April 21, 2020  |  

Precise therapeutic gene correction by a simple nuclease-induced double-stranded break.

Current programmable nuclease-based methods (for example, CRISPR-Cas9) for the precise correction of a disease-causing genetic mutation harness the homology-directed repair pathway. However, this repair process requires the co-delivery of an exogenous DNA donor to recode the sequence and can be inefficient in many cell types. Here we show that disease-causing frameshift mutations that result from microduplications can be efficiently reverted to the wild-type sequence simply by generating a DNA double-stranded break near the centre of the duplication. We demonstrate this in patient-derived cell lines for two diseases: limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2G (LGMD2G)1 and Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome type 1 (HPS1)2. Clonal analysis of inducible pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from the LGMD2G cell line, which contains a mutation in TCAP, treated with the Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 (SpCas9) nuclease revealed that about 80% contained at least one wild-type TCAP allele; this correction also restored TCAP expression in LGMD2G iPS cell-derived myotubes. SpCas9 also efficiently corrected the genotype of an HPS1 patient-derived B-lymphoblastoid cell line. Inhibition of polyADP-ribose polymerase 1 (PARP-1) suppressed the nuclease-mediated collapse of the microduplication to the wild-type sequence, confirming that precise correction is mediated by the microhomology-mediated end joining (MMEJ) pathway. Analysis of editing by SpCas9 and Lachnospiraceae bacterium ND2006 Cas12a (LbCas12a) at non-pathogenic 4-36-base-pair microduplications within the genome indicates that the correction strategy is broadly applicable to a wide range of microduplication lengths and can be initiated by a variety of nucleases. The simplicity, reliability and efficacy of this MMEJ-based therapeutic strategy should permit the development of nuclease-based gene correction therapies for a variety of diseases that are associated with microduplications.


April 21, 2020  |  

Novel trimethoprim resistance gene dfrA34 identified in Salmonella Heidelberg in the USA.

Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole is a synthetic antibiotic combination recommended for the treatment of complicated non-typhoidal Salmonella infections in humans. Resistance to trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole is mediated by the acquisition of mobile genes, requiring both a dfr gene (trimethoprim resistance) and a sul gene (sulfamethoxazole resistance) for a clinical resistance phenotype (MIC =4/76?mg/L). In 2017, the CDC investigated a multistate outbreak caused by a Salmonella enterica serotype Heidelberg strain with trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole resistance, in which sul genes but no known dfr genes were detected.To characterize and describe the molecular mechanism of trimethoprim resistance in a Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak isolate.Illumina sequencing data for one outbreak isolate revealed a 588?bp ORF encoding a putative dfr gene. This gene was cloned into Escherichia coli and resistance to trimethoprim was measured by broth dilution and Etest. Phylogenetic analysis of previously reported dfrA genes was performed using MEGA. Long-read sequencing was conducted to determine the context of the novel dfr gene.The novel dfr gene, named dfrA34, conferred trimethoprim resistance (MIC =32?mg/L) when cloned into E. coli. Based on predicted amino acid sequences, dfrA34 shares less than 50% identity with other known dfrA genes. The dfrA34 gene is located in a class 1 integron in a multiresistance region of an IncC plasmid, adjacent to a sul gene, thus conferring clinical trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole resistance. Additionally, dfrA34 is associated with ISCR1, enabling easy transmission between other plasmids and bacterial strains.


April 21, 2020  |  

The transcriptome of Darwin’s bark spider silk glands predicts proteins contributing to dragline silk toughness.

Darwin’s bark spider (Caerostris darwini) produces giant orb webs from dragline silk that can be twice as tough as other silks, making it the toughest biological material. This extreme toughness comes from increased extensibility relative to other draglines. We show C. darwini dragline-producing major ampullate (MA) glands highly express a novel silk gene transcript (MaSp4) encoding a protein that diverges markedly from closely related proteins and contains abundant proline, known to confer silk extensibility, in a unique GPGPQ amino acid motif. This suggests C. darwini evolved distinct proteins that may have increased its dragline’s toughness, enabling giant webs. Caerostris darwini’s MA spinning ducts also appear unusually long, potentially facilitating alignment of silk proteins into extremely tough fibers. Thus, a suite of novel traits from the level of genes to spinning physiology to silk biomechanics are associated with the unique ecology of Darwin’s bark spider, presenting innovative designs for engineering biomaterials.


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.


October 23, 2019  |  

Short DNA hairpins compromise recombinant adeno-associated virus genome homogeneity.

Short hairpin (sh)RNAs delivered by recombinant adeno-associated viruses (rAAVs) are valuable tools to study gene function in vivo and a promising gene therapy platform. Our data show that incorporation of shRNA transgenes into rAAV constructs reduces vector yield and produces a population of truncated and defective genomes. We demonstrate that sequences with hairpins or hairpin-like structures drive the generation of truncated AAV genomes through a polymerase redirection mechanism during viral genome replication. Our findings reveal the importance of genomic secondary structure when optimizing viral vector designs. We also discovered that shDNAs could be adapted to act as surrogate mutant inverted terminal repeats (mTRs), sequences that were previously thought to be required for functional self-complementary AAV vectors. The use of shDNAs as artificial mTRs opens the door to engineering a new generation of AAV vectors with improved potency, genetic stability, and safety for both preclinical studies and human gene therapy. Published by Elsevier Inc.


October 23, 2019  |  

Structural determination of the broadly reactive anti-IGHV1-69 anti-idiotypic antibody G6 and its idiotope.

The heavy chain IGHV1-69 germline gene exhibits a high level of polymorphism and shows biased use in protective antibody (Ab) responses to infections and vaccines. It is also highly expressed in several B cell malignancies and autoimmune diseases. G6 is an anti-idiotypic monoclonal Ab that selectively binds to IGHV1-69 heavy chain germline gene 51p1 alleles that have been implicated in these Ab responses and disease processes. Here, we determine the co-crystal structure of humanized G6 (hG6.3) in complex with anti-influenza hemagglutinin stem-directed broadly neutralizing Ab D80. The core of the hG6.3 idiotope is a continuous string of CDR-H2 residues starting with M53 and ending with N58. G6 binding studies demonstrate the remarkable breadth of binding to 51p1 IGHV1-69 Abs with diverse CDR-H3, light chain, and antigen binding specificities. These studies detail the broad expression of the G6 cross-reactive idiotype (CRI) that further define its potential role in precision medicine. Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


October 23, 2019  |  

Streamlined ex vivo and in vivo genome editing in mouse embryos using recombinant adeno-associated viruses.

Recent advances using CRISPR-Cas9 approaches have dramatically enhanced the ease for genetic manipulation in rodents. Notwithstanding, the methods to deliver nucleic acids into pre-implantation embryos have hardly changed since the original description of mouse transgenesis more than 30 years ago. Here we report a novel strategy to generate genetically modified mice by transduction of CRISPR-Cas9 components into pre-implantation mouse embryos via recombinant adeno-associated viruses (rAAVs). Using this approach, we efficiently generated a variety of targeted mutations in explanted embryos, including indel events produced by non-homologous end joining and tailored mutations using homology-directed repair. We also achieved gene modification in vivo by direct delivery of rAAV particles into the oviduct of pregnant females. Our approach greatly simplifies the generation of genetically modified mice and, more importantly, opens the door for streamlined gene editing in other mammalian species.


October 23, 2019  |  

Adeno-associated virus genome population sequencing achieves full vector genome resolution and reveals human-vector chimeras

Recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV)-based gene therapy has entered a phase of clinical translation and commercialization. Despite this progress, vector integrity following production is often overlooked. Compromised vectors may negatively impact therapeutic efficacy and safety. Using single molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing, we can comprehensively profile packaged genomes as a single intact molecule and directly assess vector integrity without extensive preparation. We have exploited this methodology to profile all heterogeneic populations of self-complementary AAV genomes via bioinformatics pipelines and have coined this approach AAV-genome population sequencing (AAV-GPseq). The approach can reveal the relative distribution of truncated genomes versus full-length genomes in vector preparations. Preparations that seemingly show high genome homogeneity by gel electrophoresis are revealed to consist of less than 50% full-length species. With AAV-GPseq, we can also detect many reverse-packaged genomes that encompass sequences originating from plasmid backbone, as well as sequences from packaging and helper plasmids. Finally, we detect host-cell genomic sequences that are chimeric with inverted terminal repeat (ITR)-containing vector sequences. We show that vector populations can contain between 1.3% and 2.3% of this type of undesirable genome. These discoveries redefine quality control standards for viral vector preparations and highlight the degree of foreign products in rAAV-based therapeutic vectors.


October 23, 2019  |  

Cas9-mediated allelic exchange repairs compound heterozygous recessive mutations in mice.

We report a genome-editing strategy to correct compound heterozygous mutations, a common genotype in patients with recessive genetic disorders. Adeno-associated viral vector delivery of Cas9 and guide RNA induces allelic exchange and rescues the disease phenotype in mouse models of hereditary tyrosinemia type I and mucopolysaccharidosis type I. This approach recombines non-mutated genetic information present in two heterozygous alleles into one functional allele without using donor DNA templates.


September 22, 2019  |  

Bayesian nonparametric discovery of isoforms and individual specific quantification.

Most human protein-coding genes can be transcribed into multiple distinct mRNA isoforms. These alternative splicing patterns encourage molecular diversity, and dysregulation of isoform expression plays an important role in disease etiology. However, isoforms are difficult to characterize from short-read RNA-seq data because they share identical subsequences and occur in different frequencies across tissues and samples. Here, we develop BIISQ, a Bayesian nonparametric model for isoform discovery and individual specific quantification from short-read RNA-seq data. BIISQ does not require isoform reference sequences but instead estimates an isoform catalog shared across samples. We use stochastic variational inference for efficient posterior estimates and demonstrate superior precision and recall for simulations compared to state-of-the-art isoform reconstruction methods. BIISQ shows the most gains for low abundance isoforms, with 36% more isoforms correctly inferred at low coverage versus a multi-sample method and 170% more versus single-sample methods. We estimate isoforms in the GEUVADIS RNA-seq data and validate inferred isoforms by associating genetic variants with isoform ratios.


September 22, 2019  |  

Transgenerational attenuation of opioid self-administration as a consequence of adolescent morphine exposure.

The United States is in the midst of an opiate epidemic, with abuse of prescription and illegal opioids increasing steadily over the past decade. While it is clear that there is a genetic component to opioid addiction, there is a significant portion of heritability that cannot be explained by genetics alone. The current study was designed to test the hypothesis that maternal exposure to opioids prior to pregnancy alters abuse liability in subsequent generations. Female adolescent Sprague Dawley rats were administered morphine at increasing doses (5-25 mg/kg, s.c.) or saline for 10 days (P30-39). During adulthood, animals were bred with drug-naïve colony males. Male and female adult offspring (F1 animals) were tested for morphine self-administration acquisition, progressive ratio, extinction, and reinstatement at three doses of morphine (0.25, 0.75, 1.25 mg/kg/infusion). Grand offspring (F2 animals, from the maternal line) were also examined. Additionally, gene expression changes within the nucleus accumbens were examined with RNA deep sequencing (PacBio) and qPCR. There were dose- and sex-dependent effects on all phases of the self-administration paradigm that indicate decreased morphine reinforcement and attenuated relapse-like behavior. Additionally, genes related to synaptic plasticity, as well as myelin basic protein (MBP), were dysregulated. Some, but not all, effects persisted into the subsequent (F2) generation. The results demonstrate that even limited opioid exposure during adolescence can have lasting effects across multiple generations, which has implications for mechanisms of the transmission of drug abuse liability in humans. Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


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.


September 22, 2019  |  

The genome of the Hi5 germ cell line from Trichoplusia ni, an agricultural pest and novel model for small RNA biology.

We report a draft assembly of the genome of Hi5 cells from the lepidopteran insect pest,Trichoplusia ni, assigning 90.6% of bases to one of 28 chromosomes and predicting 14,037 protein-coding genes. Chemoreception and detoxification gene families revealT. ni-specific gene expansions that may explain its widespread distribution and rapid adaptation to insecticides. Transcriptome and small RNA data from thorax, ovary, testis, and the germline-derived Hi5 cell line show distinct expression profiles for 295 microRNA- and >393 piRNA-producing loci, as well as 39 genes encoding small RNA pathway proteins. Nearly all of the W chromosome is devoted to piRNA production, andT. nisiRNAs are not 2´-O-methylated. To enable use of Hi5 cells as a model system, we have established genome editing and single-cell cloning protocols. TheT. nigenome provides insights into pest control and allows Hi5 cells to become a new tool for studying small RNAs ex vivo.© 2018, Fu et al.


September 22, 2019  |  

Plasmid-mediated quinolone resistance in Shigella flexneriisolated from macaques.

Non-human primates (NHPs) for biomedical research are commonly infected with Shigella spp. that can cause acute dysentery or chronic episodic diarrhea. These animals are often prophylactically and clinically treated with quinolone antibiotics to eradicate these possible infections. However, chromosomally- and plasmid-mediated antibiotic resistance has become an emerging concern for species in the family Enterobacteriaceae. In this study, five individual isolates of multi-drug resistant Shigella flexneri were isolated from the feces of three macaques. Antibiotic susceptibility testing confirmed resistance or decreased susceptibility to ampicillin, amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, cephalosporins, gentamicin, tetracycline, ciprofloxacin, enrofloxacin, levofloxacin, and nalidixic acid. S. flexneri isolates were susceptible to trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, and this drug was used to eradicate infection in two of the macaques. Plasmid DNA from all isolates was positive for the plasmid-encoded quinolone resistance gene qnrS, but not qnrA and qnrB. Conjugation and transformation of plasmid DNA from several S. flexneri isolates into antibiotic-susceptible Escherichia coli strains conferred the recipients with resistance or decreased susceptibility to quinolones and beta-lactams. Genome sequencing of two representative S. flexneri isolates identified the qnrS gene on a plasmid-like contig. These contigs showed >99% homology to plasmid sequences previously characterized from quinolone-resistant Shigella flexneri 2a and Salmonella enterica strains. Other antibiotic resistance genes and virulence factor genes were also identified in chromosome and plasmid sequences in these genomes. The findings from this study indicate macaques harbor pathogenic S. flexneri strains with chromosomally- and plasmid-encoded antibiotic resistance genes. To our knowledge, this is the first report of plasmid-mediated quinolone resistance in S. flexneri isolated from NHPs and warrants isolation and antibiotic testing of enteric pathogens before treating macaques with quinolones prophylactically or therapeutically.


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