September 22, 2019  |  

Next-generation sequencing for pathogen detection and identification

Over the past decade, the field of genomics has seen such drastic improvements in sequencing chemistries that high-throughput sequencing, or next-generation sequencing (NGS), is being applied to generate data across many disciplines. NGS instruments are becoming less expensive, faster, and smaller, and therefore are being adopted in an increasing number of laboratories, including clinical laboratories. Thus far, clinical use of NGS has been mostly focused on the human genome, for purposes such as characterizing the molecular basis of cancer or for diagnosing and understanding the basis of rare genetic disorders. There are, however, an increasing number of examples whereby NGS is employed to discover novel pathogens, and these cases provide precedent for the use of NGS in microbial diagnostics. NGS has many advantages over traditional microbial diagnostic methods, such as unbiased rather than pathogen-specific protocols, ability to detect fastidious or non-culturable organisms, and ability to detect co-infections. One of the most impressive advantages of NGS is that it requires little or no prior knowledge of the pathogen, unlike many other diagnostic assays; therefore for pathogen discovery, NGS is very valuable. However, despite these advantages, there are challenges involved in implementing NGS for routine clinical microbiological diagnosis. We discuss these advantages and challenges in the context of recently described research studies.


September 22, 2019  |  

Transcriptional diversity during lineage commitment of human blood progenitors.

Blood cells derive from hematopoietic stem cells through stepwise fating events. To characterize gene expression programs driving lineage choice, we sequenced RNA from eight primary human hematopoietic progenitor populations representing the major myeloid commitment stages and the main lymphoid stage. We identified extensive cell type-specific expression changes: 6711 genes and 10,724 transcripts, enriched in non-protein-coding elements at early stages of differentiation. In addition, we found 7881 novel splice junctions and 2301 differentially used alternative splicing events, enriched in genes involved in regulatory processes. We demonstrated experimentally cell-specific isoform usage, identifying nuclear factor I/B (NFIB) as a regulator of megakaryocyte maturation-the platelet precursor. Our data highlight the complexity of fating events in closely related progenitor populations, the understanding of which is essential for the advancement of transplantation and regenerative medicine. Copyright © 2014, American Association for the Advancement of Science.


September 22, 2019  |  

The state of play in higher eukaryote gene annotation.

A genome sequence is worthless if it cannot be deciphered; therefore, efforts to describe – or ‘annotate’ – genes began as soon as DNA sequences became available. Whereas early work focused on individual protein-coding genes, the modern genomic ocean is a complex maelstrom of alternative splicing, non-coding transcription and pseudogenes. Scientists – from clinicians to evolutionary biologists – need to navigate these waters, and this has led to the design of high-throughput, computationally driven annotation projects. The catalogues that are being produced are key resources for genome exploration, especially as they become integrated with expression, epigenomic and variation data sets. Their creation, however, remains challenging.


September 22, 2019  |  

Interaction between the microbiome and TP53 in human lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the leading cancer diagnosis worldwide and the number one cause of cancer deaths. Exposure to cigarette smoke, the primary risk factor in lung cancer, reduces epithelial barrier integrity and increases susceptibility to infections. Herein, we hypothesize that somatic mutations together with cigarette smoke generate a dysbiotic microbiota that is associated with lung carcinogenesis. Using lung tissue from 33 controls and 143 cancer cases, we conduct 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) bacterial gene sequencing, with RNA-sequencing data from lung cancer cases in The Cancer Genome Atlas serving as the validation cohort.Overall, we demonstrate a lower alpha diversity in normal lung as compared to non-tumor adjacent or tumor tissue. In squamous cell carcinoma specifically, a separate group of taxa are identified, in which Acidovorax is enriched in smokers. Acidovorax temporans is identified within tumor sections by fluorescent in situ hybridization and confirmed by two separate 16S rRNA strategies. Further, these taxa, including Acidovorax, exhibit higher abundance among the subset of squamous cell carcinoma cases with TP53 mutations, an association not seen in adenocarcinomas.The results of this comprehensive study show both microbiome-gene and microbiome-exposure interactions in squamous cell carcinoma lung cancer tissue. Specifically, tumors harboring TP53 mutations, which can impair epithelial function, have a unique bacterial consortium that is higher in relative abundance in smoking-associated tumors of this type. Given the significant need for clinical diagnostic tools in lung cancer, this study may provide novel biomarkers for early detection.


September 22, 2019  |  

How far can mitochondrial DNA drive the disease?

Mitochondria are one of the dominant drivers for producing cellular energy to meet a large number of biological functions, of which the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is the control center of energetic driving force and the dominant driver of mitochondrial molecular diversification. mtDNA transcription generates the necessary RNAs to regulate the extent and nature of mtRNA post-transcriptional modifications and the activity of nucleus-encoded enzymes. With a special focus on mtDNA, the current volume aims to overview the biology and structures of mtDNA, regulatory roles of mtDNA in lung diseases, or involvement of mtDNA in metabolism. We explore the significance of mtDNA sequencing, methylation, stability, and mutation in the pathogenesis of the diseases. Molecular mechanisms by which mtDNA contribute to the regulation of mitochondrial homeostasis and drug resistance are also discussed. We also point out the importance of mitochondrial ribosome, single cell biology, and gene editing in the understanding of the development of mitochondrial dysfunction in lung disease.


September 22, 2019  |  

Current developments in molecular monitoring in chronic myeloid leukemia.

Molecular monitoring plays an essential role in the clinical management of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) patients, and now guides clinical decision making. Quantitative reverse-transcriptase-polymerase-chain-reaction (qRT-PCR) assessment of BCR-ABL1 transcript levels has become the standard of care protocol in CML. However, further developments are required to assess leukemic burden more efficiently, monitor minimal residual disease (MRD), detect mutations that drive resistance to tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) therapy and identify predictors of response to TKI therapy. Cartridge-based BCR-ABL1 quantitation, digital PCR and next generation sequencing are examples of technologies which are currently being explored, evaluated and translated into the clinic. Here we review the emerging molecular methods/technologies currently being developed to advance molecular monitoring in CML.


September 22, 2019  |  

Analysis of the gut microbial diversity of dairy cows during peak lactation by PacBio Single-Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing.

The gut microbes of dairy cows are strongly associated with their health, but the relationship between milk production and the intestinal microbiota has seldom been studied. Thus, we explored the diversity of the intestinal microbiota during peak lactation of dairy cows.The intestinal microbiota of nine dairy cows at peak lactation was evaluated using the Pacific Biosciences single-molecule real-time (PacBio SMRT) sequencing approach.A total of 32,670 high-quality 16S rRNA gene sequences were obtained, belonging to 12 phyla, 59 families, 107 genera, and 162 species. Firmicutes (83%) were the dominant phylum, while Bacteroides (6.16%) was the dominant genus. All samples showed a high microbial diversity, with numerous genera of short chain fatty acid (SCFA)-producers. The proportion of SCFA producers was relatively high in relation to the identified core intestinal microbiota. Moreover, the predicted functional metagenome was heavily involved in energy metabolism.This study provided novel insights into the link between the dairy cow gut microbiota and milk production.


September 22, 2019  |  

Diversified microbiota of meconium is affected by maternal diabetes status.

This study was aimed to assess the diversity of the meconium microbiome and determine if the bacterial community is affected by maternal diabetes status.The first intestinal discharge (meconium) was collected from 23 newborns stratified by maternal diabetes status: 4 mothers had pre-gestational type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) including one mother with dizygotic twins, 5 developed gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and 13 had no diabetes. The meconium microbiome was profiled using multi-barcode 16S rRNA sequencing followed by taxonomic assignment and diversity analysis.All meconium samples were not sterile and contained diversified microbiota. Compared with adult feces, the meconium showed a lower species diversity, higher sample-to-sample variation, and enrichment of Proteobacteria and reduction of Bacteroidetes. Among the meconium samples, the taxonomy analyses suggested that the overall bacterial content significantly differed by maternal diabetes status, with the microbiome of the DM group showing higher alpha-diversity than that of no-diabetes or GDM groups. No global difference was found between babies delivered vaginally versus via Cesarean-section. Regression analysis showed that the most robust predictor for the meconium microbiota composition was the maternal diabetes status that preceded pregnancy. Specifically, Bacteroidetes (phyla) and Parabacteriodes (genus) were enriched in the meconium in the DM group compared to the no-diabetes group.Our study provides evidence that meconium contains diversified microbiota and is not affected by the mode of delivery. It also suggests that the meconium microbiome of infants born to mothers with DM is enriched for the same bacterial taxa as those reported in the fecal microbiome of adult DM patients.


September 22, 2019  |  

Using experimental evolution to identify druggable targets that could inhibit the evolution of antimicrobial resistance.

With multi-drug and pan-drug-resistant bacteria becoming increasingly common in hospitals, antibiotic resistance has threatened to return us to a pre-antibiotic era that would completely undermine modern medicine. There is an urgent need to develop new antibiotics and strategies to combat resistance that are substantially different from earlier drug discovery efforts. One such strategy that would complement current and future antibiotics would be a class of co-drugs that target the evolution of resistance and thereby extend the efficacy of specific classes of antibiotics. A critical step in the development of such strategies lies in understanding the critical evolutionary trajectories responsible for resistance and which proteins or biochemical pathways within those trajectories would be good candidates for co-drug discovery. We identify the most important steps in the evolution of resistance for a specific pathogen and antibiotic combination by evolving highly polymorphic populations of pathogens to resistance in a novel bioreactor that favors biofilm development. As the populations evolve to increasing drug concentrations, we use deep sequencing to elucidate the network of genetic changes responsible for resistance and subsequent in vitro biochemistry and often structure determination to determine how the adaptive mutations produce resistance. Importantly, the identification of the molecular steps, their frequency within the populations and their chronology within the evolutionary trajectory toward resistance is critical to assessing their relative importance. In this work, we discuss findings from the evolution of the ESKAPE pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa to the drug of last resort, colistin to illustrate the power of this approach.


September 22, 2019  |  

Reference quality genome assemblies of three Parastagonospora nodorum isolates differing in virulence on wheat.

Parastagonospora nodorum, the causal agent of Septoria nodorum blotch in wheat, has emerged as a model necrotrophic fungal organism for the study of host-microbe interactions. To date, three necrotrophic effectors have been identified and characterized from this pathogen, including SnToxA, SnTox1, and SnTox3. Necrotrophic effector identification was greatly aided by the development of a draft genome of Australian isolate SN15 via Sanger sequencing, yet it remained largely fragmented. This research presents the development of nearly finished genomes of P. nodorum isolates Sn4, Sn2000, and Sn79-1087 using long-read sequencing technology. RNAseq analysis of isolate Sn4, consisting of eight time points covering various developmental and infection stages, mediated the annotation of 13,379 genes. Analysis of these genomes revealed large-scale polymorphism between the three isolates, including the complete absence of contig 23 from isolate Sn79-1087, and a region of genome expansion on contig 10 in isolates Sn4 and Sn2000. Additionally, these genomes exhibit the hallmark characteristics of a “two-speed” genome, being partitioned into two distinct GC-equilibrated and AT-rich compartments. Interestingly, isolate Sn79-1087 contains a lower proportion of AT-rich segments, indicating a potential lack of evolutionary hotspots. These newly sequenced genomes, consisting of telomere-to-telomere assemblies of nearly all 23 P. nodorum chromosomes, provide a robust foundation for the further examination of effector biology and genome evolution. Copyright © 2018 Richards et al.


September 22, 2019  |  

Basic characterization of natural transformation in a highly transformable Haemophilus parasuis strain SC1401.

Haemophilus parasuis causes Glässer’s disease and pneumonia, incurring serious economic losses in the porcine industry. In this study, natural competence was investigated in H. parasuis. We found competence genes in H. parasuis homologous to ones in Haemophilus influenzae and a high consensus battery of Sxy-dependent cyclic AMP (cAMP) receptor protein (CRP-S) regulons using bioinformatics. High rates of natural competence were found from the onset of stationary-phase growth condition to mid-stationary phase (OD600 from 0.29 to 1.735); this rapidly dropped off as cells reached mid-stationary phase (OD600 from 1.735 to 1.625). As a whole, bacteria cultured in liquid media were observed to have lower competence levels than those grown on solid media plates. We also revealed that natural transformation in this species is stable after 200 passages and is largely dependent on DNA concentration. Transformation competition experiments showed that heterogeneous DNA cannot outcompete intraspecific natural transformation, suggesting an endogenous uptake sequence or other molecular markers may be important in differentiating heterogeneous DNA. We performed qRT-PCR targeting multiple putative competence genes in an effort to compare bacteria pre-cultured in TSB++ vs. TSA++ and SC1401 vs. SH0165 to determine expression profiles of the homologs of competence-genes in H. influenzae. Taken together, this study is the first to investigate natural transformation in H. parasuis based on a highly naturally transformable strain SC1401.


September 22, 2019  |  

Haemophilus influenzae genome evolution during persistence in the human airways in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) exclusively colonize and infect humans and are critical to the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In vitro and animal models do not accurately capture the complex environments encountered by NTHi during human infection. We conducted whole-genome sequencing of 269 longitudinally collected cleared and persistent NTHi from a 15-y prospective study of adults with COPD. Genome sequences were used to elucidate the phylogeny of NTHi isolates, identify genomic changes that occur with persistence in the human airways, and evaluate the effect of selective pressure on 12 candidate vaccine antigens. Strains persisted in individuals with COPD for as long as 1,422 d. Slipped-strand mispairing, mediated by changes in simple sequence repeats in multiple genes during persistence, regulates expression of critical virulence functions, including adherence, nutrient uptake, and modification of surface molecules, and is a major mechanism for survival in the hostile environment of the human airways. A subset of strains underwent a large 400-kb inversion during persistence. NTHi does not undergo significant gene gain or loss during persistence, in contrast to other persistent respiratory tract pathogens. Amino acid sequence changes occurred in 8 of 12 candidate vaccine antigens during persistence, an observation with important implications for vaccine development. These results indicate that NTHi alters its genome during persistence by regulation of critical virulence functions primarily by slipped-strand mispairing, advancing our understanding of how a bacterial pathogen that plays a critical role in COPD adapts to survival in the human respiratory tract.


September 22, 2019  |  

The complete replicons of 16 Ensifer meliloti strains offer insights into intra- and inter-replicon gene transfer, transposon-associated loci, and repeat elements.

Ensifer meliloti (formerly Rhizobium meliloti and Sinorhizobium meliloti) is a model bacterium for understanding legume-rhizobial symbioses. The tripartite genome of E. meliloti consists of a chromosome, pSymA and pSymB, and in some instances strain-specific accessory plasmids. The majority of previous sequencing studies have relied on the use of assemblies generated from short read sequencing, which leads to gaps and assembly errors. Here we used PacBio-based, long-read assemblies and were able to assemble, de novo, complete circular replicons. In this study, we sequenced, de novo-assembled and analysed 10 E. meliloti strains. Sequence comparisons were also done with data from six previously published genomes. We identified genome differences between the replicons, including mol% G+C and gene content, nucleotide repeats, and transposon-associated loci. Additionally, genomic rearrangements both within and between replicons were identified, providing insight into evolutionary processes at the structural level. There were few cases of inter-replicon gene transfer of core genes between the main replicons. Accessory plasmids were more similar to pSymA than to either pSymB or the chromosome, with respect to gene content, transposon content and G+C content. In our population, the accessory plasmids appeared to share an open genome with pSymA, which contains many nodulation- and nitrogen fixation-related genes. This may explain previous observations that horizontal gene transfer has a greater effect on the content of pSymA than pSymB, or the chromosome, and why some rhizobia show unstable nodulation phenotypes on legume hosts.


September 22, 2019  |  

Comparative genomics analysis of plasmid pPV989-94 from a clinical isolate of Pantoea vagans PV989.

Pantoea vagans, a gram-negative bacterium from the genus Pantoea and family Enterobacteriaceae, is present in various natural environments and considered to be plant endophytes. We isolated the Pantoea vagans PV989 strain from the clinic and sequenced its whole genome. Besides a chromosome DNA molecule, it also harboured three large plasmids. A comparative genomics analysis was performed for the smallest plasmid, pPV989-94. It can be divided into four regions, including three conservative regions related to replication (R1), transfer conjugation (R2), and transfer leading (R3), and one variable region (R4). Further analysis showed that pPV989-94 is most similar to plasmids LA637P2 and pEA68 of Erwinia amylovora strains isolated from fruit trees. These three plasmids share three conservative regions (R1, R2, and R3). Interestingly, a fragment (R4′) in R4, mediated by phage integrase and phage integrase family site-specific recombinase and encoding 9 genes related to glycometabolism, resistance, and DNA repair, was unique in pPV989-94. Homologues of R4′ were found in other plasmids or chromosomes, suggesting that horizontal gene transfer (HGT) occurred among different bacteria of various species or genera. The acquired functional genes may play important roles in the adaptation of bacteria to different hosts or environmental conditions.


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