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2.  Identification of Candidate Adherent-Invasive E. coli Signature Transcripts by Genomic/Transcriptomic Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(6):e0130902.
Adherent-invasive Escherichia coli (AIEC) strains are detected more frequently within mucosal lesions of patients with Crohn’s disease (CD). The AIEC phenotype consists of adherence and invasion of intestinal epithelial cells and survival within macrophages of these bacteria in vitro. Our aim was to identify candidate transcripts that distinguish AIEC from non-invasive E. coli (NIEC) strains and might be useful for rapid and accurate identification of AIEC by culture-independent technology. We performed comparative RNA-Sequence (RNASeq) analysis using AIEC strain LF82 and NIEC strain HS during exponential and stationary growth. Differential expression analysis of coding sequences (CDS) homologous to both strains demonstrated 224 and 241 genes with increased and decreased expression, respectively, in LF82 relative to HS. Transition metal transport and siderophore metabolism related pathway genes were up-regulated, while glycogen metabolic and oxidation-reduction related pathway genes were down-regulated, in LF82. Chemotaxis related transcripts were up-regulated in LF82 during the exponential phase, but flagellum-dependent motility pathway genes were down-regulated in LF82 during the stationary phase. CDS that mapped only to the LF82 genome accounted for 747 genes. We applied an in silico subtractive genomics approach to identify CDS specific to AIEC by incorporating the genomes of 10 other previously phenotyped NIEC. From this analysis, 166 CDS mapped to the LF82 genome and lacked homology to any of the 11 human NIEC strains. We compared these CDS across 13 AIEC, but none were homologous in each. Four LF82 gene loci belonging to clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats region (CRISPR)—CRISPR-associated (Cas) genes were identified in 4 to 6 AIEC and absent from all non-pathogenic bacteria. As previously reported, AIEC strains were enriched for pdu operon genes. One CDS, encoding an excisionase, was shared by 9 AIEC strains. Reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction assays for 6 genes were conducted on fecal and ileal RNA samples from 22 inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and 32 patients without IBD (non-IBD). The expression of Cas loci was detected in a higher proportion of CD than non-IBD fecal and ileal RNA samples (p <0.05). These results support a comparative genomic/transcriptomic approach towards identifying candidate AIEC signature transcripts.
PMCID: PMC4509574  PMID: 26125937
3.  1H nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy-based metabonomic study in patients with cirrhosis and hepatic encephalopathy 
World Journal of Hepatology  2015;7(12):1701-1707.
AIM: To identify plasma metabolites used as biomarkers in order to distinguish cirrhotics from controls and encephalopathics.
METHODS: A clinical study involving stable cirrhotic patients with and without overt hepatic encephalopathy was designed. A control group of healthy volunteers was used. Plasma from those patients was analysed using 1H - nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. We used the Carr Purcell Meiboom Gill sequence to process the sample spectra at ambient probe temperature. We used a gated secondary irradiation field for water signal suppression. Samples were calibrated and referenced using the sodium trimethyl silyl propionate peak at 0.00 ppm. For each sample 128 transients (FID’s) were acquired into 32 K complex data points over a spectral width of 6 KHz. 30 degree pulses were applied with an acquisition time of 4.0 s in order to achieve better resolution, followed by a recovery delay of 12 s, to allow for complete relaxation and recovery of the magnetisation. A metabolic profile was created for stable cirrhotic patients without signs of overt hepatic encephalopathy and encephalopathic patients as well as healthy controls. Stepwise discriminant analysis was then used and discriminant factors were created to differentiate between the three groups.
RESULTS: Eighteen stabled cirrhotic patients, eighteen patients with overt hepatic encephalopathy and seventeen healthy volunteers were recruited. Patients with cirrhosis had significantly impaired ketone body metabolism, urea synthesis and gluconeogenesis. This was demonstrated by higher concentrations of acetoacetate (0.23 ± 0.02 vs 0.05 ± 0.00, P < 0.01), and b-hydroxybutarate (0.58 ± 0.14 vs 0.08 ± 0.00, P < 0.01), lower concentrations of glutamine (0.44 ± 0.08 vs 0.63 ± 0.03, P < 0.05), histidine (0.16 ± 0.01 vs 0.36 ± 0.04, P < 0.01) and arginine (0.08 ± 0.01 vs 0.14 ± 0.02, P < 0.03) and higher concentrations of glutamate (1.36 ± 0.25 vs 0.58 ± 0.04, P < 0.01), lactate (1.53 ± 0.11 vs 0.42 ± 0.05, P < 0.01), pyruvate (0.11 ± 0.02 vs 0.03 ± 0.00, P < 0.01) threonine (0.39 ± 0.02 vs 0.08 ± 0.01, P < 0.01) and aspartate (0.37 ± 0.03 vs 0.03 ± 0.01). A five metabolite signature by stepwise discriminant analysis could separate between controls and cirrhotic patients with an accuracy of 98%. In patients with encephalopathy we observed further derangement of ketone body metabolism, impaired production of glycerol and myoinositol, reversal of Fischer’s ratio and impaired glutamine production as demonstrated by lower b-hydroxybutyrate (0.58 ± 0.14 vs 0.16 ± 0.02, P < 0.0002), higher acetoacetate (0.23 ± 0.02 vs 0.41 ± 0.16, P < 0.05), leucine (0.33 ± 0.02 vs 0.49 ± 0.05, P < 0.005) and isoleucine (0.12 ± 0.02 vs 0.27 ± 0.02, P < 0.0004) and lower glutamine (0.44 ± 0.08 vs 0.36 ± 0.04, P < 0.013), glycerol (0.53 ± 0.03 vs 0.19 ± 0.02, P < 0.000) and myoinositol (0.36 ± 0.04 vs 0.18 ± 0.02, P < 0.010) concentrations. A four metabolite signature by stepwise discriminant analysis could separate between encephalopathic and cirrhotic patients with an accuracy of 87%.
CONCLUSION: Patients with cirrhosis and patients with hepatic encephalopathy exhibit distinct metabolic abnormalities and the use of metabonomics can select biomarkers for these diseases.
PMCID: PMC4483552  PMID: 26140090
Ketone bodies; Branch chain amino acids; Glutamine; Glycolysis
4.  HAMP Domain Structural Determinants for Signaling and Sensory Adaptation in Tsr, the E. coli Serine Chemoreceptor 
Molecular microbiology  2013;91(5):875-886.
HAMP domains mediate input-output transactions in many bacterial signaling proteins. To clarify the mechanistic logic of HAMP signaling, we constructed Tsr-HAMP deletion derivatives and characterized their steady-state signal outputs and sensory adaptation properties with flagellar rotation and receptor methylation assays. Tsr molecules lacking the entire HAMP domain or just the HAMP-AS2 helix generated clockwise output signals, confirming that kinase activation is the default output state of the chemoreceptor signaling domain and that attractant stimuli shift HAMP to an overriding kinase-off signaling state to elicit counter-clockwise flagellar responses. Receptors with deletions of the AS1 helices, which free the AS2 helices from bundle-packing constraints, exhibited kinase-off signaling behavior that depended on three C-terminal hydrophobic residues of AS2. We conclude that AS2/AS2' packing interactions alone can play an important role in controlling output kinase activity. Neither kinase-on nor kinase-off HAMP deletion outputs responded to sensory adaptation control, implying that out-of-range conformations or bundle-packing stabilities of their methylation helices prevent substrate recognition by the adaptation enzymes. These observations support the previously proposed biphasic, dynamic-bundle mechanism of HAMP signaling and additionally show that the structural interplay of helix-packing interactions between HAMP and the adjoining methylation helices is critical for sensory adaptation control of receptor output.
PMCID: PMC4154141  PMID: 24205875
signal transduction; chemotaxis; chemoreceptor; histidine kinase
5.  Systems-Based Analysis of the Sarcocystis neurona Genome Identifies Pathways That Contribute to a Heteroxenous Life Cycle 
mBio  2015;6(1):e02445-14.
Sarcocystis neurona is a member of the coccidia, a clade of single-celled parasites of medical and veterinary importance including Eimeria, Sarcocystis, Neospora, and Toxoplasma. Unlike Eimeria, a single-host enteric pathogen, Sarcocystis, Neospora, and Toxoplasma are two-host parasites that infect and produce infectious tissue cysts in a wide range of intermediate hosts. As a genus, Sarcocystis is one of the most successful protozoan parasites; all vertebrates, including birds, reptiles, fish, and mammals are hosts to at least one Sarcocystis species. Here we sequenced Sarcocystis neurona, the causal agent of fatal equine protozoal myeloencephalitis. The S. neurona genome is 127 Mbp, more than twice the size of other sequenced coccidian genomes. Comparative analyses identified conservation of the invasion machinery among the coccidia. However, many dense-granule and rhoptry kinase genes, responsible for altering host effector pathways in Toxoplasma and Neospora, are absent from S. neurona. Further, S. neurona has a divergent repertoire of SRS proteins, previously implicated in tissue cyst formation in Toxoplasma. Systems-based analyses identified a series of metabolic innovations, including the ability to exploit alternative sources of energy. Finally, we present an S. neurona model detailing conserved molecular innovations that promote the transition from a purely enteric lifestyle (Eimeria) to a heteroxenous parasite capable of infecting a wide range of intermediate hosts.
Sarcocystis neurona is a member of the coccidia, a clade of single-celled apicomplexan parasites responsible for major economic and health care burdens worldwide. A cousin of Plasmodium, Cryptosporidium, Theileria, and Eimeria, Sarcocystis is one of the most successful parasite genera; it is capable of infecting all vertebrates (fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals—including humans). The past decade has witnessed an increasing number of human outbreaks of clinical significance associated with acute sarcocystosis. Among Sarcocystis species, S. neurona has a wide host range and causes fatal encephalitis in horses, marine mammals, and several other mammals. To provide insights into the transition from a purely enteric parasite (e.g., Eimeria) to one that forms tissue cysts (Toxoplasma), we present the first genome sequence of S. neurona. Comparisons with other coccidian genomes highlight the molecular innovations that drive its distinct life cycle strategies.
PMCID: PMC4337577  PMID: 25670772
6.  A phenylalanine rotameric switch for signal-state control in bacterial chemoreceptors 
Nature communications  2013;4:2881.
Bacterial chemoreceptors are widely used as a model system for elucidating the molecular mechanisms of transmembrane signaling and have provided a detailed understanding of how ligand binding by the receptor modulates the activity of its associated kinase CheA. However, the mechanisms by which conformational signals move between signaling elements within a receptor dimer and how they control kinase activity remain unknown. Here, using long molecular dynamics simulations, we show that the kinase-activating cytoplasmic tip of the chemoreceptor fluctuates between two stable conformations in a signal-dependent manner. A highly conserved residue, Phe396, appears to serve as the conformational switch, because flipping of the stacked aromatic rings of an interacting F396-F396' pair in the receptor homodimer takes place concomitantly with the signal-related conformational changes. We suggest that interacting aromatic residues, which are common stabilizers of protein tertiary structure, might serve as rotameric molecular switches in other biological processes as well.
PMCID: PMC4310728  PMID: 24335957
7.  Comparison of assembly algorithms for improving rate of metatranscriptomic functional annotation 
Microbiome  2014;2:39.
Microbiome-wide gene expression profiling through high-throughput RNA sequencing (‘metatranscriptomics’) offers a powerful means to functionally interrogate complex microbial communities. Key to successful exploitation of these datasets is the ability to confidently match relatively short sequence reads to known bacterial transcripts. In the absence of reference genomes, such annotation efforts may be enhanced by assembling reads into longer contiguous sequences (‘contigs’), prior to database search strategies. Since reads from homologous transcripts may derive from several species, represented at different abundance levels, it is not clear how well current assembly pipelines perform for metatranscriptomic datasets. Here we evaluate the performance of four currently employed assemblers including de novo transcriptome assemblers - Trinity and Oases; the metagenomic assembler - Metavelvet; and the recently developed metatranscriptomic assembler IDBA-MT.
We evaluated the performance of the assemblers on a previously published dataset of single-end RNA sequence reads derived from the large intestine of an inbred non-obese diabetic mouse model of type 1 diabetes. We found that Trinity performed best as judged by contigs assembled, reads assigned to contigs, and number of reads that could be annotated to a known bacterial transcript. Only 15.5% of RNA sequence reads could be annotated to a known transcript in contrast to 50.3% with Trinity assembly. Paired-end reads generated from the same mouse samples resulted in modest performance gains. A database search estimated that the assemblies are unlikely to erroneously merge multiple unrelated genes sharing a region of similarity (<2% of contigs). A simulated dataset based on ten species confirmed these findings. A more complex simulated dataset based on 72 species found that greater assembly errors were introduced than is expected by sequencing quality. Through the detailed evaluation of assembly performance, the insights provided by this study will help drive the design of future metatranscriptomic analyses.
Assembly of metatranscriptome datasets greatly improved read annotation. Of the four assemblers evaluated, Trinity provided the best performance. For more complex datasets, reads generated from transcripts sharing considerable sequence similarity can be a source of significant assembly error, suggesting a need to collate reads on the basis of common taxonomic origin prior to assembly.
PMCID: PMC4236897  PMID: 25411636
Microbiome; Metatranscriptomics; Sequence assembly; Bioinformatics; RNA sequencing
8.  New Tricks for “Old” Domains: How Novel Architectures and Promiscuous Hubs Contributed to the Organization and Evolution of the ECM 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2014;6(10):2897-2917.
The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a defining characteristic of metazoans and consists of a meshwork of self-assembling, fibrous proteins, and their functionally related neighbours. Previous studies, focusing on a limited number of gene families, suggest that vertebrate complexity predominantly arose through the duplication and subsequent modification of retained, preexisting ECM genes. These genes provided the structural underpinnings to support a variety of specialized tissues, as well as a platform for the organization of spatio-temporal signaling and cell migration. However, the relative contributions of ancient versus novel domains to ECM evolution have not been quantified across the full range of ECM proteins. Here, utilizing a high quality list comprising 324 ECM genes, we reveal general and clade-specific domain combinations, identifying domains of eukaryotic and metazoan origin recruited into new roles in approximately two-third of the ECM proteins in humans representing novel vertebrate proteins. We show that, rather than acquiring new domains, sampling of new domain combinations has been key to the innovation of paralogous ECM genes during vertebrate evolution. Applying a novel framework for identifying potentially important, noncontiguous, conserved arrangements of domains, we find that the distinct biological characteristics of the ECM have arisen through unique evolutionary processes. These include the preferential recruitment of novel domains to existing architectures and the utilization of high promiscuity domains in organizing the ECM network around a connected array of structural hubs. Our focus on ECM proteins reveals that distinct types of proteins and/or the biological systems in which they operate have influenced the types of evolutionary forces that drive protein innovation. This emphasizes the need for rigorously defined systems to address questions of evolution that focus on specific systems of interacting proteins.
PMCID: PMC4224354  PMID: 25323955
extracellular matrix; protein domains; domain architecture; evolution; domain networks
9.  The extended phenotypes of marine symbioses: ecological and evolutionary consequences of intraspecific genetic diversity in coral–algal associations 
Reef-building corals owe much of their success to a symbiosis with dinoflagellate microalgae in the genus Symbiodinium. In this association, the performance of each organism is tied to that of its partner, and together the partners form a holobiont that can be subject to selection. Climate change affects coral reefs, which are declining globally as a result. Yet the extent to which coral holobionts will be able to acclimate or evolve to handle climate change and other stressors remains unclear. Selection acts on individuals and evidence from terrestrial systems demonstrates that intraspecific genetic diversity plays a significant role in symbiosis ecology and evolution. However, we have a limited understanding of the effects of such diversity in corals. As molecular methods have advanced, so too has our recognition of the taxonomic and functional diversity of holobiont partners. Resolving the major components of the holobiont to the level of the individual will help us assess the importance of intraspecific diversity and partner interactions in coral–algal symbioses. Here, we hypothesize that unique combinations of coral and algal individuals yield functional diversity that affects not only the ecology and evolution of the coral holobiont, but associated communities as well. Our synthesis is derived from reviewing existing evidence and presenting novel data. By incorporating the effects of holobiont extended phenotypes into predictive models, we may refine our understanding of the evolutionary trajectory of corals and reef communities responding to climate change.
PMCID: PMC4142987  PMID: 25202306
coral; genotype interactions; intraspecific diversity; mutualism; Symbiodinium
10.  An Unorthodox Sensory Adaptation Site in the Escherichia coli Serine Chemoreceptor 
Journal of Bacteriology  2014;196(3):641-649.
The serine chemoreceptor of Escherichia coli contains four canonical methylation sites for sensory adaptation that lie near intersubunit helix interfaces of the Tsr homodimer. An unexplored fifth methylation site, E502, lies at an intrasubunit helix interface closest to the HAMP domain that controls input-output signaling in methyl-accepting chemotaxis proteins. We analyzed, with in vivo Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) kinase assays, the serine thresholds and response cooperativities of Tsr receptors with different mutationally imposed modifications at sites 1 to 4 and/or at site 5. Tsr variants carrying E or Q at residue 502, in combination with unmodifiable D and N replacements at adaptation sites 1 to 4, underwent both methylation and demethylation/deamidation, although detection of the latter modifications required elevated intracellular levels of CheB. These Tsr variants could not mediate a chemotactic response to serine spatial gradients, demonstrating that adaptational modifications at E502 alone are not sufficient for Tsr function. Moreover, E502 is not critical for Tsr function, because only two amino acid replacements at this residue abrogated serine chemotaxis: Tsr-E502P had extreme kinase-off output and Tsr-E502I had extreme kinase-on output. These large threshold shifts are probably due to the unique HAMP-proximal location of methylation site 5. However, a methylation-mimicking glutamine at any Tsr modification site raised the serine response threshold, suggesting that all sites influence signaling by the same general mechanism, presumably through changes in packing stability of the methylation helix bundle. These findings are consistent with control of input-output signaling in Tsr through dynamic interplay of the structural stabilities of the HAMP and methylation bundles.
PMCID: PMC3911153  PMID: 24272777
11.  Mutational Analysis of the P1 Phosphorylation Domain in Escherichia coli CheA, the Signaling Kinase for Chemotaxis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2014;196(2):257-264.
The histidine autokinase CheA functions as the central processing unit in the Escherichia coli chemotaxis signaling machinery. CheA receives autophosphorylation control inputs from chemoreceptors and in turn regulates the flux of signaling phosphates to the CheY and CheB response regulator proteins. Phospho-CheY changes the direction of flagellar rotation; phospho-CheB covalently modifies receptor molecules during sensory adaptation. The CheA phosphorylation site, His-48, lies in the N-terminal P1 domain, which must engage the CheA ATP-binding domain, P4, to initiate an autophosphorylation reaction cycle. The docking determinants for the P1-P4 interaction have not been experimentally identified. We devised mutant screens to isolate P1 domains with impaired autophosphorylation or phosphotransfer activities. One set of P1 mutants identified amino acid replacements at surface-exposed residues distal to His-48. These lesions reduced the rate of P1 transphosphorylation by P4. However, once phosphorylated, the mutant P1 domains transferred phosphate to CheY at the wild-type rate. Thus, these P1 mutants appear to define interaction determinants for P1-P4 docking during the CheA autophosphorylation reaction.
PMCID: PMC3911240  PMID: 24163342
12.  The genomes of four tapeworm species reveal adaptations to parasitism 
Nature  2013;496(7443):57-63.
Tapeworms cause debilitating neglected diseases that can be deadly and often require surgery due to ineffective drugs. Here we present the first analysis of tapeworm genome sequences using the human-infective species Echinococcus multilocularis, E. granulosus, Taenia solium and the laboratory model Hymenolepis microstoma as examples. The 115-141 megabase genomes offer insights into the evolution of parasitism. Synteny is maintained with distantly related blood flukes but we find extreme losses of genes and pathways ubiquitous in other animals, including 34 homeobox families and several determinants of stem cell fate. Tapeworms have species-specific expansions of non-canonical heat shock proteins and families of known antigens; specialised detoxification pathways, and metabolism finely tuned to rely on nutrients scavenged from their hosts. We identify new potential drug targets, including those on which existing pharmaceuticals may act. The genomes provide a rich resource to underpin the development of urgently needed treatments and control.
PMCID: PMC3964345  PMID: 23485966
HSP70; parasitism; Cestoda; cysticercosis; echinococcosis; Platyhelminthes
13.  The mobility of two kinase domains in the Escherichia coli chemoreceptor array varies with signaling state 
Molecular microbiology  2013;89(5):831-841.
Motile bacteria sense their physical and chemical environment through highly cooperative, ordered arrays of chemoreceptors. These signaling complexes phosphorylate a response regulator which in turn governs flagellar motor reversals, driving cells towards favorable environments. The structural changes that translate chemoeffector binding into the appropriate kinase output are not known. Here, we apply high-resolution electron cryotomography to visualize mutant chemoreceptor signaling arrays in well-defined kinase activity states. The arrays were well ordered in all signaling states, with no discernible differences in receptor conformation at 2-3 nm resolution. Differences were observed, however, in a keel-like density that we identify here as CheA kinase domains P1 and P2, which are the phosphorylation site domain and the binding domain for response regulator target proteins, respectively. Mutant receptor arrays with high kinase activities all exhibited small keels and high proteolysis susceptibility, indicative of mobile P1 and P2 domains. In contrast, arrays in kinase-off signaling states exhibited a range of keel sizes. These findings confirm that chemoreceptor arrays do not undergo large structural changes during signaling, and suggest instead that kinase activity is modulated at least in part by changes in the mobility of key domains.
PMCID: PMC3763515  PMID: 23802570
bacterial chemotaxis; signal transduction; electron cryotomography
14.  Mechanistic aspects of inducible nitric oxide synthase-induced lung injury in burn trauma☆ 
Although the beneficial effects of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) inhibition in acute lung injury secondary to cutaneous burn and smoke inhalation were previously demonstrated, the mechanistic aspects are not completely understood. The objective of the present study is to describe the mechanism(s) underlying these favourable effects. We hypothesised that iNOS inhibition prevents formation of excessive reactive nitrogen species and attenuates the activation of poly(ADP) (poly(adenosine diphosphate)) ribose polymerase, thus mitigating the severity of acute lung injury in sheep subjected to combined burn and smoke inhalation.
Adult ewes were chronically instrumented for a 24-h study and allocated to groups: sham: not injured, not treated, n = 6; control: injured, not treated, n = 6; and BBS-2: injured treated with iNOS dimerisation inhibitor BBS-2, n = 6. Control and BBS-2 groups received 40% total body surface area 3rd-degree cutaneous burn and cotton smoke insufflation into the lungs under isoflurane anaesthesia.
Treatment with iNOS inhibitor BBS-2 significantly improved pulmonary gas exchange (partial pressure of oxygen in the blood/fraction of inspired oxygen (PaO2/FiO2) 409 ± 43 mmHg vs. 233 ± 50 mmHg in controls, p < 0.05) and reduced airway pressures (peak pressure 20 ± 1 cm H2O vs. 28 ± 2 cm H2O in controls, p < 0.05) and lung water content (lung wet-to-dry ratio 4.1 ± 0.3 vs. 5.2 ± 0.2 in controls, p < 0.05) 24 h after the burn and smoke injury. BBS-2 significantly reduced the increases in lung lymph nitrite/nitrate (10 ± 3 μM vs. 26 ± 6 μM in controls, p < 0.05) and 3-nitrotyrosine (109 ± 11 (densitometry value) vs. 151 ± 18 in controls, p < 0.05). Burn/smoke-induced increases in lung tissue nitrite/nitrate, poly(ADP)ribose polymerase, nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) activity, myeloperoxidase activity and malondialdehyde formation and interleukin (IL)-8 expression were also attenuated with BBS-2.
The results provide strong evidence that BBS-2 ameliorated acute lung injury by inhibiting the inducible nitric oxide synthase/reactive nitrogen species/poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (iNOS/RNS/PARP) pathway.
PMCID: PMC3936245  PMID: 21334141
Thermal injury; Reactive nitrogen species; Poly(ADP)ribose
15.  Quantitative Genome-Wide Genetic Interaction Screens Reveal Global Epistatic Relationships of Protein Complexes in Escherichia coli 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(2):e1004120.
Large-scale proteomic analyses in Escherichia coli have documented the composition and physical relationships of multiprotein complexes, but not their functional organization into biological pathways and processes. Conversely, genetic interaction (GI) screens can provide insights into the biological role(s) of individual gene and higher order associations. Combining the information from both approaches should elucidate how complexes and pathways intersect functionally at a systems level. However, such integrative analysis has been hindered due to the lack of relevant GI data. Here we present a systematic, unbiased, and quantitative synthetic genetic array screen in E. coli describing the genetic dependencies and functional cross-talk among over 600,000 digenic mutant combinations. Combining this epistasis information with putative functional modules derived from previous proteomic data and genomic context-based methods revealed unexpected associations, including new components required for the biogenesis of iron-sulphur and ribosome integrity, and the interplay between molecular chaperones and proteases. We find that functionally-linked genes co-conserved among γ-proteobacteria are far more likely to have correlated GI profiles than genes with divergent patterns of evolution. Overall, examining bacterial GIs in the context of protein complexes provides avenues for a deeper mechanistic understanding of core microbial systems.
Author Summary
Genome-wide genetic interaction (GI) screens have been performed in yeast, but no analogous large-scale studies have yet been reported for bacteria. Here, we have used E. coli synthetic genetic array (eSGA) technology developed by our group to quantitatively map GIs to reveal epistatic dependencies and functional cross-talk among ∼600,000 digenic mutant combinations. By combining this epistasis information with functional modules derived by our group's earlier efforts from proteomic and genomic context (GC)-based methods, we identify several unexpected pathway-level dependencies, functional links between protein complexes, and biological roles of uncharacterized bacterial gene products. As part of the study, two of our pathway predictions from GI screens were validated experimentally, where we confirmed the role of these new components in iron-sulphur biogenesis and ribosome integrity. We also extrapolated the epistatic connectivity diagram of E. coli to 233 distantly related γ-proteobacterial species lacking GI information, and identified co-conserved genes and functional modules important for bacterial pathogenesis. Overall, this study describes the first genome-scale map of GIs in gram-negative bacterium, and through integrative analysis with previously derived protein-protein and GC-based interaction networks presents a number of novel insights into the architecture of bacterial pathways that could not have been discerned through either network alone.
PMCID: PMC3930520  PMID: 24586182
16.  Metabolic reconstruction identifies strain-specific regulation of virulence in Toxoplasma gondii 
The first metabolic reconstruction for Toxoplasma gondii ‘iCS382' is presented. Model simulations and drug assays identified strain-specific differences in growth rates that may reflect an evolutionary strategy, potentiating broad host range.
The first metabolic reconstruction of Toxoplasma gondii was generated, capturing current knowledge of the parasite's metabolic capabilities.Strain-specific differences in the expression of enzymes in energy production pathways were predicted to impact growth rates and may reflect an underlying evolutionary strategy that allows the parasite to broaden its host range.The validated strain-specific sensitivity to enzyme knockouts demonstrates the need to consider the diversity of parasite strains during the development of novel therapeutic approaches.
Increasingly, metabolic potential is proving to be a critical determinant governing a pathogen's virulence as well as its capacity to expand its host range. To understand the potential contribution of metabolism to strain-specific infectivity differences, we present a constraint-based metabolic model of the opportunistic parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. Dominated by three clonal strains (Type I, II, and III demonstrating distinct virulence profiles), T. gondii exhibits a remarkably broad host range. Integrating functional genomic data, our model (which we term as iCS382) reveals that observed strain-specific differences in growth rates are driven by altered capacities for energy production. We further predict strain-specific differences in drug susceptibilities and validate one of these predictions in a drug-based assay, with a Type I strain demonstrating resistance to inhibitors that are effective against a Type II strain. We propose that these observed differences reflect an evolutionary strategy that allows the parasite to extend its host range, as well as result in a subsequent partitioning into discrete strains that display altered virulence profiles across different hosts, different organs, and even cell types.
PMCID: PMC4039375  PMID: 24247825
flux balance analysis; metabolic reconstruction; strain differences; Toxoplasma gondii
17.  Sequencing and annotation of the Ophiostoma ulmi genome 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:162.
The ascomycete fungus Ophiostoma ulmi was responsible for the initial pandemic of the massively destructive Dutch elm disease in Europe and North America in early 1910. Dutch elm disease has ravaged the elm tree population globally and is a major threat to the remaining elm population. O. ulmi is also associated with valuable biomaterials applications. It was recently discovered that proteins from O. ulmi can be used for efficient transformation of amylose in the production of bioplastics.
We have sequenced the 31.5 Mb genome of O.ulmi using Illumina next generation sequencing. Applying both de novo and comparative genome annotation methods, we predict a total of 8639 gene models. The quality of the predicted genes was validated using a variety of data sources consisting of EST data, mRNA-seq data and orthologs from related fungal species. Sequence-based computational methods were used to identify candidate virulence-related genes. Metabolic pathways were reconstructed and highlight specific enzymes that may play a role in virulence.
This genome sequence will be a useful resource for further research aimed at understanding the molecular mechanisms of pathogenicity by O. ulmi. It will also facilitate the identification of enzymes necessary for industrial biotransformation applications.
PMCID: PMC3618308  PMID: 23496816
18.  Identification of a Functional Connectome for Long-Term Fear Memory in Mice 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(1):e1002853.
Long-term memories are thought to depend upon the coordinated activation of a broad network of cortical and subcortical brain regions. However, the distributed nature of this representation has made it challenging to define the neural elements of the memory trace, and lesion and electrophysiological approaches provide only a narrow window into what is appreciated a much more global network. Here we used a global mapping approach to identify networks of brain regions activated following recall of long-term fear memories in mice. Analysis of Fos expression across 84 brain regions allowed us to identify regions that were co-active following memory recall. These analyses revealed that the functional organization of long-term fear memories depends on memory age and is altered in mutant mice that exhibit premature forgetting. Most importantly, these analyses indicate that long-term memory recall engages a network that has a distinct thalamic-hippocampal-cortical signature. This network is concurrently integrated and segregated and therefore has small-world properties, and contains hub-like regions in the prefrontal cortex and thalamus that may play privileged roles in memory expression.
Author Summary
Memory retrieval is thought to involve the coordinated activation of multiple regions of the brain, rather than localized activity in a specific region. In order to visualize networks of brain regions activated by recall of a fear memory in mice, we quantified expression of an activity-regulated gene (c-fos) that is induced by neural activity. This allowed us to identify collections of brain regions where Fos expression co-varies across mice, and presumably form components of a network that are co-active during recall of long-term fear memory. This analysis suggested that expression of a long-term fear memory is an emergent property of large scale neural network interactions. This network has a distinct thalamic-hippocampal-cortical signature and, like many real-world networks as well as other anatomical and functional brain networks, has small-world architecture with a subset of highly-connected hub nodes that may play more central roles in memory expression.
PMCID: PMC3536620  PMID: 23300432
20.  A Transcriptomic Analysis of Echinococcus granulosus Larval Stages: Implications for Parasite Biology and Host Adaptation 
The cestode Echinococcus granulosus - the agent of cystic echinococcosis, a zoonosis affecting humans and domestic animals worldwide - is an excellent model for the study of host-parasite cross-talk that interfaces with two mammalian hosts. To develop the molecular analysis of these interactions, we carried out an EST survey of E. granulosus larval stages. We report the salient features of this study with a focus on genes reflecting physiological adaptations of different parasite stages.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We generated ∼10,000 ESTs from two sets of full-length enriched libraries (derived from oligo-capped and trans-spliced cDNAs) prepared with three parasite materials: hydatid cyst wall, larval worms (protoscoleces), and pepsin/H+-activated protoscoleces. The ESTs were clustered into 2700 distinct gene products. In the context of the biology of E. granulosus, our analyses reveal: (i) a diverse group of abundant long non-protein coding transcripts showing homology to a middle repetitive element (EgBRep) that could either be active molecular species or represent precursors of small RNAs (like piRNAs); (ii) an up-regulation of fermentative pathways in the tissue of the cyst wall; (iii) highly expressed thiol- and selenol-dependent antioxidant enzyme targets of thioredoxin glutathione reductase, the functional hub of redox metabolism in parasitic flatworms; (iv) candidate apomucins for the external layer of the tissue-dwelling hydatid cyst, a mucin-rich structure that is critical for survival in the intermediate host; (v) a set of tetraspanins, a protein family that appears to have expanded in the cestode lineage; and (vi) a set of platyhelminth-specific gene products that may offer targets for novel pan-platyhelminth drug development.
This survey has greatly increased the quality and the quantity of the molecular information on E. granulosus and constitutes a valuable resource for gene prediction on the parasite genome and for further genomic and proteomic analyses focused on cestodes and platyhelminths.
Author Summary
Cestodes are a neglected group of platyhelminth parasites, despite causing chronic infections to humans and domestic animals worldwide. We used Echinococcus granulosus as a model to study the molecular basis of the host-parasite cross-talk during cestode infections. For this purpose, we carried out a survey of the genes expressed by parasite larval stages interfacing with definitive and intermediate hosts. Sequencing from several high quality cDNA libraries provided numerous insights into the expression of genes involved in important aspects of E. granulosus biology, e.g. its metabolism (energy production and antioxidant defences) and the synthesis of key parasite structures (notably, the one exposed to humans and livestock intermediate hosts). Our results also uncovered the existence of an intriguing set of abundant repeat-associated non-protein coding transcripts that may participate in the regulation of gene expression in all surveyed stages. The dataset now generated constitutes a valuable resource for gene prediction on the parasite genome and for further genomic and proteomic studies focused on cestodes and platyhelminths. In particular, the detailed characterization of a range of newly discovered genes will contribute to a better understanding of the biology of cestode infections and, therefore, to the development of products allowing their efficient control.
PMCID: PMC3510090  PMID: 23209850
21.  Integrated Bioinformatic and Targeted Deletion Analyses of the SRS Gene Superfamily Identify SRS29C as a Negative Regulator of Toxoplasma Virulence 
mBio  2012;3(6):e00321-12.
The Toxoplasma gondii SRS gene superfamily is structurally related to SRS29B (formerly SAG1), a surface adhesin that binds host cells and stimulates host immunity. Comparative genomic analyses of three Toxoplasma strains identified 182 SRS genes distributed across 14 chromosomes at 57 genomic loci. Eight distinct SRS subfamilies were resolved. A core 69 functional gene orthologs were identified, and strain-specific expansions and pseudogenization were common. Gene expression profiling demonstrated differential expression of SRS genes in a developmental-stage- and strain-specific fashion and identified nine SRS genes as priority targets for gene deletion among the tissue-encysting coccidia. A Δsag1 ∆sag2A mutant was significantly attenuated in murine acute virulence and showed upregulated SRS29C (formerly SRS2) expression. Transgenic overexpression of SRS29C in the virulent RH parent was similarly attenuated. Together, these findings reveal SRS29C to be an important regulator of acute virulence in mice and demonstrate the power of integrated genomic analysis to guide experimental investigations.
Parasitic species employ large gene families to subvert host immunity to enable pathogen colonization and cause disease. Toxoplasma gondii contains a large surface coat gene superfamily that encodes adhesins and virulence factors that facilitate infection in susceptible hosts. We generated an integrated bioinformatic resource to predict which genes from within this 182-gene superfamily of adhesin-encoding genes play an essential role in the host-pathogen interaction. Targeted gene deletion experiments with predicted candidate surface antigens identified SRS29C as an important negative regulator of acute virulence in murine models of Toxoplasma infection. Our integrated computational and experimental approach provides a comprehensive framework, or road map, for the assembly and discovery of additional key pathogenesis genes contained within other large surface coat gene superfamilies from a broad array of eukaryotic pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3509429  PMID: 23149485
22.  Polymorphisms in the Human Tropoelastin Gene Modify In Vitro Self-Assembly and Mechanical Properties of Elastin-Like Polypeptides 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e46130.
Elastin is a major structural component of elastic fibres that provide properties of stretch and recoil to tissues such as arteries, lung and skin. Remarkably, after initial deposition of elastin there is normally no subsequent turnover of this protein over the course of a lifetime. Consequently, elastic fibres must be extremely durable, able to withstand, for example in the human thoracic aorta, billions of cycles of stretch and recoil without mechanical failure. Major defects in the elastin gene (ELN) are associated with a number of disorders including Supravalvular aortic stenosis (SVAS), Williams-Beuren syndrome (WBS) and autosomal dominant cutis laxa (ADCL). Given the low turnover of elastin and the requirement for the long term durability of elastic fibres, we examined the possibility for more subtle polymorphisms in the human elastin gene to impact the assembly and long-term durability of the elastic matrix. Surveys of genetic variation resources identified 118 mutations in human ELN, 17 being non-synonymous. Introduction of two of these variants, G422S and K463R, in elastin-like polypeptides as well as full-length tropoelastin, resulted in changes in both their assembly and mechanical properties. Most notably G422S, which occurs in up to 40% of European populations, was found to enhance some elastomeric properties. These studies reveal that even apparently minor polymorphisms in human ELN can impact the assembly and mechanical properties of the elastic matrix, effects that over the course of a lifetime could result in altered susceptibility to cardiovascular disease.
PMCID: PMC3458006  PMID: 23049958
23.  Phenol Sensing by Escherichia coli Chemoreceptors: a Nonclassical Mechanism▿ 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(23):6597-6604.
The four transmembrane chemoreceptors of Escherichia coli sense phenol as either an attractant (Tar) or a repellent (Tap, Trg, and Tsr). In this study, we investigated the Tar determinants that mediate its attractant response to phenol and the Tsr determinants that mediate its repellent response to phenol. Tar molecules with lesions in the aspartate-binding pocket of the periplasmic domain, with a foreign periplasmic domain (from Tsr or from several Pseudomonas chemoreceptors), or lacking nearly the entire periplasmic domain still mediated attractant responses to phenol. Similarly, Tar molecules with the cytoplasmic methylation and kinase control domains of Tsr still sensed phenol as an attractant. Additional hybrid receptors with signaling elements from both Tar and Tsr indicated that the transmembrane (TM) helices and HAMP domain determined the sign of the phenol-sensing response. Several amino acid replacements in the HAMP domain of Tsr, particularly attractant-mimic signaling lesions at residue E248, converted Tsr to an attractant sensor of phenol. These findings suggest that phenol may elicit chemotactic responses by diffusing into the cytoplasmic membrane and perturbing the structural stability or position of the TM bundle helices, in conjunction with structural input from the HAMP domain. We conclude that behavioral responses to phenol, and perhaps to temperature, cytoplasmic pH, and glycerol, as well, occur through a general sensing mechanism in chemoreceptors that detects changes in the structural stability or dynamic behavior of a receptor signaling element. The structurally sensitive target for phenol is probably the TM bundle, but other behaviors could target other receptor elements.
PMCID: PMC3232889  PMID: 21965561
24.  Mutational Analysis of N381, a Key Trimer Contact Residue in Tsr, the Escherichia coli Serine Chemoreceptor▿ 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(23):6452-6460.
Chemoreceptors such as Tsr, the serine receptor, function in trimer-of-dimer associations to mediate chemotactic behavior in Escherichia coli. The two subunits of each receptor homodimer occupy different positions in the trimer, one at its central axis and the other at the trimer periphery. Residue N381 of Tsr contributes to trimer stability through interactions with its counterparts in a central cavity surrounded by hydrophobic residues at the trimer axis. To assess the functional role of N381, we created and characterized a full set of amino acid replacements at this Tsr residue. We found that every amino acid replacement at N381 destroyed Tsr function, and all but one (N381G) of the mutant receptors also blocked signaling by Tar, the aspartate chemoreceptor. Tar jamming reflects the formation of signaling-defective mixed trimers of dimers, and in vivo assays with a trifunctional cross-linking reagent demonstrated trimer-based interactions between Tar and Tsr-N381 mutants. Mutant Tsr molecules with a charged amino acid or proline replacement exhibited the most severe trimer formation defects. These trimer-defective receptors, as well as most of the trimer-competent mutant receptors, were unable to form ternary signaling complexes with the CheA kinase and with CheW, which couples CheA to receptor control. Some of the trimer-competent mutant receptors, particularly those with a hydrophobic amino acid replacement, may not bind CheW/CheA because they form conformationally frozen or distorted trimers. These findings indicate that trimer dynamics probably are important for ternary complex assembly and that N381 may not be a direct binding determinant for CheW/CheA at the trimer periphery.
PMCID: PMC3232890  PMID: 21965562
25.  Biphasic Control Logic of HAMP Domain Signaling in the Escherichia coli Serine Chemoreceptor 
Molecular microbiology  2011;80(3):596-611.
HAMP domains mediate input-output communication in many bacterial signaling proteins. To explore the dynamic bundle model of HAMP signaling (Zhou et al., Mol. Microbiol. 73: 801, 2009), we characterized the signal outputs of 118 HAMP missense mutants of the serine chemoreceptor, Tsr, by flagellar rotation patterns. Receptors with proline or charged amino acid replacements at critical hydrophobic packing residues in the AS1 and AS2 HAMP helices had locked kinase-off outputs, indicating that drastic destabilization of the Tsr-HAMP bundle prevents kinase activation, both in the absence and presence of the sensory adaptation enzymes, CheB and CheR. Attractant-mimic lesions that enhance the structural stability of the HAMP bundle also suppressed kinase activity, demonstrating that Tsr-HAMP has two kinase-off output states at opposite extremes of its stability range. HAMP mutants with locked-on kinase outputs appeared to have intermediate bundle stabilities, implying a biphasic relationship between HAMP stability and kinase activity. Some Tsr-HAMP mutant receptors exhibited reversed output responses to CheB and CheR action that are readily explained by a biphasic control logic. The findings of this study provide strong support for a three-state dynamic bundle model of HAMP signaling in Tsr, and possibly in other bacterial transducers as well.
PMCID: PMC3095108  PMID: 21306449
bacterial chemotaxis; transmembrane signaling; dynamic-bundle model

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