April 21, 2020  |  

Human contamination in bacterial genomes has created thousands of spurious proteins.

Contaminant sequences that appear in published genomes can cause numerous problems for downstream analyses, particularly for evolutionary studies and metagenomics projects. Our large-scale scan of complete and draft bacterial and archaeal genomes in the NCBI RefSeq database reveals that 2250 genomes are contaminated by human sequence. The contaminant sequences derive primarily from high-copy human repeat regions, which themselves are not adequately represented in the current human reference genome, GRCh38. The absence of the sequences from the human assembly offers a likely explanation for their presence in bacterial assemblies. In some cases, the contaminating contigs have been erroneously annotated as containing protein-coding sequences, which over time have propagated to create spurious protein “families” across multiple prokaryotic and eukaryotic genomes. As a result, 3437 spurious protein entries are currently present in the widely used nr and TrEMBL protein databases. We report here an extensive list of contaminant sequences in bacterial genome assemblies and the proteins associated with them. We found that nearly all contaminants occurred in small contigs in draft genomes, which suggests that filtering out small contigs from draft genome assemblies may mitigate the issue of contamination while still keeping nearly all of the genuine genomic sequences. © 2019 Breitwieser et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

April 21, 2020  |  

Competition between mobile genetic elements drives optimization of a phage-encoded CRISPR-Cas system: insights from a natural arms race.

CRISPR-Cas systems function as adaptive immune systems by acquiring nucleotide sequences called spacers that mediate sequence-specific defence against competitors. Uniquely, the phage ICP1 encodes a Type I-F CRISPR-Cas system that is deployed to target and overcome PLE, a mobile genetic element with anti-phage activity in Vibrio cholerae. Here, we exploit the arms race between ICP1 and PLE to examine spacer acquisition and interference under laboratory conditions to reconcile findings from wild populations. Natural ICP1 isolates encode multiple spacers directed against PLE, but we find that single spacers do not interfere equally with PLE mobilization. High-throughput sequencing to assay spacer acquisition reveals that ICP1 can also acquire spacers that target the V. cholerae chromosome. We find that targeting the V. cholerae chromosome proximal to PLE is sufficient to block PLE and is dependent on Cas2-3 helicase activity. We propose a model in which indirect chromosomal spacers are able to circumvent PLE by Cas2-3-mediated processive degradation of the V. cholerae chromosome before PLE mobilization. Generally, laboratory-acquired spacers are much more diverse than the subset of spacers maintained by ICP1 in nature, showing how evolutionary pressures can constrain CRISPR-Cas targeting in ways that are often not appreciated through in vitro analyses. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue ‘The ecology and evolution of prokaryotic CRISPR-Cas adaptive immune systems’.

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.

April 21, 2020  |  

Linking CRISPR-Cas9 interference in cassava to the evolution of editing-resistant geminiviruses.

Geminiviruses cause damaging diseases in several important crop species. However, limited progress has been made in developing crop varieties resistant to these highly diverse DNA viruses. Recently, the bacterial CRISPR/Cas9 system has been transferred to plants to target and confer immunity to geminiviruses. In this study, we use CRISPR-Cas9 interference in the staple food crop cassava with the aim of engineering resistance to African cassava mosaic virus, a member of a widespread and important family (Geminiviridae) of plant-pathogenic DNA viruses.Our results show that the CRISPR system fails to confer effective resistance to the virus during glasshouse inoculations. Further, we find that between 33 and 48% of edited virus genomes evolve a conserved single-nucleotide mutation that confers resistance to CRISPR-Cas9 cleavage. We also find that in the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana the replication of the novel, mutant virus is dependent on the presence of the wild-type virus.Our study highlights the risks associated with CRISPR-Cas9 virus immunity in eukaryotes given that the mutagenic nature of the system generates viral escapes in a short time period. Our in-depth analysis of virus populations also represents a template for future studies analyzing virus escape from anti-viral CRISPR transgenics. This is especially important for informing regulation of such actively mutagenic applications of CRISPR-Cas9 technology in agriculture.

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