April 21, 2020  |  

Defining transgene insertion sites and off-target effects of homology-based gene silencing informs the use of functional genomics tools in Phytophthora infestans.

DNA transformation and homology-based transcriptional silencing are frequently used to assess gene function in Phytophthora. Since unplanned side-effects of these tools are not well-characterized, we used P. infestans to study plasmid integration sites and whether knockdowns caused by homology-dependent silencing spreads to other genes. Insertions occurred both in gene-dense and gene-sparse regions but disproportionately near the 5′ ends of genes, which disrupted native coding sequences. Microhomology at the recombination site between plasmid and chromosome was common. Studies of transformants silenced for twelve different gene targets indicated that neighbors within 500-nt were often co-silenced, regardless of whether hairpin or sense constructs were employed and the direction of transcription of the target. However, cis-spreading of silencing did not occur in all transformants obtained with the same plasmid. Genome-wide studies indicated that unlinked genes with partial complementarity with the silencing-inducing transgene were not usually down-regulated. We learned that hairpin or sense transgenes were not co-silenced with the target in all transformants, which informs how screens for silencing should be performed. We conclude that transformation and gene silencing can be reliable tools for functional genomics in Phytophthora but must be used carefully, especially by testing for the spread of silencing to genes flanking the target.

April 21, 2020  |  

Recompleting the Caenorhabditis elegans genome.

Caenorhabditis elegans was the first multicellular eukaryotic genome sequenced to apparent completion. Although this assembly employed a standard C. elegans strain (N2), it used sequence data from several laboratories, with DNA propagated in bacteria and yeast. Thus, the N2 assembly has many differences from any C. elegans available today. To provide a more accurate C. elegans genome, we performed long-read assembly of VC2010, a modern strain derived from N2. Our VC2010 assembly has 99.98% identity to N2 but with an additional 1.8 Mb including tandem repeat expansions and genome duplications. For 116 structural discrepancies between N2 and VC2010, 97 structures matching VC2010 (84%) were also found in two outgroup strains, implying deficiencies in N2. Over 98% of N2 genes encoded unchanged products in VC2010; moreover, we predicted =53 new genes in VC2010. The recompleted genome of C. elegans should be a valuable resource for genetics, genomics, and systems biology. © 2019 Yoshimura et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

April 21, 2020  |  

Long-read based assembly and synteny analysis of a reference Drosophila subobscura genome reveals signatures of structural evolution driven by inversions recombination-suppression effects.

Drosophila subobscura has long been a central model in evolutionary genetics. Presently, its use is hindered by the lack of a reference genome. To bridge this gap, here we used PacBio long-read technology, together with the available wealth of genetic marker information, to assemble and annotate a high-quality nuclear and complete mitochondrial genome for the species. With the obtained assembly, we performed the first synteny analysis of genome structure evolution in the subobscura subgroup.We generated a highly-contiguous ~?129?Mb-long nuclear genome, consisting of six pseudochromosomes corresponding to the six chromosomes of a female haploid set, and a complete 15,764?bp-long mitogenome, and provide an account of their numbers and distributions of codifying and repetitive content. All 12 identified paracentric inversion differences in the subobscura subgroup would have originated by chromosomal breakage and repair, with some associated duplications, but no evidence of direct gene disruptions by the breakpoints. Between lineages, inversion fixation rates were 10 times higher in continental D. subobscura than in the two small oceanic-island endemics D. guanche and D. madeirensis. Within D. subobscura, we found contrasting ratios of chromosomal divergence to polymorphism between the A sex chromosome and the autosomes.We present the first high-quality, long-read sequencing of a D. subobscura genome. Our findings generally support genome structure evolution in this species being driven indirectly, through the inversions’ recombination-suppression effects in maintaining sets of adaptive alleles together in the face of gene flow. The resources developed will serve to further establish the subobscura subgroup as model for comparative genomics and evolutionary indicator of global change.

April 21, 2020  |  

Long-read based de novo assembly of low-complexity metagenome samples results in finished genomes and reveals insights into strain diversity and an active phage system.

Complete and contiguous genome assemblies greatly improve the quality of subsequent systems-wide functional profiling studies and the ability to gain novel biological insights. While a de novo genome assembly of an isolated bacterial strain is in most cases straightforward, more informative data about co-existing bacteria as well as synergistic and antagonistic effects can be obtained from a direct analysis of microbial communities. However, the complexity of metagenomic samples represents a major challenge. While third generation sequencing technologies have been suggested to enable finished metagenome-assembled genomes, to our knowledge, the complete genome assembly of all dominant strains in a microbiome sample has not been demonstrated. Natural whey starter cultures (NWCs) are used in cheese production and represent low-complexity microbiomes. Previous studies of Swiss Gruyère and selected Italian hard cheeses, mostly based on amplicon metagenomics, concurred that three species generally pre-dominate: Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus helveticus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii.Two NWCs from Swiss Gruyère producers were subjected to whole metagenome shotgun sequencing using the Pacific Biosciences Sequel and Illumina MiSeq platforms. In addition, longer Oxford Nanopore Technologies MinION reads had to be generated for one to resolve repeat regions. Thereby, we achieved the complete assembly of all dominant bacterial genomes from these low-complexity NWCs, which was corroborated by a 16S rRNA amplicon survey. Moreover, two distinct L. helveticus strains were successfully co-assembled from the same sample. Besides bacterial chromosomes, we could also assemble several bacterial plasmids and phages and a corresponding prophage. Biologically relevant insights were uncovered by linking the plasmids and phages to their respective host genomes using DNA methylation motifs on the plasmids and by matching prokaryotic CRISPR spacers with the corresponding protospacers on the phages. These results could only be achieved by employing long-read sequencing data able to span intragenomic as well as intergenomic repeats.Here, we demonstrate the feasibility of complete de novo genome assembly of all dominant strains from low-complexity NWCs based on whole metagenomics shotgun sequencing data. This allowed to gain novel biological insights and is a fundamental basis for subsequent systems-wide omics analyses, functional profiling and phenotype to genotype analysis of specific microbial communities.

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