April 21, 2020  |  

Decreased biofilm formation ability of Acinetobacter baumannii after spaceflight on China’s Shenzhou 11 spacecraft.

China has prepared for construction of a space station by the early 2020s. The mission will require astronauts to stay on the space station for at least 180 days. Microbes isolated from the International Space Station (ISS) have shown profound resistance to clinical antibiotics and environmental stresses. Previous studies have demonstrated that the space environment could affect microbial survival, growth, virulence, biofilms, metabolism, as well as their antibiotic-resistant phenotypes. Furthermore, several studies have reported that astronauts experience a decline in their immunity during long-duration spaceflights. Monitoring microbiomes in the ISS or the spacecraft will be beneficial for the prevention of infection among the astronauts during spaceflight. The development of a manned space program worldwide not only provides an opportunity to investigate the impact of this extreme environment on opportunistic pathogenic microbes, but also offers a unique platform to detect mutations in pathogenic bacteria. Various microorganisms have been carried on a spacecraft for academic purposes. Acinetobacter baumannii is a common multidrug-resistant bacterium often prevalent in hospitals. Variations in the ability to cope with environmental hazards increase the chances of microbial survival. Our study aimed to compare phenotypic variations and analyze genomic and transcriptomic variations in A. baumannii among three different groups: SS1 (33 days on the Shenzhou 11 spacecraft), GS1 (ground control), and Aba (reference strain). Consequently, the biofilm formation ability of the SS1 strain decreased after 33 days of spaceflight. Furthermore, high-throughput sequencing revealed that some differentially expressed genes were downregulated in the SS1 strain compared with those in the GS1 strain. In conclusion, this present study provides insights into the environmental adaptation of A. baumannii and might be useful for understanding changes in the opportunistic pathogenic microbes on our spacecraft and on China’s future ISS. © 2018 The Authors. MicrobiologyOpen published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


April 21, 2020  |  

Pangenomic Approach To Understanding Microbial Adaptations within a Model Built Environment, the International Space Station, Relative to Human Hosts and Soil.

Understanding underlying mechanisms involved in microbial persistence in the built environment (BE) is essential for strategically mitigating potential health risks. To test the hypothesis that BEs impose selective pressures resulting in characteristic adaptive responses, we performed a pangenomics meta-analysis leveraging 189 genomes (accessed from GenBank) of two epidemiologically important taxa, Bacillus cereus and Staphylococcus aureus, isolated from various origins: the International Space Station (ISS; a model BE), Earth-based BEs, soil, and humans. Our objectives were to (i) identify differences in the pangenomic composition of generalist and host-associated organisms, (ii) characterize genes and functions involved in BE-associated selection, and (iii) identify genomic signatures of ISS-derived strains of potential relevance for astronaut health. The pangenome of B. cereus was more expansive than that of S. aureus, which had a dominant core component. Genomic contents of both taxa significantly correlated with isolate origin, demonstrating an importance for biogeography and potential niche adaptations. ISS/BE-enriched functions were often involved in biosynthesis, catabolism, materials transport, metabolism, and stress response. Multiple origin-enriched functions also overlapped across taxa, suggesting conserved adaptive processes. We further characterized two mobile genetic elements with local neighborhood genes encoding biosynthesis and stress response functions that distinctively associated with B. cereus from the ISS. Although antibiotic resistance genes were present in ISS/BE isolates, they were also common in counterparts elsewhere. Overall, despite differences in microbial lifestyle, some functions appear common to remaining viable in the BE, and those functions are not typically associated with direct impacts on human health. IMPORTANCE The built environment contains a variety of microorganisms, some of which pose critical human health risks (e.g., hospital-acquired infection, antibiotic resistance dissemination). We uncovered a combination of complex biological functions that may play a role in bacterial survival under the presumed selective pressures in a model built environment-the International Space Station-by using an approach to compare pangenomes of bacterial strains from two clinically relevant species (B. cereus and S. aureus) isolated from both built environments and humans. Our findings suggest that the most crucial bacterial functions involved in this potential adaptive response are specific to bacterial lifestyle and do not appear to have direct impacts on human health.


April 21, 2020  |  

Single-Molecule Sequencing: Towards Clinical Applications.

In the past several years, single-molecule sequencing platforms, such as those by Pacific Biosciences and Oxford Nanopore Technologies, have become available to researchers and are currently being tested for clinical applications. They offer exceptionally long reads that permit direct sequencing through regions of the genome inaccessible or difficult to analyze by short-read platforms. This includes disease-causing long repetitive elements, extreme GC content regions, and complex gene loci. Similarly, these platforms enable structural variation characterization at previously unparalleled resolution and direct detection of epigenetic marks in native DNA. Here, we review how these technologies are opening up new clinical avenues that are being applied to pathogenic microorganisms and viruses, constitutional disorders, pharmacogenomics, cancer, and more.Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


April 21, 2020  |  

Featherweight long read alignment using partitioned reference indexes.

The advent of Nanopore sequencing has realised portable genomic research and applications. However, state of the art long read aligners and large reference genomes are not compatible with most mobile computing devices due to their high memory requirements. We show how memory requirements can be reduced through parameter optimisation and reference genome partitioning, but highlight the associated limitations and caveats of these approaches. We then demonstrate how these issues can be overcome through an appropriate merging technique. We incorporated multi-index merging into the Minimap2 aligner and demonstrate that long read alignment to the human genome can be performed on a system with 2?GB RAM with negligible impact on accuracy.


April 21, 2020  |  

Single-molecule sequencing detection of N6-methyladenine in microbial reference materials.

The DNA base modification N6-methyladenine (m6A) is involved in many pathways related to the survival of bacteria and their interactions with hosts. Nanopore sequencing offers a new, portable method to detect base modifications. Here, we show that a neural network can improve m6A detection at trained sequence contexts compared to previously published methods using deviations between measured and expected current values as each adenine travels through a pore. The model, implemented as the mCaller software package, can be extended to detect known or confirm suspected methyltransferase target motifs based on predictions of methylation at untrained contexts. We use PacBio, Oxford Nanopore, methylated DNA immunoprecipitation sequencing (MeDIP-seq), and whole-genome bisulfite sequencing data to generate and orthogonally validate methylomes for eight microbial reference species. These well-characterized microbial references can serve as controls in the development and evaluation of future methods for the identification of base modifications from single-molecule sequencing data.


April 21, 2020  |  

Assignment of virus and antimicrobial resistance genes to microbial hosts in a complex microbial community by combined long-read assembly and proximity ligation.

We describe a method that adds long-read sequencing to a mix of technologies used to assemble a highly complex cattle rumen microbial community, and provide a comparison to short read-based methods. Long-read alignments and Hi-C linkage between contigs support the identification of 188 novel virus-host associations and the determination of phage life cycle states in the rumen microbial community. The long-read assembly also identifies 94 antimicrobial resistance genes, compared to only seven alleles in the short-read assembly. We demonstrate novel techniques that work synergistically to improve characterization of biological features in a highly complex rumen microbial community.


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