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1.  The three major types of CRISPR-Cas systems function independently in CRISPR RNA biogenesis in Streptococcus thermophilus 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(1):98-112.
CRISPR-Cas systems are small RNA-based immune systems that protect prokaryotes from invaders such as viruses and plasmids. We have investigated the features and biogenesis of the CRISPR (cr)RNAs in Streptococcus thermophilus (Sth) strain DGCC7710, which possesses four different CRISPR-Cas systems including representatives from the three major types of CRISPR-Cas systems. Our results indicate that the crRNAs from each CRISPR locus are specifically processed into divergent crRNA species by Cas proteins (and non-coding RNAs) associated with the respective locus. We find that the Csm Type III-A and Cse Type I-E crRNAs are specifically processed by Cas6 and Cse3 (Cas6e), respectively, and retain an 8-nucleotide CRISPR repeat sequence tag 5′ of the invader-targeting sequence. The Cse Type I-E crRNAs also retain a 21-nucleotide 3′ repeat tag. The crRNAs from the two Csn Type II-A systems in Sth consist of a 5′-truncated targeting sequence and a 3′ tag; however these are distinct in size between the two. Moreover, the Csn1 (Cas9) protein associated with one Csn locus functions specifically in the production of crRNAs from that locus. Our findings indicate that multiple CRISPR-Cas systems can function independently in crRNA biogenesis within a given organism – an important consideration in engineering co-existing CRISPR-Cas pathways.
PMCID: PMC4095994  PMID: 24811454
CRISPR RNA biogenesis; Cas6; Cas9; tracrRNA; Streptococcus thermophilus
2.  CRISPR-Cas systems: prokaryotes upgrade to adaptive immunity 
Molecular cell  2014;54(2):234-244.
Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR), and associated proteins (Cas) comprise the CRISPR-Cas system, which confers adaptive immunity against exogenic elements in many bacteria and most archaea. CRISPR-mediated immunization occurs through the uptake of DNA from invasive genetic elements such as plasmids and viruses, followed by its integration into CRISPR loci. These loci are subsequently transcribed and processed into small interfering RNAs that guide nucleases for specific cleavage of complementary sequences. Conceptually, CRISPR-Cas shares functional features with the mammalian adaptive immune system, while also exhibiting characteristics of Lamarckian evolution. Because immune markers spliced from exogenous agents are integrated iteratively in CRISPR loci, they constitute a genetic record of vaccination events and reflect environmental conditions and changes over time. Cas endonucleases, which can be reprogrammed by small guide RNAs have shown unprecedented potential and flexibility for genome editing, and can be repurposed for numerous DNA targeting applications including transcriptional control.
PMCID: PMC4025954  PMID: 24766887
3.  CRISPR Immunity Drives Rapid Phage Genome Evolution in Streptococcus thermophilus 
mBio  2015;6(2):e00262-15.
Many bacteria rely on CRISPR-Cas systems to provide adaptive immunity against phages, predation by which can shape the ecology and functioning of microbial communities. To characterize the impact of CRISPR immunization on phage genome evolution, we performed long-term bacterium-phage (Streptococcus thermophilus-phage 2972) coevolution experiments. We found that in this species, CRISPR immunity drives fixation of single nucleotide polymorphisms that accumulate exclusively in phage genome regions targeted by CRISPR. Mutation rates in phage genomes highly exceed those of the host. The presence of multiple phages increased phage persistence by enabling recombination-based formation of chimeric phage genomes in which sequences heavily targeted by CRISPR were replaced. Collectively, our results establish CRISPR-Cas adaptive immunity as a key driver of phage genome evolution under the conditions studied and highlight the importance of multiple coexisting phages for persistence in natural systems.
Phages remain an enigmatic part of the biosphere. As predators, they challenge the survival of host bacteria and archaea and set off an “arms race” involving host immunization countered by phage mutation. The CRISPR-Cas system is adaptive: by capturing fragments of a phage genome upon exposure, the host is positioned to counteract future infections. To investigate this process, we initiated massive deep-sequencing experiments with a host and infective phage and tracked the coevolution of both populations over hundreds of days. In the present study, we found that CRISPR immunity drives the accumulation of phage genome rearrangements (which enable longer phage survival) and escape mutations, establishing CRISPR as one of the fundamental drivers of phage evolution.
PMCID: PMC4453577  PMID: 25900652
4.  Genomic Encyclopedia of Type Strains of the Genus Bifidobacterium 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2014;80(20):6290-6302.
Bifidobacteria represent one of the dominant microbial groups that are present in the gut of various animals, being particularly prevalent during the suckling stage of life of humans and other mammals. However, the overall genome structure of this group of microorganisms remains largely unexplored. Here, we sequenced the genomes of 42 representative (sub)species across the Bifidobacterium genus and used this information to explore the overall genetic picture of this bacterial group. Furthermore, the genomic data described here were used to reconstruct the evolutionary development of the Bifidobacterium genus. This reconstruction suggests that its evolution was substantially influenced by genetic adaptations to obtain access to glycans, thereby representing a common and potent evolutionary force in shaping bifidobacterial genomes.
PMCID: PMC4178644  PMID: 25085493
5.  Advances in CRISPR-Cas9 genome engineering: lessons learned from RNA interference 
Nucleic Acids Research  2015;43(7):3407-3419.
The discovery that the machinery of the Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR)-Cas9 bacterial immune system can be re-purposed to easily create deletions, insertions and replacements in the mammalian genome has revolutionized the field of genome engineering and re-invigorated the field of gene therapy. Many parallels have been drawn between the newly discovered CRISPR-Cas9 system and the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway in terms of their utility for understanding and interrogating gene function in mammalian cells. Given this similarity, the CRISPR-Cas9 field stands to benefit immensely from lessons learned during the development of RNAi technology. We examine how the history of RNAi can inform today's challenges in CRISPR-Cas9 genome engineering such as efficiency, specificity, high-throughput screening and delivery for in vivo and therapeutic applications.
PMCID: PMC4402539  PMID: 25800748
6.  A CRISPR design for next-generation antimicrobials 
Genome Biology  2014;15(11):516.
Two recent publications have demonstrated how delivering CRISPR nucleases provides a promising solution to the growing problem of bacterial antibiotic resistance.
PMCID: PMC4282009  PMID: 25417800
7.  Association of Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat (CRISPR) Elements with Specific Serotypes and Virulence Potential of Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli 
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains (n = 194) representing 43 serotypes and E. coli K-12 were examined for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) arrays to study genetic relatedness among STEC serotypes. A subset of the strains (n = 81) was further analyzed for subtype I-E cas and virulence genes to determine a possible association of CRISPR elements with potential virulence. Four types of CRISPR arrays were identified. CRISPR1 and CRISPR2 were present in all strains tested; 1 strain also had both CRISPR3 and CRISPR4, whereas 193 strains displayed a short, combined array, CRISPR3-4. A total of 3,353 spacers were identified, representing 528 distinct spacers. The average length of a spacer was 32 bp. Approximately one-half of the spacers (54%) were unique and found mostly in strains of less common serotypes. Overall, CRISPR spacer contents correlated well with STEC serotypes, and identical arrays were shared between strains with the same H type (O26:H11, O103:H11, and O111:H11). There was no association identified between the presence of subtype I-E cas and virulence genes, but the total number of spacers had a negative correlation with potential pathogenicity (P < 0.05). Fewer spacers were found in strains that had a greater probability of causing outbreaks and disease than in those with lower virulence potential (P < 0.05). The relationship between the CRISPR-cas system and potential virulence needs to be determined on a broader scale, and the biological link will need to be established.
PMCID: PMC3911044  PMID: 24334663
8.  Lactobacillus buchneri Genotyping on the Basis of Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat (CRISPR) Locus Diversity 
Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) in combination with associated sequences (cas) constitute the CRISPR-Cas immune system, which uptakes DNA from invasive genetic elements as novel “spacers” that provide a genetic record of immunization events. We investigated the potential of CRISPR-based genotyping of Lactobacillus buchneri, a species relevant for commercial silage, bioethanol, and vegetable fermentations. Upon investigating the occurrence and diversity of CRISPR-Cas systems in Lactobacillus buchneri genomes, we observed a ubiquitous occurrence of CRISPR arrays containing a 36-nucleotide (nt) type II-A CRISPR locus adjacent to four cas genes, including the universal cas1 and cas2 genes and the type II signature gene cas9. Comparative analysis of CRISPR spacer content in 26 L. buchneri pickle fermentation isolates associated with spoilage revealed 10 unique locus genotypes that contained between 9 and 29 variable spacers. We observed a set of conserved spacers at the ancestral end, reflecting a common origin, as well as leader-end polymorphisms, reflecting recent divergence. Some of these spacers showed perfect identity with phage sequences, and many spacers showed homology to Lactobacillus plasmid sequences. Following a comparative analysis of sequences immediately flanking protospacers that matched CRISPR spacers, we identified a novel putative protospacer-adjacent motif (PAM), 5′-AAAA-3′. Overall, these findings suggest that type II-A CRISPR-Cas systems are valuable for genotyping of L. buchneri.
PMCID: PMC3911191  PMID: 24271175
9.  RNA-guided genome editing à la carte 
Cell Research  2013;23(6):733-734.
Two recent papers in Science illustrate how the prokaryotic CRISPR-Cas immune system machinery, which typically targets invasive genetic elements such as viruses and plasmids, can be converted into a sophisticated molecular tool for next-generation human genome editing. The versatile Cas9 RNA-guided endonuclease can be readily reprogrammed using customizable small RNAs for sequence-specific single- or double-stranded DNA cleavage.
PMCID: PMC3674385  PMID: 23478298
10.  Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis ATCC 27673 Is a Genomically Unique Strain within Its Conserved Subspecies 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(22):6903-6910.
Many strains of Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis are considered health-promoting probiotic microorganisms and are commonly formulated into fermented dairy foods. Analyses of previously sequenced genomes of B. animalis subsp. lactis have revealed little genetic diversity, suggesting that it is a monomorphic subspecies. However, during a multilocus sequence typing survey of Bifidobacterium, it was revealed that B. animalis subsp. lactis ATCC 27673 gave a profile distinct from that of the other strains of the subspecies. As part of an ongoing study designed to understand the genetic diversity of this subspecies, the genome of this strain was sequenced and compared to other sequenced genomes of B. animalis subsp. lactis and B. animalis subsp. animalis. The complete genome of ATCC 27673 was 1,963,012 bp, contained 1,616 genes and 4 rRNA operons, and had a G+C content of 61.55%. Comparative analyses revealed that the genome of ATCC 27673 contained six distinct genomic islands encoding 83 open reading frames not found in other strains of the same subspecies. In four islands, either phage or mobile genetic elements were identified. In island 6, a novel clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) locus which contained 81 unique spacers was identified. This type I-E CRISPR-cas system differs from the type I-C systems previously identified in this subspecies, representing the first identification of a different system in B. animalis subsp. lactis. This study revealed that ATCC 27673 is a strain of B. animalis subsp. lactis with novel genetic content and suggests that the lack of genetic variability observed is likely due to the repeated sequencing of a limited number of widely distributed commercial strains.
PMCID: PMC3811525  PMID: 23995933
11.  The evolutionary history and diagnostic utility of the CRISPR-Cas system within Salmonella enterica ssp. enterica 
PeerJ  2014;2:e340.
Evolutionary studies of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) and their associated (cas) genes can provide insights into host-pathogen co-evolutionary dynamics and the frequency at which different genomic events (e.g., horizontal vs. vertical transmission) occur. Within this study, we used whole genome sequence (WGS) data to determine the evolutionary history and genetic diversity of CRISPR loci and cas genes among a diverse set of 427 Salmonella enterica ssp. enterica isolates representing 64 different serovars. We also evaluated the performance of CRISPR loci for typing when compared to whole genome and multilocus sequence typing (MLST) approaches. We found that there was high diversity in array length within both CRISPR1 (median = 22; min = 3; max = 79) and CRISPR2 (median = 27; min = 2; max = 221). There was also much diversity within serovars (e.g., arrays differed by as many as 50 repeat-spacer units among Salmonella ser. Senftenberg isolates). Interestingly, we found that there are two general cas gene profiles that do not track phylogenetic relationships, which suggests that non-vertical transmission events have occurred frequently throughout the evolutionary history of the sampled isolates. There is also considerable variation among the ranges of pairwise distances estimated within each cas gene, which may be indicative of the strength of natural selection acting on those genes. We developed a novel clustering approach based on CRISPR spacer content, but found that typing based on CRISPRs was less accurate than the MLST-based alternative; typing based on WGS data was the most accurate. Notwithstanding cost and accessibility, we anticipate that draft genome sequencing, due to its greater discriminatory power, will eventually become routine for traceback investigations.
PMCID: PMC3994646  PMID: 24765574
Salmonella; Horizontal gene transfer; Evolution; CRISPR; Outbreak; Phylogeny; Whole genome sequencing; Typing
12.  The Evolutionary Divergence of Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli Is Reflected in Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat (CRISPR) Spacer Composition 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(18):5710-5720.
The Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains, including those of O157:H7 and the “big six” serogroups (i.e., serogroups O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145), are a group of pathogens designated food adulterants in the United States. The relatively conserved nature of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) in phylogenetically related E. coli strains makes them potential subtyping markers for STEC detection, and a quantitative PCR (qPCR)-based assay was previously developed for O26:H11, O45:H2, O103:H2, O111:H8, O121:H19, O145:H28, and O157:H7 isolates. To better evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of this qPCR method, the CRISPR loci of 252 O157 and big-six STEC isolates were sequenced and analyzed along with 563 CRISPR1 and 624 CRISPR2 sequences available in GenBank. General conservation of spacer content and order was observed within each O157 and big-six serogroup, validating the qPCR method. Meanwhile, it was found that spacer deletion, the presence of an insertion sequence, and distinct alleles within a serogroup are sources of false-negative reactions. Conservation of CRISPR arrays among isolates expressing the same flagellar antigen, specifically, H7, H2, and H11, suggested that these isolates share an ancestor and provided an explanation for the false positives previously observed in the qPCR results. An analysis of spacer distribution across E. coli strains provided limited evidence for temporal spacer acquisition. Conversely, comparison of CRISPR sequences between strains along the stepwise evolution of O157:H7 from its O55:H7 ancestor revealed that, over this ∼7,000-year span, spacer deletion was the primary force generating CRISPR diversity.
PMCID: PMC3754162  PMID: 23851088
13.  Antibiotic Resistance in Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium Associates with CRISPR Sequence Type 
Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Typhimurium is a leading cause of food-borne salmonellosis in the United States. The number of antibiotic-resistant isolates identified in humans is steadily increasing, suggesting that the spread of antibiotic-resistant strains is a major threat to public health. S. Typhimurium is commonly identified in a wide range of animal hosts, food sources, and environments, but little is known about the factors mediating the spread of antibiotic resistance in this ecologically complex serovar. Previously, we developed a subtyping method, CRISPR–multi-virulence-locus sequence typing (MVLST), which discriminates among strains of several common S. enterica serovars. Here, CRISPR-MVLST identified 22 sequence types within a collection of 76 S. Typhimurium isolates from a variety of animal sources throughout central Pennsylvania. Six of the sequence types were identified in more than one isolate, and we observed statistically significant differences in resistance among these sequence types to 7 antibiotics commonly used in veterinary and human medicine, such as ceftiofur and ampicillin (P < 0.05). Importantly, five of these sequence types were subsequently identified in human clinical isolates, and a subset of these isolates had identical antibiotic resistance patterns, suggesting that these subpopulations are being transmitted through the food system. Therefore, CRISPR-MVLST is a promising subtyping method for monitoring the farm-to-fork spread of antibiotic resistance in S. Typhimurium.
PMCID: PMC3754329  PMID: 23796925
14.  Programmable Removal of Bacterial Strains by Use of Genome-Targeting CRISPR-Cas Systems 
mBio  2014;5(1):e00928-13.
CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)-Cas (CRISPR-associated) systems in bacteria and archaea employ CRISPR RNAs to specifically recognize the complementary DNA of foreign invaders, leading to sequence-specific cleavage or degradation of the target DNA. Recent work has shown that the accidental or intentional targeting of the bacterial genome is cytotoxic and can lead to cell death. Here, we have demonstrated that genome targeting with CRISPR-Cas systems can be employed for the sequence-specific and titratable removal of individual bacterial strains and species. Using the type I-E CRISPR-Cas system in Escherichia coli as a model, we found that this effect could be elicited using native or imported systems and was similarly potent regardless of the genomic location, strand, or transcriptional activity of the target sequence. Furthermore, the specificity of targeting with CRISPR RNAs could readily distinguish between even highly similar strains in pure or mixed cultures. Finally, varying the collection of delivered CRISPR RNAs could quantitatively control the relative number of individual strains within a mixed culture. Critically, the observed selectivity and programmability of bacterial removal would be virtually impossible with traditional antibiotics, bacteriophages, selectable markers, or tailored growth conditions. Once delivery challenges are addressed, we envision that this approach could offer a novel means to quantitatively control the composition of environmental and industrial microbial consortia and may open new avenues for the development of “smart” antibiotics that circumvent multidrug resistance and differentiate between pathogenic and beneficial microorganisms.
Controlling the composition of microbial populations is a critical aspect in medicine, biotechnology, and environmental cycles. While different antimicrobial strategies, such as antibiotics, antimicrobial peptides, and lytic bacteriophages, offer partial solutions, what remains elusive is a generalized and programmable strategy that can distinguish between even closely related microorganisms and that allows for fine control over the composition of a microbial population. This study demonstrates that RNA-directed immune systems in bacteria and archaea called CRISPR-Cas systems can provide such a strategy. These systems can be employed to selectively and quantitatively remove individual bacterial strains based purely on sequence information, creating opportunities in the treatment of multidrug-resistant infections, the control of industrial fermentations, and the study of microbial consortia.
PMCID: PMC3903277  PMID: 24473129
15.  Subtyping of Salmonella enterica Serovar Newport Outbreak Isolates by CRISPR-MVLST and Determination of the Relationship between CRISPR-MVLST and PFGE Results 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2013;51(7):2328-2336.
Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Newport (S. Newport) is the third most prevalent cause of food-borne salmonellosis. Rapid, efficient, and accurate methods for identification are required to track specific strains of S. Newport during outbreaks. By exploiting the hypervariable nature of virulence genes and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs), we previously developed a sequence-based subtyping approach, designated CRISPR–multi-virulence-locus sequence typing (CRISPR-MVLST). To demonstrate the applicability of this approach, we analyzed a broad set of S. Newport isolates collected over a 5-year period by using CRISPR-MVLST and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Among 84 isolates, we defined 38 S. Newport sequence types (NSTs), all of which were novel compared to our previous analyses, and 62 different PFGE patterns. Our data suggest that both subtyping approaches have high discriminatory abilities (>0.95) with a potential for clustering cases with common exposures. Importantly, we found that isolates from closely related NSTs were often similar by PFGE profile as well, further corroborating the applicability of CRISPR-MVLST. In the first full application of CRISPR-MVLST, we analyzed isolates from a recent S. Newport outbreak. In this blinded study, we confirmed the utility of CRISPR-MVLST and were able to distinguish the 10 outbreak isolates, as defined by PFGE and epidemiological data, from a collection of 20 S. Newport isolates. Together, our data show that CRISPR-MVLST could be a complementary approach to PFGE subtyping for S. Newport.
PMCID: PMC3697709  PMID: 23678062
16.  CRISPR-MVLST subtyping of Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovars Typhimurium and Heidelberg and application in identifying outbreak isolates 
BMC Microbiology  2013;13:254.
Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovars Typhimurium (S. Typhimurium) and Heidelberg (S. Heidelberg) are major causes of foodborne salmonellosis, accounting for a fifth of all annual salmonellosis cases in the United States. Rapid, efficient and accurate methods for identification are required for routine surveillance and to track specific strains during outbreaks. We used Pulsed-field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) and a recently developed molecular subtyping approach termed CRISPR-MVLST that exploits the hypervariable nature of virulence genes and Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPRs) to subtype clinical S. Typhimurium and S. Heidelberg isolates.
We analyzed a broad set of 175 S. Heidelberg and S. Typhimurium isolates collected over a five-year period. We identified 21 Heidelberg Sequence Types (HSTs) and 37 Typhimurium STs (TSTs) that were represented by 27 and 45 PFGE pulsotypes, respectively, and determined the discriminatory power of each method.
For S. Heidelberg, our data shows that combined typing by both CRISPR-MVLST and PFGE provided a discriminatory power of 0.9213. Importantly, CRISPR-MVLST was able to separate common PFGE patterns such as JF6X01.0022 into distinct STs, thus providing significantly greater discriminatory power. Conversely, we show that subtyping by either CRISPR-MVLST or PFGE independently provides a sufficient discriminatory power (0.9345 and 0.9456, respectively) for S. Typhimurium. Additionally, using isolates from two S. Typhimurium outbreaks, we demonstrate that CRISPR-MVLST provides excellent epidemiologic concordance.
PMCID: PMC3840669  PMID: 24219629
CRISPR subtyping; CRISPR-MVLST; Molecular subtyping; Salmonella Heidelberg; Salmonella Typhimurium
17.  Phylogenetic Diversity of the Enteric Pathogen Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica Inferred from Genome-Wide Reference-Free SNP Characters 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2013;5(11):2109-2123.
The enteric pathogen Salmonella enterica is one of the leading causes of foodborne illness in the world. The species is extremely diverse, containing more than 2,500 named serovars that are designated for their unique antigen characters and pathogenicity profiles—some are known to be virulent pathogens, while others are not. Questions regarding the evolution of pathogenicity, significance of antigen characters, diversity of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) loci, among others, will remain elusive until a strong evolutionary framework is established. We present the first large-scale S. enterica subsp. enterica phylogeny inferred from a new reference-free k-mer approach of gathering single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from whole genomes. The phylogeny of 156 isolates representing 78 serovars (102 were newly sequenced) reveals two major lineages, each with many strongly supported sublineages. One of these lineages is the S. Typhi group; well nested within the phylogeny. Lineage-through-time analyses suggest there have been two instances of accelerated rates of diversification within the subspecies. We also found that antigen characters and CRISPR loci reveal different evolutionary patterns than that of the phylogeny, suggesting that a horizontal gene transfer or possibly a shared environmental acquisition might have influenced the present character distribution. Our study also shows the ability to extract reference-free SNPs from a large set of genomes and then to use these SNPs for phylogenetic reconstruction. This automated, annotation-free approach is an important step forward for bacterial disease tracking and in efficiently elucidating the evolutionary history of highly clonal organisms.
PMCID: PMC3845640  PMID: 24158624
H antigens; serovar; O antigens; CRISPR; lineage-through-time plot; comparative method
18.  Complete Genome Sequence of Probiotic Strain Lactobacillus acidophilus La-14 
Genome Announcements  2013;1(3):e00376-13.
We present the 1,991,830-bp complete genome sequence of Lactobacillus acidophilus strain La-14 (SD-5212). Comparative genomic analysis revealed 99.98% similarity overall to the L. acidophilus NCFM genome. Globally, 111 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (95 SNPs, 16 indels) were observed throughout the genome. Also, a 416-bp deletion in the LA14_1146 sugar ABC transporter was identified.
PMCID: PMC3707595  PMID: 23788546
19.  Transcriptional analysis of oligosaccharide utilization by Bifidobacterium lactis Bl-04 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:312.
Probiotic bifidobacteria in combination with prebiotic carbohydrates have documented positive effects on human health regarding gastrointestinal disorders and improved immunity, however the selective routes of uptake remain unknown for most candidate prebiotics. The differential transcriptomes of Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis Bl-04, induced by 11 potential prebiotic oligosaccharides were analyzed to identify the genetic loci involved in the uptake and catabolism of α- and β-linked hexoses, and β-xylosides.
The overall transcriptome was modulated dependent on the type of glycoside (galactosides, glucosides or xylosides) utilized. Carbohydrate transporters of the major facilitator superfamily (induced by gentiobiose and β-galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS)) and ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters (upregulated by cellobiose, GOS, isomaltose, maltotriose, melibiose, panose, raffinose, stachyose, xylobiose and β-xylo-oligosaccharides) were differentially upregulated, together with glycoside hydrolases from families 1, 2, 13, 36, 42, 43 and 77. Sequence analysis of the identified solute-binding proteins that determine the specificity of ABC transporters revealed similarities in the breadth and selectivity of prebiotic utilization by bifidobacteria.
This study identified the differential gene expression for utilization of potential prebiotics highlighting the extensive capabilities of Bifidobacterium lactis Bl-04 to utilize oligosaccharides. Results provide insights into the ability of this probiotic microbe to utilize indigestible carbohydrates in the human gastrointestinal tract.
PMCID: PMC3684542  PMID: 23663691
Bifidobacterium lactis; Transcriptomics; ABC transporter; GPH transporter; Prebiotics; Glycoside hydrolase
20.  crRNA and tracrRNA guide Cas9-mediated DNA interference in Streptococcus thermophilus 
RNA Biology  2013;10(5):841-851.
The Cas9-crRNA complex of the Streptococcus thermophilus DGCC7710 CRISPR3-Cas system functions as an RNA-guided endonuclease with crRNA-directed target sequence recognition and protein-mediated DNA cleavage. We show here that an additional RNA molecule, tracrRNA (trans-activating CRISPR RNA), co-purifies with the Cas9 protein isolated from the heterologous E. coli strain carrying the S. thermophilus DGCC7710 CRISPR3-Cas system. We provide experimental evidence that tracrRNA is required for Cas9-mediated DNA interference both in vitro and in vivo. We show that Cas9 specifically promotes duplex formation between the precursor crRNA (pre-crRNA) transcript and tracrRNA, in vitro. Furthermore, the housekeeping RNase III contributes to primary pre-crRNA-tracrRNA duplex cleavage for mature crRNA biogenesis. RNase III, however, is not required in the processing of a short pre-crRNA transcribed from a minimal CRISPR array containing a single spacer. Finally, we show that an in vitro-assembled ternary Cas9-crRNA-tracrRNA complex cleaves DNA. This study further specifies the molecular basis for crRNA-based re-programming of Cas9 to specifically cleave any target DNA sequence for precise genome surgery. The processes for crRNA maturation and effector complex assembly established here will contribute to the further development of the Cas9 re-programmable system for genome editing applications.
PMCID: PMC3737341  PMID: 23535272
CRISPR; DNA silencing; Type II CRISPR-Cas systems
21.  The Population and Evolutionary Dynamics of Phage and Bacteria with CRISPR–Mediated Immunity 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(3):e1003312.
Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR), together with associated genes (cas), form the CRISPR–cas adaptive immune system, which can provide resistance to viruses and plasmids in bacteria and archaea. Here, we use mathematical models, population dynamic experiments, and DNA sequence analyses to investigate the host–phage interactions in a model CRISPR–cas system, Streptococcus thermophilus DGCC7710 and its virulent phage 2972. At the molecular level, the bacteriophage-immune mutant bacteria (BIMs) and CRISPR–escape mutant phage (CEMs) obtained in this study are consistent with those anticipated from an iterative model of this adaptive immune system: resistance by the addition of novel spacers and phage evasion of resistance by mutation in matching sequences or flanking motifs. While CRISPR BIMs were readily isolated and CEMs generated at high rates (frequencies in excess of 10−6), our population studies indicate that there is more to the dynamics of phage–host interactions and the establishment of a BIM–CEM arms race than predicted from existing assumptions about phage infection and CRISPR–cas immunity. Among the unanticipated observations are: (i) the invasion of phage into populations of BIMs resistant by the acquisition of one (but not two) spacers, (ii) the survival of sensitive bacteria despite the presence of high densities of phage, and (iii) the maintenance of phage-limited communities due to the failure of even two-spacer BIMs to become established in populations with wild-type bacteria and phage. We attribute (i) to incomplete resistance of single-spacer BIMs. Based on the results of additional modeling and experiments, we postulate that (ii) and (iii) can be attributed to the phage infection-associated production of enzymes or other compounds that induce phenotypic phage resistance in sensitive bacteria and kill resistant BIMs. We present evidence in support of these hypotheses and discuss the implications of these results for the ecology and (co)evolution of bacteria and phage.
Author Summary
The evidence that the CRISPR regions of the genomes of archaea and bacteria play a role in the ecology and (co)evolution of these microbes and their viruses is overwhelming: (i) the spacers (variable sequences of 26–72 bp of DNA between the repeats of this region) of these prokaryotes are homologous to the DNA of viruses in their communities; (ii) experimentally, the acquisition and incorporation of spacers of viral DNA can protect these organisms from subsequent infection by these viruses; (iii) experimentally, viruses evade this immunity by mutation in homologous protospacers or protospacer-adjacent motifs (PAMs). Not so clear are the nature and magnitude of the role CRISPR plays in this ecology and evolution. Here, we use mathematical models, experiments with Streptococcus thermophilus and the phage 2972, and DNA sequence analyses to explore the contribution of CRISPR–cas immunity to the ecology and (co)evolution of bacteria and their viruses. The results of this study suggest that the contribution of CRISPR to the ecology of bacteria and phage is more modest and limited, and the conditions for a CRISPR–mediated coevolutionary arms race between these organisms more restrictive, than anticipated from models based on the canonical view of phage infection and CRISPR–cas immunity.
PMCID: PMC3597502  PMID: 23516369
22.  Complete Genome Sequences of Probiotic Strains Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis B420 and Bi-07 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(15):4131-4132.
We present the complete genomes of Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis B420 and Bi-07. Comparative genomic analysis with the type strain DSMZ10140 revealed 40 to 55 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and an indel in a clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) locus. These genetic differences provide a molecular basis for strain typing within the two main phylogenetic groups of this monomorphic species.
PMCID: PMC3416519  PMID: 22815448
23.  Analysis of the Lactobacillus casei supragenome and its influence in species evolution and lifestyle adaptation 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:533.
The broad ecological distribution of L. casei makes it an insightful subject for research on genome evolution and lifestyle adaptation. To explore evolutionary mechanisms that determine genomic diversity of L. casei, we performed comparative analysis of 17 L. casei genomes representing strains collected from dairy, plant, and human sources.
Differences in L. casei genome inventory revealed an open pan-genome comprised of 1,715 core and 4,220 accessory genes. Extrapolation of pan-genome data indicates L. casei has a supragenome approximately 3.2 times larger than the average genome of individual strains. Evidence suggests horizontal gene transfer from other bacterial species, particularly lactobacilli, has been important in adaptation of L. casei to new habitats and lifestyles, but evolution of dairy niche specialists also appears to involve gene decay.
Genome diversity in L. casei has evolved through gene acquisition and decay. Acquisition of foreign genomic islands likely confers a fitness benefit in specific habitats, notably plant-associated niches. Loss of unnecessary ancestral traits in strains collected from bacterial-ripened cheeses supports the hypothesis that gene decay contributes to enhanced fitness in that niche. This study gives the first evidence for a L. casei supragenome and provides valuable insights into mechanisms for genome evolution and lifestyle adaptation of this ecologically flexible and industrially important lactic acid bacterium. Additionally, our data confirm the Distributed Genome Hypothesis extends to non-pathogenic, ecologically flexible species like L. casei.
PMCID: PMC3496567  PMID: 23035691
Lactobacillus casei; Lactic acid bacteria; Comparative genomics; Pan-genome; Supragenome; Evolution; Adaptation
24.  Transcriptional Analysis of Prebiotic Uptake and Catabolism by Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e44409.
The human gastrointestinal tract can be positively modulated by dietary supplementation of probiotic bacteria in combination with prebiotic carbohydrates. Here differential transcriptomics and functional genomics were used to identify genes in Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM involved in the uptake and catabolism of 11 potential prebiotic compounds consisting of α- and β- linked galactosides and glucosides. These oligosaccharides induced genes encoding phosphoenolpyruvate-dependent sugar phosphotransferase systems (PTS), galactoside pentose hexuronide (GPH) permease, and ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters. PTS systems were upregulated primarily by di- and tri-saccharides such as cellobiose, isomaltose, isomaltulose, panose and gentiobiose, while ABC transporters were upregulated by raffinose, Polydextrose, and stachyose. A single GPH transporter was induced by lactitol and galactooligosaccharides (GOS). The various transporters were associated with a number of glycoside hydrolases from families 1, 2, 4, 13, 32, 36, 42, and 65, involved in the catabolism of various α- and β-linked glucosides and galactosides. Further subfamily specialization was also observed for different PTS-associated GH1 6-phospho-β-glucosidases implicated in the catabolism of gentiobiose and cellobiose. These findings highlight the broad oligosaccharide metabolic repertoire of L. acidophilus NCFM and establish a platform for selection and screening of both probiotic bacteria and prebiotic compounds that may positively influence the gastrointestinal microbiota.
PMCID: PMC3446993  PMID: 23028535
25.  Evolution and classification of the CRISPR-Cas systems 
Nature Reviews. Microbiology  2011;9(6):467-477.
The CRISPR–Cas (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats–CRISPR-associated proteins) modules are adaptive immunity systems that are present in many archaea and bacteria. These defence systems are encoded by operons that have an extraordinarily diverse architecture and a high rate of evolution for both the cas genes and the unique spacer content. Here, we provide an updated analysis of the evolutionary relationships between CRISPR–Cas systems and Cas proteins. Three major types of CRISPR–Cas system are delineated, with a further division into several subtypes and a few chimeric variants. Given the complexity of the genomic architectures and the extremely dynamic evolution of the CRISPR–Cas systems, a unified classification of these systems should be based on multiple criteria. Accordingly, we propose a `polythetic' classification that integrates the phylogenies of the most common cas genes, the sequence and organization of the CRISPR repeats and the architecture of the CRISPR–cas loci.
PMCID: PMC3380444  PMID: 21552286

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