June 1, 2021  |  

Comparative genomics of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O145:H28 strains associated with the 2007 Belgium and 2010 US outbreaks.

Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) is an emerging pathogen. Recently there has been a global in the number of outbreaks caused by non-O157 STECs, typically involving six serogroups O26, O45, 0103, 0111, and 0145. STEC O145:H28 has been associated with severe human disease including hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), and is demonstrated by the 2007 Belgian ice-cream-associated outbreak and 2010 US lettuce-associated outbreak, with over 10% of patients developing HUS in each. The goal of this work was to do comparative genomics of strains, clinical and environmental, to investigate genome diversity and virulence evolution of this important foodborne pathogen.


June 1, 2021  |  

New discoveries from closing Salmonella genomes using Pacific Biosciences continuous long reads.

The newer hierarchical genome assembly process (HGAP) performs de novo assembly using data from a single PacBio long insert library. To assess the benefits of this method, DNA from several Salmonella enterica serovars was isolated from a pure culture. Genome sequencing was performed using Pacific Biosciences RS sequencing technology. The HGAP process enabled us to close sixteen Salmonella subsp. enterica genomes and their associated mobile elements: The ten serotypes include: Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Enteritidis (S. Enteritidis) S. Bareilly, S. Heidelberg, S. Cubana, S. Javiana and S. Typhimurium, S. Newport, S. Montevideo, S. Agona, and S. Tennessee. In addition, we were able to detect novel methyltransferases (MTases) by using the Pacific Biosciences kinetic score distributions showing that each serovar appears to have a novel methylation pattern. For example while all Salmonella serovars examined so far have methylase specific activity for 5’-GATC-3’/3’-CTAG-5’ and 5’-CAGAG-3’/3’-GTCTC-5’ (underlined base indicates a modification), S. Heidelberg is uniquely specific for 5’-ACCANCC-3’/3’-TGGTNGG-5’, while S. Typhimurium has uniquely methylase specific for 5′-GATCAG-3’/3′- CTAGTC-5′ sites, for the samples examined so far. We believe that this may be due to the unique environments and phages that these serotypes have been exposed to. Furthermore, our analysis identified and closed a variety of plasmids such as mobilization plasmids, antimicrobial resistance plasmids and IncX plasmids carrying a Type IV secretion system (T4SS). The VirB/D4 T4SS apparatus is important in that it assists with rapid dissemination of antibiotic resistance and virulence determinants. Presently, only limited information exists regarding the genotypic characterization of drug resistance in S. Heidelberg isolates derived from various host species. Here, we characterize two S. Heidelberg outbreak isolates from two different outbreaks. Both isolates contain the IncX plasmid of approximately 35 kb, and carried the genes virB1, virB2, virB3/4, virB5, virB6, virB7, virB8, virB9, virB10, virB11, virD2, and virD4, that are associated with the T4SS. In addition, the outbreak isolate associated with ground turkey carries a 4,473 bp mobilization plasmid and an incompatibility group (Inc) I1 antimicrobial resistance plasmid encoding resistance to gentamicin (aacC2), beta-lactam (bl2b_tem), streptomycin (aadAI) and tetracycline (tetA, tetR) while the outbreak isolate associated with chicken breast carries the IncI1 plasmid encoding resistance to gentamicin (aacC2), streptomycin (aadAI) and sulfisoxazole (sul1). Using this new technology we explored the genetic elements present in resistant pathogens which will achieve a better understanding of the evolution of Salmonella.


June 1, 2021  |  

An interactive workflow for the analysis of contigs from the metagenomic shotgun assembly of SMRT Sequencing data.

The data throughput of next-generation sequencing allows whole microbial communities to be analyzed using a shotgun sequencing approach. Because a key task in taking advantage of these data is the ability to cluster reads that belong to the same member in a community, single-molecule long reads of up to 30 kb from SMRT Sequencing provide a unique capability in identifying those relationships and pave the way towards finished assemblies of community members. Long reads become even more valuable as samples get more complex with lower intra-species variation, a larger number of closely related species, or high intra-species variation. Here we present a collection of tools tailored for PacBio data for the analysis of these fragmented metagenomic assembles, allowing improvements in the assembly results, and greater insight into the communities themselves. Supervised classification is applied to a large set of sequence characteristics, e.g., GC content, raw-read coverage, k-mer frequency, and gene prediction information, allowing the clustering of contigs from single or highly related species. A unique feature of SMRT Sequencing data is the availability of base modification / methylation information, which can be used to further analyze clustered contigs expected to be comprised of single or very closely related species. Here we show base modification information can be used to further study variation, based on differences in the methylated DNA motifs involved in the restriction modification system. Application of these techniques is demonstrated on a monkey intestinal microbiome sample and an in silico mix of real sequencing data from distinct bacterial samples.


June 1, 2021  |  

A workflow for the analysis of contigs from the metagenomic shotgun assembly of SMRT Sequencing data

The throughput of SMRT Sequencing and long reads allows microbial communities to be analyzed using a shotgun sequencing approach. Key to leveraging this data is the ability to cluster sequences belonging to the same member of a community. Long reads of up to 40 kb provide a unique capability in identifying those relationships, and pave the way towards finished assemblies of community members. Long reads are highly valuable when samples are more complex and containing lower intra-species variation, such as a larger number of closely related species, or high intra-species variation. Here, we present a collection of tools tailored for the analysis of PacBio metagenomic assemblies. These tools allow for improvements in the assembly results, and greater insight into the complexity of the study communities. Supervised classification is applied to a large set of sequence characteristics (e.g. GC content, raw read coverage, k-mer frequency, and gene prediction information) and to cluster contigs from single or highly related species. Assembly in isolation of the raw data associated with these contigs is shown to improve assembly statistics. A unique feature of SMRT Sequencing is the availability to leverage simultaneously collected base modification / methylation data to aid the clustering of contigs expected to comprise a single or very closely related species. We demonstrate the added value of base modification information to distinguish and study variation within metagenomic samples based on differences in the methylated DNA motifs involved in the restriction modification system. Application of these techniques is demonstrated on a mock community and monkey intestinal microbiome sample.


April 21, 2020  |  

Rational development of transformation in Clostridium thermocellum ATCC 27405 via complete methylome analysis and evasion of native restriction-modification systems.

A major barrier to both metabolic engineering and fundamental biological studies is the lack of genetic tools in most microorganisms. One example is Clostridium thermocellum ATCC 27405T, where genetic tools are not available to help validate decades of hypotheses. A significant barrier to DNA transformation is restriction-modification systems, which defend against foreign DNA methylated differently than the host. To determine the active restriction-modification systems in this strain, we performed complete methylome analysis via single-molecule, real-time sequencing to detect 6-methyladenine and 4-methylcytosine and the rarely used whole-genome bisulfite sequencing to detect 5-methylcytosine. Multiple active systems were identified, and corresponding DNA methyltransferases were expressed from the Escherichia coli chromosome to mimic the C. thermocellum methylome. Plasmid methylation was experimentally validated and successfully electroporated into C. thermocellum ATCC 27405. This combined approach enabled genetic modification of the C. thermocellum-type strain and acts as a blueprint for transformation of other non-model microorganisms.


April 21, 2020  |  

Functional genomics reveals extensive diversity in Staphylococcus epidermidis restriction modification systems compared to Staphylococcus aureus

Staphylococcus epidermidis is a significant opportunistic pathogen of humans. Molecular studies in this species have been hampered by the presence of restriction-modification (RM) systems that limit introduction of foreign DNA. Here we establish the complete genomes and methylomes for seven clinically significant, genetically diverse S. epidermidis isolates and perform the first systematic genomic analyses of the type I RM systems within both S. epidermidis and Staphylococcus aureus. Our analyses revealed marked differences in the gene arrangement, chromosomal location and movement of type I RM systems between the two species. Unlike S. aureus, S. epidermidis type I RM systems demonstrate extensive diversity even within a single genetic lineage. This is contrary to current assumptions and has important implications for approaching the genetic manipulation of S. epidermidis. Using Escherichia coli plasmid artificial modification (PAM) to express S. epidermidis hsdMS, we readily overcame restriction barriers in S. epidermidis, and achieved transformation efficiencies equivalent to those of modification deficient mutants. With these functional experiments we demonstrate how genomic data can be used to predict both the functionality of type I RM systems and the potential for a strain to be transformation proficient. We outline an efficient approach for the genetic manipulation of S. epidermidis from diverse genetic backgrounds, including those that have hitherto been intractable. Additionally, we identified S. epidermidis BPH0736, a naturally restriction defective, clinically significant, multidrug-resistant ST2 isolate as an ideal candidate for molecular studies.


April 21, 2020  |  

Complete genome screening of clinical MRSA isolates identifies lineage diversity and provides full resolution of transmission and outbreak events

Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) of Staphylococcus aureus is increasingly used as part of infection prevention practices, but most applications are focused on conserved core genomic regions due to limitations of short-read technologies. In this study we established a long-read technology-based WGS screening program of all first-episode MRSA blood infections at a major urban hospital. A survey of 132 MRSA genomes assembled from long reads revealed widespread gain/loss of accessory mobile genetic elements among established hospital- and community-associated lineages impacting >10% of each genome, and frequent megabase-scale inversions between endogenous prophages. We also characterized an outbreak of a CC5/ST105/USA100 clone among 3 adults and 18 infants in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) lasting 7 months. The pattern of changes among complete outbreak genomes provided full spatiotemporal resolution of its origins and progression, which was characterized by multiple sub-transmissions and likely precipitated by equipment sharing. Compared to other hospital strains, the outbreak strain carried distinct mutations and accessory genetic elements that impacted genes with roles in metabolism, resistance and persistence. This included a DNA-recognition domain recombination in the hsdS gene of a Type-I restriction-modification system that altered DNA methylation. RNA-Seq profiling showed that the (epi)genetic changes in the outbreak clone attenuated agr gene expression and upregulated genes involved in stress response and biofilm formation. Overall our findings demonstrate that long-read sequencing substantially improves our ability to characterize accessory genomic elements that impact MRSA virulence and persistence, and provides valuable information for infection control efforts.


April 21, 2020  |  

Complete genome sequence of Helicobacter pylori B128 7.13 and a single-step method for the generation of unmarked mutations.

Helicobacter pylori represents an interesting model of bacterial pathogenesis given that most infections are asymptomatic, while a minority of infections cause severe gastric disease. H pylori strain B128 7.13 is used extensively to understand H pylori pathophysiology. Due to extensive restriction-modification systems, the fact that only some H pylori strains are naturally transformable, the inability of common plasmid and transposon vectors to replicate in this bacterium, as well as the limited number of antibiotic cassettes that are functional in H pylori, there are relatively few genetic tools for the mutagenesis of this bacterium.Here, we use PacBio and Illumina sequencing to reveal the complete genome sequence of H pylori B128 7.13. Furthermore, we describe a system to generate markerless and scarless mutations on the H pylori chromosome using the counter-selection marker, galactokinase from Escherichia coli.We show that this mutagenesis strategy can be used to generate in-frame insertions, gene deletions, and multiple independent mutations in B128 7.13. Using the closed genome as a reference, we also report the absence of second site chromosomal mutations and/or rearrangements in our mutagenized strains. We compare the genome sequence of H pylori B128 7.13 with a closely related strain, H pylori B8, and reveal one notable region of difference, which is a 1430 bp insertion encoding a H pylori-specific DUF874 family protein of unknown function.This article reports the closed genome of the important H pylori B128 7.13 strain and a mutagenesis method that can be adopted by researchers as an alternative strategy to generate isogenic mutants of H pylori in order to further our understanding of this bacterium. © 2019. The Authors. Helicobacter Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


April 21, 2020  |  

DNA methylation from a Type I restriction modification system influences gene expression and virulence in Streptococcus pyogenes.

DNA methylation is pervasive across all domains of life. In bacteria, the presence of N6-methyladenosine (m6A) has been detected among diverse species, yet the contribution of m6A to the regulation of gene expression is unclear in many organisms. Here we investigated the impact of DNA methylation on gene expression and virulence within the human pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes, or Group A Streptococcus. Single Molecule Real-Time sequencing and subsequent methylation analysis identified 412 putative m6A sites throughout the 1.8 Mb genome. Deletion of the Restriction, Specificity, and Methylation gene subunits (?RSM strain) of a putative Type I restriction modification system lost all detectable m6A at the recognition sites and failed to prevent transformation with foreign-methylated DNA. RNA-sequencing identified 20 genes out of 1,895 predicted coding regions with significantly different gene expression. All of the differentially expressed genes were down regulated in the ?RSM strain relative to the parent strain. Importantly, we found that the presence of m6A DNA modifications affected expression of Mga, a master transcriptional regulator for multiple virulence genes, surface adhesins, and immune-evasion factors in S. pyogenes. Using a murine subcutaneous infection model, mice infected with the ?RSM strain exhibited an enhanced host immune response with larger skin lesions and increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines compared to mice infected with the parent or complemented mutant strains, suggesting alterations in m6A methylation influence virulence. Further, we found that the ?RSM strain showed poor survival within human neutrophils and reduced adherence to human epithelial cells. These results demonstrate that, in addition to restriction of foreign DNA, gram-positive bacteria also use restriction modification systems to regulate the expression of gene networks important for virulence.


April 21, 2020  |  

BREX system of Escherichia coli distinguishes self from non-self by methylation of a specific DNA site.

Prokaryotes evolved numerous systems that defend against predation by bacteriophages. In addition to well-known restriction-modification and CRISPR-Cas immunity systems, many poorly characterized systems exist. One class of such systems, named BREX, consists of a putative phosphatase, a methyltransferase and four other proteins. A Bacillus cereus BREX system provides resistance to several unrelated phages and leads to modification of specific motif in host DNA. Here, we study the action of BREX system from a natural Escherichia coli isolate. We show that while it makes cells resistant to phage ? infection, induction of ? prophage from cells carrying BREX leads to production of viruses that overcome the defense. The induced phage DNA contains a methylated adenine residue in a specific motif. The same modification is found in the genome of BREX-carrying cells. The results establish, for the first time, that immunity to BREX system defense is provided by an epigenetic modification.


April 21, 2020  |  

Deciphering bacterial epigenomes using modern sequencing technologies.

Prokaryotic DNA contains three types of methylation: N6-methyladenine, N4-methylcytosine and 5-methylcytosine. The lack of tools to analyse the frequency and distribution of methylated residues in bacterial genomes has prevented a full understanding of their functions. Now, advances in DNA sequencing technology, including single-molecule, real-time sequencing and nanopore-based sequencing, have provided new opportunities for systematic detection of all three forms of methylated DNA at a genome-wide scale and offer unprecedented opportunities for achieving a more complete understanding of bacterial epigenomes. Indeed, as the number of mapped bacterial methylomes approaches 2,000, increasing evidence supports roles for methylation in regulation of gene expression, virulence and pathogen-host interactions.


April 21, 2020  |  

Systematic evasion of the restriction-modification barrier in bacteria.

Bacteria that are recalcitrant to genetic manipulation using modern in vitro techniques are termed genetically intractable. Genetic intractability is a fundamental barrier to progress that hinders basic, synthetic, and translational microbiology research and development beyond a few model organisms. The most common underlying causes of genetic intractability are restriction-modification (RM) systems, ubiquitous defense mechanisms against xenogeneic DNA that hinder the use of genetic approaches in the vast majority of bacteria and exhibit strain-level variation. Here, we describe a systematic approach to overcome RM systems. Our approach was inspired by a simple hypothesis: if a synthetic piece of DNA lacks the highly specific target recognition motifs for a host’s RM systems, then it is invisible to these systems and will not be degraded during artificial transformation. Accordingly, in this process, we determine the genome and methylome of an individual bacterial strain and use this information to define the bacterium’s RM target motifs. We then synonymously eliminate RM targets from the nucleotide sequence of a genetic tool in silico, synthesize an RM-silent “SyngenicDNA” tool, and propagate the tool as minicircle plasmids, termed SyMPL (SyngenicDNA Minicircle Plasmid) tools, before transformation. In a proof-of-principle of our approach, we demonstrate a profound improvement (five orders of magnitude) in the transformation of a clinically relevant USA300 strain of Staphylococcus aureus This stealth-by-engineering SyngenicDNA approach is effective, flexible, and we expect in future applications could enable microbial genetics free of the restraints of restriction-modification barriers.Copyright © 2019 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.


April 21, 2020  |  

SMRT sequencing reveals differential patterns of methylation in two O111:H- STEC isolates from a hemolytic uremic syndrome outbreak in Australia.

In 1995 a severe haemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) outbreak in Adelaide occurred. A recent genomic analysis of Shiga toxigenic Escherichia coli (STEC) O111:H- strains 95JB1 and 95NR1 from this outbreak found that the more virulent isolate, 95NR1, harboured two additional copies of the Shiga toxin 2 (Stx2) genes encoded within prophage regions. The structure of the Stx2-converting prophages could not be fully resolved using short-read sequence data alone and it was not clear if there were other genomic differences between 95JB1 and 95NR1. In this study we have used Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) single molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing to characterise the genome and methylome of 95JB1 and 95NR1. We completely resolved the structure of all prophages including two, tandemly inserted, Stx2-converting prophages in 95NR1 that were absent from 95JB1. Furthermore we defined all insertion sequences and found an additional IS1203 element in the chromosome of 95JB1. Our analysis of the methylome of 95NR1 and 95JB1 identified hemi-methylation of a novel motif (5′-CTGCm6AG-3′) in more than 4000 sites in the 95NR1 genome. These sites were entirely unmethylated in the 95JB1 genome, and included at least 177 potential promoter regions that could contribute to regulatory differences between the strains. IS1203 mediated deactivation of a novel type IIG methyltransferase in 95JB1 is the likely cause of the observed differential patterns of methylation between 95NR1 and 95JB1. This study demonstrates the capability of PacBio SMRT sequencing to resolve complex prophage regions and reveal the genetic and epigenetic heterogeneity within a clonal population of bacteria.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genome-wide systematic identification of methyltransferase recognition and modification patterns.

Genome-wide analysis of DNA methylation patterns using single molecule real-time DNA sequencing has boosted the number of publicly available methylomes. However, there is a lack of tools coupling methylation patterns and the corresponding methyltransferase genes. Here we demonstrate a high-throughput method for coupling methyltransferases with their respective motifs, using automated cloning and analysing the methyltransferases in vectors carrying a strain-specific cassette containing all potential target sites. To validate the method, we analyse the genomes of the thermophile Moorella thermoacetica and the mesophile Acetobacterium woodii, two acetogenic bacteria having substantially modified genomes with 12 methylation motifs and a total of 23 methyltransferase genes. Using our method, we characterize the 23 methyltransferases, assign motifs to the respective enzymes and verify activity for 11 of the 12 motifs.


April 21, 2020  |  

Single-molecule sequencing detection of N6-methyladenine in microbial reference materials.

The DNA base modification N6-methyladenine (m6A) is involved in many pathways related to the survival of bacteria and their interactions with hosts. Nanopore sequencing offers a new, portable method to detect base modifications. Here, we show that a neural network can improve m6A detection at trained sequence contexts compared to previously published methods using deviations between measured and expected current values as each adenine travels through a pore. The model, implemented as the mCaller software package, can be extended to detect known or confirm suspected methyltransferase target motifs based on predictions of methylation at untrained contexts. We use PacBio, Oxford Nanopore, methylated DNA immunoprecipitation sequencing (MeDIP-seq), and whole-genome bisulfite sequencing data to generate and orthogonally validate methylomes for eight microbial reference species. These well-characterized microbial references can serve as controls in the development and evaluation of future methods for the identification of base modifications from single-molecule sequencing data.


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