October 23, 2019  |  

AAV-mediated delivery of zinc finger nucleases targeting hepatitis B virus inhibits active replication.

Despite an existing effective vaccine, hepatitis B virus (HBV) remains a major public health concern. There are effective suppressive therapies for HBV, but they remain expensive and inaccessible to many, and not all patients respond well. Furthermore, HBV can persist as genomic covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) that remains in hepatocytes even during otherwise effective therapy and facilitates rebound in patients after treatment has stopped. Therefore, the need for an effective treatment that targets active and persistent HBV infections remains. As a novel approach to treat HBV, we have targeted the HBV genome for disruption to prevent viral reactivation and replication. We generated 3 zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) that target sequences within the HBV polymerase, core and X genes. Upon the formation of ZFN-induced DNA double strand breaks (DSB), imprecise repair by non-homologous end joining leads to mutations that inactivate HBV genes. We delivered HBV-specific ZFNs using self-complementary adeno-associated virus (scAAV) vectors and tested their anti-HBV activity in HepAD38 cells. HBV-ZFNs efficiently disrupted HBV target sites by inducing site-specific mutations. Cytotoxicity was seen with one of the ZFNs. scAAV-mediated delivery of a ZFN targeting HBV polymerase resulted in complete inhibition of HBV DNA replication and production of infectious HBV virions in HepAD38 cells. This effect was sustained for at least 2 weeks following only a single treatment. Furthermore, high specificity was observed for all ZFNs, as negligible off-target cleavage was seen via high-throughput sequencing of 7 closely matched potential off-target sites. These results show that HBV-targeted ZFNs can efficiently inhibit active HBV replication and suppress the cellular template for HBV persistence, making them promising candidates for eradication therapy.


September 22, 2019  |  

Species-level bacterial community profiling of the healthy sinonasal microbiome using Pacific Biosciences sequencing of full-length 16S rRNA genes.

Pan-bacterial 16S rRNA microbiome surveys performed with massively parallel DNA sequencing technologies have transformed community microbiological studies. Current 16S profiling methods, however, fail to provide sufficient taxonomic resolution and accuracy to adequately perform species-level associative studies for specific conditions. This is due to the amplification and sequencing of only short 16S rRNA gene regions, typically providing for only family- or genus-level taxonomy. Moreover, sequencing errors often inflate the number of taxa present. Pacific Biosciences’ (PacBio’s) long-read technology in particular suffers from high error rates per base. Herein, we present a microbiome analysis pipeline that takes advantage of PacBio circular consensus sequencing (CCS) technology to sequence and error correct full-length bacterial 16S rRNA genes, which provides high-fidelity species-level microbiome data.Analysis of a mock community with 20 bacterial species demonstrated 100% specificity and sensitivity with regard to taxonomic classification. Examination of a 250-plus species mock community demonstrated correct species-level classification of >?90% of taxa, and relative abundances were accurately captured. The majority of the remaining taxa were demonstrated to be multiply, incorrectly, or incompletely classified. Using this methodology, we examined the microgeographic variation present among the microbiomes of six sinonasal sites, by both swab and biopsy, from the anterior nasal cavity to the sphenoid sinus from 12 subjects undergoing trans-sphenoidal hypophysectomy. We found greater variation among subjects than among sites within a subject, although significant within-individual differences were also observed. Propiniobacterium acnes (recently renamed Cutibacterium acnes) was the predominant species throughout, but was found at distinct relative abundances by site.Our microbial composition analysis pipeline for single-molecule real-time 16S rRNA gene sequencing (MCSMRT, https://github.com/jpearl01/mcsmrt ) overcomes deficits of standard marker gene-based microbiome analyses by using CCS of entire 16S rRNA genes to provide increased taxonomic and phylogenetic resolution. Extensions of this approach to other marker genes could help refine taxonomic assignments of microbial species and improve reference databases, as well as strengthen the specificity of associations between microbial communities and dysbiotic states.


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  |  

Antagonistic pleiotropy in the bifunctional surface protein FadL (OmpP1) during adaptation of Haemophilus influenzae to chronic lung infection associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Tracking bacterial evolution during chronic infection provides insights into how host selection pressures shape bacterial genomes. The human-restricted opportunistic pathogen nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) infects the lower airways of patients suffering chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and contributes to disease progression. To identify bacterial genetic variation associated with bacterial adaptation to the COPD lung, we sequenced the genomes of 92 isolates collected from the sputum of 13 COPD patients over 1 to 9?years. Individuals were colonized by distinct clonal types (CTs) over time, but the same CT was often reisolated at a later time or found in different patients. Although genomes from the same CT were nearly identical, intra-CT variation due to mutation and recombination occurred. Recurrent mutations in several genes were likely involved in COPD lung adaptation. Notably, nearly a third of CTs were polymorphic for null alleles of ompP1 (also called fadL), which encodes a bifunctional membrane protein that both binds the human carcinoembryonic antigen-related cell adhesion molecule 1 (hCEACAM1) receptor and imports long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs). Our computational studies provide plausible three-dimensional models for FadL’s interaction with hCEACAM1 and LCFA binding. We show that recurrent fadL mutations are likely a case of antagonistic pleiotropy, since loss of FadL reduces NTHi’s ability to infect epithelia but also increases its resistance to bactericidal LCFAs enriched within the COPD lung. Supporting this interpretation, truncated fadL alleles are common in publicly available NTHi genomes isolated from the lower airway tract but rare in others. These results shed light on molecular mechanisms of bacterial pathoadaptation and guide future research toward developing novel COPD therapeutics.IMPORTANCE Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae is an important pathogen in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). To elucidate the bacterial pathways undergoing in vivo evolutionary adaptation, we compared bacterial genomes collected over time from 13 COPD patients and identified recurrent genetic changes arising in independent bacterial lineages colonizing different patients. Besides finding changes in phase-variable genes, we found recurrent loss-of-function mutations in the ompP1 (fadL) gene. We show that loss of OmpP1/FadL function reduces this bacterium’s ability to infect cells via the hCEACAM1 epithelial receptor but also increases its resistance to bactericidal fatty acids enriched within the COPD lung, suggesting a case of antagonistic pleiotropy that restricts ?fadL strains’ niche. These results show how H. influenzae adapts to host-generated inflammatory mediators in the COPD airways. Copyright © 2018 Moleres et al.


September 22, 2019  |  

Whole genome sequencing and microsatellite analysis of the Plasmodium falciparum E5 NF54 strain show that the var, rifin and stevor gene families follow Mendelian inheritance.

Plasmodium falciparum exhibits a high degree of inter-isolate genetic diversity in its variant surface antigen (VSA) families: P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1, repetitive interspersed family (RIFIN) and subtelomeric variable open reading frame (STEVOR). The role of recombination for the generation of this diversity is a subject of ongoing research. Here the genome of E5, a sibling of the 3D7 genome strain is presented. Short and long read whole genome sequencing (WGS) techniques (Ilumina, Pacific Bioscience) and a set of 84 microsatellites (MS) were employed to characterize the 3D7 and non-3D7 parts of the E5 genome. This is the first time that VSA genes in sibling parasites were analysed with long read sequencing technology.Of the 5733 E5 genes only 278 genes, mostly var and rifin/stevor genes, had no orthologues in the 3D7 genome. WGS and MS analysis revealed that chromosomal crossovers occurred at a rate of 0-3 per chromosome. var, stevor and rifin genes were inherited within the respective non-3D7 or 3D7 chromosomal context. 54 of the 84 MS PCR fragments correctly identified the respective MS as 3D7- or non-3D7 and this correlated with var and rifin/stevor gene inheritance in the adjacent chromosomal regions. E5 had 61 var and 189 rifin/stevor genes. One large non-chromosomal recombination event resulted in a new var gene on chromosome 14. The remainder of the E5 3D7-type subtelomeric and central regions were identical to 3D7.The data show that the rifin/stevor and var gene families represent the most diverse compartments of the P. falciparum genome but that the majority of var genes are inherited without alterations within their respective parental chromosomal context. Furthermore, MS genotyping with 54 MS can successfully distinguish between two sibling progeny of a natural P. falciparum cross and thus can be used to investigate identity by descent in field isolates.


July 19, 2019  |  

Genetic stabilization of the drug-resistant PMEN1 Pneumococcus lineage by its distinctive DpnIII restriction-modification system.

The human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) exhibits a high degree of genomic diversity and plasticity. Isolates with high genomic similarity are grouped into lineages that undergo homologous recombination at variable rates. PMEN1 is a pandemic, multidrug-resistant lineage. Heterologous gene exchange between PMEN1 and non-PMEN1 isolates is directional, with extensive gene transfer from PMEN1 strains and only modest transfer into PMEN1 strains. Restriction-modification (R-M) systems can restrict horizontal gene transfer, yet most pneumococcal strains code for either the DpnI or DpnII R-M system and neither limits homologous recombination. Our comparative genomic analysis revealed that PMEN1 isolates code for DpnIII, a third R-M system syntenic to the other Dpn systems. Characterization of DpnIII demonstrated that the endonuclease cleaves unmethylated double-stranded DNA at the tetramer sequence 5′ GATC 3′, and the cognate methylase is a C5 cytosine-specific DNA methylase. We show that DpnIII decreases the frequency of recombination under in vitro conditions, such that the number of transformants is lower for strains transformed with unmethylated DNA than in those transformed with cognately methylated DNA. Furthermore, we have identified two PMEN1 isolates where the DpnIII endonuclease is disrupted, and phylogenetic work by Croucher and colleagues suggests that these strains have accumulated genomic differences at a higher rate than other PMEN1 strains. We propose that the R-M locus is a major determinant of genetic acquisition; the resident R-M system governs the extent of genome plasticity.Pneumococcus is one of the most important community-acquired bacterial pathogens. Pneumococcal strains can develop resistance to antibiotics and to serotype vaccines by acquiring genes from other strains or species. Thus, genomic plasticity is associated with strain adaptability and pneumococcal success. PMEN1 is a widespread and multidrug-resistant highly pathogenic pneumococcal lineage, which has evolved over the past century and displays a relatively stable genome. In this study, we characterize DpnIII, a restriction-modification (R-M) system that limits recombination. DpnIII is encountered in the PMEN1 lineage, where it replaces other R-M systems that do not decrease plasticity. Our hypothesis is that this genomic region, where different pneumococcal lineages code for variable R-M systems, plays a role in the fine-tuning of the extent of genomic plasticity. It is possible that well-adapted lineages such as PMEN1 have a mechanism to increase genomic stability, rather than foster genomic plasticity. Copyright © 2015 Eutsey et al.


July 19, 2019  |  

Herbivorous turtle ants obtain essential nutrients from a conserved nitrogen-recycling gut microbiome.

Nitrogen acquisition is a major challenge for herbivorous animals, and the repeated origins of herbivory across the ants have raised expectations that nutritional symbionts have shaped their diversification. Direct evidence for N provisioning by internally housed symbionts is rare in animals; among the ants, it has been documented for just one lineage. In this study we dissect functional contributions by bacteria from a conserved, multi-partite gut symbiosis in herbivorous Cephalotes ants through in vivo experiments, metagenomics, and in vitro assays. Gut bacteria recycle urea, and likely uric acid, using recycled N to synthesize essential amino acids that are acquired by hosts in substantial quantities. Specialized core symbionts of 17 studied Cephalotes species encode the pathways directing these activities, and several recycle N in vitro. These findings point to a highly efficient N economy, and a nutritional mutualism preserved for millions of years through the derived behaviors and gut anatomy of Cephalotes ants.


July 19, 2019  |  

Introduction: The host-associated microbiome: Pattern, process and function.

An explosion of studies in recent years has established the ubiquity of host-associated microbes and their centrality to host biology (McFall-Ngai et al., 2013; Russell, Dubilier, & Rudgers, 2014). Microbes aid in digestion, modulate development, contribute to host immunity, mediate abiotic stress and more. While relationships with host-associated microbes are ubiquitous and important, they are cer- tainly not monolithic. Characterizing the microbial diversity associ- ated with an ever-broadening array of hosts (diverse animals, plants, algae and protists) has shown that essential functions can be per- formed by microbes that are integrated with the host to varying degrees, ranging from embedded endosymbionts to a variable cast of transient microbes acquired from the environment. The maturing host–microbiome field is now developing a mechanistic understand- ing of host/microbe relationships across this spectrum and the cross- talk mediating these interactions. Similarly, studies across systems are illuminating the ecological and evolutionary factors that shape host–microbe interactions today and providing hints into the origins of specific relationships.


July 7, 2019  |  

An amoebal grazer of cyanobacteria requires cobalamin produced by heterotrophic bacteria.

Amoebae are unicellular eukaryotes that consume microbial prey through phagocytosis, playing a role in shaping microbial foodwebs. Many amoebal species can be cultivated axenically in rich media or monoxenically with single bacterial prey species. Here we characterize heterolobosean amoeba LPG3, a recent natural isolate, which is unable to grow on unicellular cyanobacteria, its primary food source, in the absence of a heterotrophic bacterium, a Pseudomonas species coisolate. To investigate the molecular basis of this requirement for heterotrophic bacteria, we performed a screen using a defined non-redundant transposon library of Vibrio cholerae which implicated genes in corrinoid uptake and biosynthesis. Furthermore, cobalamin synthase deletion mutants in V. cholerae and the Pseudomonas species coisolate do not support growth of amoeba LPG3 on cyanobacteria. While cyanobacteria are robust producers of a corrinoid variant called pseudocobalamin, this variant does not support growth of amoeba LPG3. Instead, we show that it requires cobalamin which is produced by the Pseudomonas species coisolate. The diversity of eukaryotes utilizing corrinoids is poorly understood, and this amoebal corrinoid auxotroph serves as a model for examining predator-prey interactions and micronutrient transfer in bacterivores underpinning microbial foodwebs.Importance. Cyanobacteria are important primary producers in aquatic environments where they are grazed upon by a variety of phagotrophic protists, and hence have an impact on nutrient flux at the base of microbial foodwebs. Here we characterize amoebal isolate LPG3 which consumes cyanobacteria as its primary food source but that also requires heterotrophic bacteria as a source of corrinoid vitamins. Amoeba LPG3 specifically requires the corrinoid variant produced by the heterotrophic bacteria, and cannot grow on cyanobacteria alone, as they produce a different corrinoid variant. This same corrinoid specificity is also exhibited by other eukaryotes, including humans and algae. This amoebal model system allows us to dissect predator-prey interactions to uncover factors which may shape microbial foodwebs while also providing insight into corrinoid specificity in eukaryotes. Copyright © 2017 American Society for Microbiology.


July 7, 2019  |  

Phenotypic diversity and genotypic flexibility of Burkholderia cenocepacia during long-term chronic infection of cystic fibrosis lungs.

Chronic bacterial infections of the lung are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in cystic fibrosis patients. Tracking bacterial evolution during chronic infections can provide insights into how host selection pressures-including immune responses and therapeutic interventions-shape bacterial genomes. We carried out genomic and phenotypic analyses of 215 serially collected Burkholderia cenocepacia isolates from 16 cystic fibrosis patients, spanning a period of 2-20 yr and a broad range of epidemic lineages. Systematic phenotypic tests identified longitudinal bacterial series that manifested progressive changes in liquid media growth, motility, biofilm formation, and acute insect virulence, but not in mucoidy. The results suggest that distinct lineages follow distinct evolutionary trajectories during lung infection. Pan-genome analysis identified 10,110 homologous gene clusters present only in a subset of strains, including genes restricted to different molecular types. Our phylogenetic analysis based on 2148 orthologous gene clusters from all isolates is consistent with patient-specific clades. This suggests that initial colonization of patients was likely by individual strains, followed by subsequent diversification. Evidence of clonal lineages shared by some patients was observed, suggesting inter-patient transmission. We observed recurrent gene losses in multiple independent longitudinal series, including complete loss of Chromosome III and deletions on other chromosomes. Recurrently observed loss-of-function mutations were associated with decreases in motility and biofilm formation. Together, our study provides the first comprehensive genome-phenome analyses of B. cenocepacia infection in cystic fibrosis lungs and serves as a valuable resource for understanding the genomic and phenotypic underpinnings of bacterial evolution.© 2017 Lee et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.


July 7, 2019  |  

Discovery of chemoautotrophic symbiosis in the giant shipworm Kuphus polythalamia (Bivalvia: Teredinidae) extends wooden-steps theory.

The “wooden-steps” hypothesis [Distel DL, et al. (2000) Nature 403:725-726] proposed that large chemosynthetic mussels found at deep-sea hydrothermal vents descend from much smaller species associated with sunken wood and other organic deposits, and that the endosymbionts of these progenitors made use of hydrogen sulfide from biogenic sources (e.g., decaying wood) rather than from vent fluids. Here, we show that wood has served not only as a stepping stone between habitats but also as a bridge between heterotrophic and chemoautotrophic symbiosis for the giant mud-boring bivalve Kuphus polythalamia This rare and enigmatic species, which achieves the greatest length of any extant bivalve, is the only described member of the wood-boring bivalve family Teredinidae (shipworms) that burrows in marine sediments rather than wood. We show that K. polythalamia harbors sulfur-oxidizing chemoautotrophic (thioautotrophic) bacteria instead of the cellulolytic symbionts that allow other shipworm species to consume wood as food. The characteristics of its symbionts, its phylogenetic position within Teredinidae, the reduction of its digestive system by comparison with other family members, and the loss of morphological features associated with wood digestion indicate that K. polythalamia is a chemoautotrophic bivalve descended from wood-feeding (xylotrophic) ancestors. This is an example in which a chemoautotrophic endosymbiosis arose by displacement of an ancestral heterotrophic symbiosis and a report of pure culture of a thioautotrophic endosymbiont.


July 7, 2019  |  

Comparative genomic analyses of the Moraxella catarrhalis serosensitive and seroresistant lineages demonstrate their independent evolution.

The bacterial species Moraxella catarrhalishas been hypothesized as being composed of two distinct lineages (referred to as the seroresistant [SR] and serosensitive [SS]) with separate evolutionary histories based on several molecular typing methods, whereas 16S ribotyping has suggested an additional split within the SS lineage. Previously, we characterized whole-genome sequences of 12 SR-lineage isolates, which revealed a relatively small supragenome when compared with other opportunistic nasopharyngeal pathogens, suggestive of a relatively short evolutionary history. Here, we performed whole-genome sequencing on 18 strains from both ribotypes of the SS lineage, an additional SR strain, as well as four previously identified highly divergent strains based on multilocus sequence typing analyses. All 35 strains were subjected to a battery of comparative genomic analyses which clearly show that there are three lineages-the SR, SS, and the divergent. The SR and SS lineages are closely related, but distinct from each other based on three different methods of comparison: Allelic differences observed among core genes; possession of lineage-specific sets of core and distributed genes; and by an alignment of concatenated core sequences irrespective of gene annotation. All these methods show that the SS lineage has much longer interstrain branches than the SR lineage indicating that this lineage has likely been evolving either longer or faster than the SR lineage. There is evidence of extensive horizontal gene transfer (HGT) within both of these lineages, and to a lesser degree between them. In particular, we identified very high rates of HGT between these two lineages for ß-lactamase genes. The four divergent strains aresui generis, being much more distantly related to both the SR and SS groups than these other two groups are to each other. Based on average nucleotide identities, gene content, GC content, and genome size, this group could be considered as a separate taxonomic group. The SR and SS lineages, although distinct, clearly form a single species based on multiple criteria including a large common core genome, average nucleotide identity values, GC content, and genome size. Although neither of these lineages arose from within the other based on phylogenetic analyses, the question of how and when these lineages split and then subsequently reunited in the human nasopharynx is explored. © The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.


July 7, 2019  |  

Complete genome sequence of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans strain IDH781.

We report here the complete genomic sequence and methylome of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans strain IDH781. This rough strain is used extensively as a model organism to characterize localized aggressive periodontitis pathogenesis, the basic biology and oral cavity colonization of A. actinomycetemcomitans, and its interactions with other members of the oral microbiome. Copyright © 2016 May et al.


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