October 23, 2019  |  

Molecular barcoding of viral vectors enables mapping and optimization of mRNA trans-splicing.

Genome editing has proven to be highly potent in the generation of functional gene knockouts in dividing cells. In the CNS however, efficient technologies to repair sequences are yet to materialize. Reprogramming on the mRNA level is an attractive alternative as it provides means to perform in situ editing of coding sequences without nuclease dependency. Furthermore, de novo sequences can be inserted without the requirement of homologous recombination. Such reprogramming would enable efficient editing in quiescent cells (e.g., neurons) with an attractive safety profile for translational therapies. In this study, we applied a novel molecular-barcoded screening assay to investigate RNA trans-splicing in mammalian neurons. Through three alternative screening systems in cell culture and in vivo, we demonstrate that factors determining trans-splicing are reproducible regardless of the screening system. With this screening, we have located the most permissive trans-splicing sequences targeting an intron in the Synapsin I gene. Using viral vectors, we were able to splice full-length fluorophores into the mRNA while retaining very low off-target expression. Furthermore, this approach also showed evidence of functionality in the mouse striatum. However, in its current form, the trans-splicing events are stochastic and the overall activity lower than would be required for therapies targeting loss-of-function mutations. Nevertheless, the herein described barcode-based screening assay provides a unique possibility to screen and map large libraries in single animals or cell assays with very high precision.© 2018 Davidsson et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press for the RNA Society.


October 23, 2019  |  

An online bioinformatics tool predicts zinc finger and TALE nuclease off-target cleavage.

Although engineered nucleases can efficiently cleave intracellular DNA at desired target sites, major concerns remain on potential ‘off-target’ cleavage that may occur throughout the genome. We developed an online tool: predicted report of genome-wide nuclease off-target sites (PROGNOS) that effectively identifies off-target sites. The initial bioinformatics algorithms in PROGNOS were validated by predicting 44 of 65 previously confirmed off-target sites, and by uncovering a new off-target site for the extensively studied zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) targeting C-C chemokine receptor type 5. Using PROGNOS, we rapidly interrogated 128 potential off-target sites for newly designed transcription activator-like effector nucleases containing either Asn-Asn (NN) or Asn-Lys (NK) repeat variable di-residues (RVDs) and 3- and 4-finger ZFNs, and validated 13 bona fide off-target sites for these nucleases by DNA sequencing. The PROGNOS algorithms were further refined by incorporating additional features of nuclease-DNA interactions and the newly confirmed off-target sites into the training set, which increased the percentage of bona fide off-target sites found within the top PROGNOS rankings. By identifying potential off-target sites in silico, PROGNOS allows the selection of more specific target sites and aids the identification of bona fide off-target sites, significantly facilitating the design of engineered nucleases for genome editing applications.


September 22, 2019  |  

Discovery of a divergent HPIV4 from respiratory secretions using second and third generation metagenomic sequencing.

Molecular detection of viruses has been aided by high-throughput sequencing, permitting the genomic characterization of emerging strains. In this study, we comprehensively screened 500 respiratory secretions from children with upper and/or lower respiratory tract infections for viral pathogens. The viruses detected are described, including a divergent human parainfluenza virus type 4 from GS FLX pyrosequencing of 92 specimens. Complete full-genome characterization of the virus followed, using Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) sequencing. Subsequent “primer walking” combined with Sanger sequencing validated the RS platform’s utility in viral sequencing from complex clinical samples. Comparative genomics reveals the divergent strain clusters with the only completely sequenced HPIV4a subtype. However, it also exhibits various structural features present in one of the HPIV4b reference strains, opening questions regarding their lifecycle and evolutionary relationships among these viruses. Clinical data from patients infected with the strain, as well as viral prevalence estimates using real-time PCR, is also described.


September 22, 2019  |  

A comprehensive fungi-specific 18S rRNA gene sequence primer toolkit suited for diverse research issues and sequencing platforms.

Several fungi-specific primers target the 18S rRNA gene sequence, one of the prominent markers for fungal classification. The design of most primers goes back to the last decades. Since then, the number of sequences in public databases increased leading to the discovery of new fungal groups and changes in fungal taxonomy. However, no reevaluation of primers was carried out and relevant information on most primers is missing. With this study, we aimed to develop an 18S rRNA gene sequence primer toolkit allowing an easy selection of the best primer pair appropriate for different sequencing platforms, research aims (biodiversity assessment versus isolate classification) and target groups.We performed an intensive literature research, reshuffled existing primers into new pairs, designed new Illumina-primers, and annealing blocking oligonucleotides. A final number of 439 primer pairs were subjected to in silico PCRs. Best primer pairs were selected and experimentally tested. The most promising primer pair with a small amplicon size, nu-SSU-1333-5’/nu-SSU-1647-3′ (FF390/FR-1), was successful in describing fungal communities by Illumina sequencing. Results were confirmed by a simultaneous metagenomics and eukaryote-specific primer approach. Co-amplification occurred in all sample types but was effectively reduced by blocking oligonucleotides.The compiled data revealed the presence of an enormous diversity of fungal 18S rRNA gene primer pairs in terms of fungal coverage, phylum spectrum and co-amplification. Therefore, the primer pair has to be carefully selected to fulfill the requirements of the individual research projects. The presented primer toolkit offers comprehensive lists of 164 primers, 439 primer combinations, 4 blocking oligonucleotides, and top primer pairs holding all relevant information including primer’s characteristics and performance to facilitate primer pair selection.


September 22, 2019  |  

Analysis of aquaporins from the euryhaline barnacle Balanus improvisus reveals differential expression in response to changes in salinity.

Barnacles are sessile macro-invertebrates, found along rocky shores in coastal areas worldwide. The euryhaline bay barnacle Balanus improvisus (Darwin, 1854) (= Amphibalanus improvisus) can tolerate a wide range of salinities, but the molecular mechanisms underlying the osmoregulatory capacity of this truly brackish species are not well understood. Aquaporins are pore-forming integral membrane proteins that facilitate transport of water, small solutes and ions through cellular membranes, and that have been shown to be important for osmoregulation in many organisms. The knowledge of the function of aquaporins in crustaceans is, however, limited and nothing is known about them in barnacles. We here present the repertoire of aquaporins from a thecostracan crustacean, the barnacle B. improvisus, based on genome and transcriptome sequencing. Our analyses reveal that B. improvisus contains eight genes for aquaporins. Phylogenetic analysis showed that they represented members of the classical water aquaporins (Aqp1, Aqp2), the aquaglyceroporins (Glp1, Glp2), the unorthodox aquaporin (Aqp12) and the arthropod-specific big brain aquaporin (Bib). Interestingly, we also found two big brain-like proteins (BibL1 and BibL2) constituting a new group of aquaporins not yet described in arthropods. In addition, we found that the two water-specific aquaporins were expressed as C-terminal splice variants. Heterologous expression of some of the aquaporins followed by functional characterization showed that Aqp1 transported water and Glp2 water and glycerol, agreeing with the predictions of substrate specificity based on 3D modeling and phylogeny. To investigate a possible role for the B. improvisus aquaporins in osmoregulation, mRNA expression changes in adult barnacles were analysed after long-term acclimation to different salinities. The most pronounced expression difference was seen for AQP1 with a substantial (>100-fold) decrease in the mantle tissue in low salinity (3 PSU) compared to high salinity (33 PSU). Our study provides a base for future mechanistic studies on the role of aquaporins in osmoregulation.


September 22, 2019  |  

Alternative splice variants of AID are not stoichiometrically present at the protein level in chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Activation-induced deaminase (AID) is a DNA-mutating enzyme that mediates class-switch recombination as well as somatic hypermutation of antibody genes in B cells. Due to off-target activity, AID is implicated in lymphoma development by introducing genome-wide DNA damage and initiating chromosomal translocations such as c-myc/IgH. Several alternative splice transcripts of AID have been reported in activated B cells as well as malignant B cells such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). As most commercially available antibodies fail to recognize alternative splice variants, their abundance in vivo, and hence their biological significance, has not been determined. In this study, we assessed the protein levels of AID splice isoforms by introducing an AID splice reporter construct into cell lines and primary CLL cells from patients as well as from WT and TCL1(tg) C57BL/6 mice (where TCL1 is T-cell leukemia/lymphoma 1). The splice construct is 5′-fused to a GFP-tag, which is preserved in all splice isoforms and allows detection of translated protein. Summarizing, we show a thorough quantification of alternatively spliced AID transcripts and demonstrate that the corresponding protein abundances, especially those of splice variants AID-ivs3 and AID-?E4, are not stoichiometrically equivalent. Our data suggest that enhanced proteasomal degradation of low-abundance proteins might be causative for this discrepancy. © 2013 The Authors. European Journal of Immunology published by WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.


September 22, 2019  |  

Multiscale patterns and drivers of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities in the roots and root-associated soil of a wild perennial herb.

Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi form diverse communities and are known to influence above-ground community dynamics and biodiversity. However, the multiscale patterns and drivers of AM fungal composition and diversity are still poorly understood. We sequenced DNA markers from roots and root-associated soil from Plantago lanceolata plants collected across multiple spatial scales to allow comparison of AM fungal communities among neighbouring plants, plant subpopulations, nearby plant populations, and regions. We also measured soil nutrients, temperature, humidity, and community composition of neighbouring plants and nonAM root-associated fungi. AM fungal communities were already highly dissimilar among neighbouring plants (c. 30 cm apart), albeit with a high variation in the degree of similarity at this small spatial scale. AM fungal communities were increasingly, and more consistently, dissimilar at larger spatial scales. Spatial structure and environmental drivers explained a similar percentage of the variation, from 7% to 25%. A large fraction of the variation remained unexplained, which may be a result of unmeasured environmental variables, species interactions and stochastic processes. We conclude that AM fungal communities are highly variable among nearby plants. AM fungi may therefore play a major role in maintaining small-scale variation in community dynamics and biodiversity.© 2018 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2018 New Phytologist Trust.


September 22, 2019  |  

Single-cell mRNA isoform diversity in the mouse brain.

Alternative mRNA isoform usage is an important source of protein diversity in mammalian cells. This phenomenon has been extensively studied in bulk tissues, however, it remains unclear how this diversity is reflected in single cells.Here we use long-read sequencing technology combined with unique molecular identifiers (UMIs) to reveal patterns of alternative full-length isoform expression in single cells from the mouse brain. We found a surprising amount of isoform diversity, even after applying a conservative definition of what constitutes an isoform. Genes tend to have one or a few isoforms highly expressed and a larger number of isoforms expressed at a low level. However, for many genes, nearly every sequenced mRNA molecule was unique, and many events affected coding regions suggesting previously unknown protein diversity in single cells. Exon junctions in coding regions were less prone to splicing errors than those in non-coding regions, indicating purifying selection on splice donor and acceptor efficiency.Our findings indicate that mRNA isoform diversity is an important source of biological variability also in single cells.


September 22, 2019  |  

Discovery of enzymes for toluene synthesis from anoxic microbial communities.

Microbial toluene biosynthesis was reported in anoxic lake sediments more than three decades ago, but the enzyme catalyzing this biochemically challenging reaction has never been identified. Here we report the toluene-producing enzyme PhdB, a glycyl radical enzyme of bacterial origin that catalyzes phenylacetate decarboxylation, and its cognate activating enzyme PhdA, a radical S-adenosylmethionine enzyme, discovered in two distinct anoxic microbial communities that produce toluene. The unconventional process of enzyme discovery from a complex microbial community (>300,000 genes), rather than from a microbial isolate, involved metagenomics- and metaproteomics-enabled biochemistry, as well as in vitro confirmation of activity with recombinant enzymes. This work expands the known catalytic range of glycyl radical enzymes (only seven reaction types had been characterized previously) and aromatic-hydrocarbon-producing enzymes, and will enable first-time biochemical synthesis of an aromatic fuel hydrocarbon from renewable resources, such as lignocellulosic biomass, rather than from petroleum.


September 22, 2019  |  

The microbiota of freshwater fish and freshwater niches contain omega-3 producing Shewanella species.

Approximately 30 years ago, it was discovered that free-living bacteria isolated from cold ocean depths could produce polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) (20:5n-3) or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (22:6n-3), two PUFA essential for human health. Numerous laboratories have also discovered that EPA- and/or DHA-producing bacteria, many of them members of the Shewanella genus, could be isolated from the intestinal tracts of omega-3 fatty acid-rich marine fish. If bacteria contribute omega-3 fatty acids to the host fish in general or if they assist some bacterial species in adaptation to cold, then cold freshwater fish or habitats should also harbor these producers. Thus, we undertook a study to see if these niches also contained omega-3 fatty acid producers. We were successful in isolating and characterizing unique EPA-producing strains of Shewanella from three strictly freshwater native fish species, i.e., lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis), lean lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), and walleye (Sander vitreus), and from two other freshwater nonnative fish, i.e., coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and seeforellen brown trout (Salmo trutta). We were also able to isolate four unique free-living strains of EPA-producing Shewanella from freshwater habitats. Phylogenetic and phenotypic analyses suggest that one producer is clearly a member of the Shewanella morhuae species and another is sister to members of the marine PUFA-producing Shewanella baltica species. However, the remaining isolates have more ambiguous relationships, sharing a common ancestor with non-PUFA-producing Shewanella putrefaciens isolates rather than marine S. baltica isolates despite having a phenotype more consistent with S. baltica strains. Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

Cell-type-specific splicing of Piezo2 regulates mechanotransduction.

Piezo2 is a mechanically activated ion channel required for touch discrimination, vibration detection, and proprioception. Here, we discovered that Piezo2 is extensively spliced, producing different Piezo2 isoforms with distinct properties. Sensory neurons from both mice and humans express a large repertoire of Piezo2 variants, whereas non-neuronal tissues express predominantly a single isoform. Notably, even within sensory ganglia, we demonstrate the splicing of Piezo2 to be cell type specific. Biophysical characterization revealed substantial differences in ion permeability, sensitivity to calcium modulation, and inactivation kinetics among Piezo2 splice variants. Together, our results describe, at the molecular level, a potential mechanism by which transduction is tuned, permitting the detection of a variety of mechanosensory stimuli. Published by Elsevier Inc.


September 22, 2019  |  

Assessment of an organ-specific de novo transcriptome of the nematode trap-crop, Solanum sisymbriifolium

Solanum sisymbriifolium, also known as “Litchi Tomato” or “Sticky Nightshade,” is an undomesticated and poorly researched plant related to potato and tomato. Unlike the latter species, S. sisymbriifolium induces eggs of the cyst nematode, Globodera pallida, to hatch and migrate into its roots, but then arrests further nematode maturation. In order to provide researchers with a partial blueprint of its genetic make-up so that the mechanism of this response might be identified, we used single molecule real time (SMRT) sequencing to compile a high quality de novo transcriptome of 41,189 unigenes drawn from individually sequenced bud, root, stem, and leaf RNA populations. Functional annotation and BUSCO analysis showed that this transcriptome was surprisingly complete, even though it represented genes expressed at a single time point. By sequencing the 4 organ libraries separately, we found we could get a reliable snapshot of transcript distributions in each organ. A divergent site analysis of the merged transcriptome indicated that this species might have undergone a recent genome duplication and re-diploidization. Further analysis indicated that the plant then retained a disproportionate number of genes associated with photosynthesis and amino acid metabolism in comparison to genes with characteristics of R-proteins or involved in secondary metabolism. The former processes may have given S. sisymbriifolium a bigger competitive advantage than the latter did. Copyright © 2018 Wixom et al.


September 22, 2019  |  

The genome sequence of the commercially cultivated mushroom Agrocybe aegerita reveals a conserved repertoire of fruiting-related genes and a versatile suite of biopolymer-degrading enzymes.

Agrocybe aegerita is an agaricomycete fungus with typical mushroom features, which is commercially cultivated for its culinary use. In nature, it is a saprotrophic or facultative pathogenic fungus causing a white-rot of hardwood in forests of warm and mild climate. The ease of cultivation and fructification on solidified media as well as its archetypal mushroom fruit body morphology render A. aegerita a well-suited model for investigating mushroom developmental biology.Here, the genome of the species is reported and analysed with respect to carbohydrate active genes and genes known to play a role during fruit body formation. In terms of fruit body development, our analyses revealed a conserved repertoire of fruiting-related genes, which corresponds well to the archetypal fruit body morphology of this mushroom. For some genes involved in fruit body formation, paralogisation was observed, but not all fruit body maturation-associated genes known from other agaricomycetes seem to be conserved in the genome sequence of A. aegerita. In terms of lytic enzymes, our analyses suggest a versatile arsenal of biopolymer-degrading enzymes that likely account for the flexible life style of this species. Regarding the amount of genes encoding CAZymes relevant for lignin degradation, A. aegerita shows more similarity to white-rot fungi than to litter decomposers, including 18 genes coding for unspecific peroxygenases and three dye-decolourising peroxidase genes expanding its lignocellulolytic machinery.The genome resource will be useful for developing strategies towards genetic manipulation of A. aegerita, which will subsequently allow functional genetics approaches to elucidate fundamentals of fruiting and vegetative growth including lignocellulolysis.


September 22, 2019  |  

Functional metagenomics reveals a novel carbapenem-hydrolyzing mobile beta-lactamase from Indian river sediments contaminated with antibiotic production waste.

Evolution has provided environmental bacteria with a plethora of genes that give resistance to antibiotic compounds. Under anthropogenic selection pressures, some of these genes are believed to be recruited over time into pathogens by horizontal gene transfer. River sediment polluted with fluoroquinolones and other drugs discharged from bulk drug production in India constitute an environment with unprecedented, long-term antibiotic selection pressures. It is therefore plausible that previously unknown resistance genes have evolved and/or are promoted here. In order to search for novel resistance genes, we therefore analyzed such river sediments by a functional metagenomics approach. DNA fragments providing resistance to different antibiotics in E. coli were sequenced using Sanger and PacBio RSII platforms. We recaptured the majority of known antibiotic resistance genes previously identified by open shot-gun metagenomics sequencing of the same samples. In addition, seven novel resistance gene candidates (six beta-lactamases and one amikacin resistance gene) were identified. Two class A beta-lactamases, blaRSA1 and blaRSA2, were phylogenetically close to clinically important ESBLs like blaGES, blaBEL and blaL2, and were further characterized for their substrate spectra. The blaRSA1 protein, encoded as an integron gene cassette, efficiently hydrolysed penicillins, first generation cephalosporins and cefotaxime, while blaRSA2 was an inducible class A beta-lactamase, capable of hydrolyzing carbapenems albeit with limited efficiency, similar to the L2 beta-lactamase from Stenotrophomonas maltophilia. All detected novel genes were associated with plasmid mobilization proteins, integrons, and/or other resistance genes, suggesting a potential for mobility. This study provides insight into a resistome shaped by an exceptionally strong and long-term antibiotic selection pressure. An improved knowledge of mobilized resistance factors in the external environment may make us better prepared for the resistance challenges that we may face in clinics in the future. Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

Plasmid-encoded transferable mecB-mediated methicillin resistance in Staphylococcus aureus.

During cefoxitin-based nasal screening, phenotypically categorized methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was isolated and tested negative for the presence of the mecA and mecC genes as well as for the SCCmec-orfX junction region. The isolate was found to carry a mecB gene previously described for Macrococcus caseolyticus but not for staphylococcal species. The gene is flanked by ß-lactam regulatory genes similar to mecR, mecI, and blaZ and is part of an 84.6-kb multidrug-resistance plasmid that harbors genes encoding additional resistances to aminoglycosides (aacA-aphD, aphA, and aadK) as well as macrolides (ermB) and tetracyclines (tetS). This further plasmidborne ß-lactam resistance mechanism harbors the putative risk of acceleration or reacceleration of MRSA spread, resulting in broad ineffectiveness of ß-lactams as a main therapeutic application against staphylococcal infections.


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