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1.  ISC, a Novel Group of Bacterial and Archaeal DNA Transposons That Encode Cas9 Homologs 
Journal of Bacteriology  2016;198(5):797-807.
ABSTRACT
Bacterial genomes encode numerous homologs of Cas9, the effector protein of the type II CRISPR-Cas systems. The homology region includes the arginine-rich helix and the HNH nuclease domain that is inserted into the RuvC-like nuclease domain. These genes, however, are not linked to cas genes or CRISPR. Here, we show that Cas9 homologs represent a distinct group of nonautonomous transposons, which we denote ISC (insertion sequences Cas9-like). We identify many diverse families of full-length ISC transposons and demonstrate that their terminal sequences (particularly 3′ termini) are similar to those of IS605 superfamily transposons that are mobilized by the Y1 tyrosine transposase encoded by the TnpA gene and often also encode the TnpB protein containing the RuvC-like endonuclease domain. The terminal regions of the ISC and IS605 transposons contain palindromic structures that are likely recognized by the Y1 transposase. The transposons from these two groups are inserted either exactly in the middle or upstream of specific 4-bp target sites, without target site duplication. We also identify autonomous ISC transposons that encode TnpA-like Y1 transposases. Thus, the nonautonomous ISC transposons could be mobilized in trans either by Y1 transposases of other, autonomous ISC transposons or by Y1 transposases of the more abundant IS605 transposons. These findings imply an evolutionary scenario in which the ISC transposons evolved from IS605 family transposons, possibly via insertion of a mobile group II intron encoding the HNH domain, and Cas9 subsequently evolved via immobilization of an ISC transposon.
IMPORTANCE Cas9 endonucleases, the effectors of type II CRISPR-Cas systems, represent the new generation of genome-engineering tools. Here, we describe in detail a novel family of transposable elements that encode the likely ancestors of Cas9 and outline the evolutionary scenario connecting different varieties of these transposons and Cas9.
doi:10.1128/JB.00783-15
PMCID: PMC4810608  PMID: 26712934
2.  Recent Mobility of Casposons, Self-Synthesizing Transposons at the Origin of the CRISPR-Cas Immunity 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2016;8(2):375-386.
Casposons are a superfamily of putative self-synthesizing transposable elements that are predicted to employ a homolog of Cas1 protein as a recombinase and could have contributed to the origin of the CRISPR-Cas adaptive immunity systems in archaea and bacteria. Casposons remain uncharacterized experimentally, except for the recent demonstration of the integrase activity of the Cas1 homolog, and given their relative rarity in archaea and bacteria, original comparative genomic analysis has not provided direct indications of their mobility. Here, we report evidence of casposon mobility obtained by comparison of the genomes of 62 strains of the archaeon Methanosarcina mazei. In these genomes, casposons are variably inserted in three distinct sites indicative of multiple, recent gains, and losses. Some casposons are inserted into other mobile genetic elements that might provide vehicles for horizontal transfer of the casposons. Additionally, many M. mazei genomes contain previously undetected solo terminal inverted repeats that apparently are derived from casposons and could resemble intermediates in CRISPR evolution. We further demonstrate the sequence specificity of casposon insertion and note clear parallels with the adaptation mechanism of CRISPR-Cas. Finally, besides identifying additional representatives in each of the three originally defined families, we describe a new, fourth, family of casposons.
doi:10.1093/gbe/evw006
PMCID: PMC4779613  PMID: 26764427
casposons; self-synthesizing transposons; CRISPR-Cas; mobile genetic elements; transposition
3.  The evolutionary journey of Argonaute proteins 
Argonaute proteins are conserved throughout all domains of life. Recently characterized prokaryotic Argonaute proteins (pAgos) participate in host defense by DNA interference, whereas eukaryotic Argonaute proteins (eAgos) control a wide range of processes by RNA interference. Here we review molecular mechanisms of guide and target binding by Argonaute proteins, and describe how the conformational changes induced by target binding lead to target cleavage. On the basis of structural comparisons and phylogenetic analyses of pAgos and eAgos, we reconstruct the evolutionary journey of the Argonaute proteins through the three domains of life and discuss how different structural features of pAgos and eAgos relate to their distinct physiological roles.
doi:10.1038/nsmb.2879
PMCID: PMC4691850  PMID: 25192263
4.  Archaeology of Eukaryotic DNA Replication 
The archaeal DNA replication system shows an unexpected level of complexity. In fact, there is a close correspondence between components of the archaeal and eukaryotic replication systems.
Recent advances in the characterization of the archaeal DNA replication system together with comparative genomic analysis have led to the identification of several previously uncharacterized archaeal proteins involved in replication and currently reveal a nearly complete correspondence between the components of the archaeal and eukaryotic replication machineries. It can be inferred that the archaeal ancestor of eukaryotes and even the last common ancestor of all extant archaea possessed replication machineries that were comparable in complexity to the eukaryotic replication system. The eukaryotic replication system encompasses multiple paralogs of ancestral components such that heteromeric complexes in eukaryotes replace archaeal homomeric complexes, apparently along with subfunctionalization of the eukaryotic complex subunits. In the archaea, parallel, lineage-specific duplications of many genes encoding replication machinery components are detectable as well; most of these archaeal paralogs remain to be functionally characterized. The archaeal replication system shows remarkable plasticity whereby even some essential components such as DNA polymerase and single-stranded DNA-binding protein are displaced by unrelated proteins with analogous activities in some lineages.
doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a012963
PMCID: PMC3809583  PMID: 23881942
5.  A non-canonical multisubunit RNA polymerase encoded by a giant bacteriophage 
Nucleic Acids Research  2015;43(21):10411-10420.
The infection of Pseudomonas aeruginosa by the giant bacteriophage phiKZ is resistant to host RNA polymerase (RNAP) inhibitor rifampicin. phiKZ encodes two sets of polypeptides that are distantly related to fragments of the two largest subunits of cellular multisubunit RNAPs. Polypeptides of one set are encoded by middle phage genes and are found in the phiKZ virions. Polypeptides of the second set are encoded by early phage genes and are absent from virions. Here, we report isolation of a five-subunit RNAP from phiKZ-infected cells. Four subunits of this enzyme are cellular RNAP subunits homologs of the non-virion set; the fifth subunit is a protein of unknown function. In vitro, this complex initiates transcription from late phiKZ promoters in rifampicin-resistant manner. Thus, this enzyme is a non-virion phiKZ RNAP responsible for transcription of late phage genes. The phiKZ RNAP lacks identifiable assembly and promoter specificity subunits/factors characteristic for eukaryal, archaeal and bacterial RNAPs and thus provides a unique model for comparative analysis of the mechanism, regulation and evolution of this important class of enzymes.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkv1095
PMCID: PMC4666361  PMID: 26490960
6.  In vivo genome editing using Staphylococcus aureus Cas9 
Nature  2015;520(7546):186-191.
The RNA-guided endonuclease Cas9 has emerged as a versatile genome-editing platform. However, the size of the commonly used Cas9 from Streptococcus pyogenes (SpCas9) limits its utility for basic research and therapeutic applications that employ the highly versatile adeno-associated virus (AAV) delivery vehicle. Here, we characterize six smaller Cas9 orthologs and show that Cas9 from Staphylococcus aureus (SaCas9) can edit the genome with efficiencies similar to those of SpCas9, while being >1kb shorter. We packaged SaCas9 and its sgRNA expression cassette into a single AAV vector and targeted the cholesterol regulatory gene Pcsk9 in the mouse liver. Within one week of injection, we observed >40% gene modification, accompanied by significant reductions in serum Pcsk9 and total cholesterol levels. We further demonstrate the power of using BLESS to assess the genome-wide targeting specificity of SaCas9 and SpCas9, and show that SaCas9 can mediate genome editing in vivo with high specificity.
doi:10.1038/nature14299
PMCID: PMC4393360  PMID: 25830891
7.  Babela massiliensis, a representative of a widespread bacterial phylum with unusual adaptations to parasitism in amoebae 
Biology Direct  2015;10:13.
Background
Only a small fraction of bacteria and archaea that are identifiable by metagenomics can be grown on standard media. Recent efforts on deep metagenomics sequencing, single-cell genomics and the use of specialized culture conditions (culturomics) increasingly yield novel microbes some of which represent previously uncharacterized phyla and possess unusual biological traits.
Results
We report isolation and genome analysis of Babela massiliensis, an obligate intracellular parasite of Acanthamoeba castellanii. B. massiliensis shows an unusual, fission mode of cell multiplication whereby large, polymorphic bodies accumulate in the cytoplasm of infected amoeba and then split into mature bacterial cells. This unique mechanism of cell division is associated with a deep degradation of the cell division machinery and delayed expression of the ftsZ gene. The genome of B. massiliensis consists of a circular chromosome approximately 1.12 megabase in size that encodes, 981 predicted proteins, 38 tRNAs and one typical rRNA operon. Phylogenetic analysis shows that B. massiliensis belongs to the putative bacterial phylum TM6 that so far was represented by the draft genome of the JCVI TM6SC1 bacterium obtained by single cell genomics and numerous environmental sequences.
Conclusions
Currently, B. massiliensis is the only cultivated member of the putative TM6 phylum. Phylogenomic analysis shows diverse taxonomic affinities for B. massiliensis genes, suggestive of multiple gene acquisitions via horizontal transfer from other bacteria and eukaryotes. Horizontal gene transfer is likely to be facilitated by the cohabitation of diverse parasites and symbionts inside amoeba. B. massiliensis encompasses many genes encoding proteins implicated in parasite-host interaction including the greatest number of ankyrin repeats among sequenced bacteria and diverse proteins related to the ubiquitin system. Characterization of B. massiliensis, a representative of a distinct bacterial phylum, thanks to its ability to grow in amoeba, reaffirms the critical role of diverse culture approaches in microbiology.
Reviewers
This article was reviewed by Dr. Igor Zhulin, Dr. Jeremy Selengut, and Pr Martijn Huynen.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13062-015-0043-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s13062-015-0043-z
PMCID: PMC4378268  PMID: 25884386
Intracellular bacteria; Amoeba; Bacterial replication
8.  Archaeal Clusters of Orthologous Genes (arCOGs): An Update and Application for Analysis of Shared Features between Thermococcales, Methanococcales, and Methanobacteriales 
Life  2015;5(1):818-840.
With the continuously accelerating genome sequencing from diverse groups of archaea and bacteria, accurate identification of gene orthology and availability of readily expandable clusters of orthologous genes are essential for the functional annotation of new genomes. We report an update of the collection of archaeal Clusters of Orthologous Genes (arCOGs) to cover, on average, 91% of the protein-coding genes in 168 archaeal genomes. The new arCOGs were constructed using refined algorithms for orthology identification combined with extensive manual curation, including incorporation of the results of several completed and ongoing research projects in archaeal genomics. A new level of classification is introduced, superclusters that unit two or more arCOGs and more completely reflect gene family evolution than individual, disconnected arCOGs. Assessment of the current archaeal genome annotation in public databases indicates that consistent use of arCOGs can significantly improve the annotation quality. In addition to their utility for genome annotation, arCOGs also are a platform for phylogenomic analysis. We explore this aspect of arCOGs by performing a phylogenomic study of the Thermococci that are traditionally viewed as the basal branch of the Euryarchaeota. The results of phylogenomic analysis that involved both comparison of multiple phylogenetic trees and a search for putative derived shared characters by using phyletic patterns extracted from the arCOGs reveal a likely evolutionary relationship between the Thermococci, Methanococci, and Methanobacteria. The arCOGs are expected to be instrumental for a comprehensive phylogenomic study of the archaea.
doi:10.3390/life5010818
PMCID: PMC4390880  PMID: 25764277
arCOGs; genome annotation; phylogenomics; Thermococci; methanogens
9.  Evolution of plant δ1-pyrroline-5-carboxylate reductases from phylogenetic and structural perspectives 
Proline plays a crucial role in cell growth and stress responses, and its accumulation is essential for the tolerance of adverse environmental conditions in plants. Two routes are used to biosynthesize proline in plants. The main route uses glutamate as a precursor, while in the other route proline is derived from ornithine. The terminal step of both pathways, the conversion of δ1-pyrroline-5-carboxylate (P5C) to L-proline, is catalyzed by P5C reductase (P5CR) using NADH or NADPH as a cofactor. Since P5CRs are important housekeeping enzymes, they are conserved across all domains of life and appear to be relatively unaffected throughout evolution. However, global analysis of these enzymes unveiled significant functional diversity in the preference for cofactors (NADPH vs. NADH), variation in metal dependence and the differences in the oligomeric state. In our study we investigated evolutionary patterns through phylogenetic and structural analysis of P5CR representatives from all kingdoms of life, with emphasis on the plant species. We also attempted to correlate local sequence/structure variation among the functionally and structurally characterized members of the family.
doi:10.3389/fpls.2015.00567
PMCID: PMC4522605  PMID: 26284089
P5C reductase; phylogenetic analysis; 3-D structures of P5CRs; oligomer structure prediction; cofactor preference
10.  Expanded microbial genome coverage and improved protein family annotation in the COG database 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;43(Database issue):D261-D269.
Microbial genome sequencing projects produce numerous sequences of deduced proteins, only a small fraction of which have been or will ever be studied experimentally. This leaves sequence analysis as the only feasible way to annotate these proteins and assign to them tentative functions. The Clusters of Orthologous Groups of proteins (COGs) database (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/COG/), first created in 1997, has been a popular tool for functional annotation. Its success was largely based on (i) its reliance on complete microbial genomes, which allowed reliable assignment of orthologs and paralogs for most genes; (ii) orthology-based approach, which used the function(s) of the characterized member(s) of the protein family (COG) to assign function(s) to the entire set of carefully identified orthologs and describe the range of potential functions when there were more than one; and (iii) careful manual curation of the annotation of the COGs, aimed at detailed prediction of the biological function(s) for each COG while avoiding annotation errors and overprediction. Here we present an update of the COGs, the first since 2003, and a comprehensive revision of the COG annotations and expansion of the genome coverage to include representative complete genomes from all bacterial and archaeal lineages down to the genus level. This re-analysis of the COGs shows that the original COG assignments had an error rate below 0.5% and allows an assessment of the progress in functional genomics in the past 12 years. During this time, functions of many previously uncharacterized COGs have been elucidated and tentative functional assignments of many COGs have been validated, either by targeted experiments or through the use of high-throughput methods. A particularly important development is the assignment of functions to several widespread, conserved proteins many of which turned out to participate in translation, in particular rRNA maturation and tRNA modification. The new version of the COGs is expected to become an important tool for microbial genomics.
doi:10.1093/nar/gku1223
PMCID: PMC4383993  PMID: 25428365
11.  Genome Sequence of the Radioresistant Bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans R1 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  1999;286(5444):1571-1577.
The complete genome sequence of the radiation resistant bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans R1 is composed of two chromosomes (2,648,615 and 412,340 basepairs), a megaplasmid (177,466 basepairs), and a small plasmid (45,702 basepairs) yielding a total genome of 3,284,123 basepairs. Multiple components distributed on the chromosomes and megaplasmid that contribute to the ability of D. radiodurans to survive under conditions of starvation, oxidative stress, and high levels of DNA-damage have been identified. D. radiodurans represents an organism in which all systems for DNA repair, DNA damage export, desiccation and starvation recovery, and genetic redundancy are present in one cell.
PMCID: PMC4147723  PMID: 10567266
12.  Dark matter in archaeal genomes: a rich source of novel mobile elements, defense systems and secretory complexes 
Extremophiles  2014;18(5):877-893.
Microbial genomes encompass a sizable fraction of poorly characterized, narrowly spread fast-evolving genes. Using sensitive methods for sequences comparison and protein structure prediction, we performed a detailed comparative analysis of clusters of such genes, which we denote “dark matter islands”, in archaeal genomes. The dark matter islands comprise up to 20 % of archaeal genomes and show remarkable heterogeneity and diversity. Nevertheless, three classes of entities are common in these genomic loci: (a) integrated viral genomes and other mobile elements; (b) defense systems, and (c) secretory and other membrane-associated systems. The dark matter islands in the genome of thermophiles and mesophiles show similar general trends of gene content, but thermophiles are substantially enriched in predicted membrane proteins whereas mesophiles have a greater proportion of recognizable mobile elements. Based on this analysis, we predict the existence of several novel groups of viruses and mobile elements, previously unnoticed variants of CRISPR-Cas immune systems, and new secretory systems that might be involved in stress response, intermicrobial conflicts and biogenesis of novel, uncharacterized membrane structures.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00792-014-0672-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s00792-014-0672-7
PMCID: PMC4158269  PMID: 25113822
Archaeal genomes; ORFans; Genomic islands; Integration; Viruses; Defense
13.  Evolution of replicative DNA polymerases in archaea and their contributions to the eukaryotic replication machinery 
The elaborate eukaryotic DNA replication machinery evolved from the archaeal ancestors that themselves show considerable complexity. Here we discuss the comparative genomic and phylogenetic analysis of the core replication enzymes, the DNA polymerases, in archaea and their relationships with the eukaryotic polymerases. In archaea, there are three groups of family B DNA polymerases, historically known as PolB1, PolB2 and PolB3. All three groups appear to descend from the last common ancestors of the extant archaea but their subsequent evolutionary trajectories seem to have been widely different. Although PolB3 is present in all archaea, with the exception of Thaumarchaeota, and appears to be directly involved in lagging strand replication, the evolution of this gene does not follow the archaeal phylogeny, conceivably due to multiple horizontal transfers and/or dramatic differences in evolutionary rates. In contrast, PolB1 is missing in Euryarchaeota but otherwise seems to have evolved vertically. The third archaeal group of family B polymerases, PolB2, includes primarily proteins in which the catalytic centers of the polymerase and exonuclease domains are disrupted and accordingly the enzymes appear to be inactivated. The members of the PolB2 group are scattered across archaea and might be involved in repair or regulation of replication along with inactivated members of the RadA family ATPases and an additional, uncharacterized protein that are encoded within the same predicted operon. In addition to the family B polymerases, all archaea, with the exception of the Crenarchaeota, encode enzymes of a distinct family D the origin of which is unclear. We examine multiple considerations that appear compatible with the possibility that family D polymerases are highly derived homologs of family B. The eukaryotic DNA polymerases show a highly complex relationship with their archaeal ancestors including contributions of proteins and domains from both the family B and the family D archaeal polymerases.
doi:10.3389/fmicb.2014.00354
PMCID: PMC4104785  PMID: 25101062
DNA replication; archaea; mobile genetic elements; DNA polymerases; enzyme inactivation
14.  Casposons: a new superfamily of self-synthesizing DNA transposons at the origin of prokaryotic CRISPR-Cas immunity 
BMC Biology  2014;12:36.
Background
Diverse transposable elements are abundant in genomes of cellular organisms from all three domains of life. Although transposons are often regarded as junk DNA, a growing body of evidence indicates that they are behind some of the major evolutionary innovations. With the growth in the number and diversity of sequenced genomes, previously unnoticed mobile elements continue to be discovered.
Results
We describe a new superfamily of archaeal and bacterial mobile elements which we denote casposons because they encode Cas1 endonuclease, a key enzyme of the CRISPR-Cas adaptive immunity systems of archaea and bacteria. The casposons share several features with self-synthesizing eukaryotic DNA transposons of the Polinton/Maverick class, including terminal inverted repeats and genes for B family DNA polymerases. However, unlike any other known mobile elements, the casposons are predicted to rely on Cas1 for integration and excision, via a mechanism similar to the integration of new spacers into CRISPR loci. We identify three distinct families of casposons that differ in their gene repertoires and evolutionary provenance of the DNA polymerases. Deep branching of the casposon-encoded endonuclease in the Cas1 phylogeny suggests that casposons played a pivotal role in the emergence of CRISPR-Cas immunity.
Conclusions
The casposons are a novel superfamily of mobile elements, the first family of putative self-synthesizing transposons discovered in prokaryotes. The likely contribution of capsosons to the evolution of CRISPR-Cas parallels the involvement of the RAG1 transposase in vertebrate immunoglobulin gene rearrangement, suggesting that recruitment of endonucleases from mobile elements as ready-made tools for genome manipulation is a general route of evolution of adaptive immunity.
doi:10.1186/1741-7007-12-36
PMCID: PMC4046053  PMID: 24884953
Mobile genetic elements; CRISPR-Cas system; Adaptive immunity; Transposons; Archaea; DNA polymerases
15.  Enzymatic Synthesis of Bioinformatically Predicted Microcin C-Like Compounds Encoded by Diverse Bacteria 
mBio  2014;5(3):e01059-14.
ABSTRACT
The Trojan horse Escherichia coli antibiotic microcin C (McC) consists of a heptapeptide attached to adenosine through a phosphoramidate linkage. McC is synthesized by the MccB enzyme, which terminally adenylates the ribosomally synthesized heptapeptide precursor MccA. The peptide part is responsible for McC uptake; it is degraded inside the cell to release a toxic nonhydrolyzable aspartyl-adenylate. Bionformatic analysis reveals that diverse bacterial genomes encoding mccB homologues also contain adjacent short open reading frames that may encode MccA-like adenylation substrates. Using chemically synthesized predicted peptide substrates and recombinant cognate MccB protein homologs, adenylated products were obtained in vitro for predicted MccA peptide-MccB enzyme pairs from Helicobacter pylori, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactococcus johnsonii, Bartonella washoensis, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, and Synechococcus sp. Some adenylated products were shown to inhibit the growth of E. coli by targeting aspartyl-tRNA synthetase, the target of McC.
IMPORTANCE
Our results prove that McC-like adenylated peptides are widespread and are encoded by both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria and by cyanobacteria, opening ways for analyses of physiological functions of these compounds and for creation of microcin C-like antibiotics targeting various bacteria.
doi:10.1128/mBio.01059-14
PMCID: PMC4010828  PMID: 24803518
16.  CRISPR-Cas 
RNA Biology  2013;10(5):679-686.
The CRISPR-Cas (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, CRISPR-associated genes) is an adaptive immunity system in bacteria and archaea that functions via a distinct self-non-self recognition mechanism that is partially analogous to the mechanism of eukaryotic RNA interference (RNAi). The CRISPR-Cas system incorporates fragments of virus or plasmid DNA into the CRISPR repeat cassettes and employs the processed transcripts of these spacers as guide RNAs to cleave the cognate foreign DNA or RNA. The Cas proteins, however, are not homologous to the proteins involved in RNAi and comprise numerous, highly diverged families. The majority of the Cas proteins contain diverse variants of the RNA recognition motif (RRM), a widespread RNA-binding domain. Despite the fast evolution that is typical of the cas genes, the presence of diverse versions of the RRM in most Cas proteins provides for a simple scenario for the evolution of the three distinct types of CRISPR-cas systems. In addition to several proteins that are directly implicated in the immune response, the cas genes encode a variety of proteins that are homologous to prokaryotic toxins that typically possess nuclease activity. The predicted toxins associated with CRISPR-Cas systems include the essential Cas2 protein, proteins of COG1517 that, in addition to a ligand-binding domain and a helix-turn-helix domain, typically contain different nuclease domains and several other predicted nucleases. The tight association of the CRISPR-Cas immunity systems with predicted toxins that, upon activation, would induce dormancy or cell death suggests that adaptive immunity and dormancy/suicide response are functionally coupled. Such coupling could manifest in the persistence state being induced and potentially providing conditions for more effective action of the immune system or in cell death being triggered when immunity fails.
doi:10.4161/rna.24022
PMCID: PMC3737325  PMID: 23439366
CRISPR-Cas; adaptive immunity; innate immunity; programmed cell death; dormancy; RRM domain
17.  CARF and WYL domains: ligand-binding regulators of prokaryotic defense systems 
Frontiers in Genetics  2014;5:102.
CRISPR-Cas adaptive immunity systems of bacteria and archaea insert fragments of virus or plasmid DNA as spacer sequences into CRISPR repeat loci. Processed transcripts encompassing these spacers guide the cleavage of the cognate foreign DNA or RNA. Most CRISPR-Cas loci, in addition to recognized cas genes, also include genes that are not directly implicated in spacer acquisition, CRISPR transcript processing or interference. Here we comprehensively analyze sequences, structures and genomic neighborhoods of one of the most widespread groups of such genes that encode proteins containing a predicted nucleotide-binding domain with a Rossmann-like fold, which we denote CARF (CRISPR-associated Rossmann fold). Several CARF protein structures have been determined but functional characterization of these proteins is lacking. The CARF domain is most frequently combined with a C-terminal winged helix-turn-helix DNA-binding domain and “effector” domains most of which are predicted to possess DNase or RNase activity. Divergent CARF domains are also found in RtcR proteins, sigma-54 dependent regulators of the rtc RNA repair operon. CARF genes frequently co-occur with those coding for proteins containing the WYL domain with the Sm-like SH3 β-barrel fold, which is also predicted to bind ligands. CRISPR-Cas and possibly other defense systems are predicted to be transcriptionally regulated by multiple ligand-binding proteins containing WYL and CARF domains which sense modified nucleotides and nucleotide derivatives generated during virus infection. We hypothesize that CARF domains also transmit the signal from the bound ligand to the fused effector domains which attack either alien or self nucleic acids, resulting, respectively, in immunity complementing the CRISPR-Cas action or in dormancy/programmed cell death.
doi:10.3389/fgene.2014.00102
PMCID: PMC4012209  PMID: 24817877
CRISPR; Rossmann fold; beta barrel; DNA-binding proteins; phage defense
18.  Classification and evolution of type II CRISPR-Cas systems 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(10):6091-6105.
The CRISPR-Cas systems of archaeal and bacterial adaptive immunity are classified into three types that differ by the repertoires of CRISPR-associated (cas) genes, the organization of cas operons and the structure of repeats in the CRISPR arrays. The simplest among the CRISPR-Cas systems is type II in which the endonuclease activities required for the interference with foreign deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) are concentrated in a single multidomain protein, Cas9, and are guided by a co-processed dual-tracrRNA:crRNA molecule. This compact enzymatic machinery and readily programmable site-specific DNA targeting make type II systems top candidates for a new generation of powerful tools for genomic engineering. Here we report an updated census of CRISPR-Cas systems in bacterial and archaeal genomes. Type II systems are the rarest, missing in archaea, and represented in ∼5% of bacterial genomes, with an over-representation among pathogens and commensals. Phylogenomic analysis suggests that at least three cas genes, cas1, cas2 and cas4, and the CRISPR repeats of the type II-B system were acquired via recombination with a type I CRISPR-Cas locus. Distant homologs of Cas9 were identified among proteins encoded by diverse transposons, suggesting that type II CRISPR-Cas evolved via recombination of mobile nuclease genes with type I loci.
doi:10.1093/nar/gku241
PMCID: PMC4041416  PMID: 24728998
19.  Phylogeny of Cas9 determines functional exchangeability of dual-RNA and Cas9 among orthologous type II CRISPR-Cas systems 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(4):2577-2590.
The CRISPR-Cas-derived RNA-guided Cas9 endonuclease is the key element of an emerging promising technology for genome engineering in a broad range of cells and organisms. The DNA-targeting mechanism of the type II CRISPR-Cas system involves maturation of tracrRNA:crRNA duplex (dual-RNA), which directs Cas9 to cleave invading DNA in a sequence-specific manner, dependent on the presence of a Protospacer Adjacent Motif (PAM) on the target. We show that evolution of dual-RNA and Cas9 in bacteria produced remarkable sequence diversity. We selected eight representatives of phylogenetically defined type II CRISPR-Cas groups to analyze possible coevolution of Cas9 and dual-RNA. We demonstrate that these two components are interchangeable only between closely related type II systems when the PAM sequence is adjusted to the investigated Cas9 protein. Comparison of the taxonomy of bacterial species that harbor type II CRISPR-Cas systems with the Cas9 phylogeny corroborates horizontal transfer of the CRISPR-Cas loci. The reported collection of dual-RNA:Cas9 with associated PAMs expands the possibilities for multiplex genome editing and could provide means to improve the specificity of the RNA-programmable Cas9 tool.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkt1074
PMCID: PMC3936727  PMID: 24270795
20.  Structural and functional characterization of microcin C resistance peptidase MccF from Bacillus anthracis 
Journal of molecular biology  2012;420(0):366-383.
Microcin C (McC) is heptapeptide-adenylate antibiotic produced by Escherichia coli strains carrying the mccABCDEF gene cluster encoding enzymes, in addition to the heptapeptide structural gene mccA, necessary for McC biosynthesis and self-immunity of the producing cell. The heptapeptide facilitates McC transport into susceptible cells, where it is processed releasing a non-hydrolyzable aminoacyl adenylate that inhibits an essential aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase. The self-immunity gene mccF encodes a specialized serine-peptidase that cleaves an amide bond connecting the peptidyl or aminoacyl moieties of, respectively, intact and processed McC with the nucleotidyl moiety. Most mccF orthologs from organisms other than E. coli are not linked to the McC biosynthesis gene cluster. Here, we show that a protein product of one such gene, MccF from Bacillus anthracis (BaMccF), is able to cleave intact and processed McC and we present a series of structures of this protein. Structural analysis of apo-BaMccF and its AMP-complex reveal specific features of MccF-like peptidases that allow them to interact with substrates containing nucleotidyl moieties. Sequence analyses and phylogenetic reconstructions suggest that several distinct subfamilies form the MccF clade of the large S66 family of bacterial serine peptidases. We show that various representatives of the MccF clade can specifically detoxify non-hydrolyzable aminoacyl adenylates differing in their aminoacyl moieties. We hypothesize that bacterial mccF genes serve as a source of bacterial antibiotic resistance.
doi:10.1016/j.jmb.2012.04.011
PMCID: PMC3690760  PMID: 22516613
MccF; serine peptidase; nucleophilic elbow; catalytic triad (Ser-His-Glu); substrate binding loop
21.  Comprehensive analysis of the HEPN superfamily: identification of novel roles in intra-genomic conflicts, defense, pathogenesis and RNA processing 
Biology Direct  2013;8:15.
Background
The major role of enzymatic toxins that target nucleic acids in biological conflicts at all levels has become increasingly apparent thanks in large part to the advances of comparative genomics. Typically, toxins evolve rapidly hampering the identification of these proteins by sequence analysis. Here we analyze an unexpectedly widespread superfamily of toxin domains most of which possess RNase activity.
Results
The HEPN superfamily is comprised of all α-helical domains that were first identified as being associated with DNA polymerase β-type nucleotidyltransferases in prokaryotes and animal Sacsin proteins. Using sensitive sequence and structure comparison methods, we vastly extend the HEPN superfamily by identifying numerous novel families and by detecting diverged HEPN domains in several known protein families. The new HEPN families include the RNase LS and LsoA catalytic domains, KEN domains (e.g. RNaseL and Ire1) and the RNase domains of RloC and PrrC. The majority of HEPN domains contain conserved motifs that constitute a metal-independent endoRNase active site. Some HEPN domains lacking this motif probably function as non-catalytic RNA-binding domains, such as in the case of the mannitol repressor MtlR. Our analysis shows that HEPN domains function as toxins that are shared by numerous systems implicated in intra-genomic, inter-genomic and intra-organismal conflicts across the three domains of cellular life. In prokaryotes HEPN domains are essential components of numerous toxin-antitoxin (TA) and abortive infection (Abi) systems and in addition are tightly associated with many restriction-modification (R-M) and CRISPR-Cas systems, and occasionally with other defense systems such as Pgl and Ter. We present evidence of multiple modes of action of HEPN domains in these systems, which include direct attack on viral RNAs (e.g. LsoA and RNase LS) in conjunction with other RNase domains (e.g. a novel RNase H fold domain, NamA), suicidal or dormancy-inducing attack on self RNAs (RM systems and possibly CRISPR-Cas systems), and suicidal attack coupled with direct interaction with phage components (Abi systems). These findings are compatible with the hypothesis on coupling of pathogen-targeting (immunity) and self-directed (programmed cell death and dormancy induction) responses in the evolution of robust antiviral strategies. We propose that altruistic cell suicide mediated by HEPN domains and other functionally similar RNases was essential for the evolution of kin and group selection and cell cooperation. HEPN domains were repeatedly acquired by eukaryotes and incorporated into several core functions such as endonucleolytic processing of the 5.8S-25S/28S rRNA precursor (Las1), a novel ER membrane-associated RNA degradation system (C6orf70), sensing of unprocessed transcripts at the nuclear periphery (Swt1). Multiple lines of evidence suggest that, similar to prokaryotes, HEPN proteins were recruited to antiviral, antitransposon, apoptotic systems or RNA-level response to unfolded proteins (Sacsin and KEN domains) in several groups of eukaryotes.
Conclusions
Extensive sequence and structure comparisons reveal unexpectedly broad presence of the HEPN domain in an enormous variety of defense and stress response systems across the tree of life. In addition, HEPN domains have been recruited to perform essential functions, in particular in eukaryotic rRNA processing. These findings are expected to stimulate experiments that could shed light on diverse cellular processes across the three domains of life.
Reviewers
This article was reviewed by Martijn Huynen, Igor Zhulin and Nick Grishin
doi:10.1186/1745-6150-8-15
PMCID: PMC3710099  PMID: 23768067
22.  Insights into archaeal evolution and symbiosis from the genomes of a nanoarchaeon and its inferred crenarchaeal host from Obsidian Pool, Yellowstone National Park 
Biology Direct  2013;8:9.
Background
A single cultured marine organism, Nanoarchaeum equitans, represents the Nanoarchaeota branch of symbiotic Archaea, with a highly reduced genome and unusual features such as multiple split genes.
Results
The first terrestrial hyperthermophilic member of the Nanoarchaeota was collected from Obsidian Pool, a thermal feature in Yellowstone National Park, separated by single cell isolation, and sequenced together with its putative host, a Sulfolobales archaeon. Both the new Nanoarchaeota (Nst1) and N. equitans lack most biosynthetic capabilities, and phylogenetic analysis of ribosomal RNA and protein sequences indicates that the two form a deep-branching archaeal lineage. However, the Nst1 genome is more than 20% larger, and encodes a complete gluconeogenesis pathway as well as the full complement of archaeal flagellum proteins. With a larger genome, a smaller repertoire of split protein encoding genes and no split non-contiguous tRNAs, Nst1 appears to have experienced less severe genome reduction than N. equitans. These findings imply that, rather than representing ancestral characters, the extremely compact genomes and multiple split genes of Nanoarchaeota are derived characters associated with their symbiotic or parasitic lifestyle. The inferred host of Nst1 is potentially autotrophic, with a streamlined genome and simplified central and energetic metabolism as compared to other Sulfolobales.
Conclusions
Comparison of the N. equitans and Nst1 genomes suggests that the marine and terrestrial lineages of Nanoarchaeota share a common ancestor that was already a symbiont of another archaeon. The two distinct Nanoarchaeota-host genomic data sets offer novel insights into the evolution of archaeal symbiosis and parasitism, enabling further studies of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of these relationships.
Reviewers
This article was reviewed by Patrick Forterre, Bettina Siebers (nominated by Michael Galperin) and Purification Lopez-Garcia
doi:10.1186/1745-6150-8-9
PMCID: PMC3655853  PMID: 23607440
Archaea evolution; Single cell genomics; Symbiosis; Hyperthermophiles; Split genes
23.  Comparative genomics of defense systems in archaea and bacteria 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(8):4360-4377.
Our knowledge of prokaryotic defense systems has vastly expanded as the result of comparative genomic analysis, followed by experimental validation. This expansion is both quantitative, including the discovery of diverse new examples of known types of defense systems, such as restriction-modification or toxin-antitoxin systems, and qualitative, including the discovery of fundamentally new defense mechanisms, such as the CRISPR-Cas immunity system. Large-scale statistical analysis reveals that the distribution of different defense systems in bacterial and archaeal taxa is non-uniform, with four groups of organisms distinguishable with respect to the overall abundance and the balance between specific types of defense systems. The genes encoding defense system components in bacterial and archaea typically cluster in defense islands. In addition to genes encoding known defense systems, these islands contain numerous uncharacterized genes, which are candidates for new types of defense systems. The tight association of the genes encoding immunity systems and dormancy- or cell death-inducing defense systems in prokaryotic genomes suggests that these two major types of defense are functionally coupled, providing for effective protection at the population level.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkt157
PMCID: PMC3632139  PMID: 23470997
24.  Updated clusters of orthologous genes for Archaea: a complex ancestor of the Archaea and the byways of horizontal gene transfer 
Biology Direct  2012;7:46.
Background
Collections of Clusters of Orthologous Genes (COGs) provide indispensable tools for comparative genomic analysis, evolutionary reconstruction and functional annotation of new genomes. Initially, COGs were made for all complete genomes of cellular life forms that were available at the time. However, with the accumulation of thousands of complete genomes, construction of a comprehensive COG set has become extremely computationally demanding and prone to error propagation, necessitating the switch to taxon-specific COG collections. Previously, we reported the collection of COGs for 41 genomes of Archaea (arCOGs). Here we present a major update of the arCOGs and describe evolutionary reconstructions to reveal general trends in the evolution of Archaea.
Results
The updated version of the arCOG database incorporates 91% of the pangenome of 120 archaea (251,032 protein-coding genes altogether) into 10,335 arCOGs. Using this new set of arCOGs, we performed maximum likelihood reconstruction of the genome content of archaeal ancestral forms and gene gain and loss events in archaeal evolution. This reconstruction shows that the last Common Ancestor of the extant Archaea was an organism of greater complexity than most of the extant archaea, probably with over 2,500 protein-coding genes. The subsequent evolution of almost all archaeal lineages was apparently dominated by gene loss resulting in genome streamlining. Overall, in the evolution of Archaea as well as a representative set of bacteria that was similarly analyzed for comparison, gene losses are estimated to outnumber gene gains at least 4 to 1. Analysis of specific patterns of gene gain in Archaea shows that, although some groups, in particular Halobacteria, acquire substantially more genes than others, on the whole, gene exchange between major groups of Archaea appears to be largely random, with no major ‘highways’ of horizontal gene transfer.
Conclusions
The updated collection of arCOGs is expected to become a key resource for comparative genomics, evolutionary reconstruction and functional annotation of new archaeal genomes. Given that, in spite of the major increase in the number of genomes, the conserved core of archaeal genes appears to be stabilizing, the major evolutionary trends revealed here have a chance to stand the test of time.
Reviewers
This article was reviewed by (for complete reviews see the Reviewers’ Reports section): Dr. PLG, Prof. PF, Dr. PL (nominated by Prof. JPG).
doi:10.1186/1745-6150-7-46
PMCID: PMC3534625  PMID: 23241446
Archaea; Orthologs; Horizontal gene transfer
25.  Live virus-free or die: coupling of antivirus immunity and programmed suicide or dormancy in prokaryotes 
Biology Direct  2012;7:40.
Background
The virus-host arms race is a major theater for evolutionary innovation. Archaea and bacteria have evolved diverse, elaborate antivirus defense systems that function on two general principles: i) immune systems that discriminate self DNA from nonself DNA and specifically destroy the foreign, in particular viral, genomes, whereas the host genome is protected, or ii) programmed cell suicide or dormancy induced by infection.
Presentation of the hypothesis
Almost all genomic loci encoding immunity systems such as CRISPR-Cas, restriction-modification and DNA phosphorothioation also encompass suicide genes, in particular those encoding known and predicted toxin nucleases, which do not appear to be directly involved in immunity. In contrast, the immunity systems do not appear to encode antitoxins found in typical toxin-antitoxin systems. This raises the possibility that components of the immunity system themselves act as reversible inhibitors of the associated toxin proteins or domains as has been demonstrated for the Escherichia coli anticodon nuclease PrrC that interacts with the PrrI restriction-modification system. We hypothesize that coupling of diverse immunity and suicide/dormancy systems in prokaryotes evolved under selective pressure to provide robustness to the antivirus response. We further propose that the involvement of suicide/dormancy systems in the coupled antivirus response could take two distinct forms:
1) induction of a dormancy-like state in the infected cell to ‘buy time’ for activation of adaptive immunity; 2) suicide or dormancy as the final recourse to prevent viral spread triggered by the failure of immunity.
Testing the hypothesis
This hypothesis entails many experimentally testable predictions. Specifically, we predict that Cas2 protein present in all cas operons is a mRNA-cleaving nuclease (interferase) that might be activated at an early stage of virus infection to enable incorporation of virus-specific spacers into the CRISPR locus or to trigger cell suicide when the immune function of CRISPR-Cas systems fails. Similarly, toxin-like activity is predicted for components of numerous other defense loci.
Implications of the hypothesis
The hypothesis implies that antivirus response in prokaryotes involves key decision-making steps at which the cell chooses the path to follow by sensing the course of virus infection.
Reviewers
This article was reviewed by Arcady Mushegian, Etienne Joly and Nick Grishin. For complete reviews, go to the Reviewers’ reports section.
doi:10.1186/1745-6150-7-40
PMCID: PMC3506569  PMID: 23151069

Results 1-25 (78)