October 23, 2019  |  

Simultaneous non-contiguous deletions using large synthetic DNA and site-specific recombinases.

Toward achieving rapid and large scale genome modification directly in a target organism, we have developed a new genome engineering strategy that uses a combination of bioinformatics aided design, large synthetic DNA and site-specific recombinases. Using Cre recombinase we swapped a target 126-kb segment of the Escherichia coli genome with a 72-kb synthetic DNA cassette, thereby effectively eliminating over 54 kb of genomic DNA from three non-contiguous regions in a single recombination event. We observed complete replacement of the native sequence with the modified synthetic sequence through the action of the Cre recombinase and no competition from homologous recombination. Because of the versatility and high-efficiency of the Cre-lox system, this method can be used in any organism where this system is functional as well as adapted to use with other highly precise genome engineering systems. Compared to present-day iterative approaches in genome engineering, we anticipate this method will greatly speed up the creation of reduced, modularized and optimized genomes through the integration of deletion analyses data, transcriptomics, synthetic biology and site-specific recombination. © The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


October 23, 2019  |  

Galactofuranose in Mycoplasma mycoides is important for membrane integrity and conceals adhesins but does not contribute to serum resistance.

Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. capri (Mmc) and subsp. mycoides (Mmm) are important ruminant pathogens worldwide causing diseases such as pleuropneumonia, mastitis and septicaemia. They express galactofuranose residues on their surface, but their role in pathogenesis has not yet been determined. The M.?mycoides genomes contain up to several copies of the glf gene, which encodes an enzyme catalysing the last step in the synthesis of galactofuranose. We generated a deletion of the glf gene in a strain of Mmc using genome transplantation and tandem repeat endonuclease coupled cleavage (TREC) with yeast as an intermediary host for the genome editing. As expected, the resulting YCp1.1-?glf strain did not produce the galactofuranose-containing glycans as shown by immunoblots and immuno-electronmicroscopy employing a galactofuranose specific monoclonal antibody. The mutant lacking galactofuranose exhibited a decreased growth rate and a significantly enhanced adhesion to small ruminant cells. The mutant was also ‘leaking’ as revealed by a ß-galactosidase-based assay employing a membrane impermeable substrate. These findings indicate that galactofuranose-containing polysaccharides conceal adhesins and are important for membrane integrity. Unexpectedly, the mutant strain showed increased serum resistance. © 2015 The Authors. Molecular Microbiology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


September 22, 2019  |  

Inferring the minimal genome of Mesoplasma florum by comparative genomics and transposon mutagenesis.

The creation and comparison of minimal genomes will help better define the most fundamental mechanisms supporting life. Mesoplasma florum is a near-minimal, fast-growing, nonpathogenic bacterium potentially amenable to genome reduction efforts. In a comparative genomic study of 13 M. florum strains, including 11 newly sequenced genomes, we have identified the core genome and open pangenome of this species. Our results show that all of the strains have approximately 80% of their gene content in common. Of the remaining 20%, 17% of the genes were found in multiple strains and 3% were unique to any given strain. On the basis of random transposon mutagenesis, we also estimated that ~290 out of 720 genes are essential for M. florum L1 in rich medium. We next evaluated different genome reduction scenarios for M. florum L1 by using gene conservation and essentiality data, as well as comparisons with the first working approximation of a minimal organism, Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn3.0. Our results suggest that 409 of the 473 M. mycoides JCVI-syn3.0 genes have orthologs in M. florum L1. Conversely, 57 putatively essential M. florum L1 genes have no homolog in M. mycoides JCVI-syn3.0. This suggests differences in minimal genome compositions, even for these evolutionarily closely related bacteria. IMPORTANCE The last years have witnessed the development of whole-genome cloning and transplantation methods and the complete synthesis of entire chromosomes. Recently, the first minimal cell, Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn3.0, was created. Despite these milestone achievements, several questions remain to be answered. For example, is the composition of minimal genomes virtually identical in phylogenetically related species? On the basis of comparative genomics and transposon mutagenesis, we investigated this question by using an alternative model, Mesoplasma florum, that is also amenable to genome reduction efforts. Our results suggest that the creation of additional minimal genomes could help reveal different gene compositions and strategies that can support life, even within closely related species.


September 22, 2019  |  

High-oleate yeast oil without polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Oleate-enriched triacylglycerides are well-suited for lubricant applications that require high oxidative stability. Fatty acid carbon chain length and degree of desaturation are key determinants of triacylglyceride properties and the ability to manipulate fatty acid composition in living organisms is critical to developing a source of bio-based oil tailored to meet specific application requirements.We sought to engineer the oleaginous yeast Yarrowia lipolytica for production of high-oleate triacylglyceride oil. We studied the effect of deletions and overexpressions in the fatty acid and triacylglyceride synthesis pathways to identify modifications that increase oleate levels. Oleic acid accumulation in triacylglycerides was promoted by exchanging the native ?9 fatty acid desaturase and glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase with heterologous enzymes, as well as deletion of the ?12 fatty acid desaturase and expression of a fatty acid elongase. By combining these engineering steps, we eliminated polyunsaturated fatty acids and created a Y. lipolytica strain that accumulates triglycerides with >?90% oleate content.High-oleate content and lack of polyunsaturates distinguish this triacylglyceride oil from plant and algal derived oils. Its composition renders the oil suitable for applications that require high oxidative stability and further demonstrates the potential of Y. lipolytica as a producer of tailored lipid profiles.


September 22, 2019  |  

Unrestrained markerless trait stacking in Nannochloropsis gaditana through combined genome editing and marker recycling technologies.

Robust molecular tool kits in model and industrial microalgae are key to efficient targeted manipulation of endogenous and foreign genes in the nuclear genome for basic research and, as importantly, for the development of algal strains to produce renewable products such as biofuels. While Cas9-mediated gene knockout has been demonstrated in a small number of algal species with varying efficiency, the ability to stack traits or generate knockout mutations in two or more loci are often severely limited by selectable agent availability. This poses a critical hurdle in developing production strains, which require stacking of multiple traits, or in probing functionally redundant gene families. Here, we combine Cas9 genome editing with an inducible Cre recombinase in the industrial alga Nannochloropsis gaditana to generate a strain, NgCas9+Cre+, in which the potentially unlimited stacking of knockouts and addition of new genes is readily achievable. Cre-mediated marker recycling is first demonstrated in the removal of the selectable marker and GFP reporter transgenes associated with the Cas9/Cre construct in NgCas9+Cre+ Next, we show the proof-of-concept generation of a markerless knockout in a gene encoding an acyl-CoA oxidase (Aco1), as well as the markerless recapitulation of a 2-kb insert in the ZnCys gene 5′-UTR, which results in a doubling of wild-type lipid productivity. Finally, through an industrially oriented process, we generate mutants that exhibit up to ~50% reduction in photosynthetic antennae size by markerless knockout of seven genes in the large light-harvesting complex gene family. Copyright © 2018 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.


September 22, 2019  |  

Exploring the limits and causes of plastid genome expansion in volvocine green algae.

Plastid genomes are not normally celebrated for being large. But researchers are steadily uncovering algal lineages with big and, in rare cases, enormous plastid DNAs (ptDNAs), such as volvocine green algae. Plastome sequencing of five different volvocine species has revealed some of the largest, most repeat-dense plastomes on record, including that of Volvox carteri (~525?kb). Volvocine algae have also been used as models for testing leading hypotheses on organelle genome evolution (e.g., the mutational hazard hypothesis), and it has been suggested that ptDNA inflation within this group might be a consequence of low mutation rates and/or the transition from a unicellular to multicellular existence. Here, we further our understanding of plastome size variation in the volvocine line by examining the ptDNA sequences of the colonial species Yamagishiella unicocca and Eudorina sp. NIES-3984 and the multicellular Volvox africanus, which are phylogenetically situated between species with known ptDNA sizes. Although V. africanus is closely related and similar in multicellular organization to V. carteri, its ptDNA was much less inflated than that of V. carteri. Synonymous- and noncoding-site nucleotide substitution rate analyses of these two Volvox ptDNAs suggest that there are drastically different plastid mutation rates operating in the coding versus intergenic regions, supporting the idea that error-prone DNA repair in repeat-rich intergenic spacers is contributing to genome expansion. Our results reinforce the idea that the volvocine line harbors extremes in plastome size but ultimately shed doubt on some of the previously proposed hypotheses for ptDNA inflation within the lineage.


September 22, 2019  |  

De novo assembly, delivery and expression of a 101 kb human gene in mouse cells

Design and large-scale synthesis of DNA has been applied to the functional study of viral and microbial genomes. New and expanded technology development is required to unlock the transformative potential of such bottom-up approaches to the study of larger, mammalian genomes. Two major challenges include assembling and delivering long DNA sequences. Here we describe a pipeline for de novo DNA assembly and delivery that enables functional evaluation of mammalian genes on the length scale of 100 kb. The DNA assembly step is supported by an integrated robotic workcell. We assemble the 101 kb human HPRT1 gene in yeast, deliver it to mouse cells, and show expression of the human protein from its full-length gene. This pipeline provides a framework for producing systematic, designer variants of any mammalian gene locus for functional evaluation in cells.


September 22, 2019  |  

Haematococcus lacustris: the makings of a giant-sized chloroplast genome.

Recent work on the chlamydomonadalean green alga Haematococcus lacustris uncovered the largest plastid genome on record: a whopping 1.35 Mb with >90 % non-coding DNA. A 500-word description of this genome was published in the journal Genome Announcements. But such a short report for such a large genome leaves many unanswered questions. For instance, the H. lacustris plastome was found to encode only 12 tRNAs, less than half that of a typical plastome, it appears to have a non-standard genetic code, and is one of only a few known plastid DNAs (ptDNAs), out of thousands of available sequences, not biased in adenine and thymine. Here, I take a closer look at the H. lacustris plastome, comparing its size, content and architecture to other large organelle DNAs, including those from close relatives in the Chlamydomonadales. I show that the H. lacustris plastid coding repertoire is not as unusual as initially thought, representing a standard set of rRNAs, tRNAs and protein-coding genes, where the canonical stop codon UGA appears to sometimes signify tryptophan. The intergenic spacers are dense with repeats, and it is within these regions where potential answers to the source of such extreme genomic expansion lie. By comparing ptDNA sequences of two closely related strains of H. lacustris, I argue that the mutation rate of the non-coding DNA is high and contributing to plastome inflation. Finally, by exploring publicly available RNA-sequencing data, I find that most of the intergenic ptDNA is transcriptionally active.


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