June 1, 2021  |  

Long-read, single-molecule applications for protein engineering.

The long read lengths of PacBio’s SMRT Sequencing enable detection of linked mutations across multiple kilobases of sequence. This feature is particularly useful in the context of protein engineering, where large numbers of similar constructs are generated routinely to explore the effects of mutations on function and stability. We have developed a PCR-based barcoded sequencing method to generate high quality, full-length sequence data for batches of constructs generated in a common backbone. Individual barcodes are coupled to primers targeting a common region of the vector of interest. The amplified products are pooled into a single DNA library, and sequencing data are clustered by barcode to generate multi-molecule consensus sequences for each construct present in the pool. As a proof-of-concept dataset, we have generated a library of 384 randomly mutated variants of the Phi29 DNA polymerase, a 575 amino acid protein encoded by a 1.7 kb gene. These variants were amplified with a set of barcoded primers, and the resulting library was sequenced on a single SMRT Cell. The data produced sequences that were completely concordant with independent Sanger sequencing, for a 100% accurate reconstruction of the set of clones.

June 1, 2021  |  

Barcoding strategies for multiplexing of samples using a long-read sequencing technology.

We have developed barcoding reagents and workflows for multiplexing amplicons or fragmented native genomic (DNA) prior to Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing. The long reads of PacBio’s SMRT Sequencing enable detection of linked mutations across multiple kilobases (kb) of sequence. This feature is particularly useful in the context of mutational analysis or SNP confirmation, where a large number of samples are generated routinely. To validate this workflow, a set of 384 1.7-kb amplicons, each derived from variants of the Phi29 DNA polymerase gene, were barcoded during amplification, pooled, and sequenced on a single SMRT Cell. To demonstrate the applicability of the method to longer inserts, a library of 96 5-kb clones derived from the E. coli genome was sequenced.

April 21, 2020  |  

Biphasic cellular adaptations and ecological implications of Alteromonas macleodii degrading a mixture of algal polysaccharides.

Algal polysaccharides are an important bacterial nutrient source and central component of marine food webs. However, cellular and ecological aspects concerning the bacterial degradation of polysaccharide mixtures, as presumably abundant in natural habitats, are poorly understood. Here, we contextualize marine polysaccharide mixtures and their bacterial utilization in several ways using the model bacterium Alteromonas macleodii 83-1, which can degrade multiple algal polysaccharides and contributes to polysaccharide degradation in the oceans. Transcriptomic, proteomic and exometabolomic profiling revealed cellular adaptations of A. macleodii 83-1 when degrading a mix of laminarin, alginate and pectin. Strain 83-1 exhibited substrate prioritization driven by catabolite repression, with initial laminarin utilization followed by simultaneous alginate/pectin utilization. This biphasic phenotype coincided with pronounced shifts in gene expression, protein abundance and metabolite secretion, mainly involving CAZymes/polysaccharide utilization loci but also other functional traits. Distinct temporal changes in exometabolome composition, including the alginate/pectin-specific secretion of pyrroloquinoline quinone, suggest that substrate-dependent adaptations influence chemical interactions within the community. The ecological relevance of cellular adaptations was underlined by molecular evidence that common marine macroalgae, in particular Saccharina and Fucus, release mixtures of alginate and pectin-like rhamnogalacturonan. Moreover, CAZyme microdiversity and the genomic predisposition towards polysaccharide mixtures among Alteromonas spp. suggest polysaccharide-related traits as an ecophysiological factor, potentially relating to distinct ‘carbohydrate utilization types’ with different ecological strategies. Considering the substantial primary productivity of algae on global scales, these insights contribute to the understanding of bacteria-algae interactions and the remineralization of chemically diverse polysaccharide pools, a key step in marine carbon cycling.

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.

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