April 21, 2020  |  

Investigation of the role of typhoid toxin in acute typhoid fever in a human challenge model.

Salmonella Typhi is a human host-restricted pathogen that is responsible for typhoid fever in approximately 10.9 million people annually1. The typhoid toxin is postulated to have a central role in disease pathogenesis, the establishment of chronic infection and human host restriction2-6. However, its precise role in typhoid disease in humans is not fully defined. We studied the role of typhoid toxin in acute infection using a randomized, double-blind S. Typhi human challenge model7. Forty healthy volunteers were randomized (1:1) to oral challenge with 104 colony-forming units of wild-type or an isogenic typhoid toxin deletion mutant (TN) of S. Typhi. We observed no significant difference in the rate of typhoid infection (fever =38?°C for =12?h and/or S. Typhi bacteremia) between participants challenged with wild-type or TN S. Typhi (15 out of 21 (71%) versus 15 out of 19 (79%); P?=?0.58). The duration of bacteremia was significantly longer in participants challenged with the TN strain compared with wild-type (47.6 hours (28.9-97.0) versus 30.3(3.6-49.4); P = 0.001). The clinical syndrome was otherwise indistinguishable between wild-type and TN groups. These data suggest that the typhoid toxin is not required for infection and the development of early typhoid fever symptoms within the context of a human challenge model. Further clinical data are required to assess the role of typhoid toxin in severe disease or the establishment of bacterial carriage.


April 21, 2020  |  

The history, genome and biology of NCTC 30: a non-pandemic Vibrio cholerae isolate from World War One.

The sixth global cholera pandemic lasted from 1899 to 1923. However, despite widespread fear of the disease and of its negative effects on troop morale, very few soldiers in the British Expeditionary Forces contracted cholera between 1914 and 1918. Here, we have revived and sequenced the genome of NCTC 30, a 102-year-old Vibrio cholerae isolate, which we believe is the oldest publicly available live V. cholerae strain in existence. NCTC 30 was isolated in 1916 from a British soldier convalescent in Egypt. We found that this strain does not encode cholera toxin, thought to be necessary to cause cholera, and is not part of V. cholerae lineages responsible for the pandemic disease. We also show that NCTC 30, which predates the introduction of penicillin-based antibiotics, harbours a functional ß-lactamase antibiotic resistance gene. Our data corroborate and provide molecular explanations for previous phenotypic studies of NCTC 30 and provide a new high-quality genome sequence for historical, non-pandemic V. cholerae.


April 21, 2020  |  

Progression of the canonical reference malaria parasite genome from 2002-2019.

Here we describe the ways in which the sequence and annotation of the Plasmodium falciparum reference genome has changed since its publication in 2002. As the malaria species responsible for the most deaths worldwide, the richness of annotation and accuracy of the sequence are important resources for the P. falciparum research community as well as the basis for interpreting the genomes of subsequently sequenced species. At the time of publication in 2002 over 60% of predicted genes had unknown functions. As of March 2019, this number has been significantly decreased to 33%. The reduction is due to the inclusion of genes that were subsequently characterised experimentally and genes with significant similarity to others with known functions. In addition, the structural annotation of genes has been significantly refined; 27% of gene structures have been changed since 2002, comprising changes in exon-intron boundaries, addition or deletion of exons and the addition or deletion of genes. The sequence has also undergone significant improvements. In addition to the correction of a large number of single-base and insertion or deletion errors, a major miss-assembly between the subtelomeres of chromosome 7 and 8 has been corrected. As the number of sequenced isolates continues to grow rapidly, a single reference genome will not be an adequate basis for interpretating intra-species sequence diversity. We therefore describe in this publication a population reference genome of P. falciparum, called Pfref1. This reference will enable the community to map to regions that are not present in the current assembly. P. falciparum 3D7 will be continued to be maintained with ongoing curation ensuring continual improvements in annotation quality.


September 22, 2019  |  

Accurate characterization of the IFITM locus using MiSeq and PacBio sequencing shows genetic variation in Galliformes.

Interferon inducible transmembrane (IFITM) proteins are effectors of the immune system widely characterized for their role in restricting infection by diverse enveloped and non-enveloped viruses. The chicken IFITM (chIFITM) genes are clustered on chromosome 5 and to date four genes have been annotated, namely chIFITM1, chIFITM3, chIFITM5 and chIFITM10. However, due to poor assembly of this locus in the Gallus Gallus v4 genome, accurate characterization has so far proven problematic. Recently, a new chicken reference genome assembly Gallus Gallus v5 was generated using Sanger, 454, Illumina and PacBio sequencing technologies identifying considerable differences in the chIFITM locus over the previous genome releases.We re-sequenced the locus using both Illumina MiSeq and PacBio RS II sequencing technologies and we mapped RNA-seq data from the European Nucleotide Archive (ENA) to this finalized chIFITM locus. Using SureSelect probes capture probes designed to the finalized chIFITM locus, we sequenced the locus of a different chicken breed, namely a White Leghorn, and a turkey.We confirmed the Gallus Gallus v5 consensus except for two insertions of 5 and 1 base pair within the chIFITM3 and B4GALNT4 genes, respectively, and a single base pair deletion within the B4GALNT4 gene. The pull down revealed a single amino acid substitution of A63V in the CIL domain of IFITM2 compared to Red Jungle fowl and 13, 13 and 11 differences between IFITM1, 2 and 3 of chickens and turkeys, respectively. RNA-seq shows chIFITM2 and chIFITM3 expression in numerous tissue types of different chicken breeds and avian cell lines, while the expression of the putative chIFITM1 is limited to the testis, caecum and ileum tissues.Locus resequencing using these capture probes and RNA-seq based expression analysis will allow the further characterization of genetic diversity within Galliformes.


September 22, 2019  |  

Long reads: their purpose and place.

In recent years long-read technologies have moved from being a niche and specialist field to a point of relative maturity likely to feature frequently in the genomic landscape. Analogous to next generation sequencing, the cost of sequencing using long-read technologies has materially dropped whilst the instrument throughput continues to increase. Together these changes present the prospect of sequencing large numbers of individuals with the aim of fully characterizing genomes at high resolution. In this article, we will endeavour to present an introduction to long-read technologies showing: what long reads are; how they are distinct from short reads; why long reads are useful and how they are being used. We will highlight the recent developments in this field, and the applications and potential of these technologies in medical research, and clinical diagnostics and therapeutics.


September 22, 2019  |  

Genomes of all known members of a Plasmodium subgenus reveal paths to virulent human malaria.

Plasmodium falciparum, the most virulent agent of human malaria, shares a recent common ancestor with the gorilla parasite Plasmodium praefalciparum. Little is known about the other gorilla- and chimpanzee-infecting species in the same (Laverania) subgenus as P. falciparum, but none of them are capable of establishing repeated infection and transmission in humans. To elucidate underlying mechanisms and the evolutionary history of this subgenus, we have generated multiple genomes from all known Laverania species. The completeness of our dataset allows us to conclude that interspecific gene transfers, as well as convergent evolution, were important in the evolution of these species. Striking copy number and structural variations were observed within gene families and one, stevor, shows a host-specific sequence pattern. The complete genome sequence of the closest ancestor of P. falciparum enables us to estimate the timing of the beginning of speciation to be 40,000-60,000 years ago followed by a population bottleneck around 4,000-6,000 years ago. Our data allow us also to search in detail for the features of P. falciparum that made it the only member of the Laverania able to infect and spread in humans.


September 22, 2019  |  

An outbreak of a rare Shiga-toxin-producing Escherichia coli serotype (O117:H7) among men who have sex with men.

Sexually transmissible enteric infections (STEIs) are commonly associated with transmission among men who have sex with men (MSM). In the past decade, the UK has experienced multiple parallel STEI emergences in MSM caused by a range of bacterial species of the genus Shigella, and an outbreak of an uncommon serotype (O117?:?H7) of Shiga-toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC). Here, we used microbial genomics on 6 outbreak and 30 sporadic STEC O117?:?H7 isolates to explore the origins and pathogenic drivers of the STEC O117?:?H7 emergence in MSM. Using genomic epidemiology, we found that the STEC O117?:?H7 outbreak lineage was potentially imported from Latin America and likely continues to circulate both in the UK MSM population and in Latin America. We found genomic relationships consistent with existing symptomatic evidence for chronic infection with this STEC serotype. Comparative genomic analysis indicated the existence of a novel Shiga toxin 1-encoding prophage in the outbreak isolates, and evidence of horizontal gene exchange among the STEC O117?:?H7 outbreak lineage and other enteric pathogens. There was no evidence of increased virulence in the outbreak strains relative to contextual isolates, but the outbreak lineage was associated with azithromycin resistance. Comparing these findings with similar genomic investigations of emerging MSM-associated Shigella in the UK highlighted many parallels, the most striking of which was the importance of the azithromycin phenotype for STEI emergence in this patient group.


July 19, 2019  |  

Major improvements to the Heliconius melpomene genome assembly used to confirm 10 chromosome fusion events in 6 million years of butterfly evolution.

The Heliconius butterflies are a widely studied adaptive radiation of 46 species spread across Central and South America, several of which are known to hybridize in the wild. Here, we present a substantially improved assembly of the Heliconius melpomene genome, developed using novel methods that should be applicable to improving other genome assemblies produced using short read sequencing. First, we whole-genome-sequenced a pedigree to produce a linkage map incorporating 99% of the genome. Second, we incorporated haplotype scaffolds extensively to produce a more complete haploid version of the draft genome. Third, we incorporated ~20x coverage of Pacific Biosciences sequencing, and scaffolded the haploid genome using an assembly of this long-read sequence. These improvements result in a genome of 795 scaffolds, 275 Mb in length, with an N50 length of 2.1 Mb, an N50 number of 34, and with 99% of the genome placed, and 84% anchored on chromosomes. We use the new genome assembly to confirm that the Heliconius genome underwent 10 chromosome fusions since the split with its sister genus Eueides, over a period of about 6 million yr. Copyright © 2016 Davey et al.


July 19, 2019  |  

Phase variation of a Type IIG restriction-modification enzyme alters site-specific methylation patterns and gene expression in Campylobacter jejuni strain NCTC11168.

Phase-variable restriction-modification systems are a feature of a diverse range of bacterial species. Stochastic, reversible switches in expression of the methyltransferase produces variation in methylation of specific sequences. Phase-variable methylation by both Type I and Type III methyltransferases is associated with altered gene expression and phenotypic variation. One phase-variable gene of Campylobacter jejuni encodes a homologue of an unusual Type IIG restriction-modification system in which the endonuclease and methyltransferase are encoded by a single gene. Using both inhibition of restriction and PacBio-derived methylome analyses of mutants and phase-variants, the cj0031c allele in C. jejuni strain NCTC11168 was demonstrated to specifically methylate adenine in 5’CCCGA and 5’CCTGA sequences. Alterations in the levels of specific transcripts were detected using RNA-Seq in phase-variants and mutants of cj0031c but these changes did not correlate with observed differences in phenotypic behaviour. Alterations in restriction of phage growth were also associated with phase variation (PV) of cj0031c and correlated with presence of sites in the genomes of these phages. We conclude that PV of a Type IIG restriction-modification system causes changes in site-specific methylation patterns and gene expression patterns that may indirectly change adaptive traits.© The Author(s) 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


July 19, 2019  |  

Contrasting evolutionary genome dynamics between domesticated and wild yeasts.

Structural rearrangements have long been recognized as an important source of genetic variation, with implications in phenotypic diversity and disease, yet their detailed evolutionary dynamics remain elusive. Here we use long-read sequencing to generate end-to-end genome assemblies for 12 strains representing major subpopulations of the partially domesticated yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and its wild relative Saccharomyces paradoxus. These population-level high-quality genomes with comprehensive annotation enable precise definition of chromosomal boundaries between cores and subtelomeres and a high-resolution view of evolutionary genome dynamics. In chromosomal cores, S. paradoxus shows faster accumulation of balanced rearrangements (inversions, reciprocal translocations and transpositions), whereas S. cerevisiae accumulates unbalanced rearrangements (novel insertions, deletions and duplications) more rapidly. In subtelomeres, both species show extensive interchromosomal reshuffling, with a higher tempo in S. cerevisiae. Such striking contrasts between wild and domesticated yeasts are likely to reflect the influence of human activities on structural genome evolution.


July 19, 2019  |  

Long read assemblies of geographically dispersed Plasmodium falciparum isolates reveal highly structured subtelomeres.

Background: Although thousands of clinical isolates of Plasmodium falciparum are being sequenced and analysed by short read technology, the data do not resolve the highly variable subtelomeric regions of the genomes that contain polymorphic gene families involved in immune evasion and pathogenesis. There is also no current standard definition of the boundaries of these variable subtelomeric regions. Methods: Using long-read sequence data (Pacific Biosciences SMRT technology), we assembled and annotated the genomes of 15 P. falciparum isolates, ten of which are newly cultured clinical isolates. We performed comparative analysis of the entire genome with particular emphasis on the subtelomeric regions and the internal var genes clusters.   Results: The nearly complete sequence of these 15 isolates has enabled us to define a highly conserved core genome, to delineate the boundaries of the subtelomeric regions, and to compare these across isolates. We found highly structured variable regions in the genome. Some exported gene families purportedly involved in release of merozoites show copy number variation. As an example of ongoing genome evolution, we found a novel CLAG gene in six isolates.  We also found a novel gene that was relatively enriched in the South East Asian isolates compared to those from Africa. Conclusions: These 15 manually curated new reference genome sequences with their nearly complete subtelomeric regions and fully assembled genes are an important new resource for the malaria research community. We report the overall conserved structure and pattern of important gene families and the more clearly defined subtelomeric regions.


July 19, 2019  |  

A forward genetic screen reveals a primary role for Plasmodium falciparum Reticulocyte Binding Protein Homologue 2a and 2b in determining alternative erythrocyte invasion pathways.

Invasion of human erythrocytes is essential for Plasmodium falciparum parasite survival and pathogenesis, and is also a complex phenotype. While some later steps in invasion appear to be invariant and essential, the earlier steps of recognition are controlled by a series of redundant, and only partially understood, receptor-ligand interactions. Reverse genetic analysis of laboratory adapted strains has identified multiple genes that when deleted can alter invasion, but how the relative contributions of each gene translate to the phenotypes of clinical isolates is far from clear. We used a forward genetic approach to identify genes responsible for variable erythrocyte invasion by phenotyping the parents and progeny of previously generated experimental genetic crosses. Linkage analysis using whole genome sequencing data revealed a single major locus was responsible for the majority of phenotypic variation in two invasion pathways. This locus contained the PfRh2a and PfRh2b genes, members of one of the major invasion ligand gene families, but not widely thought to play such a prominent role in specifying invasion phenotypes. Variation in invasion pathways was linked to significant differences in PfRh2a and PfRh2b expression between parasite lines, and their role in specifying alternative invasion was confirmed by CRISPR-Cas9-mediated genome editing. Expansion of the analysis to a large set of clinical P. falciparum isolates revealed common deletions, suggesting that variation at this locus is a major cause of invasion phenotypic variation in the endemic setting. This work has implications for blood-stage vaccine development and will help inform the design and location of future large-scale studies of invasion in clinical isolates.


July 7, 2019  |  

Plasmodium malariae and P. ovale genomes provide insights into malaria parasite evolution.

Elucidation of the evolutionary history and interrelatedness of Plasmodium species that infect humans has been hampered by a lack of genetic information for three human-infective species: P. malariae and two P. ovale species (P. o. curtisi and P. o. wallikeri). These species are prevalent across most regions in which malaria is endemic and are often undetectable by light microscopy, rendering their study in human populations difficult. The exact evolutionary relationship of these species to the other human-infective species has been contested. Using a new reference genome for P. malariae and a manually curated draft P. o. curtisi genome, we are now able to accurately place these species within the Plasmodium phylogeny. Sequencing of a P. malariae relative that infects chimpanzees reveals similar signatures of selection in the P. malariae lineage to another Plasmodium lineage shown to be capable of colonization of both human and chimpanzee hosts. Molecular dating suggests that these host adaptations occurred over similar evolutionary timescales. In addition to the core genome that is conserved between species, differences in gene content can be linked to their specific biology. The genome suggests that P. malariae expresses a family of heterodimeric proteins on its surface that have structural similarities to a protein crucial for invasion of red blood cells. The data presented here provide insight into the evolution of the Plasmodium genus as a whole.


July 7, 2019  |  

Proteomic analysis of extracellular vesicles from a Plasmodium falciparum Kenyan clinical isolate defines a core parasite secretome.

Many pathogens secrete effector molecules to subvert host immune responses, to acquire nutrients, and/or to prepare host cells for invasion. One of the ways that effector molecules are secreted is through extracellular vesicles (EVs) such as exosomes. Recently, the malaria parasite P. falciparum has been shown to produce EVs that can mediate transfer of genetic material between parasites and induce sexual commitment. Characterizing the content of these vesicles may improve our understanding of P. falciparum pathogenesis and virulence.Previous studies of P. falciparum EVs have been limited to long-term adapted laboratory isolates. In this study, we isolated EVs from a Kenyan P. falciparum clinical isolate adapted to in vitro culture for a short period and characterized their protein content by mass spectrometry (data are available via ProteomeXchange, with identifier PXD006925).We show that P. falciparum extracellular vesicles ( PfEVs) are enriched in proteins found within the exomembrane compartments of infected erythrocytes such as Maurer’s clefts (MCs), as well as the secretory endomembrane compartments in the apical end of the merozoites, suggesting that these proteins play a role in parasite-host interactions. Comparison of this novel clinically relevant dataset with previously published datasets helps to define a core secretome present in Plasmodium EVs.P. falciparum extracellular vesicles contain virulence-associated parasite proteins. Therefore, analysis of PfEVs contents from a range of clinical isolates, and their functional validation may improve our understanding of the virulence mechanisms of the parasite, and potentially identify targets for interventions or diagnostics.


July 7, 2019  |  

Probing genomic aspects of the multi-host pathogen Clostridium perfringens reveals significant pangenome diversity, and a diverse array of virulence factors.

Clostridium perfringens is an important cause of animal and human infections, however information about the genetic makeup of this pathogenic bacterium is currently limited. In this study, we sought to understand and characterise the genomic variation, pangenomic diversity, and key virulence traits of 56 C. perfringens strains which included 51 public, and 5 newly sequenced and annotated genomes using Whole Genome Sequencing. Our investigation revealed that C. perfringens has an “open” pangenome comprising 11667 genes and 12.6% of core genes, identified as the most divergent single-species Gram-positive bacterial pangenome currently reported. Our computational analyses also defined C. perfringens phylogeny (16S rRNA gene) in relation to some 25 Clostridium species, with C. baratii and C. sardiniense determined to be the closest relatives. Profiling virulence-associated factors confirmed presence of well-characterised C. perfringens-associated exotoxins genes including a-toxin (plc), enterotoxin (cpe), and Perfringolysin O (pfo or pfoA), although interestingly there did not appear to be a close correlation with encoded toxin type and disease phenotype. Furthermore, genomic analysis indicated significant horizontal gene transfer events as defined by presence of prophage genomes, and notably absence of CRISPR defence systems in >70% (40/56) of the strains. In relation to antimicrobial resistance mechanisms, tetracycline resistance genes (tet) and anti-defensins genes (mprF) were consistently detected in silico (tet: 75%; mprF: 100%). However, pre-antibiotic era strain genomes did not encode for tet, thus implying antimicrobial selective pressures in C. perfringens evolutionary history over the past 80 years. This study provides new genomic understanding of this genetically divergent multi-host bacterium, and further expands our knowledge on this medically and veterinary important pathogen.


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