April 21, 2020  |  

Transcriptional initiation of a small RNA, not R-loop stability, dictates the frequency of pilin antigenic variation in Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the sole causative agent of gonorrhea, constitutively undergoes diversification of the Type IV pilus. Gene conversion occurs between one of the several donor silent copies located in distinct loci and the recipient pilE gene, encoding the major pilin subunit of the pilus. A guanine quadruplex (G4) DNA structure and a cis-acting sRNA (G4-sRNA) are located upstream of the pilE gene and both are required for pilin antigenic variation (Av). We show that the reduced sRNA transcription lowers pilin Av frequencies. Extended transcriptional elongation is not required for Av, since limiting the transcript to 32 nt allows for normal Av frequencies. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays, we show that cellular G4s are less abundant when sRNA transcription is lower. In addition, using ChIP, we demonstrate that the G4-sRNA forms a stable RNA:DNA hybrid (R-loop) with its template strand. However, modulating R-loop levels by controlling RNase HI expression does not alter G4 abundance quantified through ChIP. Since pilin Av frequencies were not altered when modulating R-loop levels by controlling RNase HI expression, we conclude that transcription of the sRNA is necessary, but stable R-loops are not required to promote pilin Av. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


April 21, 2020  |  

Rapid transcriptional responses to serum exposure are associated with sensitivity and resistance to antibody-mediated complement killing in invasive Salmonella Typhimurium ST313

Background: Salmonella Typhimurium ST313 exhibits signatures of adaptation to invasive human infection, including higher resistance to humoral immune responses than gastrointestinal isolates. Full resistance to antibody-mediated complement killing (serum resistance) among nontyphoidal Salmonellae is uncommon, but selection of highly resistant strains could compromise vaccine-induced antibody immunity. Here, we address the hypothesis that serum resistance is due to a distinct genotype or transcriptome response in S. Typhimurium ST313.


April 21, 2020  |  

The Complete Genome of the Atypical Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli Archetype Isolate E110019 Highlights a Role for Plasmids in Dissemination of the Type III Secreted Effector EspT.

Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) is a leading cause of moderate to severe diarrhea among young children in developing countries, and EPEC isolates can be subdivided into two groups. Typical EPEC (tEPEC) bacteria are characterized by the presence of both the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE) and the plasmid-encoded bundle-forming pilus (BFP), which are involved in adherence and translocation of type III effectors into the host cells. Atypical EPEC (aEPEC) bacteria also contain the LEE but lack the BFP. In the current report, we describe the complete genome of outbreak-associated aEPEC isolate E110019, which carries four plasmids. Comparative genomic analysis demonstrated that the type III secreted effector EspT gene, an autotransporter gene, a hemolysin gene, and putative fimbrial genes are all carried on plasmids. Further investigation of 65 espT-containing E. coli genomes demonstrated that different espT alleles are associated with multiple plasmids that differ in their overall gene content from the E110019 espT-containing plasmid. EspT has been previously described with respect to its role in the ability of E110019 to invade host cells. While other type III secreted effectors of E. coli have been identified on insertion elements and prophages of the chromosome, we demonstrated in the current study that the espT gene is located on multiple unique plasmids. These findings highlight a role of plasmids in dissemination of a unique E. coli type III secreted effector that is involved in host invasion and severe diarrheal illness.Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology.


April 21, 2020  |  

Distinct evolutionary dynamics of horizontal gene transfer in drug resistant and virulent clones of Klebsiella pneumoniae.

Klebsiella pneumoniae has emerged as an important cause of two distinct public health threats: multi-drug resistant (MDR) healthcare-associated infections and drug susceptible community-acquired invasive infections. These pathotypes are generally associated with two distinct subsets of K. pneumoniae lineages or ‘clones’ that are distinguished by the presence of acquired resistance genes and several key virulence loci. Genomic evolutionary analyses of the most notorious MDR and invasive community-associated (‘hypervirulent’) clones indicate differences in terms of chromosomal recombination dynamics and capsule polysaccharide diversity, but it remains unclear if these differences represent generalised trends. Here we leverage a collection of >2200 K. pneumoniae genomes to identify 28 common clones (n = 10 genomes each), and perform the first genomic evolutionary comparison. Eight MDR and 6 hypervirulent clones were identified on the basis of acquired resistance and virulence gene prevalence. Chromosomal recombination, surface polysaccharide locus diversity, pan-genome, plasmid and phage dynamics were characterised and compared. The data showed that MDR clones were highly diverse, with frequent chromosomal recombination generating extensive surface polysaccharide locus diversity. Additional pan-genome diversity was driven by frequent acquisition/loss of both plasmids and phage. In contrast, chromosomal recombination was rare in the hypervirulent clones, which also showed a significant reduction in pan-genome diversity, largely driven by a reduction in plasmid diversity. Hence the data indicate that hypervirulent clones may be subject to some sort of constraint for horizontal gene transfer that does not apply to the MDR clones. Our findings are relevant for understanding the risk of emergence of individual K. pneumoniae strains carrying both virulence and acquired resistance genes, which have been increasingly reported and cause highly virulent infections that are extremely difficult to treat. Specifically, our data indicate that MDR clones pose the greatest risk, because they are more likely to acquire virulence genes than hypervirulent clones are to acquire resistance genes.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genomic characterization of Nocardia seriolae strains isolated from diseased fish.

Members of the genus Nocardia are widespread in diverse environments; a wide range of Nocardia species are known to cause nocardiosis in several animals, including cat, dog, fish, and humans. Of the pathogenic Nocardia species, N. seriolae is known to cause disease in cultured fish, resulting in major economic loss. We isolated two N. seriolae strains, CK-14008 and EM15050, from diseased fish and sequenced their genomes using the PacBio sequencing platform. To identify their genomic features, we compared their genomes with those of other Nocardia species. Phylogenetic analysis showed that N. seriolae shares a common ancestor with a putative human pathogenic Nocardia species. Moreover, N. seriolae strains were phylogenetically divided into four clusters according to host fish families. Through genome comparison, we observed that the putative pathogenic Nocardia strains had additional genes for iron acquisition. Dozens of antibiotic resistance genes were detected in the genomes of N. seriolae strains; most of the antibiotics were involved in the inhibition of the biosynthesis of proteins or cell walls. Our results demonstrated the virulence features and antibiotic resistance of fish pathogenic N. seriolae strains at the genomic level. These results may be useful to develop strategies for the prevention of fish nocardiosis. © 2018 The Authors. MicrobiologyOpen published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


April 21, 2020  |  

A Controlled Human Infection Model of Group A Streptococcus Pharyngitis: Which Strain and Why?

Group A Streptococcus (GAS) is a major cause of global infection-related morbidity and mortality. A modern controlled human infection model (CHIM) of GAS pharyngitis can accelerate vaccine development and pathogenesis research. A robust rationale for strain selection is central to meeting ethical, scientific, and regulatory requirements. Multifaceted characterization studies were done to compare a preferred candidate emm75 (M75) GAS strain to three other strains: an alternative candidate emm12 (M12) strain, an M1 strain used in 1970s pharyngitis CHIM studies (SS-496), and a representative (5448) of the globally disseminated M1T1 clone. A range of approaches were used to explore strain growth, adherence, invasion, delivery characteristics, short- and long-term viability, phylogeny, virulence factors, vaccine antigens, resistance to killing by human neutrophils, and lethality in a murine invasive model. The strains grew reliably in a medium without animal-derived components, were consistently transferred using a swab method simulating the CHIM protocol, remained viable at -80°C, and carried genes for most candidate vaccine antigens. Considering GAS molecular epidemiology, virulence factors, in vitro assays, and results from the murine model, the contemporary strains show a spectrum of virulence, with M75 appearing the least virulent and 5448 the most. The virulence profile of SS-496, used safely in 1970s CHIM studies, was similar to that of 5448 in the animal model and virulence gene carriage. The results of this multifaceted characterization confirm the M75 strain as an appropriate choice for initial deployment in the CHIM, with the aim of safely and successfully causing pharyngitis in healthy adult volunteers. IMPORTANCE GAS (Streptococcus pyogenes) is a leading global cause of infection-related morbidity and mortality. A modern CHIM of GAS pharyngitis could help to accelerate vaccine development and drive pathogenesis research. Challenge strain selection is critical to the safety and success of any CHIM and especially so for an organism such as GAS, with its wide strain diversity and potential to cause severe life-threatening acute infections (e.g., toxic shock syndrome and necrotizing fasciitis) and postinfectious complications (e.g., acute rheumatic fever, rheumatic heart disease, and acute poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis). In this paper, we outline the rationale for selecting an emm75 strain for initial use in a GAS pharyngitis CHIM in healthy adult volunteers, drawing on the findings of a broad characterization effort spanning molecular epidemiology, in vitro assays, whole-genome sequencing, and animal model studies. Copyright © 2019 Osowicki et al.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genetic map-guided genome assembly reveals a virulence-governing minichromosome in the lentil anthracnose pathogen Colletotrichum lentis.

Colletotrichum lentis causes anthracnose, which is a serious disease on lentil and can account for up to 70% crop loss. Two pathogenic races, 0 and 1, have been described in the C. lentis population from lentil. To unravel the genetic control of virulence, an isolate of the virulent race 0 was sequenced at 1481-fold genomic coverage. The 56.10-Mb genome assembly consists of 50 scaffolds with N50 scaffold length of 4.89 Mb. A total of 11 436 protein-coding gene models was predicted in the genome with 237 coding candidate effectors, 43 secondary metabolite biosynthetic enzymes and 229 carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes), suggesting a contraction of the virulence gene repertoire in C. lentis. Scaffolds were assigned to 10 core and two minichromosomes using a population (race 0 × race 1, n = 94 progeny isolates) sequencing-based, high-density (14 312 single nucleotide polymorphisms) genetic map. Composite interval mapping revealed a single quantitative trait locus (QTL), qClVIR-11, located on minichromosome 11, explaining 85% of the variability in virulence of the C. lentis population. The QTL covers a physical distance of 0.84 Mb with 98 genes, including seven candidate effector and two secondary metabolite genes. Taken together, the study provides genetic and physical evidence for the existence of a minichromosome controlling the C. lentis virulence on lentil. © 2018 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2018 New Phytologist Trust.


April 21, 2020  |  

Sequential evolution of virulence and resistance during clonal spread of community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

The past two decades have witnessed an alarming expansion of staphylococcal disease caused by community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA). The factors underlying the epidemic expansion of CA-MRSA lineages such as USA300, the predominant CA-MRSA clone in the United States, are largely unknown. Previously described virulence and antimicrobial resistance genes that promote the dissemination of CA-MRSA are carried by mobile genetic elements, including phages and plasmids. Here, we used high-resolution genomics and experimental infections to characterize the evolution of a USA300 variant plaguing a patient population at increased risk of infection to understand the mechanisms underlying the emergence of genetic elements that facilitate clonal spread of the pathogen. Genetic analyses provided conclusive evidence that fitness (manifest as emergence of a dominant clone) changed coincidently with the stepwise emergence of (i) a unique prophage and mutation of the regulator of the pyrimidine nucleotide biosynthetic operon that promoted abscess formation and colonization, respectively, thereby priming the clone for success; and (ii) a unique plasmid that conferred resistance to two topical microbiocides, mupirocin and chlorhexidine, frequently used for decolonization and infection prevention. The resistance plasmid evolved through successive incorporation of DNA elements from non-S. aureus spp. into an indigenous cryptic plasmid, suggesting a mechanism for interspecies genetic exchange that promotes antimicrobial resistance. Collectively, the data suggest that clonal spread in a vulnerable population resulted from extensive clinical intervention and intense selection pressure toward a pathogen lifestyle that involved the evolution of consequential mutations and mobile genetic elements.


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  |  

Metagenomic assembly through the lens of validation: recent advances in assessing and improving the quality of genomes assembled from metagenomes.

Metagenomic samples are snapshots of complex ecosystems at work. They comprise hundreds of known and unknown species, contain multiple strain variants and vary greatly within and across environments. Many microbes found in microbial communities are not easily grown in culture making their DNA sequence our only clue into their evolutionary history and biological function. Metagenomic assembly is a computational process aimed at reconstructing genes and genomes from metagenomic mixtures. Current methods have made significant strides in reconstructing DNA segments comprising operons, tandem gene arrays and syntenic blocks. Shorter, higher-throughput sequencing technologies have become the de facto standard in the field. Sequencers are now able to generate billions of short reads in only a few days. Multiple metagenomic assembly strategies, pipelines and assemblers have appeared in recent years. Owing to the inherent complexity of metagenome assembly, regardless of the assembly algorithm and sequencing method, metagenome assemblies contain errors. Recent developments in assembly validation tools have played a pivotal role in improving metagenomics assemblers. Here, we survey recent progress in the field of metagenomic assembly, provide an overview of key approaches for genomic and metagenomic assembly validation and demonstrate the insights that can be derived from assemblies through the use of assembly validation strategies. We also discuss the potential for impact of long-read technologies in metagenomics. We conclude with a discussion of future challenges and opportunities in the field of metagenomic assembly and validation. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press.


April 21, 2020  |  

Arcobacter cryaerophilus Isolated From New Zealand Mussels Harbor a Putative Virulence Plasmid.

A wide range of Arcobacter species have been described from shellfish in various countries but their presence has not been investigated in Australasia, in which shellfish are a popular delicacy. Since several arcobacters are considered to be emerging pathogens, we undertook a small study to evaluate their presence in several different shellfish, including greenshell mussels, oysters, and abalone (paua) in New Zealand. Arcobacter cryaerophilus, a species associated with human gastroenteritis, was the only species isolated, from greenshell mussels. Whole-genome sequencing revealed a range of genomic traits in these strains that were known or associated virulence factors. Furthermore, we describe the first putative virulence plasmid in Arcobacter, containing lytic, immunoavoidance, adhesion, antibiotic resistance, and gene transfer traits, among others. Complete genome sequence determination using a combination of long- and short-read genome sequencing strategies, was needed to identify the plasmid, clearly identifying its benefits. The potential for plasmids to disseminate virulence traits among Arcobacter and other species warrants further consideration by researchers interested in the risks to public health from these organisms.


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.


April 21, 2020  |  

Comprehensive analysis of full genome sequence and Bd-milRNA/target mRNAs to discover the mechanism of hypovirulence in Botryosphaeria dothidea strains on pear infection with BdCV1 and BdPV1

Pear ring rot disease, mainly caused by Botryosphaeria dothidea, is widespread in most pear and apple-growing regions. Mycoviruses are used for biocontrol, especially in fruit tree disease. BdCV1 (Botryosphaeria dothidea chrysovirus 1) and BdPV1 (Botryosphaeria dothidea partitivirus 1) influence the biological characteristics of B. dothidea strains. BdCV1 is a potential candidate for the control of fungal disease. Therefore, it is vital to explore interactions between B. dothidea and mycovirus to clarify the pathogenic mechanisms of B. dothidea and hypovirulence of B. dothidea in pear. A high-quality full-length genome sequence of the B. dothidea LW-Hubei isolate was obtained using Single Molecule Real-Time sequencing. It has high repeat sequence with 9.3% and DNA methylation existence in the genome. The 46.34?Mb genomes contained 14,091 predicted genes, which of 13,135 were annotated. B. dothidea was predicted to express 3833 secreted proteins. In bioinformatics analysis, 351 CAZy members, 552 transporters, 128 kinases, and 1096 proteins associated with plant-host interaction (PHI) were identified. RNA-silencing components including two endoribonuclease Dicer, four argonaute (Ago) and three RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) molecules were identified and expressed in response to mycovirus infection. Horizontal transfer of the LW-C and LW-P strains indicated that BdCV1 induced host gene silencing in LW-C to suppress BdPV1 transmission. To investigate the role of RNA-silencing in B. dothidea defense, we constructed four small RNA libraries and sequenced B. dothidea micro-like RNAs (Bd-milRNAs) produced in response to BdCV1 and BdPV1 infection. Among these, 167 conserved and 68 candidate novel Bd-milRNAs were identified, of which 161 conserved and 20 novel Bd-milRNA were differentially expressed. WEGO analysis revealed involvement of the differentially expressed Bd-milRNA-targeted genes in metabolic process, catalytic activity, cell process and response to stress or stimulus. BdCV1 had a greater effect on the phenotype, virulence, conidiomata, vertical and horizontal transmission ability, and mycelia cellular structure biological characteristics of B. dothidea strains than BdPV1 and virus-free strains. The results obtained in this study indicate that mycovirus regulates biological processes in B. dothidea through the combined interaction of antiviral defense mediated by RNA-silencing and milRNA-mediated regulation of target gene mRNA expression.


October 23, 2019  |  

Optimized CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing for Leishmania and its use to target a multigene family, induce chromosomal translocation, and study DNA break repair mechanisms.

CRISPR-Cas9-mediated genome editing has recently been adapted for Leishmania spp. parasites, the causative agents of human leishmaniasis. We have optimized this genome-editing tool by selecting for cells with CRISPR-Cas9 activity through cotargeting the miltefosine transporter gene; mutation of this gene leads to miltefosine resistance. This cotargeting strategy integrated into a triple guide RNA (gRNA) expression vector was used to delete all 11 copies of the A2 multigene family; this was not previously possible with the traditional gene-targeting method. We found that the Leishmania donovani rRNA promoter is more efficient than the U6 promoter in driving gRNA expression, and sequential transfections of the oligonucleotide donor significantly eased the isolation of edited mutants. A gRNA and Cas9 coexpression vector was developed that was functional in all tested Leishmania species, including L. donovani, L. major, and L. mexicana. By simultaneously targeting sites from two different chromosomes, all four types of targeted chromosomal translocations were generated, regardless of the polycistronic transcription direction from the parent chromosomes. It was possible to use this CRISPR system to create a single conserved amino acid substitution (A189G) mutation for both alleles of RAD51, a DNA recombinase involved in homology-directed repair. We found that RAD51 is essential for L. donovani survival based on direct observation of the death of mutants with both RAD51 alleles disrupted, further confirming that this CRISPR system can reveal gene essentiality. Evidence is also provided that microhomology-mediated end joining (MMEJ) plays a major role in double-strand DNA break repair in L. donovani. IMPORTANCELeishmania parasites cause human leishmaniasis. To accelerate characterization of Leishmania genes for new drug and vaccine development, we optimized and simplified the CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing tool for Leishmania. We show that co-CRISPR targeting of the miltefosine transporter gene and serial transfections of an oligonucleotide donor significantly eased isolation of edited mutants. This cotargeting strategy was efficiently used to delete all 11 members of the A2 virulence gene family. This technical advancement is valuable, since there are many gene clusters and supernumerary chromosomes in the various Leishmania species and isolates. We simplified this CRISPR system by developing a gRNA and Cas9 coexpression vector which could be used to delete genes in various Leishmania species. This CRISPR system could also be used to generate specific chromosomal translocations, which will help in the study of Leishmania gene expression and transcription control. This study also provides new information about double-strand DNA break repair mechanisms in Leishmania.


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