April 21, 2020  |  

Transcriptional initiation of a small RNA, not R-loop stability, dictates the frequency of pilin antigenic variation in Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the sole causative agent of gonorrhea, constitutively undergoes diversification of the Type IV pilus. Gene conversion occurs between one of the several donor silent copies located in distinct loci and the recipient pilE gene, encoding the major pilin subunit of the pilus. A guanine quadruplex (G4) DNA structure and a cis-acting sRNA (G4-sRNA) are located upstream of the pilE gene and both are required for pilin antigenic variation (Av). We show that the reduced sRNA transcription lowers pilin Av frequencies. Extended transcriptional elongation is not required for Av, since limiting the transcript to 32 nt allows for normal Av frequencies. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays, we show that cellular G4s are less abundant when sRNA transcription is lower. In addition, using ChIP, we demonstrate that the G4-sRNA forms a stable RNA:DNA hybrid (R-loop) with its template strand. However, modulating R-loop levels by controlling RNase HI expression does not alter G4 abundance quantified through ChIP. Since pilin Av frequencies were not altered when modulating R-loop levels by controlling RNase HI expression, we conclude that transcription of the sRNA is necessary, but stable R-loops are not required to promote pilin Av. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

April 21, 2020  |  

RNA sequencing: the teenage years.

Over the past decade, RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) has become an indispensable tool for transcriptome-wide analysis of differential gene expression and differential splicing of mRNAs. However, as next-generation sequencing technologies have developed, so too has RNA-seq. Now, RNA-seq methods are available for studying many different aspects of RNA biology, including single-cell gene expression, translation (the translatome) and RNA structure (the structurome). Exciting new applications are being explored, such as spatial transcriptomics (spatialomics). Together with new long-read and direct RNA-seq technologies and better computational tools for data analysis, innovations in RNA-seq are contributing to a fuller understanding of RNA biology, from questions such as when and where transcription occurs to the folding and intermolecular interactions that govern RNA function.

April 21, 2020  |  

Profiling the genome-wide landscape of tandem repeat expansions.

Tandem repeat (TR) expansions have been implicated in dozens of genetic diseases, including Huntington’s Disease, Fragile X Syndrome, and hereditary ataxias. Furthermore, TRs have recently been implicated in a range of complex traits, including gene expression and cancer risk. While the human genome harbors hundreds of thousands of TRs, analysis of TR expansions has been mainly limited to known pathogenic loci. A major challenge is that expanded repeats are beyond the read length of most next-generation sequencing (NGS) datasets and are not profiled by existing genome-wide tools. We present GangSTR, a novel algorithm for genome-wide genotyping of both short and expanded TRs. GangSTR extracts information from paired-end reads into a unified model to estimate maximum likelihood TR lengths. We validate GangSTR on real and simulated data and show that GangSTR outperforms alternative methods in both accuracy and speed. We apply GangSTR to a deeply sequenced trio to profile the landscape of TR expansions in a healthy family and validate novel expansions using orthogonal technologies. Our analysis reveals that healthy individuals harbor dozens of long TR alleles not captured by current genome-wide methods. GangSTR will likely enable discovery of novel disease-associated variants not currently accessible from NGS. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.

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  |  

Genome-wide profiling of the alternative splicing provides insights into development in Plutella xylostella.

The diamondback moth (DBM), Plutella xylostella (L.), is a major pest of cruciferous crops worldwide. While the species has become a model for genomics, post-transcriptional mechanisms associated with development and sex determination have not been comprehensively studied and the lack of complete structure of mRNA transcripts limits further research.Here, we combined the methods of single-molecule long-read sequencing technology (IsoSeq) and RNA-seq to re-annotate the published DBM genome and present the genome-wide identification of alternative splicing (AS) associated with development and sex determination of DBM. In total, we identified ~?13,900 genes (~?77%) annotated in the DBM genome (version-2), resulting in the correction of 1586 wrongly annotated genes and identification of 78,000 previously unannotated transcripts. We also identified 1804 genes showing alternative splicing (AS) in each of the developmental stages and sexes, suggesting that AS events are ubiquitous in DBM. Comparative analyses showed that these AS events were rarely shared among developmental stages, indicating that they may play key specific roles in regulation of insect development. Further, we found 156 genes showing different AS events and expression patterns between males and females, linking them to potential functions in sex determination.Overall, the P. xylostella transcriptome provides the significant information about regulatory alternative splicing events, which are shown to be involved in development and sex determination. Our work presents a solid foundation to better understand the mechanism of post-transcriptional regulation, and offers wider insights into insect development and sex determination.

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