October 23, 2019  |  

Creating and evaluating accurate CRISPR-Cas9 scalpels for genomic surgery.

The simplicity of site-specific genome targeting by type II clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-Cas9 nucleases, along with their robust activity profile, has changed the landscape of genome editing. These favorable properties have made the CRISPR-Cas9 system the technology of choice for sequence-specific modifications in vertebrate systems. For many applications, whether the focus is on basic science investigations or therapeutic efficacy, activity and precision are important considerations when one is choosing a nuclease platform, target site and delivery method. Here we review recent methods for increasing the activity and accuracy of Cas9 and assessing the extent of off-target cleavage events.


September 22, 2019  |  

Transcriptional adaptations during long-term persistence of Staphylococcus aureus in the airways of a cystic fibrosis patient.

The lungs of Cystic fibrosis (CF) patients are often colonized and/or infected by Staphylococcus aureus for years, mostly by one predominant clone. For long-term survival in this environment, S. aureus needs to adapt during its interactions with host factors, antibiotics, and other pathogens. Here, we study long-term transcriptional as well as genomic adaptations of an isogenic pair of S. aureus isolates from a single patient using RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) and whole genome sequencing (WGS). Mimicking in vivo conditions, we cultivated the S. aureus isolates using artificial sputum medium before harvesting RNA for subsequent analysis. We confirmed our RNA-Seq data using quantitative real-time (qRT)-PCR and additionally investigated intermediate isolates from the same patient representing in total 13.2 years of persistence in the CF airways. Comparative RNA-Seq analysis of the first and the last (“late”) isolate revealed significant differences in the late isolate after 13.2 years of persistence. Of the 2545 genes expressed in both isolates that were cultivated aerobically, 256 genes were up- and 161 were down-regulated with a minimum 2-fold change (2f). Focusing on 25 highly (=8f) up- (n=9) or down- (n=16) regulated genes, we identified several genes encoding for virulence factors involved in immune evasion, bacterial spread or secretion (e.g. spa, sak, and esxA). Moreover, these genes displayed similar expression trends under aerobic, microaerophilic and anaerobic conditions. Further qRT-PCR-experiments of highly up- or down-regulated genes within intermediate S. aureus isolates resulted in different gene expression patterns over the years. Using sequencing analysis of the differently expressed genes and their upstream regions in the late S. aureus isolate resulted in only few genomic alterations. Comparative transcriptomic analysis revealed adaptive changes affecting mainly genes involved in host-pathogen interaction. Although the underlying mechanisms were not known, our results suggest adaptive processes beyond genomic mutations triggered by local factors rather than by activation of global regulators. Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier GmbH.. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

A novel lactobacilli-based teat disinfectant for improving bacterial communities in the milks of cow teats with subclinical mastitis.

Teat disinfection pre- and post-milking is important for the overall health and hygiene of dairy cows. The objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of a novel probiotic lactobacilli-based teat disinfectant based on changes in somatic cell count (SCC) and profiling of the bacterial community. A total of 69 raw milk samples were obtained from eleven Holstein-Friesian dairy cows over 12 days of teat dipping in China. Single molecule, real-time sequencing technology (SMRT) was employed to profile changes in the bacterial community during the cleaning protocol and to compare the efficacy of probiotic lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and commercial teat disinfectants. The SCC gradually decreased following the cleaning protocol and the SCC of the LAB group was slightly lower than that of the commercial disinfectant (CD) group. Our SMRT sequencing results indicate that raw milk from both the LAB and CD groups contained diverse microbial populations that changed over the course of the cleaning protocol. The relative abundances of some species were significantly changed during the cleaning process, which may explain the observed bacterial community differences. Collectively, these results suggest that the LAB disinfectant could reduce mastitis-associated bacteria and improve the microbial environment of the cow teat. It could be used as an alternative to chemical pre- and post-milking teat disinfectants to maintain healthy teats and udders. In addition, the Pacific Biosciences SMRT sequencing with the full-length 16S ribosomal RNA gene was shown to be a powerful tool for monitoring changes in the bacterial population during the cleaning protocol.


September 22, 2019  |  

Rapid infectious disease identification by next-generation DNA sequencing.

Currently, there is a critical need to rapidly identify infectious organisms in clinical samples. Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) could surmount the deficiencies of culture-based methods; however, there are no standardized, automated programs to process NGS data. To address this deficiency, we developed the Rapid Infectious Disease Identification (RIDI™) system. The system requires minimal guidance, which reduces operator errors. The system is compatible with the three major NGS platforms. It automatically interfaces with the sequencing system, detects their data format, configures the analysis type, applies appropriate quality control, and analyzes the results. Sequence information is characterized using both the NCBI database and RIDI™ specific databases. RIDI™ was designed to identify high probability sequence matches and more divergent matches that could represent different or novel species. We challenged the system using defined American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) reference standards of 27 species, both individually and in varying combinations. The system was able to rapidly detect known organisms in <12h with multi-sample throughput. The system accurately identifies 99.5% of the DNA sequence reads at the genus-level and 75.3% at the species-level in reference standards. It has a limit of detection of 146cells/ml in simulated clinical samples, and is also able to identify the components of polymicrobial samples with 16.9% discrepancy at the genus-level and 31.2% at the species-level. Thus, the system's effectiveness may exceed current methods, especially in situations where culture methods could produce false negatives or where rapid results would influence patient outcomes. Copyright © 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

Advantages of genome sequencing by long-read sequencer using SMRT technology in medical area.

PacBio RS II is the first commercialized third-generation DNA sequencer able to sequence a single molecule DNA in real-time without amplification. PacBio RS II’s sequencing technology is novel and unique, enabling the direct observation of DNA synthesis by DNA polymerase. PacBio RS II confers four major advantages compared to other sequencing technologies: long read lengths, high consensus accuracy, a low degree of bias, and simultaneous capability of epigenetic characterization. These advantages surmount the obstacle of sequencing genomic regions such as high/low G+C, tandem repeat, and interspersed repeat regions. Moreover, PacBio RS II is ideal for whole genome sequencing, targeted sequencing, complex population analysis, RNA sequencing, and epigenetics characterization. With PacBio RS II, we have sequenced and analyzed the genomes of many species, from viruses to humans. Herein, we summarize and review some of our key genome sequencing projects, including full-length viral sequencing, complete bacterial genome and almost-complete plant genome assemblies, and long amplicon sequencing of a disease-associated gene region. We believe that PacBio RS II is not only an effective tool for use in the basic biological sciences but also in the medical/clinical setting.


September 22, 2019  |  

Clinical PathoScope: rapid alignment and filtration for accurate pathogen identification in clinical samples using unassembled sequencing data.

The use of sequencing technologies to investigate the microbiome of a sample can positively impact patient healthcare by providing therapeutic targets for personalized disease treatment. However, these samples contain genomic sequences from various sources that complicate the identification of pathogens.Here we present Clinical PathoScope, a pipeline to rapidly and accurately remove host contamination, isolate microbial reads, and identify potential disease-causing pathogens. We have accomplished three essential tasks in the development of Clinical PathoScope. First, we developed an optimized framework for pathogen identification using a computational subtraction methodology in concordance with read trimming and ambiguous read reassignment. Second, we have demonstrated the ability of our approach to identify multiple pathogens in a single clinical sample, accurately identify pathogens at the subspecies level, and determine the nearest phylogenetic neighbor of novel or highly mutated pathogens using real clinical sequencing data. Finally, we have shown that Clinical PathoScope outperforms previously published pathogen identification methods with regard to computational speed, sensitivity, and specificity.Clinical PathoScope is the only pathogen identification method currently available that can identify multiple pathogens from mixed samples and distinguish between very closely related species and strains in samples with very few reads per pathogen. Furthermore, Clinical PathoScope does not rely on genome assembly and thus can more rapidly complete the analysis of a clinical sample when compared with current assembly-based methods. Clinical PathoScope is freely available at: http://sourceforge.net/projects/pathoscope/.


September 22, 2019  |  

Species-level bacterial community profiling of the healthy sinonasal microbiome using Pacific Biosciences sequencing of full-length 16S rRNA genes.

Pan-bacterial 16S rRNA microbiome surveys performed with massively parallel DNA sequencing technologies have transformed community microbiological studies. Current 16S profiling methods, however, fail to provide sufficient taxonomic resolution and accuracy to adequately perform species-level associative studies for specific conditions. This is due to the amplification and sequencing of only short 16S rRNA gene regions, typically providing for only family- or genus-level taxonomy. Moreover, sequencing errors often inflate the number of taxa present. Pacific Biosciences’ (PacBio’s) long-read technology in particular suffers from high error rates per base. Herein, we present a microbiome analysis pipeline that takes advantage of PacBio circular consensus sequencing (CCS) technology to sequence and error correct full-length bacterial 16S rRNA genes, which provides high-fidelity species-level microbiome data.Analysis of a mock community with 20 bacterial species demonstrated 100% specificity and sensitivity with regard to taxonomic classification. Examination of a 250-plus species mock community demonstrated correct species-level classification of >?90% of taxa, and relative abundances were accurately captured. The majority of the remaining taxa were demonstrated to be multiply, incorrectly, or incompletely classified. Using this methodology, we examined the microgeographic variation present among the microbiomes of six sinonasal sites, by both swab and biopsy, from the anterior nasal cavity to the sphenoid sinus from 12 subjects undergoing trans-sphenoidal hypophysectomy. We found greater variation among subjects than among sites within a subject, although significant within-individual differences were also observed. Propiniobacterium acnes (recently renamed Cutibacterium acnes) was the predominant species throughout, but was found at distinct relative abundances by site.Our microbial composition analysis pipeline for single-molecule real-time 16S rRNA gene sequencing (MCSMRT, https://github.com/jpearl01/mcsmrt ) overcomes deficits of standard marker gene-based microbiome analyses by using CCS of entire 16S rRNA genes to provide increased taxonomic and phylogenetic resolution. Extensions of this approach to other marker genes could help refine taxonomic assignments of microbial species and improve reference databases, as well as strengthen the specificity of associations between microbial communities and dysbiotic states.


September 22, 2019  |  

Antagonism between Staphylococcus epidermidis and Propionibacterium acnes and its genomic basis.

Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus epidermidis live in close proximity on human skin, and both bacterial species can be isolated from normal and acne vulgaris-affected skin sites. The antagonistic interactions between the two species are poorly understood, as well as the potential significance of bacterial interferences for the skin microbiota. Here, we performed simultaneous antagonism assays to detect inhibitory activities between multiple isolates of the two species. Selected strains were sequenced to identify the genomic basis of their antimicrobial phenotypes.First, we screened 77 P. acnes strains isolated from healthy and acne-affected skin, and representing all known phylogenetic clades (I, II, and III), for their antimicrobial activities against 12?S. epidermidis isolates. One particular phylogroup (I-2) exhibited a higher antimicrobial activity than other P. acnes phylogroups. All genomes of type I-2 strains carry an island encoding the biosynthesis of a thiopeptide with possible antimicrobial activity against S. epidermidis. Second, 20?S. epidermidis isolates were examined for inhibitory activity against 25 P. acnes strains. The majority of S. epidermidis strains were able to inhibit P. acnes. Genomes of S. epidermidis strains with strong, medium and no inhibitory activities against P. acnes were sequenced. Genome comparison underlined the diversity of S. epidermidis and detected multiple clade- or strain-specific mobile genetic elements encoding a variety of functions important in antibiotic and stress resistance, biofilm formation and interbacterial competition, including bacteriocins such as epidermin. One isolate with an extraordinary antimicrobial activity against P. acnes harbors a functional ESAT-6 secretion system that might be involved in the antimicrobial activity against P. acnes via the secretion of polymorphic toxins.Taken together, our study suggests that interspecies interactions could potentially jeopardize balances in the skin microbiota. In particular, S. epidermidis strains possess an arsenal of different mechanisms to inhibit P. acnes. However, if such interactions are relevant in skin disorders such as acne vulgaris remains questionable, since no difference in the antimicrobial activity against, or the sensitivity towards S. epidermidis could be detected between health- and acne-associated strains of P. acnes.


September 22, 2019  |  

Gut microbiota, nitric oxide, and microglia as prerequisites for neurodegenerative disorders.

Regulating fluctuating endogenous nitric oxide (NO) levels is necessary for proper physiological functions. Aberrant NO pathways are implicated in a number of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease. The mechanism of NO in oxidative and nitrosative stress with pathological consequences involves reactions with reactive oxygen species (e.g., superoxide) to form the highly reactive peroxynitrite, hydrogen peroxide, hypochloride ions and hydroxyl radical. NO levels are typically regulated by endogenous nitric oxide synthases (NOS), and inflammatory iNOS is implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases, in which elevated NO mediates axonal degeneration and activates cyclooxygenases to provoke neuroinflammation. NO also instigates a down-regulated secretion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is essential for neuronal survival, development and differentiation, synaptogenesis, and learning and memory. The gut-brain axis denotes communication between the enteric nervous system (ENS) of the GI tract and the central nervous system (CNS) of the brain, and the modes of communication include the vagus nerve, passive diffusion and carrier by oxyhemoglobin. Amyloid precursor protein that forms amyloid beta plaques in AD is normally expressed in the ENS by gut bacteria, but when amyloid beta accumulates, it compromises CNS functions. Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica are among the many bacterial strains that express and secrete amyloid proteins and contribute to AD pathogenesis. Gut microbiota is essential for regulating microglia maturation and activation, and activated microglia secrete significant amounts of iNOS. Pharmacological interventions and lifestyle modifications to rectify aberrant NO signaling in AD include NOS inhibitors, NMDA receptor antagonists, potassium channel modulators, probiotics, diet, and exercise.


September 22, 2019  |  

ALE: a generic assembly likelihood evaluation framework for assessing the accuracy of genome and metagenome assemblies.

Researchers need general purpose methods for objectively evaluating the accuracy of single and metagenome assemblies and for automatically detecting any errors they may contain. Current methods do not fully meet this need because they require a reference, only consider one of the many aspects of assembly quality or lack statistical justification, and none are designed to evaluate metagenome assemblies.In this article, we present an Assembly Likelihood Evaluation (ALE) framework that overcomes these limitations, systematically evaluating the accuracy of an assembly in a reference-independent manner using rigorous statistical methods. This framework is comprehensive, and integrates read quality, mate pair orientation and insert length (for paired-end reads), sequencing coverage, read alignment and k-mer frequency. ALE pinpoints synthetic errors in both single and metagenomic assemblies, including single-base errors, insertions/deletions, genome rearrangements and chimeric assemblies presented in metagenomes. At the genome level with real-world data, ALE identifies three large misassemblies from the Spirochaeta smaragdinae finished genome, which were all independently validated by Pacific Biosciences sequencing. At the single-base level with Illumina data, ALE recovers 215 of 222 (97%) single nucleotide variants in a training set from a GC-rich Rhodobacter sphaeroides genome. Using real Pacific Biosciences data, ALE identifies 12 of 12 synthetic errors in a Lambda Phage genome, surpassing even Pacific Biosciences’ own variant caller, EviCons. In summary, the ALE framework provides a comprehensive, reference-independent and statistically rigorous measure of single genome and metagenome assembly accuracy, which can be used to identify misassemblies or to optimize the assembly process.ALE is released as open source software under the UoI/NCSA license at http://www.alescore.org. It is implemented in C and Python.


September 22, 2019  |  

Metataxonomic and metagenomic approaches vs. culture-based techniques for clinical pathology.

Diagnoses that are both timely and accurate are critically important for patients with life-threatening or drug resistant infections. Technological improvements in High-Throughput Sequencing (HTS) have led to its use in pathogen detection and its application in clinical diagnoses of infectious diseases. The present study compares two HTS methods, 16S rRNA marker gene sequencing (metataxonomics) and whole metagenomic shotgun sequencing (metagenomics), in their respective abilities to match the same diagnosis as traditional culture methods (culture inference) for patients with ventilator associated pneumonia (VAP). The metagenomic analysis was able to produce the same diagnosis as culture methods at the species-level for five of the six samples, while the metataxonomic analysis was only able to produce results with the same species-level identification as culture for two of the six samples. These results indicate that metagenomic analyses have the accuracy needed for a clinical diagnostic tool, but full integration in diagnostic protocols is contingent on technological improvements to decrease turnaround time and lower costs.


September 22, 2019  |  

Bypassing the Restriction System To Improve Transformation of Staphylococcus epidermidis.

Staphylococcus epidermidis is the leading cause of infections on indwelling medical devices worldwide. Intrinsic antibiotic resistance and vigorous biofilm production have rendered these infections difficult to treat and, in some cases, require the removal of the offending medical prosthesis. With the exception of two widely passaged isolates, RP62A and 1457, the pathogenesis of infections caused by clinical S. epidermidis strains is poorly understood due to the strong genetic barrier that precludes the efficient transformation of foreign DNA into clinical isolates. The difficulty in transforming clinical S. epidermidis isolates is primarily due to the type I and IV restriction-modification systems, which act as genetic barriers. Here, we show that efficient plasmid transformation of clinical S. epidermidis isolates from clonal complexes 2, 10, and 89 can be realized by employing a plasmid artificial modification (PAM) in Escherichia coli DC10B containing a ?dcm mutation. This transformative technique should facilitate our ability to genetically modify clinical isolates of S. epidermidis and hence improve our understanding of their pathogenesis in human infections.IMPORTANCEStaphylococcus epidermidis is a source of considerable morbidity worldwide. The underlying mechanisms contributing to the commensal and pathogenic lifestyles of S. epidermidis are poorly understood. Genetic manipulations of clinically relevant strains of S. epidermidis are largely prohibited due to the presence of a strong restriction barrier. With the introductions of the tools presented here, genetic manipulation of clinically relevant S. epidermidis isolates has now become possible, thus improving our understanding of S. epidermidis as a pathogen. Copyright © 2017 American Society for Microbiology.


September 22, 2019  |  

Single-molecule long-read 16S sequencing to characterize the lung microbiome from mechanically ventilated patients with suspected pneumonia.

In critically ill patients, the development of pneumonia results in significant morbidity and mortality and additional health care costs. The accurate and rapid identification of the microbial pathogens in patients with pulmonary infections might lead to targeted antimicrobial therapy with potentially fewer adverse effects and lower costs. Major advances in next-generation sequencing (NGS) allow culture-independent identification of pathogens. The present study used NGS of essentially full-length PCR-amplified 16S ribosomal DNA from the bronchial aspirates of intubated patients with suspected pneumonia. The results from 61 patients demonstrated that sufficient DNA was obtained from 72% of samples, 44% of which (27 samples) yielded PCR amplimers suitable for NGS. Out of the 27 sequenced samples, only 20 had bacterial culture growth, while the microbiological and NGS identification of bacteria coincided in 17 (85%) of these samples. Despite the lack of bacterial growth in 7 samples that yielded amplimers and were sequenced, the NGS identified a number of bacterial species in these samples. Overall, a significant diversity of bacterial species was identified from the same genus as the predominant cultured pathogens. The numbers of NGS-identifiable bacterial genera were consistently higher than identified by standard microbiological methods. As technical advances reduce the processing and sequencing times, NGS-based methods will ultimately be able to provide clinicians with rapid, precise, culture-independent identification of bacterial, fungal, and viral pathogens and their antimicrobial sensitivity profiles. Copyright © 2014, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

Quantitative profiling of Drosophila melanogaster Dscam1 isoforms reveals no changes in splicing after bacterial exposure.

The hypervariable Dscam1 (Down syndrome cell adhesion molecule 1) gene can produce thousands of different ectodomain isoforms via mutually exclusive alternative splicing. Dscam1 appears to be involved in the immune response of some insects and crustaceans. It has been proposed that the diverse isoforms may be involved in the recognition of, or the defence against, diverse parasite epitopes, although evidence to support this is sparse. A prediction that can be generated from this hypothesis is that the gene expression of specific exons and/or isoforms is influenced by exposure to an immune elicitor. To test this hypothesis, we for the first time, use a long read RNA sequencing method to directly investigate the Dscam1 splicing pattern after exposing adult Drosophila melanogaster and a S2 cell line to live Escherichia coli. After bacterial exposure both models showed increased expression of immune-related genes, indicating that the immune system had been activated. However there were no changes in total Dscam1 mRNA expression. RNA sequencing further showed that there were no significant changes in individual exon expression and no changes in isoform splicing patterns in response to bacterial exposure. Therefore our studies do not support a change of D. melanogaster Dscam1 isoform diversity in response to live E. coli. Nevertheless, in future this approach could be used to identify potentially immune-related Dscam1 splicing regulation in other host species or in response to other pathogens.


September 22, 2019  |  

Extensive horizontal gene transfer in cheese-associated bacteria.

Acquisition of genes through horizontal gene transfer (HGT) allows microbes to rapidly gain new capabilities and adapt to new or changing environments. Identifying widespread HGT regions within multispecies microbiomes can pinpoint the molecular mechanisms that play key roles in microbiome assembly. We sought to identify horizontally transferred genes within a model microbiome, the cheese rind. Comparing 31 newly sequenced and 134 previously sequenced bacterial isolates from cheese rinds, we identified over 200 putative horizontally transferred genomic regions containing 4733 protein coding genes. The largest of these regions are enriched for genes involved in siderophore acquisition, and are widely distributed in cheese rinds in both Europe and the US. These results suggest that HGT is prevalent in cheese rind microbiomes, and that identification of genes that are frequently transferred in a particular environment may provide insight into the selective forces shaping microbial communities.


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