April 21, 2020  |  

The Chinese chestnut genome: a reference for species restoration

Forest tree species are increasingly subject to severe mortalities from exotic pests, diseases, and invasive organisms, accelerated by climate change. Forest health issues are threatening multiple species and ecosystem sustainability globally. While sources of resistance may be available in related species, or among surviving trees, introgression of resistance genes into threatened tree species in reasonable time frames requires genome-wide breeding tools. Asian species of chestnut (Castanea spp.) are being employed as donors of disease resistance genes to restore native chestnut species in North America and Europe. To aid in the restoration of threatened chestnut species, we present the assembly of a reference genome with chromosome-scale sequences for Chinese chestnut (C. mollissima), the disease-resistance donor for American chestnut restoration. We also demonstrate the value of the genome as a platform for research and species restoration, including new insights into the evolution of blight resistance in Asian chestnut species, the locations in the genome of ecologically important signatures of selection differentiating American chestnut from Chinese chestnut, the identification of candidate genes for disease resistance, and preliminary comparisons of genome organization with related species.


April 21, 2020  |  

Alternative polyadenylation coordinates embryonic development, sexual dimorphism and longitudinal growth in Xenopus tropicalis.

RNA alternative polyadenylation contributes to the complexity of information transfer from genome to phenome, thus amplifying gene function. Here, we report the first X. tropicalis resource with 127,914 alternative polyadenylation (APA) sites derived from embryos and adults. Overall, APA networks play central roles in coordinating the maternal-zygotic transition (MZT) in embryos, sexual dimorphism in adults and longitudinal growth from embryos to adults. APA sites coordinate reprogramming in embryos before the MZT, but developmental events after the MZT due to zygotic genome activation. The APA transcriptomes of young adults are more variable than growing adults and male frog APA transcriptomes are more divergent than females. The APA profiles of young females were similar to embryos before the MZT. Enriched pathways in developing embryos were distinct across the MZT and noticeably segregated from adults. Briefly, our results suggest that the minimal functional units in genomes are alternative transcripts as opposed to genes.


April 21, 2020  |  

A reference genome for pea provides insight into legume genome evolution.

We report the first annotated chromosome-level reference genome assembly for pea, Gregor Mendel’s original genetic model. Phylogenetics and paleogenomics show genomic rearrangements across legumes and suggest a major role for repetitive elements in pea genome evolution. Compared to other sequenced Leguminosae genomes, the pea genome shows intense gene dynamics, most likely associated with genome size expansion when the Fabeae diverged from its sister tribes. During Pisum evolution, translocation and transposition differentially occurred across lineages. This reference sequence will accelerate our understanding of the molecular basis of agronomically important traits and support crop improvement.


April 21, 2020  |  

Complete Assembly of the Genome of an Acidovorax citrulli Strain Reveals a Naturally Occurring Plasmid in This Species.

Acidovorax citrulli is the causal agent of bacterial fruit blotch (BFB), a serious threat to cucurbit crop production worldwide. Based on genetic and phenotypic properties, A. citrulli strains are divided into two major groups: group I strains have been generally isolated from melon and other non-watermelon cucurbits, while group II strains are closely associated with watermelon. In a previous study, we reported the genome of the group I model strain, M6. At that time, the M6 genome was sequenced by MiSeq Illumina technology, with reads assembled into 139 contigs. Here, we report the assembly of the M6 genome following sequencing with PacBio technology. This approach not only allowed full assembly of the M6 genome, but it also revealed the occurrence of a ~53 kb plasmid. The M6 plasmid, named pACM6, was further confirmed by plasmid extraction, Southern-blot analysis of restricted fragments and obtention of M6-derivative cured strains. pACM6 occurs at low copy numbers (average of ~4.1 ± 1.3 chromosome equivalents) in A. citrulli M6 and contains 63 open reading frames (ORFs), most of which (55.6%) encoding hypothetical proteins. The plasmid contains several genes encoding type IV secretion components, and typical plasmid-borne genes involved in plasmid maintenance, replication and transfer. The plasmid also carries an operon encoding homologs of a Fic-VbhA toxin-antitoxin (TA) module. Transcriptome data from A. citrulli M6 revealed that, under the tested conditions, the genes encoding the components of this TA system are among the highest expressed genes in pACM6. Whether this TA module plays a role in pACM6 maintenance is still to be determined. Leaf infiltration and seed transmission assays revealed that, under tested conditions, the loss of pACM6 did not affect the virulence of A. citrulli M6. We also show that pACM6 or similar plasmids are present in several group I strains, but absent in all tested group II strains of A. citrulli.


April 21, 2020  |  

Prunus genetics and applications after de novo genome sequencing: achievements and prospects.

Prior to the availability of whole-genome sequences, our understanding of the structural and functional aspects of Prunus tree genomes was limited mostly to molecular genetic mapping of important traits and development of EST resources. With public release of the peach genome and others that followed, significant advances in our knowledge of Prunus genomes and the genetic underpinnings of important traits ensued. In this review, we highlight key achievements in Prunus genetics and breeding driven by the availability of these whole-genome sequences. Within the structural and evolutionary contexts, we summarize: (1) the current status of Prunus whole-genome sequences; (2) preliminary and ongoing work on the sequence structure and diversity of the genomes; (3) the analyses of Prunus genome evolution driven by natural and man-made selection; and (4) provide insight into haploblocking genomes as a means to define genome-scale patterns of evolution that can be leveraged for trait selection in pedigree-based Prunus tree breeding programs worldwide. Functionally, we summarize recent and ongoing work that leverages whole-genome sequences to identify and characterize genes controlling 22 agronomically important Prunus traits. These include phenology, fruit quality, allergens, disease resistance, tree architecture, and self-incompatibility. Translationally, we explore the application of sequence-based marker-assisted breeding technologies and other sequence-guided biotechnological approaches for Prunus crop improvement. Finally, we present the current status of publically available Prunus genomics and genetics data housed mainly in the Genome Database for Rosaceae (GDR) and its updated functionalities for future bioinformatics-based Prunus genetics and genomics inquiry.


October 23, 2019  |  

Bioengineered viral platform for intramuscular passive vaccine delivery to human skeletal muscle.

Skeletal muscle is ideal for passive vaccine administration as it is easily accessible by intramuscular injection. Recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) vectors are in consideration for passive vaccination clinical trials for HIV and influenza. However, greater human skeletal muscle transduction is needed for therapeutic efficacy than is possible with existing serotypes. To bioengineer capsids with therapeutic levels of transduction, we utilized a directed evolution approach to screen libraries of shuffled AAV capsids in pools of surgically resected human skeletal muscle cells from five patients. Six rounds of evolution were performed in various muscle cell types, and evolved variants were validated against existing muscle-tropic serotypes rAAV1, 6, and 8. We found that evolved variants NP22 and NP66 had significantly increased primary human and rhesus skeletal muscle fiber transduction from surgical explants ex vivo and in various primary and immortalized myogenic lines in vitro. Importantly, we demonstrated reduced seroreactivity compared to existing serotypes against normal human serum from 50 adult donors. These capsids represent powerful tools for human skeletal muscle expression and secretion of antibodies from passive vaccines.


September 22, 2019  |  

The bacterial microbiome of Dermacentor andersoni ticks influences pathogen susceptibility.

Ticks are of medical importance owing to their ability to transmit pathogens to humans and animals. The Rocky Mountain wood tick, Dermacentor andersoni, is a vector of a number of pathogens, including Anaplasma marginale, which is the most widespread tick-borne pathogen of livestock. Although ticks host pathogenic bacteria, they also harbor bacterial endosymbionts that have a role in tick physiology, survival, as well as pathogen acquisition and transmission. The goal of this study was to characterize the bacterial microbiome and examine the impact of microbiome disruption on pathogen susceptibility. The bacterial microbiome of two populations of D. andersoni with historically different susceptibilities to A. marginale was characterized. In this study, the microbiome was disrupted and then ticks were exposed to A. marginale or Francisella novicida to determine whether the microbiome correlated with pathogen susceptibility. Our study showed that an increase in proportion and quantity of Rickettsia bellii in the microbiome was negatively correlated to A. marginale levels in ticks. Furthermore, a decrease in Francisella endosymbionts was associated with lower F. novicida infection levels, demonstrating a positive pathogen-endosymbiont relationship. We demonstrate that endosymbionts and pathogens have varying interactions, and suggest that microbiome manipulation may provide a possible method for biocontrol by decreasing pathogen susceptibility of ticks.


September 22, 2019  |  

The influence of energy harvesting strategies on performance and microbial community for sediment microbial fuel cells

Sediment microbial fuel cells (SMFCs) are being developed as potential energy sources where remote sensing and monitoring would be useful. Several energy harvesting techniques for SMFCs have emerged, but effects of these different strategies on startup, performance, and microbial community are not well understood. We investigated these effects by comparing a continuous energy harvesting (CEH) strategy with an intermittent energy harvesting (IEH) strategy. During startup, IEH systems immediately produced higher power and were cathode limited. CEH systems exhibited a gradual power increase and were anode-limited during startup. Both system types produced similar amounts of steady-state power, 1.5 mW ft-2 (16 mW m-2) when optimized. However, an IEH system using unoptimized settings could not be subsequently switched to optimal settings and produce expected power levels. The choice of energy harvester did not appear to significantly affect steady-state community structure. Anodes were dominated by ?- and d-proteobacteria while a- and ?-proteobacteria dominated cathodes. The results suggest performance and community structure are unaffected by energy harvesting strategy, but that startup conditions influence the initial amount of harvested energy and steady-state performance, suggesting future investigations into optimizing startup of these systems are critical for rapidly generating maximum power.


September 22, 2019  |  

Genome-wide identification and analysis of the ALTERNATIVE OXIDASE gene family in diploid and hexaploid wheat.

A comprehensive understanding of wheat responses to environmental stress will contribute to the long-term goal of feeding the planet. ALERNATIVE OXIDASE (AOX) genes encode proteins involved in a bypass of the electron transport chain and are also known to be involved in stress tolerance in multiple species. Here, we report the identification and characterization of the AOX gene family in diploid and hexaploid wheat. Four genes each were found in the diploid ancestors Triticum urartu, and Aegilops tauschii, and three in Aegilops speltoides. In hexaploid wheat (Triticum aestivum), 20 genes were identified, some with multiple splice variants, corresponding to a total of 24 proteins for those with observed transcription and translation. These proteins were classified as AOX1a, AOX1c, AOX1e or AOX1d via phylogenetic analysis. Proteins lacking most or all signature AOX motifs were assigned to putative regulatory roles. Analysis of protein-targeting sequences suggests mixed localization to the mitochondria and other organelles. In comparison to the most studied AOX from Trypanosoma brucei, there were amino acid substitutions at critical functional domains indicating possible role divergence in wheat or grasses in general. In hexaploid wheat, AOX genes were expressed at specific developmental stages as well as in response to both biotic and abiotic stresses such as fungal pathogens, heat and drought. These AOX expression patterns suggest a highly regulated and diverse transcription and expression system. The insights gained provide a framework for the continued and expanded study of AOX genes in wheat for stress tolerance through breeding new varieties, as well as resistance to AOX-targeted herbicides, all of which can ultimately be used synergistically to improve crop yield.


September 22, 2019  |  

Scale-up of sediment microbial fuel cells.

Sediment microbial fuel cells (SMFCs) are used as renewable power sources to operate remote sensors. However, increasing the electrode surface area results in decreased power density, which demonstrates that SMFCs do not scale up with size. As an alternative to the physical scale-up of SMFCs, we proposed that it is possible to scale up power by using smaller-sized individually operated SMFCs connected to a power management system that electrically isolates the anodes and cathodes. To demonstrate our electronic scale-up approach, we operated one 0.36-m2 SMFC (called a single-equivalent SMFC) and four independent SMFCs of 0.09 m2 each (called scaled-up SMFCs) and managed the power using an innovative custom-developed power management system. We found that the single-equivalent SMFC and the scaled-up SMFCs produced similar power for the first 155 days. However, in the long term (>155 days) our scaled-up SMFCs generated significantly more power than the single-equivalent SMFC (2.33 mW vs. 0.64 mW). Microbial community analysis of the single-equivalent SMFC and the scaled-up SMFCs showed very similar results, demonstrating that the difference in operation mode had no significant effect on the microbial community. When we compared scaled-up SMFCs with parallel SMFCs, we found that the scaled-up SMFCs generated more power. Our novel approach demonstrates that SMFCs can be scaled up electronically.


September 22, 2019  |  

Laboratory colonization stabilizes the naturally dynamic microbiome composition of field collected Dermacentor andersoni ticks.

Nearly a quarter of emerging infectious diseases identified in the last century are arthropod-borne. Although ticks and insects can carry pathogenic microorganisms, non-pathogenic microbes make up the majority of their microbial communities. The majority of tick microbiome research has had a focus on discovery and description; very few studies have analyzed the ecological context and functional responses of the bacterial microbiome of ticks. The goal of this analysis was to characterize the stability of the bacterial microbiome of Dermacentor andersoni ticks between generations and two populations within a species.The bacterial microbiome of D. andersoni midguts and salivary glands was analyzed from populations collected at two different ecologically distinct sites by comparing field (F1) and lab-reared populations (F1-F3) over three generations. The microbiome composition of pooled and individual samples was analyzed by sequencing nearly full-length 16S rRNA gene amplicons using a Pacific Biosciences CCS platform that allows identification of bacteria to the species level.In this study, we found that the D. andersoni microbiome was distinct in different geographic populations and was tissue specific, differing between the midgut and the salivary gland, over multiple generations. Additionally, our study showed that the microbiomes of laboratory-reared populations were not necessarily representative of their respective field populations. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the microbiome of a few individual ticks does not represent the microbiome composition at the population level.We demonstrated that the bacterial microbiome of D. andersoni was complex over three generations and specific to tick tissue (midgut vs. salivary glands) as well as geographic location (Burns, Oregon vs. Lake Como, Montana vs. laboratory setting). These results provide evidence that habitat of the tick population is a vital component of the complexity of the bacterial microbiome of ticks, and that the microbiome of lab colonies may not allow for comparative analyses with field populations. A broader understanding of microbiome variation will be required if we are to employ manipulation of the microbiome as a method for interfering with acquisition and transmission of tick-borne pathogens.


September 22, 2019  |  

Meeting report: processing, translation, decay – three ways to keep RNA sizzling.

This meeting report highlights key trends that emerged from a conference entitled Post-Transcriptional Gene Regulation in Plants, which was held 14-15 July 2016, as a satellite meeting of the annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists in Austin, Texas. The molecular biology of RNA is emerging as an integral part of the framework for plants’ responses to environmental challenges such as drought and heat, hypoxia, nutrient deprivation, light and pathogens. Moreover, the conference illustrated how a multitude of customized and pioneering omics-related technologies are being applied, more and more often in combination, to describe and dissect the complexities of gene expression at the post-transcriptional level.© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


September 22, 2019  |  

Localized electron transfer rates and microelectrode-based enrichment of microbial communities within a phototrophic microbial mat.

Phototrophic microbial mats frequently exhibit sharp, light-dependent redox gradients that regulate microbial respiration on specific electron acceptors as a function of depth. In this work, a benthic phototrophic microbial mat from Hot Lake, a hypersaline, epsomitic lake located near Oroville in north-central Washington, was used to develop a microscale electrochemical method to study local electron transfer processes within the mat. To characterize the physicochemical variables influencing electron transfer, we initially quantified redox potential, pH, and dissolved oxygen gradients by depth in the mat under photic and aphotic conditions. We further demonstrated that power output of a mat fuel cell was light-dependent. To study local electron transfer processes, we deployed a microscale electrode (microelectrode) with tip size ~20 µm. To enrich a subset of microorganisms capable of interacting with the microelectrode, we anodically polarized the microelectrode at depth in the mat. Subsequently, to characterize the microelectrode-associated community and compare it to the neighboring mat community, we performed amplicon sequencing of the V1-V3 region of the 16S gene. Differences in Bray-Curtis beta diversity, illustrated by large changes in relative abundance at the phylum level, suggested successful enrichment of specific mat community members on the microelectrode surface. The microelectrode-associated community exhibited substantially reduced alpha diversity and elevated relative abundances of Prosthecochloris, Loktanella, Catellibacterium, other unclassified members of Rhodobacteraceae, Thiomicrospira, and Limnobacter, compared with the community at an equivalent depth in the mat. Our results suggest that local electron transfer to an anodically polarized microelectrode selected for a specific microbial population, with substantially more abundance and diversity of sulfur-oxidizing phylotypes compared with the neighboring mat community.


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