April 21, 2020  |  

Effector gene reshuffling involves dispensable mini-chromosomes in the wheat blast fungus.

Newly emerged wheat blast disease is a serious threat to global wheat production. Wheat blast is caused by a distinct, exceptionally diverse lineage of the fungus causing rice blast disease. Through sequencing a recent field isolate, we report a reference genome that includes seven core chromosomes and mini-chromosome sequences that harbor effector genes normally found on ends of core chromosomes in other strains. No mini-chromosomes were observed in an early field strain, and at least two from another isolate each contain different effector genes and core chromosome end sequences. The mini-chromosome is enriched in transposons occurring most frequently at core chromosome ends. Additionally, transposons in mini-chromosomes lack the characteristic signature for inactivation by repeat-induced point (RIP) mutation genome defenses. Our results, collectively, indicate that dispensable mini-chromosomes and core chromosomes undergo divergent evolutionary trajectories, and mini-chromosomes and core chromosome ends are coupled as a mobile, fast-evolving effector compartment in the wheat pathogen genome.


April 21, 2020  |  

Blast Fungal Genomes Show Frequent Chromosomal Changes, Gene Gains and Losses, and Effector Gene Turnover.

Pyricularia is a fungal genus comprising several pathogenic species causing the blast disease in monocots. Pyricularia oryzae, the best-known species, infects rice, wheat, finger millet, and other crops. As past comparative and population genomics studies mainly focused on isolates of P. oryzae, the genomes of the other Pyricularia species have not been well explored. In this study, we obtained a chromosomal-level genome assembly of the finger millet isolate P. oryzae MZ5-1-6 and also highly contiguous assemblies of Pyricularia sp. LS, P. grisea, and P. pennisetigena. The differences in the genomic content of repetitive DNA sequences could largely explain the variation in genome size among these new genomes. Moreover, we found extensive gene gains and losses and structural changes among Pyricularia genomes, including a large interchromosomal translocation. We searched for homologs of known blast effectors across fungal taxa and found that most avirulence effectors are specific to Pyricularia, whereas many other effectors share homologs with distant fungal taxa. In particular, we discovered a novel effector family with metalloprotease activity, distinct from the well-known AVR-Pita family. We predicted 751 gene families containing putative effectors in 7 Pyricularia genomes and found that 60 of them showed differential expression in the P. oryzae MZ5-1-6 transcriptomes obtained under experimental conditions mimicking the pathogen infection process. In summary, this study increased our understanding of the structural, functional, and evolutionary genomics of the blast pathogen and identified new potential effector genes, providing useful data for developing crops with durable resistance. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.


April 21, 2020  |  

Comparative genomics reveals structural and functional features specific to the genome of a foodborne Escherichia coli O157:H7.

Escherichia coli O157:H7 (O157) has been linked to numerous foodborne disease outbreaks. The ability to rapidly sequence and analyze genomes is important for understanding epidemiology, virulence, survival, and evolution of outbreak strains. In the current study, we performed comparative genomics to determine structural and functional features of the genome of a foodborne O157 isolate NADC 6564 and infer its evolutionary relationship to other O157 strains.The chromosome of NADC 6564 contained 5466?kb compared to reference strains Sakai (5498?kb) and EDL933 (5547?kb) and shared 41 of its 43 Linear Conserved Blocks (LCB) with the reference strains. However, 18 of 41 LCB had inverse orientation in NADC 6564 compared to the reference strains. NADC 6564 shared 18 of 19 bacteriophages with reference strains except that the chromosomal positioning of some of the phages differed among these strains. The additional phage (P19) of NADC 6564 was located on a 39-kb insertion element (IE) encoding several hypothetical proteins, an integrase, transposases, transcriptional regulators, an adhesin, and a phosphoethanolamine transferase (PEA). The complete homologs of the 39-kb?IE were found in E. coli PCN061 of porcine origin. The IE-encoded PEA showed low homology (32-33%) to four other PEA in NADC 6564 and PEA linked to mobilizable colistin resistance in E. coli but was highly homologous (95%) to a PEA of uropathogenic, avian pathogenic, and enteroaggregative E. coli. NADC 6564 showed slightly higher minimum inhibitory concentration of colistin compared to the reference strains. The 39-kb?IE also contained dndBCDE and dptFGH operons encoding DNA S-modification and a restriction pathway, linked to oxidative stress tolerance and self-defense against foreign DNA, respectively. Evolutionary tree analysis grouped NADC 6564 with lineage I O157 strains.These results indicated that differential phage counts and different chromosomal positioning of many bacteriophages and genomic islands might have resulted in recombination events causing altered chromosomal organization in NADC 6564. Evolutionary analysis grouped NADC 6564 with lineage I strains and suggested its earlier divergence from these strains. The ability to perform S-DNA modification might affect tolerance of NADC 6564 to various stressors.


April 21, 2020  |  

Comparative genomics and pathogenicity potential of members of the Pseudomonas syringae species complex on Prunus spp.

Diseases on Prunus spp. have been associated with a large number of phylogenetically different pathovars and species within the P. syringae species complex. Despite their economic significance, there is a severe lack of genomic information of these pathogens. The high phylogenetic diversity observed within strains causing disease on Prunus spp. in nature, raised the question whether other strains or species within the P. syringae species complex were potentially pathogenic on Prunus spp.To gain insight into the genomic potential of adaptation and virulence in Prunus spp., a total of twelve de novo whole genome sequences of P. syringae pathovars and species found in association with diseases on cherry (sweet, sour and ornamental-cherry) and peach were sequenced. Strains sequenced in this study covered three phylogroups and four clades. These strains were screened in vitro for pathogenicity on Prunus spp. together with additional genome sequenced strains thus covering nine out of thirteen of the currently defined P. syringae phylogroups. Pathogenicity tests revealed that most of the strains caused symptoms in vitro and no obvious link was found between presence of known virulence factors and the observed pathogenicity pattern based on comparative genomics. Non-pathogenic strains were displaying a two to three times higher generation time when grown in rich medium.In this study, the first set of complete genomes of cherry associated P. syringae strains as well as the draft genome of the quarantine peach pathogen P. syringae pv. persicae were generated. The obtained genomic data were matched with phenotypic data in order to determine factors related to pathogenicity to Prunus spp. Results of this study suggest that the inability to cause disease on Prunus spp. in vitro is not the result of host specialization but rather linked to metabolic impairments of individual strains.


September 22, 2019  |  

Cow-to-mouse fecal transplantations suggest intestinal microbiome as one cause of mastitis.

Mastitis, which affects nearly all lactating mammals including human, is generally thought to be caused by local infection of the mammary glands. For treatment, antibiotics are commonly prescribed, which however are of concern in both treatment efficacy and neonate safety. Here, using bovine mastitis which is the most costly disease in the dairy industry as a model, we showed that intestinal microbiota alone can lead to mastitis.Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) from mastitis, but not healthy cows, to germ-free (GF) mice resulted in mastitis symptoms in mammary gland and inflammations in serum, spleen, and colon. Probiotic intake in parallel with FMT from diseased cows led to relieved mastitis symptoms in mice, by shifting the murine intestinal microbiota to a state that is functionally distinct from either healthy or diseased microbiota yet structurally similar to the latter. Despite conservation in mastitis symptoms, diseased cows and mice shared few mastitis-associated bacterial organismal or functional markers, suggesting striking divergence in mastitis-associated intestinal microbiota among lactating mammals. Moreover, an “amplification effect” of disease-health distinction in both microbiota structure and function was apparent during the cow-to-mouse FMT.Hence, dysbiosis of intestinal microbiota may be one cause of mastitis, and probiotics that restore intestinal microbiota function are an effective and safe strategy to treat mastitis.


September 22, 2019  |  

Pacbio sequencing of copper-tolerant Xanthomonas citri reveals presence of a chimeric plasmid structure and provides insights into reassortment and shuffling of transcription activator-like effectors among X. citri strains.

Xanthomonas citri, a causal agent of citrus canker, has been a well-studied model system due to recent availability of whole genome sequences of multiple strains from different geographical regions. Major limitations in our understanding of the evolution of pathogenicity factors in X. citri strains sequenced by short-read sequencing methods have been tracking plasmid reshuffling among strains due to inability to accurately assign reads to plasmids, and analyzing repeat regions among strains. X. citri harbors major pathogenicity determinants, including variable DNA-binding repeat region containing Transcription Activator-like Effectors (TALEs) on plasmids. The long-read sequencing method, PacBio, has allowed the ability to obtain complete and accurate sequences of TALEs in xanthomonads. We recently sequenced Xanthomonas citri str. Xc-03-1638-1-1, a copper tolerant A group strain isolated from grapefruit in 2003 from Argentina using PacBio RS II chemistry. We analyzed plasmid profiles, copy number and location of TALEs in complete genome sequences of X. citri strains.We utilized the power of long reads obtained by PacBio sequencing to enable assembly of a complete genome sequence of strain Xc-03-1638-1-1, including sequences of two plasmids, 249 kb (plasmid harboring copper resistance genes) and 99 kb (pathogenicity plasmid containing TALEs). The pathogenicity plasmid in this strain is a hybrid plasmid containing four TALEs. Due to the intriguing nature of this pathogenicity plasmid with Tn3-like transposon association, repetitive elements and multiple putative sites for origins of replication, we might expect alternative structures of this plasmid in nature, illustrating the strong adaptive potential of X. citri strains. Analysis of the pathogenicity plasmid among completely sequenced X. citri strains, coupled with Southern hybridization of the pathogenicity plasmids, revealed clues to rearrangements of plasmids and resulting reshuffling of TALEs among strains.We demonstrate in this study the importance of long-read sequencing for obtaining intact sequences of TALEs and plasmids, as well as for identifying rearrangement events including plasmid reshuffling. Rearrangement events, such as the hybrid plasmid in this case, could be a frequent phenomenon in the evolution of X. citri strains, although so far it is undetected due to the inability to obtain complete plasmid sequences with short-read sequencing methods.


September 22, 2019  |  

Comparative genome and phenotypic analysis of three Clostridioides difficile strains isolated from a single patient provide insight into multiple infection of C. difficile.

Clostridioides difficile infections (CDI) have emerged over the past decade causing symptoms that range from mild, antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) to life-threatening toxic megacolon. In this study, we describe a multiple and isochronal (mixed) CDI caused by the isolates DSM 27638, DSM 27639 and DSM 27640 that already initially showed different morphotypes on solid media.The three isolates belonging to the ribotypes (RT) 012 (DSM 27639) and 027 (DSM 27638 and DSM 27640) were phenotypically characterized and high quality closed genome sequences were generated. The genomes were compared with seven reference strains including three strains of the RT 027, two of the RT 017, and one of the RT 078 as well as a multi-resistant RT 012 strain. The analysis of horizontal gene transfer events revealed gene acquisition incidents that sort the strains within the time line of the spread of their RTs within Germany. We could show as well that horizontal gene transfer between the members of different RTs occurred within this multiple infection. In addition, acquisition and exchange of virulence-related features including antibiotic resistance genes were observed. Analysis of the two genomes assigned to RT 027 revealed three single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and apparently a regional genome modification within the flagellar switch that regulates the fli operon.Our findings show that (i) evolutionary events based on horizontal gene transfer occur within an ongoing CDI and contribute to the adaptation of the species by the introduction of new genes into the genomes, (ii) within a multiple infection of a single patient the exchange of genetic material was responsible for a much higher genome variation than the observed SNPs.


September 22, 2019  |  

In situ analyses directly in diarrheal stool reveal large variations in bacterial load and active toxin expression of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli and Vibrio cholerae.

The bacterial pathogens enterotoxigenicEscherichia coli(ETEC) andVibrio choleraeare major causes of diarrhea. ETEC causes diarrhea by production of the heat-labile toxin (LT) and heat-stable toxins (STh and STp), whileV. choleraeproduces cholera toxin (CT). In this study, we determined the occurrence and bacterial doses of the two pathogens and their respective toxin expression levels directly in liquid diarrheal stools of patients in Dhaka, Bangladesh. By quantitative culture and real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) detection of the toxin genes, the two pathogens were found to coexist in several of the patients, at concentrations between 102and 108bacterial gene copies per ml. Even in culture-negative samples, gene copy numbers of 102to 104of either ETEC orV. choleraetoxin genes were detected by qPCR. RNA was extracted directly from stool, and gene expression levels, quantified by reverse transcriptase qPCR (RT-qPCR), of the genes encoding CT, LT, STh, and STp showed expression of toxin genes. Toxin enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) confirmed active toxin secretion directly in the liquid diarrhea. Analysis of ETEC isolates by multiplex PCR, dot blot analysis, and genome sequencing suggested that there are genetic ETEC profiles that are more commonly found as dominating single pathogens and others that are coinfectants with lower bacterial loads. The ETEC genomes, including assembled genomes of dominating ETEC isolates expressing LT/STh/CS5/CS6 and LT/CS7, are provided. In addition, this study highlights an emerging important ETEC strain expressing LT/STp and the novel colonization factor CS27b. These findings have implications for investigations of pathogenesis as well as for vaccine development. IMPORTANCEThe cause of diarrheal disease is usually determined by screening for several microorganisms by various methods, and sole detection is used to assign the agent as the cause of disease. However, it has become increasingly clear that many infections are caused by coinfections with several pathogens and that the dose of the infecting pathogen is important. We quantified the absolute numbers of enterotoxigenicE. coli(ETEC) andVibrio choleraedirectly in diarrheal fluid. We noted several events where both pathogens were found but also a large dose dependency. In three samples, we found ETEC as the only pathogen sought for. These isolates belonged to globally distributed ETEC clones and were the dominating species in stool with active toxin expression. This suggests that certain superior virulent ETEC lineages are able to outcompete the gut microbiota and be the sole cause of disease and hence need to be specifically monitored.


September 22, 2019  |  

Comparative genomics reveals new single-nucleotide polymorphisms that can assist in identification of adherent-invasive Escherichia coli.

Adherent-invasive Escherichia coli (AIEC) have been involved in Crohn’s disease (CD). Currently, AIEC are identified by time-consuming techniques based on in vitro infection of cell lines to determine their ability to adhere to and invade intestinal epithelial cells as well as to survive and replicate within macrophages. Our aim was to find signature sequences that can be used to identify the AIEC pathotype. Comparative genomics was performed between three E. coli strain pairs, each pair comprised one AIEC and one non-AIEC with identical pulsotype, sequence type and virulence gene carriage. Genetic differences were further analysed in 22 AIEC and 28 non-AIEC isolated from CD patients and controls. The strain pairs showed similar genome structures, and no gene was specific to AIEC. Three single nucleotide polymorphisms displayed different nucleotide distributions between AIEC and non-AIEC, and four correlated with increased adhesion and/or invasion indices. Here, we present a classification algorithm based on the identification of three allelic variants that can predict the AIEC phenotype with 84% accuracy. Our study corroborates the absence of an AIEC-specific genetic marker distributed across all AIEC strains. Nonetheless, point mutations putatively involved in the AIEC phenotype can be used for the molecular identification of the AIEC pathotype.


September 22, 2019  |  

De novo assembly and phasing of dikaryotic genomes from two isolates of Puccinia coronata f. sp. avenae, the causal agent of oat crown rust.

Oat crown rust, caused by the fungus Pucinnia coronata f. sp. avenae, is a devastating disease that impacts worldwide oat production. For much of its life cycle, P. coronata f. sp. avenae is dikaryotic, with two separate haploid nuclei that may vary in virulence genotype, highlighting the importance of understanding haplotype diversity in this species. We generated highly contiguous de novo genome assemblies of two P. coronata f. sp. avenae isolates, 12SD80 and 12NC29, from long-read sequences. In total, we assembled 603 primary contigs for 12SD80, for a total assembly length of 99.16 Mbp, and 777 primary contigs for 12NC29, for a total length of 105.25 Mbp; approximately 52% of each genome was assembled into alternate haplotypes. This revealed structural variation between haplotypes in each isolate equivalent to more than 2% of the genome size, in addition to about 260,000 and 380,000 heterozygous single-nucleotide polymorphisms in 12SD80 and 12NC29, respectively. Transcript-based annotation identified 26,796 and 28,801 coding sequences for isolates 12SD80 and 12NC29, respectively, including about 7,000 allele pairs in haplotype-phased regions. Furthermore, expression profiling revealed clusters of coexpressed secreted effector candidates, and the majority of orthologous effectors between isolates showed conservation of expression patterns. However, a small subset of orthologs showed divergence in expression, which may contribute to differences in virulence between 12SD80 and 12NC29. This study provides the first haplotype-phased reference genome for a dikaryotic rust fungus as a foundation for future studies into virulence mechanisms in P. coronata f. sp. avenaeIMPORTANCE Disease management strategies for oat crown rust are challenged by the rapid evolution of Puccinia coronata f. sp. avenae, which renders resistance genes in oat varieties ineffective. Despite the economic importance of understanding P. coronata f. sp. avenae, resources to study the molecular mechanisms underpinning pathogenicity and the emergence of new virulence traits are lacking. Such limitations are partly due to the obligate biotrophic lifestyle of P. coronata f. sp. avenae as well as the dikaryotic nature of the genome, features that are also shared with other important rust pathogens. This study reports the first release of a haplotype-phased genome assembly for a dikaryotic fungal species and demonstrates the amenability of using emerging technologies to investigate genetic diversity in populations of P. coronata f. sp. avenae. Copyright © 2018 Miller et al.


September 22, 2019  |  

High genetic plasticity in multidrug-resistant sequence type 3-IncHI2 plasmids revealed by sequence comparison and phylogenetic analysis.

We report a novel fusion plasmid, pP2-3T, cointegrating sequence type 3 (ST3)-IncHI2 with an IncFII plasmid backbone mediating multidrug resistance (MDR) and virulence. Phylogenetic analysis and comparative genomics revealed that pP2-3T and other MDR ST3-IncHI2 plasmids clustered together, representing a unique IncHI2 lineage that exhibited high conservation in backbones of plasmids but possessed highly genetic plasticity in various regions by acquiring numerous antibiotic resistance genes and fusing with other plasmids. Surveillance studies should be performed to monitor multiresistance IncHI2 plasmids among Enterobacteriaceae. Copyright © 2018 American Society for Microbiology.


September 22, 2019  |  

Genetic separation of Listeria monocytogenes causing central nervous system infections in animals.

Listeria monocytogenes is a foodborne pathogen that causes abortion, septicemia, gastroenteritis and central nervous system (CNS) infections in ruminants and humans. L. monocytogenes strains mainly belong to two distinct phylogenetic groups, named lineages I and II. In general, clinical cases in humans and animals, in particular CNS infections, are caused by lineage I strains, while most of the environmental and food strains belong to lineage II. Little is known about why lineage I is more virulent than lineage II, even though various molecular factors and mechanisms associated with pathogenesis are known. In this study, we have used a variety of whole genome sequence analyses and comparative genomic tools in order to find characteristics that distinguish lineage I from lineage II strains and CNS infection strains from non-CNS strains. We analyzed 225 strains and identified single nucleotide variants between lineages I and II, as well as differences in the gene content. Using a novel approach based on Reads Per Kilobase per Million Mapped (RPKM), we identified 167 genes predominantly absent in lineage II but present in lineage I. These genes are mostly encoding for membrane-associated proteins. Additionally, we found 77 genes that are largely absent in the non-CNS associated strains, while 39 genes are especially lacking in our defined “non-clinical” group. Based on the RPKM analysis and the metadata linked to the L. monocytogenes strains, we identified 6 genes potentially associated with CNS cases, which include a transcriptional regulator, an ABC transporter and a non-coding RNA. Although there is not a clear separation between pathogenic and non-pathogenic strains based on phylogenetic lineages, the presence of the genes identified in our study reveals potential pathogenesis traits in ruminant L. monocytogenes strains. Ultimately, the differences that we have found in our study will help steer future studies in understanding the virulence mechanisms of the most pathogenic L. monocytogenes strains.


September 22, 2019  |  

Vegetative compatibility groups partition variation in the virulence of Verticillium dahliae on strawberry.

Verticillium dahliae infection of strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa) is a major cause of disease-induced wilting in soil-grown strawberries across the world. To understand what components of the pathogen are affecting disease expression, the presence of the known effector VdAve1 was screened in a sample of Verticillium dahliae isolates. Isolates from strawberry were found to contain VdAve1 and were divided into two major clades, based upon their vegetative compatibility groups (VCG); no UK strawberry isolates contained VdAve1. VC clade was strongly related to their virulence levels. VdAve1-containing isolates pathogenic on strawberry were found in both clades, in contrast to some recently published findings. On strawberry, VdAve1-containing isolates had significantly higher virulence during early infection, which diminished in significance as the infection progressed. Transformation of a virulent non-VdAve1 containing isolate, with VdAve1 was found neither to increase nor decrease virulence when inoculated on a susceptible strawberry cultivar. There are therefore virulence factors that are epistatic to VdAve1 and potentially multiple independent routes to high virulence on strawberry in V. dahliae lineages. Genome sequencing a subset of isolates across the two VCGs revealed that isolates were differentiated at the whole genome level and contained multiple changes in putative effector content, indicating that different clonal VCGs may have evolved different strategies for infecting strawberry, leading to different virulence levels in pathogenicity tests. It is therefore important to consider both clonal lineage and effector complement as the adaptive potential of each lineage will differ, even if they contain the same race determining effector.


September 22, 2019  |  

Comparative genomics of the wheat fungal pathogen Pyrenophora tritici-repentis reveals chromosomal variations and genome plasticity.

Pyrenophora tritici-repentis (Ptr) is a necrotrophic fungal pathogen that causes the major wheat disease, tan spot. We set out to provide essential genomics-based resources in order to better understand the pathogenicity mechanisms of this important pathogen.Here, we present eight new Ptr isolate genomes, assembled and annotated; representing races 1, 2 and 5, and a new race. We report a high quality Ptr reference genome, sequenced by PacBio technology with Illumina paired-end data support and optical mapping. An estimated 98% of the genome coverage was mapped to 10 chromosomal groups, using a two-enzyme hybrid approach. The final reference genome was 40.9 Mb and contained a total of 13,797 annotated genes, supported by transcriptomic and proteogenomics data sets.Whole genome comparative analysis revealed major chromosomal segmental rearrangements and fusions, highlighting intraspecific genome plasticity in this species. Furthermore, the Ptr race classification was not supported at the whole genome level, as phylogenetic analysis did not cluster the ToxA producing isolates. This expansion of available Ptr genomics resources will directly facilitate research aimed at controlling tan spot disease.


September 22, 2019  |  

Identification and pathogenomic analysis of an Escherichia coli strain producing a novel Shiga toxin 2 subtype.

Shiga toxin (Stx) is the key virulent factor in Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC). To date, three Stx1 subtypes and seven Stx2 subtypes have been described in E. coli, which differed in receptor preference and toxin potency. Here, we identified a novel Stx2 subtype designated Stx2h in E. coli strains isolated from wild marmots in the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, China. Stx2h shares 91.9% nucleic acid sequence identity and 92.9% amino acid identity to the nearest Stx2 subtype. The expression of Stx2h in type strain STEC299 was inducible by mitomycin C, and culture supernatant from STEC299 was cytotoxic to Vero cells. The Stx2h converting prophage was unique in terms of insertion site and genetic composition. Whole genome-based phylo- and patho-genomic analysis revealed STEC299 was closer to other pathotypes of E. coli than STEC, and possesses virulence factors from other pathotypes. Our finding enlarges the pool of Stx2 subtypes and highlights the extraordinary genomic plasticity of E. coli strains. As the emergence of new Shiga toxin genotypes and new Stx-producing pathotypes pose a great threat to the public health, Stx2h should be further included in E. coli molecular typing, and in epidemiological surveillance of E. coli infections.


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