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1.  The Use of Non-Variant Sites to Improve the Clinical Assessment of Whole-Genome Sequence Data 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0132180.
Genetic testing, which is now a routine part of clinical practice and disease management protocols, is often based on the assessment of small panels of variants or genes. On the other hand, continuous improvements in the speed and per-base costs of sequencing have now made whole exome sequencing (WES) and whole genome sequencing (WGS) viable strategies for targeted or complete genetic analysis, respectively. Standard WGS/WES data analytical workflows generally rely on calling of sequence variants respect to the reference genome sequence. However, the reference genome sequence contains a large number of sites represented by rare alleles, by known pathogenic alleles and by alleles strongly associated to disease by GWAS. It’s thus critical, for clinical applications of WGS and WES, to interpret whether non-variant sites are homozygous for the reference allele or if the corresponding genotype cannot be reliably called. Here we show that an alternative analytical approach based on the analysis of both variant and non-variant sites from WGS data allows to genotype more than 92% of sites corresponding to known SNPs compared to 6% genotyped by standard variant analysis. These include homozygous reference sites of clinical interest, thus leading to a broad and comprehensive characterization of variation necessary to an accurate evaluation of disease risk. Altogether, our findings indicate that characterization of both variant and non-variant clinically informative sites in the genome is necessary to allow an accurate clinical assessment of a personal genome. Finally, we propose a highly efficient extended VCF (eVCF) file format which allows to store genotype calls for sites of clinical interest while remaining compatible with current variant interpretation software.
PMCID: PMC4492948  PMID: 26147798
2.  DNA methylation and gene expression profiles show novel regulatory pathways in hepatocellular carcinoma 
Clinical Epigenetics  2015;7(1):43.
Alcohol is a well-known risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), but the mechanisms underlying the alcohol-related hepatocarcinogenesis are still poorly understood. Alcohol alters the provision of methyl groups within the hepatic one-carbon metabolism, possibly inducing aberrant DNA methylation. Whether specific pathways are epigenetically regulated in alcohol-associated HCC is, however, unknown. The aim of the present study was to investigate the genome-wide promoter DNA methylation and gene expression profiles in non-viral, alcohol-associated HCC. From eight HCC patients undergoing curative surgery, array-based DNA methylation and gene expression data of all annotated genes were analyzed by comparing HCC tissue and homologous cancer-free liver tissue.
After merging the DNA methylation with gene expression data, we identified 159 hypermethylated-repressed, 30 hypomethylated-induced, 49 hypermethylated-induced, and 56 hypomethylated-repressed genes. Notably, promoter DNA methylation emerged as a novel regulatory mechanism for the transcriptional repression of genes controlling the retinol metabolism (ADH1A, ADH1B, ADH6, CYP3A43, CYP4A22, RDH16), iron homeostasis (HAMP), one-carbon metabolism (SHMT1), and genes with a putative, newly identified function as tumor suppressors (FAM107A, IGFALS, MT1G, MT1H, RNF180).
A genome-wide DNA methylation approach merged with array-based gene expression profiles allowed identifying a number of novel, epigenetically regulated candidate tumor-suppressor genes in alcohol-associated hepatocarcinogenesis. Retinol metabolism genes and SHMT1 are also epigenetically regulated through promoter DNA methylation in alcohol-associated HCC.
Due to the reversibility of epigenetic mechanisms by environmental/nutritional factors, these findings may open up to novel interventional strategies for hepatocarcinogenesis prevention in HCC related to alcohol, a modifiable dietary component.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13148-015-0077-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4419480  PMID: 25945129
Alcohol; Candidate tumor-suppressor genes; DNA methylation; Epigenetics; Gene expression array; Hepatocellular carcinoma; MeDIP-chip; One-carbon metabolism; Retinol metabolism
3.  VDJSeq-Solver: In Silico V(D)J Recombination Detection Tool 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0118192.
In this paper we present VDJSeq-Solver, a methodology and tool to identify clonal lymphocyte populations from paired-end RNA Sequencing reads derived from the sequencing of mRNA neoplastic cells. The tool detects the main clone that characterises the tissue of interest by recognizing the most abundant V(D)J rearrangement among the existing ones in the sample under study. The exact sequence of the clone identified is capable of accounting for the modifications introduced by the enzymatic processes. The proposed tool overcomes limitations of currently available lymphocyte rearrangements recognition methods, working on a single sequence at a time, that are not applicable to high-throughput sequencing data. In this work, VDJSeq-Solver has been applied to correctly detect the main clone and identify its sequence on five Mantle Cell Lymphoma samples; then the tool has been tested on twelve Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma samples. In order to comply with the privacy, ethics and intellectual property policies of the University Hospital and the University of Verona, data is available upon request to after signing a mandatory Materials Transfer Agreement. VDJSeq-Solver JAVA/Perl/Bash software implementation is free and available at
PMCID: PMC4370828  PMID: 25799103
4.  Transcriptomic analysis of the late stages of grapevine (Vitis vinifera cv. Cabernet Sauvignon) berry ripening reveals significant induction of ethylene signaling and flavor pathways in the skin 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:370.
Grapevine berry, a nonclimacteric fruit, has three developmental stages; the last one is when berry color and sugar increase. Flavors derived from terpenoid and fatty acid metabolism develop at the very end of this ripening stage. The transcriptomic response of pulp and skin of Cabernet Sauvignon berries in the late stages of ripening between 22 and 37 °Brix was assessed using whole-genome micorarrays.
The transcript abundance of approximately 18,000 genes changed with °Brix and tissue type. There were a large number of changes in many gene ontology (GO) categories involving metabolism, signaling and abiotic stress. GO categories reflecting tissue differences were overrepresented in photosynthesis, isoprenoid metabolism and pigment biosynthesis. Detailed analysis of the interaction of the skin and pulp with °Brix revealed that there were statistically significantly higher abundances of transcripts changing with °Brix in the skin that were involved in ethylene signaling, isoprenoid and fatty acid metabolism. Many transcripts were peaking around known optimal fruit stages for flavor production. The transcript abundance of approximately two-thirds of the AP2/ERF superfamily of transcription factors changed during these developmental stages. The transcript abundance of a unique clade of ERF6-type transcription factors had the largest changes in the skin and clustered with genes involved in ethylene, senescence, and fruit flavor production including ACC oxidase, terpene synthases, and lipoxygenases. The transcript abundance of important transcription factors involved in fruit ripening was also higher in the skin.
A detailed analysis of the transcriptome dynamics during late stages of ripening of grapevine berries revealed that these berries went through massive transcriptional changes in gene ontology categories involving chemical signaling and metabolism in both the pulp and skin, particularly in the skin. Changes in the transcript abundance of genes involved in the ethylene signaling pathway of this nonclimacteric fruit were statistically significant in the late stages of ripening when the production of transcripts for important flavor and aroma compounds were at their highest. Ethylene transcription factors known to play a role in leaf senescence also appear to play a role in fruit senescence. Ethylene may play a bigger role than previously thought in this non-climacteric fruit.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12870-014-0370-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4312598  PMID: 25524329
Ethylene; Fruit ripening; Grape; Microarray; Vitis vinifera L
5.  Functional genomic analysis of constitutive and inducible defense responses to Fusarium verticillioides infection in maize genotypes with contrasting ear rot resistance 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):710.
Fusarium verticillioides causes ear rot in maize (Zea mays L.) and accumulation of mycotoxins, that affect human and animal health. Currently, chemical and agronomic measures to control Fusarium ear rot are not very effective and selection of more resistant genotypes is a desirable strategy to reduce contaminations. A deeper knowledge of molecular events and genetic basis underlying Fusarium ear rot is necessary to speed up progress in breeding for resistance.
A next-generation RNA-sequencing approach was used for the first time to study transcriptional changes associated with F. verticillioides inoculation in resistant CO441 and susceptible CO354 maize genotypes at 72 hours post inoculation. More than 100 million sequence reads were generated for inoculated and uninoculated control plants and analyzed to measure gene expression levels. Comparison of expression levels between inoculated vs. uninoculated and resistant vs. susceptible transcriptomes revealed a total number of 6,951 differentially expressed genes. Differences in basal gene expression were observed in the uninoculated samples. CO441 genotype showed a higher level of expression of genes distributed over all functional classes, in particular those related to secondary metabolism category. After F. verticillioides inoculation, a similar response was observed in both genotypes, although the magnitude of induction was much greater in the resistant genotype. This response included higher activation of genes involved in pathogen perception, signaling and defense, including WRKY transcription factors and jasmonate/ethylene mediated defense responses. Interestingly, strong differences in expression between the two genotypes were observed in secondary metabolism category: pathways related to shikimate, lignin, flavonoid and terpenoid biosynthesis were strongly represented and induced in the CO441 genotype, indicating that selection to enhance these traits is an additional strategy for improving resistance against F. verticillioides infection.
The work demonstrates that the global transcriptional analysis provided an exhaustive view of genes involved in pathogen recognition and signaling, and controlling activities of different TFs, phytohormones and secondary metabolites, that contribute to host resistance against F. verticillioides. This work provides an important source of markers for development of disease resistance maize genotypes and may have relevance to study other pathosystems involving mycotoxin-producing fungi.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-710) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4153945  PMID: 25155950
RNA-Seq analysis; Fusarium ear rot; Constitutive defense; Secondary metabolism; Candidate genes; Zea mays
6.  Tomato Genome-Wide Transcriptional Responses to Fusarium Wilt and Tomato Mosaic Virus 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e94963.
Since gene expression approaches constitute a starting point for investigating plant–pathogen systems, we performed a transcriptional analysis to identify a set of genes of interest in tomato plants infected with F. oxysporum f. sp. lycopersici (Fol) and Tomato Mosaic Virus (ToMV). Differentially expressed tomato genes upon inoculation with Fol and ToMV were identified at two days post-inoculation. A large overlap was found in differentially expressed genes throughout the two incompatible interactions. However, Gene Ontology enrichment analysis evidenced specific categories in both interactions. Response to ToMV seems more multifaceted, since more than 70 specific categories were enriched versus the 30 detected in Fol interaction. In particular, the virus stimulated the production of an invertase enzyme that is able to redirect the flux of carbohydrates, whereas Fol induced a homeostatic response to prevent the fungus from killing cells. Genomic mapping of transcripts suggested that specific genomic regions are involved in resistance response to pathogen. Coordinated machinery could play an important role in prompting the response, since 60% of pathogen receptor genes (NB-ARC-LRR, RLP, RLK) were differentially regulated during both interactions. Assessment of genomic gene expression patterns could help in building up models of mediated resistance responses.
PMCID: PMC4012952  PMID: 24804963
7.  De novo genome assembly of the soil-borne fungus and tomato pathogen Pyrenochaeta lycopersici 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:313.
Pyrenochaeta lycopersici is a soil-dwelling ascomycete pathogen that causes corky root rot disease in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and other Solanaceous crops, reducing fruit yields by up to 75%. Fungal pathogens that infect roots receive less attention than those infecting the aerial parts of crops despite their significant impact on plant growth and fruit production.
We assembled a 54.9Mb P. lycopersici draft genome sequence based on Illumina short reads, and annotated approximately 17,000 genes. The P. lycopersici genome is closely related to hemibiotrophs and necrotrophs, in agreement with the phenotypic characteristics of the fungus and its lifestyle. Several gene families related to host–pathogen interactions are strongly represented, including those responsible for nutrient absorption, the detoxification of fungicides and plant cell wall degradation, the latter confirming that much of the genome is devoted to the pathogenic activity of the fungus. We did not find a MAT gene, which is consistent with the classification of P. lycopersici as an imperfect fungus, but we observed a significant expansion of the gene families associated with heterokaryon incompatibility (HI).
The P. lycopersici draft genome sequence provided insight into the molecular and genetic basis of the fungal lifestyle, characterizing previously unknown pathogenic behaviors and defining strategies that allow this asexual fungus to increase genetic diversity and to acquire new pathogenic traits.
PMCID: PMC4234444  PMID: 24767544
Pyrenochaeta lycopersici; Pathogenicity; Genome assembly; Next Generation Sequencing technologies (NGS)
8.  The Sulfated Laminarin Triggers a Stress Transcriptome before Priming the SA- and ROS-Dependent Defenses during Grapevine's Induced Resistance against Plasmopara viticola 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88145.
Grapevine (Vitis vinifera) is susceptible to many pathogens which cause significant losses to viticulture worldwide. Chemical control is available, but agro-ecological concerns have raised interest in alternative methods, especially in triggering plant immunity by elicitor treatments. The β-glucan laminarin (Lam) and its sulfated derivative (PS3) have been previously demonstrated to induce resistance in grapevine against downy mildew (Plasmopara viticola). However, if Lam elicits classical grapevine defenses such as oxidative burst, pathogenesis-related (PR)-proteins and phytoalexin production, PS3 triggered grapevine resistance via a poorly understood priming phenomenon. The aim of this study was to identify the molecular mechanisms of the PS3-induced resistance. For this purpose we studied i) the signaling events and transcriptome reprogramming triggered by PS3 treatment on uninfected grapevine, ii) grapevine immune responses primed by PS3 during P. viticola infection. Our results showed that i) PS3 was unable to elicit reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, cytosolic Ca2+ concentration variations, mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activation but triggered a long lasting plasma membrane depolarization in grapevine cells, ii) PS3 and Lam shared a common stress-responsive transcriptome profile that partly overlapped the salicylate- (SA) and jasmonate-(JA)-dependent ones. After P. viticola inoculation, PS3 specifically primed the SA- and ROS-dependent defense pathways leading to grapevine induced resistance against this biotroph. Interestingly pharmacological approaches suggested that the plasma membrane depolarization and the downstream ROS production are key events of the PS3-induced resistance.
PMCID: PMC3916396  PMID: 24516597
9.  A mutation in the FZL gene of Arabidopsis causing alteration in chloroplast morphology results in a lesion mimic phenotype 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2013;64(14):4313-4328.
Lesion mimic mutants (LMMs) are a class of mutants in which hypersensitive cell death and defence responses are constitutively activated in the absence of pathogen attack. Various signalling molecules, such as salicylic acid (SA), reactive oxygen species (ROS), nitric oxide (NO), Ca2+, ethylene, and jasmonate, are involved in the regulation of multiple pathways controlling hypersensitive response (HR) activation, and LMMs are considered useful tools to understand the role played by the key elements of the HR cell death signalling cascade. Here the characterization of an Arabidopsis LMM lacking the function of the FZL gene is reported. This gene encodes a membrane-remodelling GTPase playing an essential role in the determination of thylakoid and chloroplast morphology. The mutant displayed alteration in chloroplast number, size, and shape, and the typical characteristics of an LMM, namely development of chlorotic lesions on rosette leaves and constitutive expression of genetic and biochemical markers associated with defence responses. The chloroplasts are a major source of ROS, and the characterization of this mutant suggests that their accumulation, triggered by damage to the chloroplast membranes, is a signal sufficient to start the HR signalling cascade, thus confirming the central role of the chloroplast in HR activation.
PMCID: PMC3808314  PMID: 23963675
Arabidopsis thaliana; chloroplast; double mutants; expression analysis; lesion mimic mutants (LMMs); reactive oxygen species (ROS)
10.  Exploration of the Genomic Diversity and Core Genome of the Bifidobacterium adolescentis Phylogenetic Group by Means of a Polyphasic Approach 
In the current work, we describe genome diversity and core genome sequences among representatives of three bifidobacterial species, i.e., Bifidobacterium adolescentis, Bifidobacterium catenulatum, and Bifidobacterium pseudocatenulatum, by employing a polyphasic approach involving analysis of 16S rRNA gene and 16S-23S internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequences, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), and comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) assays.
PMCID: PMC3536097  PMID: 23064340
11.  De novo transcriptome characterization of Vitis vinifera cv. Corvina unveils varietal diversity 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:41.
Plants such as grapevine (Vitis spp.) display significant inter-cultivar genetic and phenotypic variation. The genetic components underlying phenotypic diversity in grapevine must be understood in order to disentangle genetic and environmental factors.
We have shown that cDNA sequencing by RNA-seq is a robust approach for the characterization of varietal diversity between a local grapevine cultivar (Corvina) and the PN40024 reference genome. We detected 15,161 known genes including 9463 with novel splice isoforms, and identified 2321 potentially novel protein-coding genes in non-annotated or unassembled regions of the reference genome. We also discovered 180 apparent private genes in the Corvina genome which were missing from the reference genome.
The de novo assembly approach allowed a substantial amount of the Corvina transcriptome to be reconstructed, improving known gene annotations by robustly defining gene structures, annotating splice isoforms and detecting genes without annotations. The private genes we discovered are likely to be nonessential but could influence certain cultivar-specific characteristics. Therefore, the application of de novo transcriptome assembly should not be restricted to species lacking a reference genome because it can also improve existing reference genome annotations and identify novel, cultivar-specific genes.
PMCID: PMC3556335  PMID: 23331995
Transcriptomics; RNA-Seq; de novo assembly; Grape; Varietal diversity
12.  Downy mildew resistance induced by Trichoderma harzianum T39 in susceptible grapevines partially mimics transcriptional changes of resistant genotypes 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:660.
Downy mildew, caused by Plasmopara viticola, is one of the most severe diseases of grapevine and is commonly controlled by fungicide treatments. The beneficial microorganism Trichoderma harzianum T39 (T39) can induce resistance to downy mildew, although the molecular events associated with this process have not yet been elucidated in grapevine. A next generation RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) approach was used to study global transcriptional changes associated with resistance induced by T39 in Vitis vinifera Pinot Noir leaves. The long-term aim was to develop strategies to optimize the use of this agent for downy mildew control.
More than 14.8 million paired-end reads were obtained for each biological replicate of T39-treated and control leaf samples collected before and 24 h after P. viticola inoculation. RNA-Seq analysis resulted in the identification of 7,024 differentially expressed genes, highlighting the complex transcriptional reprogramming of grapevine leaves during resistance induction and in response to pathogen inoculation. Our data show that T39 has a dual effect: it directly modulates genes related to the microbial recognition machinery, and it enhances the expression of defence-related processes after pathogen inoculation. Whereas several genes were commonly affected by P. viticola in control and T39-treated plants, opposing modulation of genes related to responses to stress and protein metabolism was found. T39-induced resistance partially inhibited some disease-related processes and specifically activated defence responses after P. viticola inoculation, causing a significant reduction of downy mildew symptoms.
The global transcriptional analysis revealed that defence processes known to be implicated in the reaction of resistant genotypes to downy mildew were partially activated by T39-induced resistance in susceptible grapevines. Genes identified in this work are an important source of markers for selecting novel resistance inducers and for the analysis of environmental conditions that might affect induced resistance mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3551682  PMID: 23173562
Induced resistance; Next generation sequencing; RNA-Seq; Transcriptomics; Gene expression; Vitis vinifera; Plant-pathogen interactions
13.  Bifidobacterium asteroides PRL2011 Genome Analysis Reveals Clues for Colonization of the Insect Gut 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e44229.
Bifidobacteria are known as anaerobic/microaerophilic and fermentative microorganisms, which commonly inhabit the gastrointestinal tract of various animals and insects. Analysis of the 2,167,301 bp genome of Bifidobacterium asteroides PRL2011, a strain isolated from the hindgut of Apis mellifera var. ligustica, commonly known as the honey bee, revealed its predicted capability for respiratory metabolism. Conservation of the latter gene clusters in various B. asteroides strains enforces the notion that respiration is a common metabolic feature of this ancient bifidobacterial species, which has been lost in currently known mammal-derived Bifidobacterium species. In fact, phylogenomic based analyses suggested an ancient origin of B. asteroides and indicates it as an ancestor of the genus Bifidobacterium. Furthermore, the B. asteroides PRL2011 genome encodes various enzymes for coping with toxic products that arise as a result of oxygen-mediated respiration.
PMCID: PMC3447821  PMID: 23028506
14.  Global Genome Transcription Profiling of Bifidobacterium bifidum PRL2010 under In Vitro Conditions and Identification of Reference Genes for Quantitative Real-Time PCR▿† 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(24):8578-8587.
Bifidobacteria have attracted significant scientific attention due to their perceived role as health-promoting microorganisms, although the genetics of the bacterial group is still underexplored. In this study, we investigated the transcriptome of Bifidobacterium bifidum PRL2010 during in vitro growth by microarray technology. When B. bifidum PRL2010 was grown in liquid broth, 425 of the 1,644 PRL2010 genes represented on the array were expressed in at least one of the three investigated growth phases, i.e., the lag, exponential, and stationary phases. These transcriptional analyses identified a core in vitro transcriptome encompassing 150 genes that are expressed in all phases. A proportion of these genes were further investigated as potential reference genes by quantitative real-time reverse transcription-PCR (qRT-PCR) assays. Their expression stability was evaluated under different growth conditions, which included cultivation on different carbon sources, exposure to environmental stresses (thermal, acidic, and osmotic), and growth phases. Our analyses validated six reference genes suitable for normalizing mRNA expression levels in qRT-PCR experiments applied to bifidobacteria.
PMCID: PMC3233107  PMID: 22003014
15.  Ability of Bifidobacterium breve To Grow on Different Types of Milk: Exploring the Metabolism of Milk through Genome Analysis ▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(20):7408-7417.
We have investigated the occurrence of bifidobacteria in human milk samples, and we provide evidence regarding the predominance of members of the Bifidobacterium breve species in this environment. Moreover, evaluation of the growth capabilities and transcriptomic analyses of one representative isolate of this species, i.e., B. breve 4L, on different milk types were performed.
PMCID: PMC3194849  PMID: 21856831
16.  Distinct colonization patterns and cDNA-AFLP transcriptome profiles in compatible and incompatible interactions between melon and different races of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. melonis 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:122.
Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. melonis Snyd. & Hans. (FOM) causes Fusarium wilt, the most important infectious disease of melon (Cucumis melo L.). The four known races of this pathogen can be distinguished only by infection on appropriate cultivars. No molecular tools are available that can discriminate among the races, and the molecular basis of compatibility and disease progression are poorly understood. Resistance to races 1 and 2 is controlled by a single dominant gene, whereas only partial polygenic resistance to race 1,2 has been described. We carried out a large-scale cDNA-AFLP analysis to identify host genes potentially related to resistance and susceptibility as well as fungal genes associated with the infection process. At the same time, a systematic reisolation procedure on infected stems allowed us to monitor fungal colonization in compatible and incompatible host-pathogen combinations.
Melon plants (cv. Charentais Fom-2), which are susceptible to race 1,2 and resistant to race 1, were artificially infected with a race 1 strain of FOM or one of two race 1,2 w strains. Host colonization of stems was assessed at 1, 2, 4, 8, 14, 16, 18 and 21 days post inoculation (dpi), and the fungus was reisolated from infected plants. Markedly different colonization patterns were observed in compatible and incompatible host-pathogen combinations. Five time points from the symptomless early stage (2 dpi) to obvious wilting symptoms (21 dpi) were considered for cDNA-AFLP analysis. After successful sequencing of 627 transcript-derived fragments (TDFs) differentially expressed in infected plants, homology searching retrieved 305 melon transcripts, 195 FOM transcripts expressed in planta and 127 orphan TDFs. RNA samples from FOM colonies of the three strains grown in vitro were also included in the analysis to facilitate the detection of in planta-specific transcripts and to identify TDFs differentially expressed among races/strains.
Our data suggest that resistance against FOM in melon involves only limited transcriptional changes, and that wilting symptoms could derive, at least partially, from an active plant response.
We discuss the pathogen-derived transcripts expressed in planta during the infection process and potentially related to virulence functions, as well as transcripts that are differentially expressed between the two FOM races grown in vitro. These transcripts provide candidate sequences that can be further tested for their ability to distinguish between races.
Sequence data from this article have been deposited in GenBank, Accession Numbers: HO867279-HO867981.
PMCID: PMC3048547  PMID: 21338485
17.  Characterization of the Serpin-Encoding Gene of Bifidobacterium breve 210B▿ †  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2010;76(10):3206-3219.
Members of the serpin (serine protease inhibitor) superfamily have been identified in higher multicellular eukaryotes, as well as in bacteria, although examination of available genome sequences has indicated that homologs of the bacterial serpin-encoding gene (ser) are not widely distributed. In members of the genus Bifidobacterium this gene appears to be present in at least 5, and perhaps up to 9, of the 30 species tested. Moreover, phylogenetic analysis using available bacterial and eukaryotic serpin sequences revealed that bifidobacteria produce serpins that form a separate clade. We characterized the ser210B locus of Bifidobacterium breve 210B, which encompasses a number of genes whose deduced protein products display significant similarity to proteins encoded by corresponding loci found in several other bifidobacteria. Northern hybridization, primer extension, microarray, reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR), and quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) analyses revealed that a 3.5-kb polycistronic mRNA encompassing the ser210B operon with a single transcriptional start site is strongly induced following treatment of B. breve 210B cultures with some proteases. Interestingly, transcription of other bifidobacterial ser homologs appears to be triggered by different proteases.
PMCID: PMC2869134  PMID: 20348296
18.  The ascorbic acid content of tomato fruits is associated with the expression of genes involved in pectin degradation 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:163.
High levels of ascorbic acid (AsA) in tomato fruits provide health benefits for humans and also play an important role in several aspects of plant life. Although AsA metabolism has been characterized in detail, the genetic mechanisms controlling AsA accumulation in tomatoes are poorly understood. The transcriptional control of AsA levels in fruits can be investigated by combining the advanced genetic and genomic resources currently available for tomato. A comparative transcriptomic analysis of fruit tissues was carried out on an introgression line containing a QTL promoting AsA accumulation in the fruit, using a parental cultivar with lower AsA levels as a reference.
Introgression line IL 12-4 (S. pennellii in a S. lycopersicum background) was selected for transcriptomic analysis because it maintained differences in AsA levels compared to the parental genotypes M82 and S. pennellii over three consecutive trials. Comparative microarray analysis of IL 12-4 and M82 fruits over a 2-year period allowed 253 differentially-expressed genes to be identified, suggesting that AsA accumulation in IL 12-4 may be caused by a combination of increased metabolic flux and reduced utilization of AsA. In particular, the upregulation of a pectinesterase and two polygalacturonases suggests that AsA accumulation in IL12-4 fruit is mainly achieved by increasing flux through the L-galactonic acid pathway, which is driven by pectin degradation and may be triggered by ethylene.
Based on functional annotation, gene ontology classification and hierarchical clustering, a subset of the 253 differentially-expressed transcripts was used to develop a model to explain the higher AsA content in IL 12-4 fruits in terms of metabolic flux, precursor availability, demand for antioxidants, abundance of reactive oxygen species and ethylene signaling.
PMCID: PMC3095297  PMID: 20691085
19.  General and species-specific transcriptional responses to downy mildew infection in a susceptible (Vitis vinifera) and a resistant (V. riparia) grapevine species 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:117.
Downy mildew is a destructive grapevine disease caused by Plasmopara viticola (Berk. and Curt.) Berl. and de Toni, which can only be controlled by intensive fungicide treatments. Natural sources of resistance from wild grapevine (Vitis) species are used in conventional breeding approaches, but the signals and effectors involved in resistance in this important crop species are not well understood.
Early transcriptional changes associated with P. viticola infection in susceptible V. vinifera and resistant V. riparia plants were analyzed using the Combimatrix microarray platform. Transcript levels were measured 12 and 24 h post-inoculation, reflecting the time points immediately preceding the onset of resistance in V. riparia, as determined by microscopic analysis. Our data indicate that resistance in V. riparia is induced after infection, and is not based on differences in basal gene expression between the two species. The strong and rapid transcriptional reprogramming involves the induction of pathogenesis-related proteins and enzymes required for the synthesis of phenylpropanoid-derived compounds, many of which are also induced, albeit to a lesser extent, in V. vinifera. More interestingly, resistance in V. riparia also involves the specific modulation of numerous transcripts encoding components of signal transduction cascades, hypersensitive reaction markers and genes involved in jasmonate biosynthesis. The limited transcriptional modulation in V. vinifera represents a weak attempted defense response rather than the activation of compatibility-specific pathways.
Several candidate resistance genes were identified that could be exploited in future biotechnological approaches to increase disease resistance in susceptible grapevine species. Measurements of jasmonic acid and methyl jasmonate in infected leaves suggest that this hormone may also be involved in V. riparia resistance to P. viticola.
PMCID: PMC2831845  PMID: 20167053
20.  Correction: High throughput approaches reveal splicing of primary microRNA transcripts and tissue specific expression of mature microRNAs in Vitis vinifera 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:109.
The version of this article published in BMC Genomics 2009, 10:558, contains data in Table 1 which are now known to be unreliable, and an illustration, in Figure 1, of unusual miRNA processing events predicted by these unreliable data. In this full-length correction, new data replace those found to be unreliable, leading to a more straightforward interpretation without altering the principle conclusions of the study. Table 1 and associated methods have been corrected, Figure 1 deleted, supplementary file 1 added, and modifications made to the sections "Deep sequencing of small RNAs from grapevine leaf tissue" and "Microarray analysis of miRNA expression". The editors and authors regret the inconvenience caused to readers by premature publication of the original paper.
MicroRNAs are short (~21 base) single stranded RNAs that, in plants, are generally coded by specific genes and cleaved specifically from hairpin precursors. MicroRNAs are critical for the regulation of multiple developmental, stress related and other physiological processes in plants. The recent annotation of the genome of the grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) allowed the identification of many putative conserved microRNA precursors, grouped into multiple gene families.
Here we use oligonucleotide arrays to provide the first indication that many of these microRNAs show differential expression patterns between tissues and during the maturation of fruit in the grapevine. Furthermore we demonstrate that whole transcriptome sequencing and deep-sequencing of small RNA fractions can be used both to identify which microRNA precursors are expressed in different tissues and to estimate genomic coordinates and patterns of splicing and alternative splicing for many primary miRNA transcripts.
Our results show that many microRNAs are differentially expressed in different tissues and during fruit maturation in the grapevine. Furthermore, the demonstration that whole transcriptome sequencing can be used to identify candidate splicing events and approximate primary microRNA transcript coordinates represents a significant step towards the large-scale elucidation of mechanisms regulating the expression of microRNAs at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels.
PMCID: PMC2831844  PMID: 20152027
21.  The Bifidobacterium dentium Bd1 Genome Sequence Reflects Its Genetic Adaptation to the Human Oral Cavity 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(12):e1000785.
Bifidobacteria, one of the relatively dominant components of the human intestinal microbiota, are considered one of the key groups of beneficial intestinal bacteria (probiotic bacteria). However, in addition to health-promoting taxa, the genus Bifidobacterium also includes Bifidobacterium dentium, an opportunistic cariogenic pathogen. The genetic basis for the ability of B. dentium to survive in the oral cavity and contribute to caries development is not understood. The genome of B. dentium Bd1, a strain isolated from dental caries, was sequenced to completion to uncover a single circular 2,636,368 base pair chromosome with 2,143 predicted open reading frames. Annotation of the genome sequence revealed multiple ways in which B. dentium has adapted to the oral environment through specialized nutrient acquisition, defences against antimicrobials, and gene products that increase fitness and competitiveness within the oral niche. B. dentium Bd1 was shown to metabolize a wide variety of carbohydrates, consistent with genome-based predictions, while colonization and persistence factors implicated in tissue adhesion, acid tolerance, and the metabolism of human saliva-derived compounds were also identified. Global transcriptome analysis demonstrated that many of the genes encoding these predicted traits are highly expressed under relevant physiological conditions. This is the first report to identify, through various genomic approaches, specific genetic adaptations of a Bifidobacterium taxon, Bifidobacterium dentium Bd1, to a lifestyle as a cariogenic microorganism in the oral cavity. In silico analysis and comparative genomic hybridization experiments clearly reveal a high level of genome conservation among various B. dentium strains. The data indicate that the genome of this opportunistic cariogen has evolved through a very limited number of horizontal gene acquisition events, highlighting the narrow boundaries that separate commensals from opportunistic pathogens.
Author Summary
The accessibility of complete bacterial genome sequences has provided important changes to the field of microbiology by significantly enhancing our understanding of the physiology, genetics, and evolutionary development of bacteria. Bifidobacteria are among such microorganisms, being mammalian commensals of biotechnological significance due to their perceived role in maintaining a balanced gastrointestinal (GIT) microflora. Bifidobacteria are therefore often applied as health-promoting or probiotic components in functional food products and represent a growing area of scientific interest. However, within the genus Bifidobacterium not all species provide beneficial effects on the host's health. In fact, the Bifidobacterium dentium species is considered an opportunistic pathogen since it has been associated with the development of dental caries. In this manuscript, we describe the complete genetic make-up of the B. dentium Bd1 genome and discuss functions that explain how this microorganism has adapted to the oral human cavity and imparts a cariogeneous phenotype. Moreover, we performed comparative genomic analyses of B. dentium genome with other bifidobacterial genomes in order to trace genetic differences/similarities between the opportunistic oral pathogen B. dentium Bd1 and closely related intestinal bifidobacteria.
PMCID: PMC2788695  PMID: 20041198
22.  High throughput approaches reveal splicing of primary microRNA transcripts and tissue specific expression of mature microRNAs in Vitis vinifera 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:558.
MicroRNAs are short (~21 base) single stranded RNAs that, in plants, are generally coded by specific genes and cleaved specifically from hairpin precursors. MicroRNAs are critical for the regulation of multiple developmental, stress related and other physiological processes in plants. The recent annotation of the genome of the grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) allowed the identification of many putative conserved microRNA precursors, grouped into multiple gene families.
Here we use oligonucleotide arrays to provide the first indication that many of these microRNAs show differential expression patterns between tissues and during the maturation of fruit in the grapevine. Furthermore we demonstrate that whole transcriptome sequencing and deep-sequencing of small RNA fractions can be used both to identify which microRNA precursors are expressed in different tissues and to estimate genomic coordinates and patterns of splicing and alternative splicing for many primary miRNA transcripts.
Our results show that many microRNAs are differentially expressed in different tissues and during fruit maturation in the grapevine. Furthermore, the demonstration that whole transcriptome sequencing can be used to identify candidate splicing events and approximate primary microRNA transcript coordinates represents a significant step towards the large-scale elucidation of mechanisms regulating the expression of microRNAs at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels.
PMCID: PMC2822795  PMID: 19939267
23.  Combining next-generation pyrosequencing with microarray for large scale expression analysis in non-model species 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:555.
The next generation sequencing technologies provide new options to characterize the transcriptome and to develop affordable tools for functional genomics. We describe here an innovative approach for this purpose and demonstrate its potential also for non-model species.
The method we developed is based on 454 sequencing of 3' cDNA fragments from a normalized library constructed from pooled RNAs to generate, through de novo reads assembly, a large catalog of unique transcripts in organisms for which a comprehensive collection of transcripts or the complete genome sequence, is not available. This "virtual transcriptome" provides extensive coverage depth, and can be used for the setting up of a comprehensive microarray based expression analysis. We evaluated the potential of this approach by monitoring gene expression during berry maturation in Vitis vinifera as if no other sequence information was available for this species. The microarray designed on the berries' transcriptome derived from half of a 454 run detected the expression of 19,609 genes, and proved to be more informative than one of the most comprehensive grape microarrays available to date, the GrapeArray 1.2 developed by the Italian-French Public Consortium for Grapevine Genome Characterization, which could detect the expression of 15,556 genes in the same samples.
This approach provides a powerful method to rapidly build up an extensive catalog of unique transcripts that can be successfully used to develop a microarray for large scale analysis of gene expression in any species, without the need for prior sequence knowledge.
PMCID: PMC2790472  PMID: 19930683
24.  Molecular analysis of post-harvest withering in grape by AFLP transcriptional profiling 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2008;59(15):4145-4159.
Post-harvest withering of grape berries is used in the production of dessert and fortified wines to alter must quality characteristics and increase the concentration of simple sugars. The molecular processes that occur during withering are poorly understood, so a detailed transcriptomic analysis of post-harvest grape berries was carried out by AFLP-transcriptional profiling analysis. This will help to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of berry withering and will provide an opportunity to select markers that can be used to follow the drying process and evaluate different drying techniques. AFLP-TP identified 699 withering-specific genes, 167 and 86 of which were unique to off-plant and on-plant withering, respectively. Although similar molecular events were revealed in both withering processes, it was apparent that off-plant withering induced a stronger dehydration stress response resulting in the high level expression of genes involved in stress protection mechanisms, such as dehydrin and osmolite accumulation. Genes involved in hexose metabolism and transport, cell wall composition, and secondary metabolism (particularly the phenolic and terpene compound pathways) were similarly regulated in both processes. This work provides the first comprehensive analysis of the molecular events underpinning post-harvest withering and could help to define markers for different withering processes.
PMCID: PMC2639028  PMID: 19010774
AFLP-TP; gene expression; grape berry withering; on- and off-plant withering processes
25.  cDNA-AFLP analysis of plant and pathogen genes expressed in grapevine infected with Plasmopara viticola 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:142.
The oomycete Plasmopara viticola (Berk. and Curt.) Berl. and de Toni causes downy mildew in grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.). This pathogen is strictly biotrophic, thus completely dependent on living host cells for its survival. The molecular basis of compatibility and disease development in this system is poorly understood. We have carried out a large-scale cDNA-AFLP analysis to identify grapevine and P. viticola genes associated with the infection process.
We carried out cDNA-AFLP analysis on artificially infected leaves of the susceptible cultivar Riesling at the oil spot stage, on water-treated leaves and on a sample of pure sporangia as controls. Selective amplifications with 128 primer combinations allowed the visualization of about 7000 transcript-derived fragments (TDFs) in infected leaves, 1196 of which (17%) were differentially expressed. We sequenced 984 fragments, 804 of which were identified as grapevine transcripts after homology searching, while 96 were homologous to sequences in Phytophthora spp. databases and were attributed to P. viticola. There were 82 orphan TDFs. Many grapevine genes spanning almost all functional categories were downregulated during infection, especially genes involved in photosynthesis. Grapevine genes homologous to known resistance genes also tended to be repressed, as were several resistance gene analogs and carbonic anhydrase (recently implicated in pathogen resistance). In contrast, genes encoding cytoskeletal components, enzymes of the phenylpropanoid and beta-oxidation pathways, and pathogenesis related proteins were primarily upregulated during infection. The majority of P. viticola transcripts expressed in planta showed homology to genes of unknown function or to genomic Phytophthora sequences, but genes related to metabolism, energy production, transport and signal transduction were also identified.
This study provides the first global catalogue of grapevine and P. viticola genes expressed during infection, together with their functional annotations. This will help to elucidate the molecular basis of the infection process and identify genes and chemicals that could help to inhibit the pathogen.
PMCID: PMC2292706  PMID: 18366764

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