April 21, 2020  |  

Morphological and genomic characterisation of the hybrid schistosome infecting humans in Europe reveals a complex admixture between Schistosoma haematobium and Schistosoma bovis parasites

Schistosomes cause schistosomiasis, the worldtextquoterights second most important parasitic disease after malaria. A peculiar feature of schistosomes is their ability to produce viable and fertile hybrids. Originally only present in the tropics, schistosomiasis is now also endemic in Europe. Based on two genetic markers the European species had been identified as a hybrid between the ruminant-infective Schistosoma bovis and the human-infective Schistosoma haematobium.Here we describe for the first time the genomic composition of the European schistosome hybrid (77% of S. haematobium and 23% of S. bovis origins), its morphometric parameters and its compatibility with the European vector snail and intermediate host Compatibility is a key parameter for the parasites life cycle progression. We also show that egg morphology (a classical diagnostic parameter) does not allow for differential diagnosis while genetic tests do so. Additionally, we performed genome assembly improvement and annotation of S. bovis, the parental species for which no satisfactory genome assembly was available.For the first time since the discovery of hybrid schistosomes, these results reveal at the whole genomic level a complex admixture of parental genomes highlighting (i) the high permeability of schistosomes to other speciestextquoteright alleles, and (ii) the importance of hybrid formation for pushing species boundaries not only conceptionally but also geographically.

April 21, 2020  |  

Draft Genome Sequences of Leishmania (Leishmania) amazonensis, Leishmania (Leishmania) mexicana, and Leishmania (Leishmania) aethiopica, Potential Etiological Agents of Diffuse Cutaneous Leishmaniasis.

We present here the draft genome sequences of Leishmania (Leishmania) amazonensis, Leishmania (Leishmania) mexicana, and Leishmania (Leishmania) aethiopica, potential etiological agents of diffuse cutaneous leishmaniasis (DCL). Sequence data were obtained using PacBio and MiSeq platforms. The PacBio assemblies generated using Canu v1.6 are more contiguous than are those in the available data.

April 21, 2020  |  

Leishmania tarentolae: Taxonomic classification and its application as a promising biotechnological expression host.

In this review, we summarize the current knowledge concerning the eukaryotic protozoan parasite Leishmania tarentolae, with a main focus on its potential for biotechnological applications. We will also discuss the genus, subgenus, and species-level classification of this parasite, its life cycle and geographical distribution, and similarities and differences to human-pathogenic species, as these aspects are relevant for the evaluation of biosafety aspects of L. tarentolae as host for recombinant DNA/protein applications. Studies indicate that strain LEM-125 but not strain TARII/UC of L. tarentolae might also be capable of infecting mammals, at least transiently. This could raise the question of whether the current biosafety level of this strain should be reevaluated. In addition, we will summarize the current state of biotechnological research involving L. tarentolae and explain why this eukaryotic parasite is an advantageous and promising human recombinant protein expression host. This summary includes overall biotechnological applications, insights into its protein expression machinery (especially on glycoprotein and antibody fragment expression), available expression vectors, cell culture conditions, and its potential as an immunotherapy agent for human leishmaniasis treatment. Furthermore, we will highlight useful online tools and, finally, discuss possible future applications such as the humanization of the glycosylation profile of L. tarentolae or the expression of mammalian recombinant proteins in amastigote-like cells of this species or in amastigotes of avirulent human-pathogenic Leishmania species.

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  |  

Genome and transcriptome analyses of Leishmania spp.: opening Pandora’s box.

In the last 30 years, significant advances in genetic manipulation tools along with complete genome and transcriptome sequencing have advanced our understanding of the biology of Leishmania parasites and their interplay with the sand fly and mammalian hosts. High-throughput sequencing in association with CRISPR/Cas9 have prepared the ground for significant advances. Given the richness of the progress made over the last decade, in this article, we focused on the most recent contributions of genome-wide and transcriptome analyses of Leishmania spp., which permit the comparison of life cycle stages, the evaluation of different strains and species in their natural niches and in the field and the simultaneously comparison of the gene expression profiles of parasites and hosts.Copyright © 2019. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

April 21, 2020  |  

In-depth analysis of the genome of Trypanosoma evansi, an etiologic agent of surra.

Trypanosoma evansi is the causative agent of the animal trypanosomiasis surra, a disease with serious economic burden worldwide. The availability of the genome of its closely related parasite Trypanosoma brucei allows us to compare their genetic and evolutionarily shared and distinct biological features. The complete genomic sequence of the T. evansi YNB strain was obtained using a combination of genomic and transcriptomic sequencing, de novo assembly, and bioinformatic analysis. The genome size of the T. evansi YNB strain was 35.2 Mb, showing 96.59% similarity in sequence and 88.97% in scaffold alignment with T. brucei. A total of 8,617 protein-coding genes, accounting for 31% of the genome, were predicted. Approximately 1,641 alternative splicing events of 820 genes were identified, with a majority mediated by intron retention, which represented a major difference in post-transcriptional regulation between T. evansi and T. brucei. Disparities in gene copy number of the variant surface glycoprotein, expression site-associated genes, microRNAs, and RNA-binding protein were clearly observed between the two parasites. The results revealed the genomic determinants of T. evansi, which encoded specific biological characteristics that distinguished them from other related trypanosome species.

April 21, 2020  |  

Iron-associated protein interaction networks reveal the key functional modules related to survival and virulence of Pasteurella multocida.

Pasteurella multocida causes respiratory infectious diseases in a multitude of birds and mammals. A number of virulence-associated genes were reported across different strains of P. multocida, including those involved in the iron transport and metabolism. Comparative iron-associated genes of P. multocida among different animal hosts towards their interaction networks have not been fully revealed. Therefore, this study aimed to identify the iron-associated genes from core- and pan-genomes of fourteen P. multocida strains and to construct iron-associated protein interaction networks using genome-scale network analysis which might be associated with the virulence. Results showed that these fourteen strains had 1587 genes in the core-genome and 3400 genes constituting their pan-genome. Out of these, 2651 genes associated with iron transport and metabolism were selected to construct the protein interaction networks and 361 genes were incorporated into the iron-associated protein interaction network (iPIN) consisting of nine different iron-associated functional modules. After comparing with the virulence factor database (VFDB), 21 virulence-associated proteins were determined and 11 of these belonged to the heme biosynthesis module. From this study, the core heme biosynthesis module and the core outer membrane hemoglobin receptor HgbA were proposed as candidate targets to design novel antibiotics and vaccines for preventing pasteurellosis across the serotypes or animal hosts for enhanced precision agriculture to ensure sustainability in food security. Copyright © 2018. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

April 21, 2020  |  

Maleness-on-the-Y (MoY) orchestrates male sex determination in major agricultural fruit fly pests.

In insects, rapidly evolving primary sex-determining signals are transduced by a conserved regulatory module controlling sexual differentiation. In the agricultural pest Ceratitis capitata (Mediterranean fruit fly, or Medfly), we identified a Y-linked gene, Maleness-on-the-Y (MoY), encoding a small protein that is necessary and sufficient for male development. Silencing or disruption of MoY in XY embryos causes feminization, whereas overexpression of MoY in XX embryos induces masculinization. Crosses between transformed XY females and XX males give rise to males and females, indicating that a Y chromosome can be transmitted by XY females. MoY is Y-linked and functionally conserved in other species of the Tephritidae family, highlighting its potential to serve as a tool for developing more effective control strategies against these major agricultural insect pests.Copyright © 2019 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works.

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  |  

Complete assembly of the Leishmania donovani (HU3 strain) genome and transcriptome annotation.

Leishmania donovani is a unicellular parasite that causes visceral leishmaniasis, a fatal disease in humans. In this study, a complete assembly of the genome of L. donovani is provided. Apart from being the first published genome of this strain (HU3), this constitutes the best assembly for an L. donovani genome attained to date. The use of a combination of sequencing platforms enabled to assemble, without any sequence gap, the 36 chromosomes for this species. Additionally, based on this assembly and using RNA-seq reads derived from poly-A?+?RNA, the transcriptome for this species, not yet available, was delineated. Alternative SL addition sites and heterogeneity in the poly-A addition sites were commonly observed for most of the genes. After a complete annotation of the transcriptome, 2,410 novel transcripts were defined. Additionally, the relative expression for all transcripts present in the promastigote stage was determined. Events of cis-splicing have been documented to occur during the maturation of the transcripts derived from genes LDHU3_07.0430 and LDHU3_29.3990. The complete genome assembly and the availability of the gene models (including annotation of untranslated regions) are important pieces to understand how differential gene expression occurs in this pathogen, and to decipher phenotypic peculiarities like tissue tropism, clinical disease, and drug susceptibility.

April 21, 2020  |  

Meiotic sex in Chagas disease parasite Trypanosoma cruzi.

Genetic exchange enables parasites to rapidly transform disease phenotypes and exploit new host populations. Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasitic agent of Chagas disease and a public health concern throughout Latin America, has for decades been presumed to exchange genetic material rarely and without classic meiotic sex. We present compelling evidence from 45 genomes sequenced from southern Ecuador that T. cruzi in fact maintains truly sexual, panmictic groups that can occur alongside others that remain highly clonal after past hybridization events. These groups with divergent reproductive strategies appear genetically isolated despite possible co-occurrence in vectors and hosts. We propose biological explanations for the fine-scale disconnectivity we observe and discuss the epidemiological consequences of flexible reproductive modes. Our study reinvigorates the hunt for the site of genetic exchange in the T. cruzi life cycle, provides tools to define the genetic determinants of parasite virulence, and reforms longstanding theory on clonality in trypanosomatid parasites.

October 23, 2019  |  

Optimized CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing for Leishmania and its use to target a multigene family, induce chromosomal translocation, and study DNA break repair mechanisms.

CRISPR-Cas9-mediated genome editing has recently been adapted for Leishmania spp. parasites, the causative agents of human leishmaniasis. We have optimized this genome-editing tool by selecting for cells with CRISPR-Cas9 activity through cotargeting the miltefosine transporter gene; mutation of this gene leads to miltefosine resistance. This cotargeting strategy integrated into a triple guide RNA (gRNA) expression vector was used to delete all 11 copies of the A2 multigene family; this was not previously possible with the traditional gene-targeting method. We found that the Leishmania donovani rRNA promoter is more efficient than the U6 promoter in driving gRNA expression, and sequential transfections of the oligonucleotide donor significantly eased the isolation of edited mutants. A gRNA and Cas9 coexpression vector was developed that was functional in all tested Leishmania species, including L. donovani, L. major, and L. mexicana. By simultaneously targeting sites from two different chromosomes, all four types of targeted chromosomal translocations were generated, regardless of the polycistronic transcription direction from the parent chromosomes. It was possible to use this CRISPR system to create a single conserved amino acid substitution (A189G) mutation for both alleles of RAD51, a DNA recombinase involved in homology-directed repair. We found that RAD51 is essential for L. donovani survival based on direct observation of the death of mutants with both RAD51 alleles disrupted, further confirming that this CRISPR system can reveal gene essentiality. Evidence is also provided that microhomology-mediated end joining (MMEJ) plays a major role in double-strand DNA break repair in L. donovani. IMPORTANCELeishmania parasites cause human leishmaniasis. To accelerate characterization of Leishmania genes for new drug and vaccine development, we optimized and simplified the CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing tool for Leishmania. We show that co-CRISPR targeting of the miltefosine transporter gene and serial transfections of an oligonucleotide donor significantly eased isolation of edited mutants. This cotargeting strategy was efficiently used to delete all 11 members of the A2 virulence gene family. This technical advancement is valuable, since there are many gene clusters and supernumerary chromosomes in the various Leishmania species and isolates. We simplified this CRISPR system by developing a gRNA and Cas9 coexpression vector which could be used to delete genes in various Leishmania species. This CRISPR system could also be used to generate specific chromosomal translocations, which will help in the study of Leishmania gene expression and transcription control. This study also provides new information about double-strand DNA break repair mechanisms in Leishmania.

September 22, 2019  |  

Comparison of the mitochondrial genomes and steady state transcriptomes of two strains of the trypanosomatid parasite, Leishmania tarentolae.

U-insertion/deletion RNA editing is a post-transcriptional mitochondrial RNA modification phenomenon required for viability of trypanosomatid parasites. Small guide RNAs encoded mainly by the thousands of catenated minicircles contain the information for this editing. We analyzed by NGS technology the mitochondrial genomes and transcriptomes of two strains, the old lab UC strain and the recently isolated LEM125 strain. PacBio sequencing provided complete minicircle sequences which avoided the assembly problem of short reads caused by the conserved regions. Minicircles were identified by a characteristic size, the presence of three short conserved sequences, a region of inherently bent DNA and the presence of single gRNA genes at a fairly defined location. The LEM125 strain contained over 114 minicircles encoding different gRNAs and the UC strain only ~24 minicircles. Some LEM125 minicircles contained no identifiable gRNAs. Approximate copy numbers of the different minicircle classes in the network were determined by the number of PacBio CCS reads that assembled to each class. Mitochondrial RNA libraries from both strains were mapped against the minicircle and maxicircle sequences. Small RNA reads mapped to the putative gRNA genes but also to multiple regions outside the genes on both strands and large RNA reads mapped in many cases over almost the entire minicircle on both strands. These data suggest that minicircle transcription is complete and bidirectional, with 3′ processing yielding the mature gRNAs. Steady state RNAs in varying abundances are derived from all maxicircle genes, including portions of the repetitive divergent region. The relative extents of editing in both strains correlated with the presence of a cascade of cognate gRNAs. These data should provide the foundation for a deeper understanding of this dynamic genetic system as well as the evolutionary variation of editing in different strains.

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