September 22, 2019  |  

Meeting report: 31st International Mammalian Genome Conference, Mammalian Genetics and Genomics: From Molecular Mechanisms to Translational Applications.

High on the Heidelberg hills, inside the Advanced Training Centre of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) campus with its unique double-helix staircase, scientists gathered for the EMBL conference “Mammalian Genetics and Genomics: From Molecular Mechanisms to Translational Applications,” organized in cooperation with the International Mammalian Genome Society (IMGS) and the Mouse Molecular Genetics (MMG) group. The conference attracted 205 participants from 30 countries, representing 6 of the 7 continents-all except Antarctica. It was a richly diverse group of geneticists, clinicians, and bioinformaticians, with presentations by established and junior investigators, including many trainees. From the 24th-27th of October 2017, they shared exciting advances in mammalian genetics and genomics research, from the introduction of cutting-edge technologies to descriptions of translational studies involving highly relevant models of human disease.


September 22, 2019  |  

PCR and omics based techniques to study the diversity, ecology and biology of anaerobic fungi: Insights, challenges andopportunities.

Anaerobic fungi (phylum Neocallimastigomycota) are common inhabitants of the digestive tract of mammalian herbivores, and in the rumen, can account for up to 20% of the microbial biomass. Anaerobic fungi play a primary role in the degradation of lignocellulosic plant material. They also have a syntrophic interaction with methanogenic archaea, which increases their fiber degradation activity. To date, nine anaerobic fungal genera have been described, with further novel taxonomic groupings known to exist based on culture-independent molecular surveys. However, the true extent of their diversity may be even more extensively underestimated as anaerobic fungi continue being discovered in yet unexplored gut and non-gut environments. Additionally many studies are now known to have used primers that provide incomplete coverage of the Neocallimastigomycota. For ecological studies the internal transcribed spacer 1 region (ITS1) has been the taxonomic marker of choice, but due to various limitations the large subunit rRNA (LSU) is now being increasingly used. How the continued expansion of our knowledge regarding anaerobic fungal diversity will impact on our understanding of their biology and ecological role remains unclear; particularly as it is becoming apparent that anaerobic fungi display niche differentiation. As a consequence, there is a need to move beyond the broad generalization of anaerobic fungi as fiber-degraders, and explore the fundamental differences that underpin their ability to exist in distinct ecological niches. Application of genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics to their study in pure/mixed cultures and environmental samples will be invaluable in this process. To date the genomes and transcriptomes of several characterized anaerobic fungal isolates have been successfully generated. In contrast, the application of proteomics and metabolomics to anaerobic fungal analysis is still in its infancy. A central problem for all analyses, however, is the limited functional annotation of anaerobic fungal sequence data. There is therefore an urgent need to expand information held within publicly available reference databases. Once this challenge is overcome, along with improved sample collection and extraction, the application of these techniques will be key in furthering our understanding of the ecological role and impact of anaerobic fungi in the wide range of environments they inhabit.


September 22, 2019  |  

Sequence of the sugar pine megagenome.

Until very recently, complete characterization of the megagenomes of conifers has remained elusive. The diploid genome of sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana Dougl.) has a highly repetitive, 31 billion bp genome. It is the largest genome sequenced and assembled to date, and the first from the subgenus Strobus, or white pines, a group that is notable for having the largest genomes among the pines. The genome represents a unique opportunity to investigate genome “obesity” in conifers and white pines. Comparative analysis of P. lambertiana and P. taeda L. reveals new insights on the conservation, age, and diversity of the highly abundant transposable elements, the primary factor determining genome size. Like most North American white pines, the principal pathogen of P. lambertiana is white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola J.C. Fischer ex Raben.). Identification of candidate genes for resistance to this pathogen is of great ecological importance. The genome sequence afforded us the opportunity to make substantial progress on locating the major dominant gene for simple resistance hypersensitive response, Cr1 We describe new markers and gene annotation that are both tightly linked to Cr1 in a mapping population, and associated with Cr1 in unrelated sugar pine individuals sampled throughout the species’ range, creating a solid foundation for future mapping. This genomic variation and annotated candidate genes characterized in our study of the Cr1 region are resources for future marker-assisted breeding efforts as well as for investigations of fundamental mechanisms of invasive disease and evolutionary response. Copyright © 2016 by the Genetics Society of America.


September 22, 2019  |  

Long-read sequencing and de novo assembly of a Chinese genome.

Short-read sequencing has enabled the de novo assembly of several individual human genomes, but with inherent limitations in characterizing repeat elements. Here we sequence a Chinese individual HX1 by single-molecule real-time (SMRT) long-read sequencing, construct a physical map by NanoChannel arrays and generate a de novo assembly of 2.93?Gb (contig N50: 8.3?Mb, scaffold N50: 22.0?Mb, including 39.3?Mb N-bases), together with 206?Mb of alternative haplotypes. The assembly fully or partially fills 274 (28.4%) N-gaps in the reference genome GRCh38. Comparison to GRCh38 reveals 12.8?Mb of HX1-specific sequences, including 4.1?Mb that are not present in previously reported Asian genomes. Furthermore, long-read sequencing of the transcriptome reveals novel spliced genes that are not annotated in GENCODE and are missed by short-read RNA-Seq. Our results imply that improved characterization of genome functional variation may require the use of a range of genomic technologies on diverse human populations.


September 22, 2019  |  

Retention of seed trees fails to lifeboat ectomycorrhizal fungal diversity in harvested Scots pine forests.

Fennoscandian forestry has in the past decades changed from natural regeneration of forests towards replantation of clear-cuts, which negatively impacts ectomycorrhizal fungal (EMF) diversity. Retention of trees during harvesting enables EMF survival, and we therefore expected EMF communities to be more similar to those in old natural stands after forest regeneration using seed trees compared to full clear-cutting and replanting. We sequenced fungal internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) amplicons to assess EMF communities in 10- to 60-year-old Scots pine stands regenerated either using seed trees or through replanting of clear-cuts with old natural stands as reference. We also investigated local EMF communities around retained old trees. We found that retention of seed trees failed to mitigate the impact of harvesting on EMF community composition and diversity. With increasing stand age, EMF communities became increasingly similar to those in old natural stands and permanently retained trees maintained EMF locally. From our observations, we conclude that EMF communities, at least common species, post-harvest are more influenced by environmental filtering, resulting from environmental changes induced by harvest, than by the continuity of trees. These results suggest that retention of intact forest patches is a more efficient way to conserve EMF diversity than retaining dispersed single trees.© FEMS 2017. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.


September 22, 2019  |  

Characterization of the dynamic transcriptome of a herpesvirus with long-read Single Molecule Real-Time Sequencing.

Herpesvirus gene expression is co-ordinately regulated and sequentially ordered during productive infection. The viral genes can be classified into three distinct kinetic groups: immediate-early, early, and late classes. In this study, a massively parallel sequencing technique that is based on PacBio Single Molecule Real-time sequencing platform, was used for quantifying the poly(A) fraction of the lytic transcriptome of pseudorabies virus (PRV) throughout a 12-hour interval of productive infection on PK-15 cells. Other approaches, including microarray, real-time RT-PCR and Illumina sequencing are capable of detecting only the aggregate transcriptional activity of particular genomic regions, but not individual herpesvirus transcripts. However, SMRT sequencing allows for a distinction between transcript isoforms, including length- and splice variants, as well as between overlapping polycistronic RNA molecules. The non-amplified Isoform Sequencing (Iso-Seq) method was used to analyse the kinetic properties of the lytic PRV transcripts and to then classify them accordingly. Additionally, the present study demonstrates the general utility of long-read sequencing for the time-course analysis of global gene expression in practically any organism.


September 22, 2019  |  

The small peptide world in long noncoding RNAs.

Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are a group of transcripts that are longer than 200 nucleotides (nt) without coding potential. Over the past decade, tens of thousands of novel lncRNAs have been annotated in animal and plant genomes because of advanced high-throughput RNA sequencing technologies and with the aid of coding transcript classifiers. Further, a considerable number of reports have revealed the existence of stable, functional small peptides (also known as micropeptides), translated from lncRNAs. In this review, we discuss the methods of lncRNA classification, the investigations regarding their coding potential and the functional significance of the peptides they encode.


September 22, 2019  |  

Novel full-length major histocompatibility complex class I allele discovery and haplotype definition in pig-tailed macaques.

Pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina, Mane) are important models for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) studies. Their infectability with minimally modified HIV makes them a uniquely valuable animal model to mimic human infection with HIV and progression to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). However, variation in the pig-tailed macaque major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and the impact of individual transcripts on the pathogenesis of HIV and other infectious diseases is understudied compared to that of rhesus and cynomolgus macaques. In this study, we used Pacific Biosciences single-molecule real-time circular consensus sequencing to describe full-length MHC class I (MHC-I) transcripts for 194 pig-tailed macaques from three breeding centers. We then used the full-length sequences to infer Mane-A and Mane-B haplotypes containing groups of MHC-I transcripts that co-segregate due to physical linkage. In total, we characterized full-length open reading frames (ORFs) for 313 Mane-A, Mane-B, and Mane-I sequences that defined 86 Mane-A and 106 Mane-B MHC-I haplotypes. Pacific Biosciences technology allows us to resolve these Mane-A and Mane-B haplotypes to the level of synonymous allelic variants. The newly defined haplotypes and transcript sequences containing full-length ORFs provide an important resource for infectious disease researchers as certain MHC haplotypes have been shown to provide exceptional control of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) replication and prevention of AIDS-like disease in nonhuman primates. The increased allelic resolution provided by Pacific Biosciences sequencing also benefits transplant research by allowing researchers to more specifically match haplotypes between donors and recipients to the level of nonsynonymous allelic variation, thus reducing the risk of graft-versus-host disease.


September 22, 2019  |  

The genomic and functional landscapes of developmental plasticity in the American cockroach.

Many cockroach species have adapted to urban environments, and some have been serious pests of public health in the tropics and subtropics. Here, we present the 3.38-Gb genome and a consensus gene set of the American cockroach, Periplaneta americana. We report insights from both genomic and functional investigations into the underlying basis of its adaptation to urban environments and developmental plasticity. In comparison with other insects, expansions of gene families in P. americana exist for most core gene families likely associated with environmental adaptation, such as chemoreception and detoxification. Multiple pathways regulating metamorphic development are well conserved, and RNAi experiments inform on key roles of 20-hydroxyecdysone, juvenile hormone, insulin, and decapentaplegic signals in regulating plasticity. Our analyses reveal a high level of sequence identity in genes between the American cockroach and two termite species, advancing it as a valuable model to study the evolutionary relationships between cockroaches and termites.


September 22, 2019  |  

Functional mitochondria in health and disease.

The ability to rapidly adapt cellular bioenergetic capabilities to meet rapidly changing environmental conditions is mandatory for normal cellular function and for cancer progression. Any loss of this adaptive response has the potential to compromise cellular function and render the cell more susceptible to external stressors such as oxidative stress, radiation, chemotherapeutic drugs, and hypoxia. Mitochondria play a vital role in bioenergetic and biosynthetic pathways and can rapidly adjust to meet the metabolic needs of the cell. Increased demand is met by mitochondrial biogenesis and fusion of individual mitochondria into dynamic networks, whereas a decrease in demand results in the removal of superfluous mitochondria through fission and mitophagy. Effective communication between nucleus and mitochondria (mito-nuclear cross talk), involving the generation of different mitochondrial stress signals as well as the nuclear stress response pathways to deal with these stressors, maintains bioenergetic homeostasis under most conditions. However, when mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations accumulate and mito-nuclear cross talk falters, mitochondria fail to deliver critical functional outputs. Mutations in mtDNA have been implicated in neuromuscular and neurodegenerative mitochondriopathies and complex diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, skin disorders, aging, and cancer. In some cases, drastic measures such as acquisition of new mitochondria from donor cells occurs to ensure cell survival. This review starts with a brief discussion of the evolutionary origin of mitochondria and summarizes how mutations in mtDNA lead to mitochondriopathies and other degenerative diseases. Mito-nuclear cross talk, including various stress signals generated by mitochondria and corresponding stress response pathways activated by the nucleus are summarized. We also introduce and discuss a small family of recently discovered hormone-like mitopeptides that modulate body metabolism. Under conditions of severe mitochondrial stress, mitochondria have been shown to traffic between cells, replacing mitochondria in cells with damaged and malfunctional mtDNA. Understanding the processes involved in cellular bioenergetics and metabolic adaptation has the potential to generate new knowledge that will lead to improved treatment of many of the metabolic, degenerative, and age-related inflammatory diseases that characterize modern societies.


September 22, 2019  |  

A human-specific switch of alternatively spliced AFMID isoforms contributes to TP53 mutations and tumor recurrence in hepatocellular carcinoma.

Pre-mRNA splicing can contribute to the switch of cell identity that occurs in carcinogenesis. Here, we analyze a large collection of RNA-seq data sets and report that splicing changes in hepatocyte-specific enzymes, such as AFMID and KHK, are associated with HCC patients’ survival and relapse. The switch of AFMID isoforms is an early event in HCC development and is associated with driver mutations in TP53 and ARID1A The switch of AFMID isoforms is human-specific and not detectable in other species, including primates. Finally, we show that overexpression of the full-length AFMID isoform leads to a higher NAD+ level, lower DNA-damage response, and slower cell growth in HepG2 cells. The integrative analysis uncovered a mechanistic link between splicing switches, de novo NAD+ biosynthesis, driver mutations, and HCC recurrence.© 2018 Lin et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.


September 22, 2019  |  

Avian genomics lends insights into endocrine function in birds.

The genomics era has brought along the completed sequencing of a large number of bird genomes that cover a broad range of the avian phylogenetic tree (>30 orders), leading to major novel insights into avian biology and evolution. Among recent findings, the discovery that birds lack a large number of protein coding genes that are organized in highly conserved syntenic clusters in other vertebrates is very intriguing, given the physiological importance of many of these genes. A considerable number of them play prominent endocrine roles, suggesting that birds evolved compensatory genetic or physiological mechanisms that allowed them to survive and thrive in spite of these losses. While further studies are needed to establish the exact extent of avian gene losses, these findings point to birds as potentially highly relevant model organisms for exploring the genetic basis and possible therapeutic approaches for a wide range of endocrine functions and disorders. Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

A new standard for crustacean genomes: The highly contiguous, annotated genome assembly of the clam shrimp Eulimnadia texana reveals HOX gene order and identifies the sex chromosome.

Vernal pool clam shrimp (Eulimnadia texana) are a promising model system due to their ease of lab culture, short generation time, modest sized genome, a somewhat rare stable androdioecious sex determination system, and a requirement to reproduce via desiccated diapaused eggs. We generated a highly contiguous genome assembly using 46× of PacBio long read data and 216× of Illumina short reads, and annotated using Illumina RNAseq obtained from adult males or hermaphrodites. Of the 120?Mb genome 85% is contained in the largest eight contigs, the smallest of which is 4.6?Mb. The assembly contains 98% of transcripts predicted via RNAseq. This assembly is qualitatively different from scaffolded Illumina assemblies: It is produced from long reads that contain sequence data along their entire length, and is thus gap free. The contiguity of the assembly allows us to order the HOX genes within the genome, identifying two loci that contain HOX gene orthologs, and which approximately maintain the order observed in other arthropods. We identified a partial duplication of the Antennapedia complex adjacent to the few genes homologous to the Bithorax locus. Because the sex chromosome of an androdioecious species is of special interest, we used existing allozyme and microsatellite markers to identify the E. texana sex chromosome, and find that it comprises nearly half of the genome of this species. Linkage patterns indicate that recombination is extremely rare and perhaps absent in hermaphrodites, and as a result the location of the sex determining locus will be difficult to refine using recombination mapping.© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.


September 22, 2019  |  

Vertebrate genome evolution in the light of fish cytogenomics and rDNAomics.

To understand the cytogenomic evolution of vertebrates, we must first unravel the complex genomes of fishes, which were the first vertebrates to evolve and were ancestors to all other vertebrates. We must not forget the immense time span during which the fish genomes had to evolve. Fish cytogenomics is endowed with unique features which offer irreplaceable insights into the evolution of the vertebrate genome. Due to the general DNA base compositional homogeneity of fish genomes, fish cytogenomics is largely based on mapping DNA repeats that still represent serious obstacles in genome sequencing and assembling, even in model species. Localization of repeats on chromosomes of hundreds of fish species and populations originating from diversified environments have revealed the biological importance of this genomic fraction. Ribosomal genes (rDNA) belong to the most informative repeats and in fish, they are subject to a more relaxed regulation than in higher vertebrates. This can result in formation of a literal ‘rDNAome’ consisting of more than 20,000 copies with their high proportion employed in extra-coding functions. Because rDNA has high rates of transcription and recombination, it contributes to genome diversification and can form reproductive barrier. Our overall knowledge of fish cytogenomics grows rapidly by a continuously increasing number of fish genomes sequenced and by use of novel sequencing methods improving genome assembly. The recently revealed exceptional compositional heterogeneity in an ancient fish lineage (gars) sheds new light on the compositional genome evolution in vertebrates generally. We highlight the power of synergy of cytogenetics and genomics in fish cytogenomics, its potential to understand the complexity of genome evolution in vertebrates, which is also linked to clinical applications and the chromosomal backgrounds of speciation. We also summarize the current knowledge on fish cytogenomics and outline its main future avenues.


September 22, 2019  |  

Comparative genomics and transcriptomics analysis-guided metabolic engineering of Propionibacterium acidipropionici for improved propionic acid production.

Acid stress induced by the accumulation of organic acids during the fermentation of propionibacteria is a severe limitation in the microbial production of propionic acid (PA). To enhance the acid resistance of strains, the tolerance mechanisms of cells must first be understood. In this study, comparative genomic and transcriptomic analyses were conducted on wild-type and acid-tolerant Propionibacterium acidipropionici to reveal the microbial response of cells to acid stress during fermentation. Combined with the results of previous proteomic and metabolomic studies, several potential acid-resistance mechanisms of P. acidipropionici were analyzed. Energy metabolism and transporter activity of cells were regulated to maintain pH homeostasis by balancing transmembrane transport of protons and ions; redundant protons were eliminated by enhancing the metabolism of certain amino acids for a relatively stable intracellular microenvironment; and protective mechanism of macromolecules were also induced to repair damage to proteins and DNA by acids. Transcriptomic data indicated that the synthesis of acetate and lactate were undesirable in the acid-resistant mutant, the expression of which was 2.21-fold downregulated. In addition, metabolomic data suggested that the accumulation of lactic acid and acetic acid reduced the carbon flow to PA and led to a decrease in pH. On this basis, we propose a metabolic engineering strategy to regulate the synthesis of lactic acid and acetic acid that will reduce by-products significantly and increase the PA yield by 12.2% to 10.31?±?0.84?g/g DCW. Results of this study provide valuable guidance to understand the response of bacteria to acid stress and to construct microbial cell factories to produce organic acids by combining systems biology technologies with synthetic biology tools.© 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


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