June 1, 2021  |  

Microbiome profiling at the strain level using rRNA amplicons

Strain level microbiome profiling is needed for a full understanding of how microbial communities influence human health. Microbiome profiling of rRNA gene amplicons is a well-understood method that is rapid and inexpensive, but standard 16S rRNA gene methods generally cannot differentiate closely related strains. Whole genome/shotgun microbiome profiling is considered a higher-resolution alternative, but with decreased throughput and significantly increased sequencing costs and analysis burden. With both methods there are also challenges with microbial lysis, DNA preparation, and taxonomic analysis. Specialized microbiome-focused protocols were developed to achieve strain-level taxonomic differentiation using a rapid, high throughput rRNA gene assay. The protocol integrates lysis and DNA preparation improvements with a unique high information content amplicon and associated novel database to enable taxonomic differentiation of closely related microbial strains.


April 21, 2020  |  

Optimized Cas9 expression systems for highly efficient Arabidopsis genome editing facilitate isolation of complex alleles in a single generation.

Genetic resources for the model plant Arabidopsis comprise mutant lines defective in almost any single gene in reference accession Columbia. However, gene redundancy and/or close linkage often render it extremely laborious or even impossible to isolate a desired line lacking a specific function or set of genes from segregating populations. Therefore, we here evaluated strategies and efficiencies for the inactivation of multiple genes by Cas9-based nucleases and multiplexing. In first attempts, we succeeded in isolating a mutant line carrying a 70 kb deletion, which occurred at a frequency of ~?1.6% in the T2 generation, through PCR-based screening of numerous individuals. However, we failed to isolate a line lacking Lhcb1 genes, which are present in five copies organized at two loci in the Arabidopsis genome. To improve efficiency of our Cas9-based nuclease system, regulatory sequences controlling Cas9 expression levels and timing were systematically compared. Indeed, use of DD45 and RPS5a promoters improved efficiency of our genome editing system by approximately 25-30-fold in comparison to the previous ubiquitin promoter. Using an optimized genome editing system with RPS5a promoter-driven Cas9, putatively quintuple mutant lines lacking detectable amounts of Lhcb1 protein represented approximately 30% of T1 transformants. These results show how improved genome editing systems facilitate the isolation of complex mutant alleles, previously considered impossible to generate, at high frequency even in a single (T1) generation.


April 21, 2020  |  

The genome of Peromyscus leucopus, natural host for Lyme disease and other emerging infections.

The rodent Peromyscus leucopus is the natural reservoir of several tick-borne infections, including Lyme disease. To expand the knowledge base for this key species in life cycles of several pathogens, we assembled and scaffolded the P. leucopus genome. The resulting assembly was 2.45 Gb in total length, with 24 chromosome-length scaffolds harboring 97% of predicted genes. RNA sequencing following infection of P. leucopus with Borreliella burgdorferi, a Lyme disease agent, shows that, unlike blood, the skin is actively responding to the infection after several weeks. P. leucopus has a high level of segregating nucleotide variation, suggesting that natural resistance alleles to Crispr gene targeting constructs are likely segregating in wild populations. The reference genome will allow for experiments aimed at elucidating the mechanisms by which this widely distributed rodent serves as natural reservoir for several infectious diseases of public health importance, potentially enabling intervention strategies.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genome-Scale Sequence Disruption Following Biolistic Transformation in Rice and Maize.

Biolistic transformation delivers nucleic acids into plant cells by bombarding the cells with microprojectiles, which are micron-scale, typically gold particles. Despite the wide use of this technique, little is known about its effect on the cell’s genome. We biolistically transformed linear 48-kb phage lambda and two different circular plasmids into rice (Oryza sativa) and maize (Zea mays) and analyzed the results by whole genome sequencing and optical mapping. Although some transgenic events showed simple insertions, others showed extreme genome damage in the form of chromosome truncations, large deletions, partial trisomy, and evidence of chromothripsis and breakage-fusion bridge cycling. Several transgenic events contained megabase-scale arrays of introduced DNA mixed with genomic fragments assembled by nonhomologous or microhomology-mediated joining. Damaged regions of the genome, assayed by the presence of small fragments displaced elsewhere, were often repaired without a trace, presumably by homology-dependent repair (HDR). The results suggest a model whereby successful biolistic transformation relies on a combination of end joining to insert foreign DNA and HDR to repair collateral damage caused by the microprojectiles. The differing levels of genome damage observed among transgenic events may reflect the stage of the cell cycle and the availability of templates for HDR. © 2019 American Society of Plant Biologists. All rights reserved.


April 21, 2020  |  

Development of CRISPR-Cas systems for genome editing and beyond

The development of clustered regularly interspaced short-palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-Cas systems for genome editing has transformed the way life science research is conducted and holds enormous potential for the treatment of disease as well as for many aspects of biotech- nology. Here, I provide a personal perspective on the development of CRISPR-Cas9 for genome editing within the broader context of the field and discuss our work to discover novel Cas effectors and develop them into additional molecular tools. The initial demonstra- tion of Cas9-mediated genome editing launched the development of many other technologies, enabled new lines of biological inquiry, and motivated a deeper examination of natural CRISPR-Cas systems, including the discovery of new types of CRISPR-Cas systems. These new discoveries in turn spurred further technological developments. I review these exciting discoveries and technologies as well as provide an overview of the broad array of applications of these technologies in basic research and in the improvement of human health. It is clear that we are only just beginning to unravel the potential within microbial diversity, and it is quite likely that we will continue to discover other exciting phenomena, some of which it may be possible to repurpose as molecular technologies. The transformation of mysterious natural phenomena to powerful tools, however, takes a collective effort to discover, characterize, and engineer them, and it has been a privilege to join the numerous researchers who have contributed to this transformation of CRISPR-Cas systems.


April 21, 2020  |  

CRISPR/CAS9 targeted CAPTURE of mammalian genomic regions for characterization by NGS.

The robust detection of structural variants in mammalian genomes remains a challenge. It is particularly difficult in the case of genetically unstable Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell lines with only draft genome assemblies available. We explore the potential of the CRISPR/Cas9 system for the targeted capture of genomic loci containing integrated vectors in CHO-K1-based cell lines followed by next generation sequencing (NGS), and compare it to popular target-enrichment sequencing methods and to whole genome sequencing (WGS). Three different CRISPR/Cas9-based techniques were evaluated; all of them allow for amplification-free enrichment of target genomic regions in the range from 5 to 60 fold, and for recovery of ~15 kb-long sequences with no sequencing artifacts introduced. The utility of these protocols has been proven by the identification of transgene integration sites and flanking sequences in three CHO cell lines. The long enriched fragments helped to identify Escherichia coli genome sequences co-integrated with vectors, and were further characterized by Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS). Other advantages of CRISPR/Cas9-based methods are the ease of bioinformatics analysis, potential for multiplexing, and the production of long target templates for real-time sequencing.


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