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1.  WiseScaffolder: an algorithm for the semi-automatic scaffolding of Next Generation Sequencing data 
BMC Bioinformatics  2015;16(1):281.
The sequencing depth provided by high-throughput sequencing technologies has allowed a rise in the number of de novo sequenced genomes that could potentially be closed without further sequencing. However, genome scaffolding and closure require costly human supervision that often results in genomes being published as drafts. A number of automatic scaffolders were recently released, which improved the global quality of genomes published in the last few years. Yet, none of them reach the efficiency of manual scaffolding.
Here, we present an innovative semi-automatic scaffolder that additionally helps with chimerae resolution and generates valuable contig maps and outputs for manual improvement of the automatic scaffolding. This software was tested on the newly sequenced marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. WH8103 as well as two reference datasets used in previous studies, Rhodobacter sphaeroides and Homo sapiens chromosome 14 ( The quality of resulting scaffolds was compared to that of three other stand-alone scaffolders: SSPACE, SOPRA and SCARPA. For all three model organisms, WiseScaffolder produced better results than other scaffolders in terms of contiguity statistics (number of genome fragments, N50, LG50, etc.) and, in the case of WH8103, the reliability of the scaffolds was confirmed by whole genome alignment against a closely related reference genome. We also propose an efficient computer-assisted strategy for manual improvement of the scaffolding, using outputs generated by WiseScaffolder, as well as for genome finishing that in our hands led to the circularization of the WH8103 genome.
Altogether, WiseScaffolder proved more efficient than three other scaffolders for both prokaryotic and eukaryotic genomes and is thus likely applicable to most genome projects. The scaffolding pipeline described here should be of particular interest to biologists wishing to take advantage of the high added value of complete genomes.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12859-015-0705-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4559175  PMID: 26335184
Next-generation sequencing; Genome assembly; Genome finishing; Genome scaffolding; Marine Synechococcus
2.  Connecting thermal physiology and latitudinal niche partitioning in marine Synechococcus 
The ISME Journal  2014;8(6):1221-1236.
Marine Synechococcus cyanobacteria constitute a monophyletic group that displays a wide latitudinal distribution, ranging from the equator to the polar fronts. Whether these organisms are all physiologically adapted to stand a large temperature gradient or stenotherms with narrow growth temperature ranges has so far remained unexplored. We submitted a panel of six strains, isolated along a gradient of latitude in the North Atlantic Ocean, to long- and short-term variations of temperature. Upon a downward shift of temperature, the strains showed strikingly distinct resistance, seemingly related to their latitude of isolation, with tropical strains collapsing while northern strains were capable of growing. This behaviour was associated to differential photosynthetic performances. In the tropical strains, the rapid photosystem II inactivation and the decrease of the antioxydant β-carotene relative to chl a suggested a strong induction of oxidative stress. These different responses were related to the thermal preferenda of the strains. The northern strains could grow at 10 °C while the other strains preferred higher temperatures. In addition, we pointed out a correspondence between strain isolation temperature and phylogeny. In particular, clades I and IV laboratory strains were all collected in the coldest waters of the distribution area of marine Synechococus. We, however, show that clade I Synechococcus exhibit different levels of adaptation, which apparently reflect their location on the latitudinal temperature gradient. This study reveals the existence of lineages of marine Synechococcus physiologically specialised in different thermal niches, therefore suggesting the existence of temperature ecotypes within the marine Synechococcus radiation.
PMCID: PMC4030225  PMID: 24401861
adaptation; ecotype; marine cyanobacteria; Synechococcus; temperature
3.  A Gene Island with Two Possible Configurations Is Involved in Chromatic Acclimation in Marine Synechococcus 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84459.
Synechococcus, the second most abundant oxygenic phototroph in the marine environment, harbors the largest pigment diversity known within a single genus of cyanobacteria, allowing it to exploit a wide range of light niches. Some strains are capable of Type IV chromatic acclimation (CA4), a process by which cells can match the phycobilin content of their phycobilisomes to the ambient light quality. Here, we performed extensive genomic comparisons to explore the diversity of this process within the marine Synechococcus radiation. A specific gene island was identified in all CA4-performing strains, containing two genes (fciA/b) coding for possible transcriptional regulators and one gene coding for a phycobilin lyase. However, two distinct configurations of this cluster were observed, depending on the lineage. CA4-A islands contain the mpeZ gene, encoding a recently characterized phycoerythrobilin lyase-isomerase, and a third, small, possible regulator called fciC. In CA4-B islands, the lyase gene encodes an uncharacterized relative of MpeZ, called MpeW. While mpeZ is expressed more in blue light than green light, this is the reverse for mpeW, although only small phenotypic differences were found among chromatic acclimaters possessing either CA4 island type. This study provides novel insights into understanding both diversity and evolution of the CA4 process.
PMCID: PMC3877281  PMID: 24391958
4.  CyanoLyase: a database of phycobilin lyase sequences, motifs and functions 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(Database issue):D396-D401.
CyanoLyase ( is a manually curated sequence and motif database of phycobilin lyases and related proteins. These enzymes catalyze the covalent ligation of chromophores (phycobilins) to specific binding sites of phycobiliproteins (PBPs). The latter constitute the building bricks of phycobilisomes, the major light-harvesting systems of cyanobacteria and red algae. Phycobilin lyases sequences are poorly annotated in public databases. Sequences included in CyanoLyase were retrieved from all available genomes of these organisms and a few others by similarity searches using biochemically characterized enzyme sequences and then classified into 3 clans and 32 families. Amino acid motifs were computed for each family using Protomata learner. CyanoLyase also includes BLAST and a novel pattern matching tool (Protomatch) that allow users to rapidly retrieve and annotate lyases from any new genome. In addition, it provides phylogenetic analyses of all phycobilin lyases families, describes their function, their presence/absence in all genomes of the database (phyletic profiles) and predicts the chromophorylation of PBPs in each strain. The site also includes a thorough bibliography about phycobilin lyases and genomes included in the database. This resource should be useful to scientists and companies interested in natural or artificial PBPs, which have a number of biotechnological applications, notably as fluorescent markers.
PMCID: PMC3531064  PMID: 23175607
5.  Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus have Evolved Different Adaptive Mechanisms to Cope with Light and UV Stress 
Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus, which numerically dominate vast oceanic areas, are the two most abundant oxygenic phototrophs on Earth. Although they require solar energy for photosynthesis, excess light and associated high UV radiations can induce high levels of oxidative stress that may have deleterious effects on their growth and productivity. Here, we compared the photophysiologies of the model strains Prochlorococcus marinus PCC 9511 and Synechococcus sp. WH7803 grown under a bell-shaped light/dark cycle of high visible light supplemented or not with UV. Prochlorococcus exhibited a higher sensitivity to photoinactivation than Synechococcus under both conditions, as shown by a larger drop of photosystem II (PSII) quantum yield at noon and different diel patterns of the D1 protein pool. In the presence of UV, the PSII repair rate was significantly depressed at noon in Prochlorococcus compared to Synechococcus. Additionally, Prochlorococcus was more sensitive than Synechococcus to oxidative stress, as shown by the different degrees of PSII photoinactivation after addition of hydrogen peroxide. A transcriptional analysis also revealed dramatic discrepancies between the two organisms in the diel expression patterns of several genes involved notably in the biosynthesis and/or repair of photosystems, light-harvesting complexes, CO2 fixation as well as protection mechanisms against light, UV, and oxidative stress, which likely translate profound differences in their light-controlled regulation. Altogether our results suggest that while Synechococcus has developed efficient ways to cope with light and UV stress, Prochlorococcus cells seemingly survive stressful hours of the day by launching a minimal set of protection mechanisms and by temporarily bringing down several key metabolic processes. This study provides unprecedented insights into understanding the distinct depth distributions and dynamics of these two picocyanobacteria in the field.
PMCID: PMC3441193  PMID: 23024637
marine cyanobacteria; Synechococcus; Prochlorococcus; light/dark cycle; light stress; UV radiations; oxidative stress; photophysiology
6.  Ultraviolet stress delays chromosome replication in light/dark synchronized cells of the marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus marinus PCC9511 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:204.
The marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus is very abundant in warm, nutrient-poor oceanic areas. The upper mixed layer of oceans is populated by high light-adapted Prochlorococcus ecotypes, which despite their tiny genome (~1.7 Mb) seem to have developed efficient strategies to cope with stressful levels of photosynthetically active and ultraviolet (UV) radiation. At a molecular level, little is known yet about how such minimalist microorganisms manage to sustain high growth rates and avoid potentially detrimental, UV-induced mutations to their DNA. To address this question, we studied the cell cycle dynamics of P. marinus PCC9511 cells grown under high fluxes of visible light in the presence or absence of UV radiation. Near natural light-dark cycles of both light sources were obtained using a custom-designed illumination system (cyclostat). Expression patterns of key DNA synthesis and repair, cell division, and clock genes were analyzed in order to decipher molecular mechanisms of adaptation to UV radiation.
The cell cycle of P. marinus PCC9511 was strongly synchronized by the day-night cycle. The most conspicuous response of cells to UV radiation was a delay in chromosome replication, with a peak of DNA synthesis shifted about 2 h into the dark period. This delay was seemingly linked to a strong downregulation of genes governing DNA replication (dnaA) and cell division (ftsZ, sepF), whereas most genes involved in DNA repair (such as recA, phrA, uvrA, ruvC, umuC) were already activated under high visible light and their expression levels were only slightly affected by additional UV exposure.
Prochlorococcus cells modified the timing of the S phase in response to UV exposure, therefore reducing the risk that mutations would occur during this particularly sensitive stage of the cell cycle. We identified several possible explanations for the observed timeshift. Among these, the sharp decrease in transcript levels of the dnaA gene, encoding the DNA replication initiator protein, is sufficient by itself to explain this response, since DNA synthesis starts only when the cellular concentration of DnaA reaches a critical threshold. However, the observed response likely results from a more complex combination of UV-altered biological processes.
PMCID: PMC2921402  PMID: 20670397
7.  Unraveling the genomic mosaic of a ubiquitous genus of marine cyanobacteria 
Genome Biology  2008;9(5):R90.
Local niche occupancy of marine Synechococcus lineages is facilitated by lateral gene transfers. Genomic islands act as repositories for these transferred genes.
The picocyanobacterial genus Synechococcus occurs over wide oceanic expanses, having colonized most available niches in the photic zone. Large scale distribution patterns of the different Synechococcus clades (based on 16S rRNA gene markers) suggest the occurrence of two major lifestyles ('opportunists'/'specialists'), corresponding to two distinct broad habitats ('coastal'/'open ocean'). Yet, the genetic basis of niche partitioning is still poorly understood in this ecologically important group.
Here, we compare the genomes of 11 marine Synechococcus isolates, representing 10 distinct lineages. Phylogenies inferred from the core genome allowed us to refine the taxonomic relationships between clades by revealing a clear dichotomy within the main subcluster, reminiscent of the two aforementioned lifestyles. Genome size is strongly correlated with the cumulative lengths of hypervariable regions (or 'islands'). One of these, encompassing most genes encoding the light-harvesting phycobilisome rod complexes, is involved in adaptation to changes in light quality and has clearly been transferred between members of different Synechococcus lineages. Furthermore, we observed that two strains (RS9917 and WH5701) that have similar pigmentation and physiology have an unusually high number of genes in common, given their phylogenetic distance.
We propose that while members of a given marine Synechococcus lineage may have the same broad geographical distribution, local niche occupancy is facilitated by lateral gene transfers, a process in which genomic islands play a key role as a repository for transferred genes. Our work also highlights the need for developing picocyanobacterial systematics based on genome-derived parameters combined with ecological and physiological data.
PMCID: PMC2441476  PMID: 18507822
8.  Diversity and evolution of phycobilisomes in marine Synechococcus spp.: a comparative genomics study 
Genome Biology  2007;8(12):R259.
By comparing Synechococcus genomes, candidate genes required for the production of phycobiliproteins, which are part of the light-harvesting antenna complexes called phycobilisomes, were identified. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that the phycobilisome core evolved together with the core genome, whereas rods evolved independently.
Marine Synechococcus owe their specific vivid color (ranging from blue-green to orange) to their large extrinsic antenna complexes called phycobilisomes, comprising a central allophycocyanin core and rods of variable phycobiliprotein composition. Three major pigment types can be defined depending on the major phycobiliprotein found in the rods (phycocyanin, phycoerythrin I or phycoerythrin II). Among strains containing both phycoerythrins I and II, four subtypes can be distinguished based on the ratio of the two chromophores bound to these phycobiliproteins. Genomes of eleven marine Synechococcus strains recently became available with one to four strains per pigment type or subtype, allowing an unprecedented comparative genomics study of genes involved in phycobilisome metabolism.
By carefully comparing the Synechococcus genomes, we have retrieved candidate genes potentially required for the synthesis of phycobiliproteins in each pigment type. This includes linker polypeptides, phycobilin lyases and a number of novel genes of uncharacterized function. Interestingly, strains belonging to a given pigment type have similar phycobilisome gene complements and organization, independent of the core genome phylogeny (as assessed using concatenated ribosomal proteins). While phylogenetic trees based on concatenated allophycocyanin protein sequences are congruent with the latter, those based on phycocyanin and phycoerythrin notably differ and match the Synechococcus pigment types.
We conclude that the phycobilisome core has likely evolved together with the core genome, while rods must have evolved independently, possibly by lateral transfer of phycobilisome rod genes or gene clusters between Synechococcus strains, either via viruses or by natural transformation, allowing rapid adaptation to a variety of light niches.
PMCID: PMC2246261  PMID: 18062815
9.  Accelerated evolution associated with genome reduction in a free-living prokaryote 
Genome Biology  2005;6(2):R14.
Prochlorococcus sp. are marine bacteria with very small genomes. The mechanisms by which these reduced genomes have evolved appears, however, to be distinct from those that have led to small genome size in intracellular bacteria.
Three complete genomes of Prochlorococcus species, the smallest and most abundant photosynthetic organism in the ocean, have recently been published. Comparative genome analyses reveal that genome shrinkage has occurred within this genus, associated with a sharp reduction in G+C content. As all examples of genome reduction characterized so far have been restricted to endosymbionts or pathogens, with a host-dependent lifestyle, the observed genome reduction in Prochlorococcus is the first documented example of such a process in a free-living organism.
Our results clearly indicate that genome reduction has been accompanied by an increased rate of protein evolution in P. marinus SS120 that is even more pronounced in P. marinus MED4. This acceleration has affected every functional category of protein-coding genes. In contrast, the 16S rRNA gene seems to have evolved clock-like in this genus. We observed that MED4 and SS120 have lost several DNA-repair genes, the absence of which could be related to the mutational bias and the acceleration of amino-acid substitution.
We have examined the evolutionary mechanisms involved in this process, which are different from those known from host-dependent organisms. Indeed, most substitutions that have occurred in Prochlorococcus have to be selectively neutral, as the large size of populations imposes low genetic drift and strong purifying selection. We assume that the major driving force behind genome reduction within the Prochlorococcus radiation has been a selective process favoring the adaptation of this organism to its environment. A scenario is proposed for genome evolution in this genus.
PMCID: PMC551534  PMID: 15693943

Results 1-9 (9)