April 21, 2020  |  

Functional genomics of the rapidly replicating bacterium Vibrio natriegens by CRISPRi.

The fast-growing Gram-negative bacterium Vibrio natriegens is an attractive microbial system for molecular biology and biotechnology due to its remarkably short generation time1,2 and metabolic prowess3,4. However, efforts to uncover and utilize the mechanisms underlying its rapid growth are hampered by the scarcity of functional genomic data. Here, we develop a pooled genome-wide clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) interference (CRISPRi) screen to identify a minimal set of genes required for rapid wild-type growth. Targeting 4,565 (99.7%) of predicted protein-coding genes, our screen uncovered core genes comprising putative essential and growth-supporting genes that are enriched for respiratory pathways. We found that 96% of core genes were located on the larger chromosome 1, with growth-neutral duplicates of core genes located primarily on chromosome 2. Our screen also refines metabolic pathway annotations by distinguishing functional biosynthetic enzymes from those predicted on the basis of comparative genomics. Taken together, this work provides a broadly applicable platform for high-throughput functional genomics to accelerate biological studies and engineering of V. natriegens.


April 21, 2020  |  

The transcriptome of Darwin’s bark spider silk glands predicts proteins contributing to dragline silk toughness.

Darwin’s bark spider (Caerostris darwini) produces giant orb webs from dragline silk that can be twice as tough as other silks, making it the toughest biological material. This extreme toughness comes from increased extensibility relative to other draglines. We show C. darwini dragline-producing major ampullate (MA) glands highly express a novel silk gene transcript (MaSp4) encoding a protein that diverges markedly from closely related proteins and contains abundant proline, known to confer silk extensibility, in a unique GPGPQ amino acid motif. This suggests C. darwini evolved distinct proteins that may have increased its dragline’s toughness, enabling giant webs. Caerostris darwini’s MA spinning ducts also appear unusually long, potentially facilitating alignment of silk proteins into extremely tough fibers. Thus, a suite of novel traits from the level of genes to spinning physiology to silk biomechanics are associated with the unique ecology of Darwin’s bark spider, presenting innovative designs for engineering biomaterials.


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  |  

Streamlined ex vivo and in vivo genome editing in mouse embryos using recombinant adeno-associated viruses.

Recent advances using CRISPR-Cas9 approaches have dramatically enhanced the ease for genetic manipulation in rodents. Notwithstanding, the methods to deliver nucleic acids into pre-implantation embryos have hardly changed since the original description of mouse transgenesis more than 30 years ago. Here we report a novel strategy to generate genetically modified mice by transduction of CRISPR-Cas9 components into pre-implantation mouse embryos via recombinant adeno-associated viruses (rAAVs). Using this approach, we efficiently generated a variety of targeted mutations in explanted embryos, including indel events produced by non-homologous end joining and tailored mutations using homology-directed repair. We also achieved gene modification in vivo by direct delivery of rAAV particles into the oviduct of pregnant females. Our approach greatly simplifies the generation of genetically modified mice and, more importantly, opens the door for streamlined gene editing in other mammalian species.


October 23, 2019  |  

Cas9-mediated allelic exchange repairs compound heterozygous recessive mutations in mice.

We report a genome-editing strategy to correct compound heterozygous mutations, a common genotype in patients with recessive genetic disorders. Adeno-associated viral vector delivery of Cas9 and guide RNA induces allelic exchange and rescues the disease phenotype in mouse models of hereditary tyrosinemia type I and mucopolysaccharidosis type I. This approach recombines non-mutated genetic information present in two heterozygous alleles into one functional allele without using donor DNA templates.


September 22, 2019  |  

Transgenerational attenuation of opioid self-administration as a consequence of adolescent morphine exposure.

The United States is in the midst of an opiate epidemic, with abuse of prescription and illegal opioids increasing steadily over the past decade. While it is clear that there is a genetic component to opioid addiction, there is a significant portion of heritability that cannot be explained by genetics alone. The current study was designed to test the hypothesis that maternal exposure to opioids prior to pregnancy alters abuse liability in subsequent generations. Female adolescent Sprague Dawley rats were administered morphine at increasing doses (5-25 mg/kg, s.c.) or saline for 10 days (P30-39). During adulthood, animals were bred with drug-naïve colony males. Male and female adult offspring (F1 animals) were tested for morphine self-administration acquisition, progressive ratio, extinction, and reinstatement at three doses of morphine (0.25, 0.75, 1.25 mg/kg/infusion). Grand offspring (F2 animals, from the maternal line) were also examined. Additionally, gene expression changes within the nucleus accumbens were examined with RNA deep sequencing (PacBio) and qPCR. There were dose- and sex-dependent effects on all phases of the self-administration paradigm that indicate decreased morphine reinforcement and attenuated relapse-like behavior. Additionally, genes related to synaptic plasticity, as well as myelin basic protein (MBP), were dysregulated. Some, but not all, effects persisted into the subsequent (F2) generation. The results demonstrate that even limited opioid exposure during adolescence can have lasting effects across multiple generations, which has implications for mechanisms of the transmission of drug abuse liability in humans. Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

Extensive horizontal gene transfer in cheese-associated bacteria.

Acquisition of genes through horizontal gene transfer (HGT) allows microbes to rapidly gain new capabilities and adapt to new or changing environments. Identifying widespread HGT regions within multispecies microbiomes can pinpoint the molecular mechanisms that play key roles in microbiome assembly. We sought to identify horizontally transferred genes within a model microbiome, the cheese rind. Comparing 31 newly sequenced and 134 previously sequenced bacterial isolates from cheese rinds, we identified over 200 putative horizontally transferred genomic regions containing 4733 protein coding genes. The largest of these regions are enriched for genes involved in siderophore acquisition, and are widely distributed in cheese rinds in both Europe and the US. These results suggest that HGT is prevalent in cheese rind microbiomes, and that identification of genes that are frequently transferred in a particular environment may provide insight into the selective forces shaping microbial communities.


September 22, 2019  |  

The genome of the Hi5 germ cell line from Trichoplusia ni, an agricultural pest and novel model for small RNA biology.

We report a draft assembly of the genome of Hi5 cells from the lepidopteran insect pest,Trichoplusia ni, assigning 90.6% of bases to one of 28 chromosomes and predicting 14,037 protein-coding genes. Chemoreception and detoxification gene families revealT. ni-specific gene expansions that may explain its widespread distribution and rapid adaptation to insecticides. Transcriptome and small RNA data from thorax, ovary, testis, and the germline-derived Hi5 cell line show distinct expression profiles for 295 microRNA- and >393 piRNA-producing loci, as well as 39 genes encoding small RNA pathway proteins. Nearly all of the W chromosome is devoted to piRNA production, andT. nisiRNAs are not 2´-O-methylated. To enable use of Hi5 cells as a model system, we have established genome editing and single-cell cloning protocols. TheT. nigenome provides insights into pest control and allows Hi5 cells to become a new tool for studying small RNAs ex vivo.© 2018, Fu et al.


September 22, 2019  |  

DNA Methylation by Restriction Modification Systems Affects the Global Transcriptome Profile in Borrelia burgdorferi.

Prokaryote restriction modification (RM) systems serve to protect bacteria from potentially detrimental foreign DNA. Recent evidence suggests that DNA methylation by the methyltransferase (MTase) components of RM systems can also have effects on transcriptome profiles. The type strain of the causative agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi B31, possesses two RM systems with N6-methyladenosine (m6A) MTase activity, which are encoded by the bbe02 gene located on linear plasmid lp25 and bbq67 on lp56. The specific recognition and/or methylation sequences had not been identified for either of these B. burgdorferi MTases, and it was not previously known whether these RM systems influence transcript levels. In the current study, single-molecule real-time sequencing was utilized to map genome-wide m6A sites and to identify consensus modified motifs in wild-type B. burgdorferi as well as MTase mutants lacking either the bbe02 gene alone or both bbe02 and bbq67 genes. Four novel conserved m6A motifs were identified and were fully attributable to the presence of specific MTases. Whole-genome transcriptome changes were observed in conjunction with the loss of MTase enzymes, indicating that DNA methylation by the RM systems has effects on gene expression. Genes with altered transcription in MTase mutants include those involved in vertebrate host colonization (e.g., rpoS regulon) and acquisition by/transmission from the tick vector (e.g., rrp1 and pdeB). The results of this study provide a comprehensive view of the DNA methylation pattern in B. burgdorferi, and the accompanying gene expression profiles add to the emerging body of research on RM systems and gene regulation in bacteria.IMPORTANCE Lyme disease is the most prevalent vector-borne disease in North America and is classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an emerging infectious disease with an expanding geographical area of occurrence. Previous studies have shown that the causative bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, methylates its genome using restriction modification systems that enable the distinction from foreign DNA. Although much research has focused on the regulation of gene expression in B. burgdorferi, the effect of DNA methylation on gene regulation has not been evaluated. The current study characterizes the patterns of DNA methylation by restriction modification systems in B. burgdorferi and evaluates the resulting effects on gene regulation in this important pathogen. Copyright © 2018 American Society for Microbiology.


September 21, 2019  |  

Characterization of multi-drug resistant Enterococcus faecalis isolated from cephalic recording chambers in research macaques (Macaca spp.).

Nonhuman primates are commonly used for cognitive neuroscience research and often surgically implanted with cephalic recording chambers for electrophysiological recording. Aerobic bacterial cultures from 25 macaques identified 72 bacterial isolates, including 15 Enterococcus faecalis isolates. The E. faecalis isolates displayed multi-drug resistant phenotypes, with resistance to ciprofloxacin, enrofloxacin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, tetracycline, chloramphenicol, bacitracin, and erythromycin, as well as high-level aminoglycoside resistance. Multi-locus sequence typing showed that most belonged to two E. faecalis sequence types (ST): ST 4 and ST 55. The genomes of three representative isolates were sequenced to identify genes encoding antimicrobial resistances and other traits. Antimicrobial resistance genes identified included aac(6′)-aph(2″), aph(3′)-III, str, ant(6)-Ia, tetM, tetS, tetL, ermB, bcrABR, cat, and dfrG, and polymorphisms in parC (S80I) and gyrA (S83I) were observed. These isolates also harbored virulence factors including the cytolysin toxin genes in ST 4 isolates, as well as multiple biofilm-associated genes (esp, agg, ace, SrtA, gelE, ebpABC), hyaluronidases (hylA, hylB), and other survival genes (ElrA, tpx). Crystal violet biofilm assays confirmed that ST 4 isolates produced more biofilm than ST 55 isolates. The abundance of antimicrobial resistance and virulence factor genes in the ST 4 isolates likely relates to the loss of CRISPR-cas. This macaque colony represents a unique model for studying E. faecalis infection associated with indwelling devices, and provides an opportunity to understand the basis of persistence of this pathogen in a healthcare setting.


July 19, 2019  |  

Differing patterns of selection and geospatial genetic diversity within two leading Plasmodium vivax candidate vaccine antigens.

Although Plasmodium vivax is a leading cause of malaria around the world, only a handful of vivax antigens are being studied for vaccine development. Here, we investigated genetic signatures of selection and geospatial genetic diversity of two leading vivax vaccine antigens–Plasmodium vivax merozoite surface protein 1 (pvmsp-1) and Plasmodium vivax circumsporozoite protein (pvcsp). Using scalable next-generation sequencing, we deep-sequenced amplicons of the 42 kDa region of pvmsp-1 (n?=?44) and the complete gene of pvcsp (n?=?47) from Cambodian isolates. These sequences were then compared with global parasite populations obtained from GenBank. Using a combination of statistical and phylogenetic methods to assess for selection and population structure, we found strong evidence of balancing selection in the 42 kDa region of pvmsp-1, which varied significantly over the length of the gene, consistent with immune-mediated selection. In pvcsp, the highly variable central repeat region also showed patterns consistent with immune selection, which were lacking outside the repeat. The patterns of selection seen in both genes differed from their P. falciparum orthologs. In addition, we found that, similar to merozoite antigens from P. falciparum malaria, genetic diversity of pvmsp-1 sequences showed no geographic clustering, while the non-merozoite antigen, pvcsp, showed strong geographic clustering. These findings suggest that while immune selection may act on both vivax vaccine candidate antigens, the geographic distribution of genetic variability differs greatly between these two genes. The selective forces driving this diversification could lead to antigen escape and vaccine failure. Better understanding the geographic distribution of genetic variability in vaccine candidate antigens will be key to designing and implementing efficacious vaccines.


July 19, 2019  |  

DNA methylation on N6-adenine in C. elegans.

In mammalian cells, DNA methylation on the fifth position of cytosine (5mC) plays an important role as an epigenetic mark. However, DNA methylation was considered to be absent in C. elegans because of the lack of detectable 5mC, as well as homologs of the cytosine DNA methyltransferases. Here, using multiple approaches, we demonstrate the presence of adenine N(6)-methylation (6mA) in C. elegans DNA. We further demonstrate that this modification increases trans-generationally in a paradigm of epigenetic inheritance. Importantly, we identify a DNA demethylase, NMAD-1, and a potential DNA methyltransferase, DAMT-1, which regulate 6mA levels and crosstalk between methylations of histone H3K4 and adenines and control the epigenetic inheritance of phenotypes associated with the loss of the H3K4me2 demethylase spr-5. Together, these data identify a DNA modification in C. elegans and raise the exciting possibility that 6mA may be a carrier of heritable epigenetic information in eukaryotes. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


July 19, 2019  |  

Microplitis demolitor bracovirus proviral loci and clustered replication genes exhibit distinct DNA amplification patterns during replication.

Polydnaviruses are large, double-stranded DNA viruses that are beneficial symbionts of parasitoid wasps. Polydnaviruses in the genus Bracovirus (BVs) persist in wasps as proviruses, and their genomes consist of two functional components referred to as proviral segments and nudivirus-like genes. Prior studies established that the DNA domains where proviral segments reside are amplified during replication and that segments within amplified loci are circularized before packaging into nucleocapsids. One DNA domain where nudivirus-like genes are located is also amplified but never packaged into virions. We recently sequenced the genome of the braconid Microplitis demolitor, which carries M. demolitor bracovirus (MdBV). Here, we took advantage of this resource to characterize the DNAs that are amplified during MdBV replication using a combination of Illumina and Pacific Biosciences sequencing approaches. The results showed that specific nucleotide sites identify the boundaries of amplification for proviral loci. Surprisingly, however, amplification of loci 3, 4, 6, and 8 produced head-to-tail concatemeric intermediates; loci 1, 2, and 5 produced head-to-head/tail-to-tail concatemers; and locus 7 yielded no identified concatemers. Sequence differences at amplification junctions correlated with the types of amplification intermediates the loci produced, while concatemer processing gave rise to the circularized DNAs that are packaged into nucleocapsids. The MdBV nudivirus-like gene cluster was also amplified, albeit more weakly than most proviral loci and with nondiscrete boundaries. Overall, the MdBV genome exhibited three patterns of DNA amplification during replication. Our data also suggest that PacBio sequencing could be useful in studying the replication intermediates produced by other DNA viruses. Polydnaviruses are of fundamental interest because they provide a novel example of viruses evolving into beneficial symbionts. All polydnaviruses are associated with insects called parasitoid wasps, which are of additional applied interest because many are biological control agents of pest insects. Polydnaviruses in the genus Bracovirus (BVs) evolved ~100 million years ago from an ancestor related to the baculovirus-nudivirus lineage but have also established many novelties due to their symbiotic lifestyle. These include the fact that BVs are transmitted only vertically as proviruses and produce replication-defective virions that package only a portion of the viral genome. Here, we studied Microplitis demolitor bracovirus (MdBV) and report that its genome exhibits three distinct patterns of DNA amplification during replication. We also identify several previously unknown features of BV genomes that correlate with these different amplification patterns. Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


July 19, 2019  |  

A role for the bacterial GATC methylome in antibiotic stress survival.

Antibiotic resistance is an increasingly serious public health threat. Understanding pathways allowing bacteria to survive antibiotic stress may unveil new therapeutic targets. We explore the role of the bacterial epigenome in antibiotic stress survival using classical genetic tools and single-molecule real-time sequencing to characterize genomic methylation kinetics. We find that Escherichia coli survival under antibiotic pressure is severely compromised without adenine methylation at GATC sites. Although the adenine methylome remains stable during drug stress, without GATC methylation, methyl-dependent mismatch repair (MMR) is deleterious and, fueled by the drug-induced error-prone polymerase Pol IV, overwhelms cells with toxic DNA breaks. In multiple E. coli strains, including pathogenic and drug-resistant clinical isolates, DNA adenine methyltransferase deficiency potentiates antibiotics from the ß-lactam and quinolone classes. This work indicates that the GATC methylome provides structural support for bacterial survival during antibiotic stress and suggests targeting bacterial DNA methylation as a viable approach to enhancing antibiotic activity.


July 19, 2019  |  

Ultradeep single-molecule real-time sequencing of HIV envelope reveals complete compartmentalization of highly macrophage-tropic R5 proviral variants in brain and CXCR4-using variants in immune and peripheral tissues.

Despite combined antiretroviral therapy (cART), HIV+ patients still develop neurological disorders, which may be due to persistent HIV infection and selective evolution in brain tissues. Single-molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing technology offers an improved opportunity to study the relationship among HIV isolates in the brain and lymphoid tissues because it is capable of generating thousands of long sequence reads in a single run. Here, we used SMRT sequencing to generate ~?50,000 high-quality full-length HIV envelope sequences (>?2200 bp) from seven autopsy tissues from an HIV+/cART+ subject, including three brain and four non-brain sites. Sanger sequencing was used for comparison with SMRT data and to clone functional pseudoviruses for in vitro tropism assays. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated that brain-derived HIV was compartmentalized from HIV outside the brain and that the variants from each of the three brain tissues grouped independently. Variants from all peripheral tissues were intermixed on the tree but independent of the brain clades. Due to the large number of sequences, a clustering analysis at three similarity thresholds (99, 99.5, and 99.9%) was also performed. All brain sequences clustered exclusive of any non-brain sequences at all thresholds; however, frontal lobe sequences clustered independently of occipital and parietal lobes. Translated sequences revealed potentially functional differences between brain and non-brain sequences in the location of putative N-linked glycosylation sites (N-sites), V1 length, V3 charge, and the number of V4 N-sites. All brain sequences were predicted to use the CCR5 co-receptor, while most non-brain sequences were predicted to use CXCR4 co-receptor. Tropism results were confirmed by in vitro infection assays. The study is the first to use a SMRT sequencing approach to study HIV compartmentalization in tissues and supports other reports of limited trafficking between brain and non-brain sequences during cART. Due to the long sequence length, we could observe changes along the entire envelope gene, likely caused by differential selective pressure in the brain that may contribute to neurological disease.


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