Despite the impact of the human microbiome on health, an appreciation of microbial ecology is yet to be translated into mainstream medical training and practice. The human microbiota plays a role in the development of the immune system, in the development and function of the brain, in digestion, and in host defense, and we anticipate that many more functions are yet to be discovered. We argue here that without formal exposure to microbiology and ecology—fields that explore the networks, interactions and dynamics between members of populations of microbes—vitally important links between the human microbiome and health will be overlooked. This educational shortfall has significant downstream effects on patient care and biomedical research, and we provide examples from current research highlighting the influence of the microbiome on human health. We conclude that formally incorporating microbiology and ecology into the premedical curricula is invaluable to the training of future health professionals and critical to the development of novel therapeutics and treatment practices.
premedical curricula; microbiology; human microbiome; ecology
The marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus is the numerically dominant photosynthetic organism in the oligotrophic oceans, and a model system in marine microbial ecology. Here we report 27 new whole genome sequences (2 complete and closed; 25 of draft quality) of cultured isolates, representing five major phylogenetic clades of Prochlorococcus. The sequenced strains were isolated from diverse regions of the oceans, facilitating studies of the drivers of microbial diversity—both in the lab and in the field. To improve the utility of these genomes for comparative genomics, we also define pre-computed clusters of orthologous groups of proteins (COGs), indicating how genes are distributed among these and other publicly available Prochlorococcus genomes. These data represent a significant expansion of Prochlorococcus reference genomes that are useful for numerous applications in microbial ecology, evolution and oceanography.
Viruses that infect marine cyanobacteria–cyanophages–often carry genes with orthologs in their cyanobacterial hosts, and the frequency of these genes can vary with habitat. To explore habitat-influenced genomic diversity more deeply, we used the genomes of 28 cultured cyanomyoviruses as references to identify phage genes in three ocean habitats. Only about 6–11% of genes were consistently observed in the wild, revealing high gene-content variability in these populations. Numerous shared phage/host genes differed in relative frequency between environments, including genes related to phosphorous acquisition, photorespiration, photosynthesis and the pentose phosphate pathway, possibly reflecting environmental selection for these genes in cyanomyovirus genomes. The strongest emergent signal was related to phosphorous availability; a higher fraction of genomes from relatively low-phosphorus environments–the Sargasso and Mediterranean Sea–contained host-like phosphorus assimilation genes compared with those from the N. Pacific Gyre. These genes are known to be upregulated when the host is phosphorous starved, a response mediated by pho box motifs in phage genomes that bind a host regulatory protein. Eleven cyanomyoviruses have predicted pho boxes upstream of the phosphate-acquisition genes pstS and phoA; eight of these have a conserved cyanophage-specific gene (PhCOG173) between the pho box and pstS. PhCOG173 is also found upstream of other shared phage/host genes, suggesting a unique regulatory role. Pho boxes are found upstream of high light-inducible (hli) genes in cyanomyoviruses, suggesting that this motif may have a broader role than regulating phosphorous-stress responses in infected hosts or that these hlis are involved in the phosphorous-stress response.
cyanophage; cyanobacteria; phosphate; selective pressure
Prochlorococcus is the numerically dominant photosynthetic organism throughout much of the world's oceans, yet little is known about the ecology and genetic diversity of populations inhabiting tropical waters. To help close this gap, we examined natural Prochlorococcus communities in the tropical Pacific Ocean using a single-cell whole-genome amplification and sequencing. Analysis of the gene content of just 10 single cells from these waters added 394 new genes to the Prochlorococcus pan-genome—that is, genes never before seen in a Prochlorococcus cell. Analysis of marker genes, including the ribosomal internal transcribed sequence, from dozens of individual cells revealed several representatives from two uncultivated clades of Prochlorococcus previously identified as HNLC1 and HNLC2. While the HNLC clades can dominate Prochlorococcus communities under certain conditions, their overall geographic distribution was highly restricted compared with other clades of Prochlorococcus. In the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, these clades were only found in warm waters with low Fe and high inorganic P levels. Genomic analysis suggests that at least one of these clades thrives in low Fe environments by scavenging organic-bound Fe, a process previously unknown in Prochlorococcus. Furthermore, the capacity to utilize organic-bound Fe appears to have been acquired horizontally and may be exchanged among other clades of Prochlorococcus. Finally, one of the single Prochlorococcus cells sequenced contained a partial genome of what appears to be a prophage integrated into the genome.
HNLC; Prochlorococcus; siderophore
ProPortal (http://proportal.mit.edu/) is a database containing genomic, metagenomic, transcriptomic and field data for the marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus. Our goal is to provide a source of cross-referenced data across multiple scales of biological organization—from the genome to the ecosystem—embracing the full diversity of ecotypic variation within this microbial taxon, its sister group, Synechococcus and phage that infect them. The site currently contains the genomes of 13 Prochlorococcus strains, 11 Synechococcus strains and 28 cyanophage strains that infect one or both groups. Cyanobacterial and cyanophage genes are clustered into orthologous groups that can be accessed by keyword search or through a genome browser. Users can also identify orthologous gene clusters shared by cyanobacterial and cyanophage genomes. Gene expression data for Prochlorococcus ecotypes MED4 and MIT9313 allow users to identify genes that are up or downregulated in response to environmental stressors. In addition, the transcriptome in synchronized cells grown on a 24-h light–dark cycle reveals the choreography of gene expression in cells in a ‘natural’ state. Metagenomic sequences from the Global Ocean Survey from Prochlorococcus, Synechococcus and phage genomes are archived so users can examine the differences between populations from diverse habitats. Finally, an example of cyanobacterial population data from the field is included.
Bacterial viruses (phages) play a critical role in shaping microbial populations as they influence both host mortality and horizontal gene transfer. As such, they have a significant impact on local and global ecosystem function and human health. Despite their importance, little is known about the genomic diversity harbored in phages, as methods to capture complete phage genomes have been hampered by the lack of knowledge about the target genomes, and difficulties in generating sufficient quantities of genomic DNA for sequencing. Of the approximately 550 phage genomes currently available in the public domain, fewer than 5% are marine phage.
To advance the study of phage biology through comparative genomic approaches we used marine cyanophage as a model system. We compared DNA preparation methodologies (DNA extraction directly from either phage lysates or CsCl purified phage particles), and sequencing strategies that utilize either Sanger sequencing of a linker amplification shotgun library (LASL) or of a whole genome shotgun library (WGSL), or 454 pyrosequencing methods. We demonstrate that genomic DNA sample preparation directly from a phage lysate, combined with 454 pyrosequencing, is best suited for phage genome sequencing at scale, as this method is capable of capturing complete continuous genomes with high accuracy. In addition, we describe an automated annotation informatics pipeline that delivers high-quality annotation and yields few false positives and negatives in ORF calling.
These DNA preparation, sequencing and annotation strategies enable a high-throughput approach to the burgeoning field of phage genomics.
A medium throughput approach is used to rapidly identify membrane proteins from a eukaryotic organism that are most amenable to expression in amounts and quality adequate to support structure determination. The goal was to expand knowledge of new membrane protein structures based on proteome-wide coverage. In the first phase membrane proteins from the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae were selected for homologous expression in S. cerevisiae, a system that can be adapted to expression of membrane proteins from other eukaryotes. We performed medium-scale expression and solubilization tests on 351 rationally selected membrane proteins from the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. These targets are inclusive of all annotated and unannotated membrane protein families within the organism’s membrane proteome. 272 targets were expressed and of these 234 solubilized in the detergent n-dodecyl-β-D-maltopyranoside. Furthermore, we report the identity of a subset of targets that were purified to homogeneity to facilitate structure determinations. The extensibility of this approach is demonstrated with the expression of ten human integral membrane proteins from the solute carrier superfamily (SLC). This discovery-oriented pipeline provides an efficient way to select proteins from particular membrane protein classes, families, or organisms that may be more suited to structure analysis than others.
Discovery-oriented screen; Membrane Protein Structure; Structural Genomics; Eukaryotic Integral Membrane Protein; Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Membrane proteins serve as cellular gatekeepers, regulators, and sensors. Prior studies have explored the functional breadth and evolution of proteins and families of particular interest, such as the diversity of transport-associated membrane protein families in prokaryotes and eukaryotes, the composition of integral membrane proteins, and family classification of all human G-protein coupled receptors. However, a comprehensive analysis of the content and evolutionary associations between membrane proteins and families in a diverse set of genomes is lacking. Here, a membrane protein annotation pipeline was developed to define the integral membrane genome and associations between 21,379 proteins from 34 genomes; most, but not all of these proteins belong to 598 defined families. The pipeline was used to provide target input for a structural genomics project that successfully cloned, expressed, and purified 61 of our first 96 selected targets in yeast. Furthermore, the methodology was applied (1) to explore the evolutionary history of the substrate-binding transmembrane domains of the human ABC transporter superfamily, (2) to identify the multidrug resistance-associated membrane proteins in whole genomes, and (3) to identify putative new membrane protein families.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10969-009-9069-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Membrane proteins; Superfamily analysis; Multidrug resistance; ABC transporters; Target selection
Persistent hurdles impede the successful determination of high-resolution crystal structures of eukaryotic integral membrane proteins (IMP). We designed a high-throughput structural genomics oriented pipeline that seeks to minimize effort in uncovering high-quality, responsive non-redundant targets for crystallization. This “discovery-oriented” pipeline sidesteps two significant bottlenecks in the IMP structure determination pipeline: expression and membrane extraction with detergent. In addition, proteins that enter the pipeline are then rapidly vetted by their presence in the included volume on a size-exclusion column – a hallmark of well-behaved IMP targets. A screen of 384 rationally selected eukaryotic IMPs in baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is outlined to demonstrate the results expected when applying this discovery-oriented pipeline to whole-organism membrane proteomes.
Discovery-oriented screen; Membrane Protein Structure; Structural Genomics; Eukaryotic Integral Membrane Protein; Saccharomyces cerevisiae
To study the substrate specificity of enzymes, we use the amidohydrolase and enolase superfamilies as model systems; members of these superfamilies share a common TIM barrel fold and catalyze a wide range of chemical reactions. Here, we describe a collaboration between the Enzyme Specificity Consortium (ENSPEC) and the New York SGX Research Center for Structural Genomics (NYSGXRC) that aims to maximize the structural coverage of the amidohydrolase and enolase superfamilies. Using sequence- and structure-based protein comparisons, we first selected 535 target proteins from a variety of genomes for high-throughput structure determination by X-ray crystallography; 63 of these targets were not previously annotated as superfamily members. To date, 20 unique amidohydrolase and 41 unique enolase structures have been determined, increasing the fraction of sequences in the two superfamilies that can be modeled based on at least 30% sequence identity from 45% to 73%. We present case studies of proteins related to uronate isomerase (an amidohydrolase superfamily member) and mandelate racemase (an enolase superfamily member), to illustrate how this structure-focused approach can be used to generate hypotheses about sequence–structure–function relationships.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10969-008-9056-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Amidohydrolase and enolase superfamilies; Structural genomics; Structure annotation; Target selection
To study the substrate specificity of enzymes, we use the amidohydrolase and enolase superfamilies as model systems; members of these superfamilies share a common TIM barrel fold and catalyze a wide range of chemical reactions. Here, we describe a collaboration between the Enzyme Specificity Consortium (ENSPEC) and the New York SGX Research Center for Structural Genomics (NYSGXRC) that aims to maximize the structural coverage of the amidohydrolase and enolase superfamilies. Using sequence- and structure-based protein comparisons, we first selected 535 target proteins from a variety of genomes for high-throughput structure determination by X-ray crystallography; 63 of these targets were not previously annotated as superfamily members. To date, 20 unique amidohydrolase and 41 unique enolase structures have been determined, increasing the fraction of sequences in the two superfamilies that can be modeled based on at least 30% sequence identity from 45% to 73%. We present case studies of proteins related to uronate isomerase (an amidohydrolase superfamily member) and mandelate racemase (an enolase superfamily member), to illustrate how this structure-focused approach can be used to generate hypotheses about sequence-structure-function relationships.
To study the substrate specificity of enzymes, we use the amidohydrolase and enolase superfamilies as model systems. Here, we describe a collaboration between the Enzyme Specificity Consortium (ENSPEC) and the New York SGX Research Center for Structural Genomics (NYSGXRC) aimed at maximizing the structural coverage of the amidohydrolase and enolase superfamilies. We selected 535 target proteins from a variety of genomes for high-throughput structure determination by X-ray crystallography, resulting in 61 unique structures thus far.
Amidohydrolase and enolase superfamilies; structural genomics; structure annotation; target selection
MODBASE (http://salilab.org/modbase) is a database of annotated comparative protein structure models. The models are calculated by MODPIPE, an automated modeling pipeline that relies primarily on MODELLER for fold assignment, sequence–structure alignment, model building and model assessment (http:/salilab.org/modeller). MODBASE currently contains 5 152 695 reliable models for domains in 1 593 209 unique protein sequences; only models based on statistically significant alignments and/or models assessed to have the correct fold are included. MODBASE also allows users to calculate comparative models on demand, through an interface to the MODWEB modeling server (http://salilab.org/modweb). Other resources integrated with MODBASE include databases of multiple protein structure alignments (DBAli), structurally defined ligand binding sites (LIGBASE), predicted ligand binding sites (AnnoLyze), structurally defined binary domain interfaces (PIBASE) and annotated single nucleotide polymorphisms and somatic mutations found in human proteins (LS-SNP, LS-Mut). MODBASE models are also available through the Protein Model Portal (http://www.proteinmodelportal.org/).
MODBASE () is a database of annotated comparative protein structure models for all available protein sequences that can be matched to at least one known protein structure. The models are calculated by MODPIPE, an automated modeling pipeline that relies on MODELLER for fold assignment, sequence–structure alignment, model building and model assessment (). MODBASE is updated regularly to reflect the growth in protein sequence and structure databases, and improvements in the software for calculating the models. MODBASE currently contains 3 094 524 reliable models for domains in 1 094 750 out of 1 817 889 unique protein sequences in the UniProt database (July 5, 2005); only models based on statistically significant alignments and models assessed to have the correct fold despite insignificant alignments are included. MODBASE also allows users to generate comparative models for proteins of interest with the automated modeling server MODWEB (). Our other resources integrated with MODBASE include comprehensive databases of multiple protein structure alignments (DBAli, ), structurally defined ligand binding sites and structurally defined binary domain interfaces (PIBASE, ) as well as predictions of ligand binding sites, interactions between yeast proteins, and functional consequences of human nsSNPs (LS-SNP, ).
Prochlorococcus, an abundant phototroph in the oceans, are infected by members of three families of viruses: myo-, podo- and siphoviruses. Genomes of myo- and podoviruses isolated on Prochlorococcus contain DNA replication machinery and virion structural genes homologous to those from coliphages T4 and T7 respectively. They also contain a suite of genes of cyanobacterial origin, most notably photosynthesis genes, which are expressed during infection and appear integral to the evolutionary trajectory of both host and phage. Here we present the first genome of a cyanobacterial siphovirus, P-SS2, which was isolated from Atlantic slope waters using a Prochlorococcus host (MIT9313). The P-SS2 genome is larger than, and considerably divergent from, previously sequenced siphoviruses. It appears most closely related to lambdoid siphoviruses, with which it shares 13 functional homologues. The ∼108 kb P-SS2 genome encodes 131 predicted proteins and notably lacks photosynthesis genes which have consistently been found in other marine cyanophage, but does contain 14 other cyanobacterial homologues. While only six structural proteins were identified from the genome sequence, 35 proteins were detected experimentally; these mapped onto capsid and tail structural modules in the genome. P-SS2 is potentially capable of integration into its host as inferred from bioinformatically identified genetic machinery int, bet, exo and a 53 bp attachment site. The host attachment site appears to be a genomic island that is tied to insertion sequence (IS) activity that could facilitate mobility of a gene involved in the nitrogen-stress response. The homologous region and a secondary IS-element hot-spot in Synechococcus RS9917 are further evidence of IS-mediated genome evolution coincident with a probable relic prophage integration event. This siphovirus genome provides a glimpse into the biology of a deep-photic zone phage as well as the ocean cyanobacterial prophage and IS element ‘mobilome’.
Exposure to solar radiation can cause mortality in natural communities of pico-phytoplankton, both at the surface and to a depth of at least 30 m. DNA damage is a significant cause of death, mainly due to cyclobutane pyrimidine dimer formation, which can be lethal if not repaired. While developing a UV mutagenesis protocol for the marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus, we isolated a UV-hyper-resistant variant of high light-adapted strain MED4. The hyper-resistant strain was constitutively upregulated for expression of the mutT-phrB operon, encoding nudix hydrolase and photolyase, both of which are involved in repair of DNA damage that can be caused by UV light. Photolyase (PhrB) breaks pyrimidine dimers typically caused by UV exposure, using energy from visible light in the process known as photoreactivation. Nudix hydrolase (MutT) hydrolyses 8-oxo-dGTP, an aberrant form of GTP that results from oxidizing conditions, including UV radiation, thus impeding mispairing and mutagenesis by preventing incorporation of the aberrant form into DNA. These processes are error-free, in contrast to error-prone SOS dark repair systems that are widespread in bacteria. The UV-hyper-resistant strain contained only a single mutation: a 1 bp deletion in the intergenic region directly upstream of the mutT-phrB operon. Two subsequent enrichments for MED4 UV-hyper-resistant strains from MED4 wild-type cultures gave rise to strains containing this same 1 bp deletion, affirming its connection to the hyper-resistant phenotype. These results have implications for Prochlorococcus DNA repair mechanisms, genome stability and possibly lysogeny.
T4-like myoviruses are ubiquitous, and their genes are among the most abundant documented in ocean systems. Here we compare 26 T4-like genomes, including 10 from non-cyanobacterial myoviruses, and 16 from marine cyanobacterial myoviruses (cyanophages) isolated on diverse Prochlorococcus or Synechococcus hosts. A core genome of 38 virion construction and DNA replication genes was observed in all 26 genomes, with 32 and 25 additional genes shared among the non-cyanophage and cyanophage subsets, respectively. These hierarchical cores are highly syntenic across the genomes, and sampled to saturation. The 25 cyanophage core genes include six previously described genes with putative functions (psbA, mazG, phoH, hsp20, hli03, cobS), a hypothetical protein with a potential phytanoyl-CoA dioxygenase domain, two virion structural genes, and 16 hypothetical genes. Beyond previously described cyanophage-encoded photosynthesis and phosphate stress genes, we observed core genes that may play a role in nitrogen metabolism during infection through modulation of 2-oxoglutarate. Patterns among non-core genes that may drive niche diversification revealed that phosphorus-related gene content reflects source waters rather than host strain used for isolation, and that carbon metabolism genes appear associated with putative mobile elements. As well, phages isolated on Synechococcus had higher genome-wide %G+C and often contained different gene subsets (e.g. petE, zwf, gnd, prnA, cpeT) than those isolated on Prochlorococcus. However, no clear diagnostic genes emerged to distinguish these phage groups, suggesting blurred boundaries possibly due to cross-infection. Finally, genome-wide comparisons of both diverse and closely related, co-isolated genomes provide a locus-to-locus variability metric that will prove valuable for interpreting metagenomic data sets.