April 21, 2020  |  

Long-read based de novo assembly of low-complexity metagenome samples results in finished genomes and reveals insights into strain diversity and an active phage system.

Complete and contiguous genome assemblies greatly improve the quality of subsequent systems-wide functional profiling studies and the ability to gain novel biological insights. While a de novo genome assembly of an isolated bacterial strain is in most cases straightforward, more informative data about co-existing bacteria as well as synergistic and antagonistic effects can be obtained from a direct analysis of microbial communities. However, the complexity of metagenomic samples represents a major challenge. While third generation sequencing technologies have been suggested to enable finished metagenome-assembled genomes, to our knowledge, the complete genome assembly of all dominant strains in a microbiome sample has not been demonstrated. Natural whey starter cultures (NWCs) are used in cheese production and represent low-complexity microbiomes. Previous studies of Swiss Gruyère and selected Italian hard cheeses, mostly based on amplicon metagenomics, concurred that three species generally pre-dominate: Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus helveticus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii.Two NWCs from Swiss Gruyère producers were subjected to whole metagenome shotgun sequencing using the Pacific Biosciences Sequel and Illumina MiSeq platforms. In addition, longer Oxford Nanopore Technologies MinION reads had to be generated for one to resolve repeat regions. Thereby, we achieved the complete assembly of all dominant bacterial genomes from these low-complexity NWCs, which was corroborated by a 16S rRNA amplicon survey. Moreover, two distinct L. helveticus strains were successfully co-assembled from the same sample. Besides bacterial chromosomes, we could also assemble several bacterial plasmids and phages and a corresponding prophage. Biologically relevant insights were uncovered by linking the plasmids and phages to their respective host genomes using DNA methylation motifs on the plasmids and by matching prokaryotic CRISPR spacers with the corresponding protospacers on the phages. These results could only be achieved by employing long-read sequencing data able to span intragenomic as well as intergenomic repeats.Here, we demonstrate the feasibility of complete de novo genome assembly of all dominant strains from low-complexity NWCs based on whole metagenomics shotgun sequencing data. This allowed to gain novel biological insights and is a fundamental basis for subsequent systems-wide omics analyses, functional profiling and phenotype to genotype analysis of specific microbial communities.


April 21, 2020  |  

Full-length transcript sequencing and comparative transcriptomic analysis to evaluate the contribution of osmotic and ionic stress components towards salinity tolerance in the roots of cultivated alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.).

Alfalfa is the most extensively cultivated forage legume. Salinity is a major environmental factor that impacts on alfalfa’s productivity. However, little is known about the molecular mechanisms underlying alfalfa responses to salinity, especially the relative contribution of the two important components of osmotic and ionic stress.In this study, we constructed the first full-length transcriptome database for alfalfa root tips under continuous NaCl and mannitol treatments for 1, 3, 6, 12, and 24?h (three biological replicates for each time points, including the control group) via PacBio Iso-Seq. This resulted in the identification of 52,787 full-length transcripts, with an average length of 2551?bp. Global transcriptional changes in the same 33 stressed samples were then analyzed via BGISEQ-500 RNA-Seq. Totals of 8861 NaCl-regulated and 8016 mannitol-regulated differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were identified. Metabolic analyses revealed that these DEGs overlapped or diverged in the cascades of molecular networks involved in signal perception, signal transduction, transcriptional regulation, and antioxidative defense. Notably, several well characterized signalling pathways, such as CDPK, MAPK, CIPK, and PYL-PP2C-SnRK2, were shown to be involved in osmotic stress, while the SOS core pathway was activated by ionic stress. Moreover, the physiological shifts of catalase and peroxidase activity, glutathione and proline content were in accordance with dynamic transcript profiles of the relevant genes, indicating that antioxidative defense system plays critical roles in response to salinity stress.Overall, our study provides evidence that the response to salinity stress in alfalfa includes both osmotic and ionic components. The key osmotic and ionic stress-related genes are candidates for future studies as potential targets to improve resistance to salinity stress via genetic engineering.


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