent depth in the mat. Our results suggest that local electron transfer to an anodically polarized microelectrode selected for a specific microbial population, with substantially more abundance and diversity of sulfur-oxidizing phylotypes compared with the neighboring mat community.


September 22, 2019  |  

Plant 24-nt reproductive phasiRNAs from intramolecular duplex mRNAs in diverse monocots.

In grasses, two pathways that generate diverse and numerous 21-nt (premeiotic) and 24-nt (meiotic) phased siRNAs are highly enriched in anthers, the male reproductive organs. These “phasiRNAs” are analogous to mammalian piRNAs, yet their functions and evolutionary origins remain largely unknown. The 24-nt meiotic phasiRNAs have only been described in grasses, wherein their biogenesis is dependent on a specialized Dicer (DCL5). To assess how evolution gave rise to this pathway, we examined reproductive phasiRNA pathways in nongrass monocots: garden asparagus, daylily, and lily. The common ancestors of these species diverged approximately 115-117 million years ago (MYA). We found that premeiotic 21-nt and meiotic 24-nt phasiRNAs were abundant in all three species and displayed spatial localization and temporal dynamics similar to grasses. The miR2275-triggered pathway was also present, yielding 24-nt reproductive phasiRNAs, and thus originated more than 117 MYA. In asparagus, unlike in grasses, these siRNAs are largely derived from inverted repeats (IRs); analyses in lily identified thousands of precursor loci, and many were also predicted to form foldback substrates for Dicer processing. Additionally, reproductive phasiRNAs were present in female reproductive organs and thus may function in both male and female germinal development. These data describe several distinct mechanisms of production for 24-nt meiotic phasiRNAs and provide new insights into the evolution of reproductive phasiRNA pathways in monocots.© 2018 Kakrana et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.


September 22, 2019  |  

Caught in the middle with multiple displacement amplification: the myth of pooling for avoiding multiple displacement amplification bias in a metagenome.

Shotgun metagenomics has become an important tool for investigating the ecology of microorganisms. Underlying these investigations is the assumption that metagenome sequence data accurately estimates the census of microbial populations. Multiple displacement amplification (MDA) of microbial community DNA is often used in cases where it is difficult to obtain enough DNA for sequencing; however, MDA can result in amplification biases that may impact subsequent estimates of population census from metagenome data. Some have posited that pooling replicate MDA reactions negates these biases and restores the accuracy of population analyses. This assumption has not been empirically tested.Using mock viral communities, we examined the influence of pooling on population-scale analyses. In pooled and single reaction MDA treatments, sequence coverage of viral populations was highly variable and coverage patterns across viral genomes were nearly identical, indicating that initial priming biases were reproducible and that pooling did not alleviate biases. In contrast, control unamplified sequence libraries showed relatively even coverage across phage genomes.MDA should be avoided for metagenomic investigations that require quantitative estimates of microbial taxa and gene functional groups. While MDA is an indispensable technique in applications such as single-cell genomics, amplification biases cannot be overcome by combining replicate MDA reactions. Alternative library preparation techniques should be utilized for quantitative microbial ecology studies utilizing metagenomic sequencing approaches.


September 22, 2019  |  

Tn2008-driven carbapenem resistance in Acinetobacter baumannii isolates from a period of increased incidence of infections in a Southwest Virginia hospital (USA).

The objectives of this study were (i) to determine the genetic basis for carbapenem resistance in multidrug-resistant (MDR) Acinetobacter baumannii strains isolated from patients affected by a sudden increase in the incidence of infections by such organisms in a tertiary care hospital in Virginia, USA, in 2009-2010 and (ii) to examine whether such strains are commonly encountered in the hospital setting.The whole genomes of one outbreak strain as well as one carbapenem-resistant and one carbapenem-sensitive strain from sporadic infections in 2010-2012 were sequenced and analysed. Then, 5 outbreak isolates and 57 sporadic isolates (of which 39 were carbapenem-resistant) were screened by PCR for relevant DNA elements identified in the genomics investigation.All three strains for which whole-genome sequences were obtained carried resistance genes linked to MDR phenotypes and a ca. 111-kbp plasmid (pCMCVTAb1) without drug resistance genes. Of these, the two carbapenem-resistant strains possessed a ca. 74-kbp plasmid (pCMCVTAb2) carrying a Tn2008 transposon that provides high-level carbapenem resistance. PCR analysis showed that all of the outbreak isolates carried both plasmids and Tn2008, and of the sporadic isolates 88% carried pCMCVTAb1, 25% contained pCMCVTAb2 and 50% of the latter group carried Tn2008.Carbapenem resistance in outbreak strains and 12% of sporadic isolates was due to the pCMCVTAb2-borne Tn2008. This is the first report of a Tn2008-driven outbreak of carbapenem-resistant A. baumannii infections in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which followed similar cases in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Copyright © 2017 International Society for Chemotherapy of Infection and Cancer. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

A genome comparison of T7-like Podoviruses that infect Caulobacter crescentus.

Bacteriophages remain an understudied component of bacterial communities. Therefore, our laboratory has initiated an effort to isolate large numbers of bacteriophages that infect Caulobacter crescentus to provide an estimate of the diversity of bacteriophages that infect this common environmental bacterium. The majority of the new isolates are phicbkviruses, a genus of giant viruses that appear to be Caulobacter specific. However, we have also isolated several Podoviruses with icosahedral heads and small tails. One of these Podoviruses, designated Lullwater, is similar to two previously isolated Caulobacter phages, Cd1 and Percy. All three have genomes that are approximately 45 kb and contain approximately 30 genes. The gene order is conserved among the three genomes with one of the genes coding for a DNA polymerase that has homology to the family of T7 DNA polymerases. Phylogenetic trees based on either the DNA polymerase or the RNA polymerase amino acid sequences suggests that the three phages represent a new branch of the T7virus tree. Based on these similarities, we concluded that Cd1, Lullwater, and Percy comprise a new group in the T7virus genus.


September 22, 2019  |  

PacBio-based mitochondrial genome assembly of Leucaena trichandra (Leguminosae) and an intrageneric assessment of mitochondrial RNA editing.

Reconstructions of vascular plant mitochondrial genomes (mt-genomes) are notoriously complicated by rampant recombination that has resulted in comparatively few plant mt-genomes being available. The dearth of plant mitochondrial resources has limited our understanding of mt-genome structural diversity, complex patterns of RNA editing, and the origins of novel mt-genome elements. Here, we use an efficient long read (PacBio) iterative assembly pipeline to generate mt-genome assemblies for Leucaena trichandra (Leguminosae: Caesalpinioideae: mimosoid clade), providing the first assessment of non-papilionoid legume mt-genome content and structure to date. The efficiency of the assembly approach facilitated the exploration of alternative structures that are common place among plant mitochondrial genomes. A compact version (729 kbp) of the recovered assemblies was used to investigate sources of mt-genome size variation among legumes and mt-genome sequence similarity to the legume associated root holoparasite Lophophytum. The genome and an associated suite of transcriptome data from select species of Leucaena permitted an in-depth exploration of RNA editing in a diverse clade of closely related species that includes hybrid lineages. RNA editing in the allotetraploid, Leucaena leucocephala, is consistent with co-option of nearly equal maternal and paternal C-to-U edit components, generating novel combinations of RNA edited sites. A preliminary investigation of L. leucocephala C-to-U edit frequencies identified the potential for a hybrid to generate unique pools of alleles from parental variation through edit frequencies shared with one parental lineage, those intermediate between parents, and transgressive patterns.


September 22, 2019  |  

Evolutionary history of human Plasmodium vivax revealed by genome-wide analyses of related ape parasites.

Wild-living African apes are endemically infected with parasites that are closely related to human Plasmodium vivax, a leading cause of malaria outside Africa. This finding suggests that the origin of P. vivax was in Africa, even though the parasite is now rare in humans there. To elucidate the emergence of human P. vivax and its relationship to the ape parasites, we analyzed genome sequence data of P. vivax strains infecting six chimpanzees and one gorilla from Cameroon, Gabon, and Côte d’Ivoire. We found that ape and human parasites share nearly identical core genomes, differing by only 2% of coding sequences. However, compared with the ape parasites, human strains of P. vivax exhibit about 10-fold less diversity and have a relative excess of nonsynonymous nucleotide polymorphisms, with site-frequency spectra suggesting they are subject to greatly relaxed purifying selection. These data suggest that human P. vivax has undergone an extreme bottleneck, followed by rapid population expansion. Investigating potential host-specificity determinants, we found that ape P. vivax parasites encode intact orthologs of three reticulocyte-binding protein genes (rbp2d, rbp2e, and rbp3), which are pseudogenes in all human P. vivax strains. However, binding studies of recombinant RBP2e and RBP3 proteins to human, chimpanzee, and gorilla erythrocytes revealed no evidence of host-specific barriers to red blood cell invasion. These data suggest that, from an ancient stock of P. vivax parasites capable of infecting both humans and apes, a severely bottlenecked lineage emerged out of Africa and underwent rapid population growth as it spread globally. Copyright © 2018 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.


September 22, 2019  |  

Amycomicin is a potent and specific antibiotic discovered with a targeted interaction screen.

The rapid emergence of antibiotic-resistant pathogenic bacteria has accelerated the search for new antibiotics. Many clinically used antibacterials were discovered through culturing a single microbial species under nutrient-rich conditions, but in the environment, bacteria constantly encounter poor nutrient conditions and interact with neighboring microbial species. In an effort to recapitulate this environment, we generated a nine-strain actinomycete community and used 16S rDNA sequencing to deconvolute the stochastic production of antimicrobial activity that was not observed from any of the axenic cultures. We subsequently simplified the community to just two strains and identified Amycolatopsis sp. AA4 as the producing strain and Streptomyces coelicolor M145 as an inducing strain. Bioassay-guided isolation identified amycomicin (AMY), a highly modified fatty acid containing an epoxide isonitrile warhead as a potent and specific inhibitor of Staphylococcus aureus Amycomicin targets an essential enzyme (FabH) in fatty acid biosynthesis and reduces S. aureus infection in a mouse skin-infection model. The discovery of AMY demonstrates the utility of screening complex communities against specific targets to discover small-molecule antibiotics.


September 22, 2019  |  

Enterobacter cloacae Complex Sequence Type 171 Isolates Expressing KPC-4 Carbapenemase Recovered from Canine Patients in Ohio.

Companion animals are likely relevant in the transmission of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. Enterobacter xiangfangensis sequence type 171 (ST171), a clone that has been implicated in clusters of infections in humans, was isolated from two dogs with clinical disease in Ohio. The canine isolates contained IncHI2 plasmids encoding blaKPC-4 Whole-genome sequencing was used to put the canine isolates in phylogenetic context with available human ST171 sequences, as well as to characterize their blaKPC-4 plasmids. Copyright © 2018 American Society for Microbiology.


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