June 1, 2021  |  

Comparative genomics of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O145:H28 strains associated with the 2007 Belgium and 2010 US outbreaks.

Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) is an emerging pathogen. Recently there has been a global in the number of outbreaks caused by non-O157 STECs, typically involving six serogroups O26, O45, 0103, 0111, and 0145. STEC O145:H28 has been associated with severe human disease including hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), and is demonstrated by the 2007 Belgian ice-cream-associated outbreak and 2010 US lettuce-associated outbreak, with over 10% of patients developing HUS in each. The goal of this work was to do comparative genomics of strains, clinical and environmental, to investigate genome diversity and virulence evolution of this important foodborne pathogen.


June 1, 2021  |  

Using whole exome sequencing and bacterial pathogen sequencing to investigate the genetic basis of pulmonary non-tuberculous mycobacterial infections.

Pulmonary non-tuberculous mycobacterial (PNTM) infections occur in patients with chronic lung disease, but also in a distinct group of elderly women without lung defects who share a common body morphology: tall and lean with scoliosis, pectus excavatum, and mitral valve prolapse. In order to characterize the human host susceptibility to PNTM, we performed whole exome sequencing (WES) of 44 individuals in extended families of patients with active PNTM as well as 55 additional unrelated individuals with PNTM. This unique collection of familial cohorts in PNTM represents an important opportunity for a high yield search for genes that regulate mucosal immunity. An average of 58 million 100bp paired-end Illumina reads per exome were generated and mapped to the hg19 reference genome. Following variant detection and classification, we identified 58,422 potentially high-impact SNPs, 97.3% of which were missense mutations. Segregating variants using the family pedigrees as well as comparisons to the unrelated individuals identified multiple potential variants associated with PNTM. Validations of these candidate variants in a larger PNTM cohort are underway. In addition to WES, we sequenced the genomes of 52 mycobacterial isolates, including 9 from these PNTM patients, to integrate host PNTM susceptibility with mycobacterial genotypes and gain insights into the key factors involved in this devastating disease. These genomes were sequenced using a combination of 454, Illumina, and PacBio platforms and assembled using multiple genome assemblers. The resulting genome sequences were used to identify mycobacterial genotypes associated with virulence, invasion, and drug resistance.


June 1, 2021  |  

New discoveries from closing Salmonella genomes using Pacific Biosciences continuous long reads.

The newer hierarchical genome assembly process (HGAP) performs de novo assembly using data from a single PacBio long insert library. To assess the benefits of this method, DNA from several Salmonella enterica serovars was isolated from a pure culture. Genome sequencing was performed using Pacific Biosciences RS sequencing technology. The HGAP process enabled us to close sixteen Salmonella subsp. enterica genomes and their associated mobile elements: The ten serotypes include: Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Enteritidis (S. Enteritidis) S. Bareilly, S. Heidelberg, S. Cubana, S. Javiana and S. Typhimurium, S. Newport, S. Montevideo, S. Agona, and S. Tennessee. In addition, we were able to detect novel methyltransferases (MTases) by using the Pacific Biosciences kinetic score distributions showing that each serovar appears to have a novel methylation pattern. For example while all Salmonella serovars examined so far have methylase specific activity for 5’-GATC-3’/3’-CTAG-5’ and 5’-CAGAG-3’/3’-GTCTC-5’ (underlined base indicates a modification), S. Heidelberg is uniquely specific for 5’-ACCANCC-3’/3’-TGGTNGG-5’, while S. Typhimurium has uniquely methylase specific for 5′-GATCAG-3’/3′- CTAGTC-5′ sites, for the samples examined so far. We believe that this may be due to the unique environments and phages that these serotypes have been exposed to. Furthermore, our analysis identified and closed a variety of plasmids such as mobilization plasmids, antimicrobial resistance plasmids and IncX plasmids carrying a Type IV secretion system (T4SS). The VirB/D4 T4SS apparatus is important in that it assists with rapid dissemination of antibiotic resistance and virulence determinants. Presently, only limited information exists regarding the genotypic characterization of drug resistance in S. Heidelberg isolates derived from various host species. Here, we characterize two S. Heidelberg outbreak isolates from two different outbreaks. Both isolates contain the IncX plasmid of approximately 35 kb, and carried the genes virB1, virB2, virB3/4, virB5, virB6, virB7, virB8, virB9, virB10, virB11, virD2, and virD4, that are associated with the T4SS. In addition, the outbreak isolate associated with ground turkey carries a 4,473 bp mobilization plasmid and an incompatibility group (Inc) I1 antimicrobial resistance plasmid encoding resistance to gentamicin (aacC2), beta-lactam (bl2b_tem), streptomycin (aadAI) and tetracycline (tetA, tetR) while the outbreak isolate associated with chicken breast carries the IncI1 plasmid encoding resistance to gentamicin (aacC2), streptomycin (aadAI) and sulfisoxazole (sul1). Using this new technology we explored the genetic elements present in resistant pathogens which will achieve a better understanding of the evolution of Salmonella.


April 21, 2020  |  

The complete genome sequence and comparative genome analysis of the multi-drug resistant food-borne pathogen Bacillus cereus.

Bacillus cereus is an opportunistic human pathogen causing food-borne gastrointestinal infections and non-gastrointestinal infections worldwide. The strain B. cereus FORC_013 was isolated from fried eel. Its genome was completely sequenced by PacBio technology, analyzed and compared with other complete genome sequences of Bacillus to elucidate the distinct pathogenic features of the strain isolated in South Korea. Genomic analysis revealed pathogenesis and host immune evasion-associated genes encoding tissue-destructive exoenzymes, and pore-forming toxins. In particular, tissue-destructive (hemolysin BL, nonhaemolytic enterotoxins) and cytolytic proteins (cytolysin) were observed in the genome, which damage the plasma membrane of the epithelial cells of the small intestine causing diarrhea in humans. Capsule biosynthesis gene found in both chromosome and plasmid, which might be responsible for protecting the pathogen from the host cell immune defense system after host cell invasion. Additionally, multidrug resistance operon and efflux pumps were identified in the genome, which play a prominent role in multi-antibiotic resistance. Comparative phylogenetic tree analysis of the strain FORC_013 and other B. cereus strains revealed that the closest strains are ATCC 14579 and B4264. This genome data can be used to identify virulence factors that can be applied for the development of novel biomarkers for the rapid detection of this pathogen in foods.Copyright © 2018. Published by Elsevier Inc.


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  |  

Insertion sequences drive the emergence of a highly adapted human pathogen.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a highly adaptive opportunistic pathogen that can have serious health consequences in patients with lung disorders. Taxonomic outliers of P. aeruginosa of environmental origin have recently emerged as infectious for humans. Here, we present the first genome-wide analysis of an isolate that caused fatal haemorrhagic pneumonia. In two clones, CLJ1 and CLJ3, sequentially recovered from a patient with chronic pulmonary disease, insertion of a mobile genetic element into the P. aeruginosa chromosome affected major virulence-associated phenotypes and led to increased resistance to the antibiotics used to combat the infection. Comparative genome, proteome and transcriptome analyses revealed that this ISL3-family insertion sequence disrupted the genes for flagellar components, type IV pili, O-specific antigens, translesion polymerase and enzymes producing hydrogen cyanide. Seven-fold more insertions were detected in the later isolate, CLJ3, than in CLJ1, some of which modified strain susceptibility to antibiotics by disrupting the genes for the outer-membrane porin OprD and the regulator of ß-lactamase expression AmpD. In the Galleria mellonella larvae model, the two strains displayed different levels of virulence, with CLJ1 being highly pathogenic. This study revealed insertion sequences to be major players in enhancing the pathogenic potential of a P. aeruginosa taxonomic outlier by modulating both its virulence and its resistance to antimicrobials, and explains how this bacterium adapts from the environment to a human host.


April 21, 2020  |  

Klebsiella quasipneumoniae Provides a Window into Carbapenemase Gene Transfer, Plasmid Rearrangements, and Patient Interactions with the Hospital Environment.

Several emerging pathogens have arisen as a result of selection pressures exerted by modern health care. Klebsiella quasipneumoniae was recently defined as a new species, yet its prevalence, niche, and propensity to acquire antimicrobial resistance genes are not fully described. We have been tracking inter- and intraspecies transmission of the Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase (KPC) gene, blaKPC, between bacteria isolated from a single institution. We applied a combination of Illumina and PacBio whole-genome sequencing to identify and compare K. quasipneumoniae from patients and the hospital environment over 10- and 5-year periods, respectively. There were 32 blaKPC-positive K. quasipneumoniae isolates, all of which were identified as K. pneumoniae in the clinical microbiology laboratory, from 8 patients and 11 sink drains, with evidence for seven separate blaKPC plasmid acquisitions. Analysis of a single subclade of K. quasipneumoniae subsp. quasipneumoniae (n?=?23 isolates) from three patients and six rooms demonstrated seeding of a sink by a patient, subsequent persistence of the strain in the hospital environment, and then possible transmission to another patient. Longitudinal analysis of this strain demonstrated the acquisition of two unique blaKPC plasmids and then subsequent within-strain genetic rearrangement through transposition and homologous recombination. Our analysis highlights the apparent molecular propensity of K. quasipneumoniae to persist in the environment as well as acquire carbapenemase plasmids from other species and enabled an assessment of the genetic rearrangements which may facilitate horizontal transmission of carbapenemases. Copyright © 2019 Mathers et al.


April 21, 2020  |  

Remodeling of pSK1 Family Plasmids and Enhanced Chlorhexidine Tolerance in a Dominant Hospital Lineage of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Staphylococcus aureus is a significant human pathogen whose evolution and adaptation have been shaped in part by mobile genetic elements (MGEs), facilitating the global spread of extensive antimicrobial resistance. However, our understanding of the evolutionary dynamics surrounding MGEs, in particular, how changes in the structure of multidrug resistance (MDR) plasmids may influence important staphylococcal phenotypes, is incomplete. Here, we undertook a population and functional genomics study of 212 methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) sequence type 239 (ST239) isolates collected over 32?years to explore the evolution of the pSK1 family of MDR plasmids, illustrating how these plasmids have coevolved with and contributed to the successful adaptation of this persistent MRSA lineage. Using complete genomes and temporal phylogenomics, we reconstructed the evolution of the pSK1 family lineage from its emergence in the late 1970s and found that multiple structural variants have arisen. Plasmid maintenance and stability were linked to IS256- and IS257-mediated chromosomal integration and disruption of the plasmid replication machinery. Overlaying genomic comparisons with phenotypic susceptibility data for gentamicin, trimethoprim, and chlorhexidine, it appeared that pSK1 has contributed to enhanced resistance in ST239 MRSA isolates through two mechanisms: (i) acquisition of plasmid-borne resistance mechanisms increasing the rates of gentamicin resistance and reduced chlorhexidine susceptibility and (ii) changes in the plasmid configuration linked with further enhancement of chlorhexidine tolerance. While the exact mechanism of enhanced tolerance remains elusive, this research has uncovered a potential evolutionary response of ST239 MRSA to biocides, one of which may contribute to the ongoing persistence and adaptation of this lineage within health care institutions. Copyright © 2019 Baines et al.


April 21, 2020  |  

A Genome-Wide Epstein-Barr Virus Polyadenylation Map and Its Antisense RNA to EBNA.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a ubiquitous human pathogen associated with Burkitt’s lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Although the EBV genome harbors more than a hundred genes, a full transcription map with EBV polyadenylation profiles remains unknown. To elucidate the 3′ ends of all EBV transcripts genome-wide, we performed the first comprehensive analysis of viral polyadenylation sites (pA sites) using our previously reported polyadenylation sequencing (PA-seq) technology. We identified that EBV utilizes a total of 62?pA sites in JSC-1, 60 in Raji, and 53 in Akata cells for the expression of EBV genes from both plus and minus DNA strands; 42 of these pA sites are commonly used in all three cell lines. The majority of identified pA sites were mapped to the intergenic regions downstream of previously annotated EBV open reading frames (ORFs) and viral promoters. pA sites lacking an association with any known EBV genes were also identified, mostly for the minus DNA strand within the EBNA locus, a major locus responsible for maintenance of viral latency and cell transformation. The expression of these novel antisense transcripts to EBNA were verified by 3′ rapid amplification of cDNA ends (RACE) and Northern blot analyses in several EBV-positive (EBV+) cell lines. In contrast to EBNA RNA expressed during latency, expression of EBNA-antisense transcripts, which is restricted in latent cells, can be significantly induced by viral lytic infection, suggesting potential regulation of viral gene expression by EBNA-antisense transcription during lytic EBV infection. Our data provide the first evidence that EBV has an unrecognized mechanism that regulates EBV reactivation from latency.IMPORTANCE Epstein-Barr virus represents an important human pathogen with an etiological role in the development of several cancers. By elucidation of a genome-wide polyadenylation landscape of EBV in JSC-1, Raji, and Akata cells, we have redefined the EBV transcriptome and mapped individual polymerase II (Pol II) transcripts of viral genes to each one of the mapped pA sites at single-nucleotide resolution as well as the depth of expression. By unveiling a new class of viral lytic RNA transcripts antisense to latent EBNAs, we provide a novel mechanism of how EBV might control the expression of viral latent genes and lytic infection. Thus, this report takes another step closer to understanding EBV gene structure and expression and paves a new path for antiviral approaches.This is a work of the U.S. Government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. Foreign copyrights may apply.


April 21, 2020  |  

DNA methylation from a Type I restriction modification system influences gene expression and virulence in Streptococcus pyogenes.

DNA methylation is pervasive across all domains of life. In bacteria, the presence of N6-methyladenosine (m6A) has been detected among diverse species, yet the contribution of m6A to the regulation of gene expression is unclear in many organisms. Here we investigated the impact of DNA methylation on gene expression and virulence within the human pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes, or Group A Streptococcus. Single Molecule Real-Time sequencing and subsequent methylation analysis identified 412 putative m6A sites throughout the 1.8 Mb genome. Deletion of the Restriction, Specificity, and Methylation gene subunits (?RSM strain) of a putative Type I restriction modification system lost all detectable m6A at the recognition sites and failed to prevent transformation with foreign-methylated DNA. RNA-sequencing identified 20 genes out of 1,895 predicted coding regions with significantly different gene expression. All of the differentially expressed genes were down regulated in the ?RSM strain relative to the parent strain. Importantly, we found that the presence of m6A DNA modifications affected expression of Mga, a master transcriptional regulator for multiple virulence genes, surface adhesins, and immune-evasion factors in S. pyogenes. Using a murine subcutaneous infection model, mice infected with the ?RSM strain exhibited an enhanced host immune response with larger skin lesions and increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines compared to mice infected with the parent or complemented mutant strains, suggesting alterations in m6A methylation influence virulence. Further, we found that the ?RSM strain showed poor survival within human neutrophils and reduced adherence to human epithelial cells. These results demonstrate that, in addition to restriction of foreign DNA, gram-positive bacteria also use restriction modification systems to regulate the expression of gene networks important for virulence.


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