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author:("Voß, björk")
1.  Analysing RNA-kinetics based on folding space abstraction 
BMC Bioinformatics  2014;15:60.
Background
RNA molecules, especially non-coding RNAs, play vital roles in the cell and their biological functions are mostly determined by structural properties. Often, these properties are related to dynamic changes in the structure, as in the case of riboswitches, and thus the analysis of RNA folding kinetics is crucial for their study. Exact approaches to kinetic folding are computationally expensive and, thus, limited to short sequences. In a previous study, we introduced a position-specific abstraction based on helices which we termed helix index shapes (hishapes) and a hishape-based algorithm for near-optimal folding pathway computation, called HiPath. The combination of these approaches provides an abstract view of the folding space that offers information about the global features.
Results
In this paper we present HiKinetics, an algorithm that can predict RNA folding kinetics for sequences up to several hundred nucleotides long. This algorithm is based on RNAHeliCes, which decomposes the folding space into abstract classes, namely hishapes, and an improved version of HiPath, namely HiPath2, which estimates plausible folding pathways that connect these classes. Furthermore, we analyse the relationship of hishapes to locally optimal structures, the results of which strengthen the use of the hishape abstraction for studying folding kinetics. Finally, we show the application of HiKinetics to the folding kinetics of two well-studied RNAs.
Conclusions
HiKinetics can calculate kinetic folding based on a novel hishape decomposition. HiKinetics, together with HiPath2 and RNAHeliCes, is available for download at http://www.cyanolab.de/software/RNAHeliCes.htm.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-15-60
PMCID: PMC3974018  PMID: 24575751
RNA; Folding space; Kinetics; Abstraction
2.  Dinitrogen fixation in a unicellular chlorophyll d-containing cyanobacterium 
The ISME Journal  2012;6(7):1367-1377.
Marine cyanobacteria of the genus Acaryochloris are the only known organisms that use chlorophyll d as a photosynthetic pigment. However, based on chemical sediment analyses, chlorophyll d has been recognized to be widespread in oceanic and lacustrine environments. Therefore it is highly relevant to understand the genetic basis for different physiologies and possible niche adaptation in this genus. Here we show that unlike all other known isolates of Acaryochloris, the strain HICR111A, isolated from waters around Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, possesses a unique genomic region containing all the genes for the structural and enzymatically active proteins of nitrogen fixation and cofactor biosynthesis. Their phylogenetic analysis suggests a close relation to nitrogen fixation genes from certain other marine cyanobacteria. We show that nitrogen fixation in Acaryochloris sp. HICR111A is regulated in a light–dark-dependent fashion. We conclude that nitrogen fixation, one of the most complex physiological traits known in bacteria, might be transferred among oceanic microbes by horizontal gene transfer more often than anticipated so far. Our data show that the two powerful processes of oxygenic photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation co-occur in one and the same cell also in this branch of marine microbes and characterize Acaryochloris as a physiologically versatile inhabitant of an ecological niche, which is primarily driven by the absorption of far-red light.
doi:10.1038/ismej.2011.199
PMCID: PMC3379635  PMID: 22237545
Acaryochloris; chlorophyll d; cyanobacteria; dinitrogen fixation; microbial diversity; nitrogenase
3.  Insights into the Physiology and Ecology of the Brackish-Water-Adapted Cyanobacterium Nodularia spumigena CCY9414 Based on a Genome-Transcriptome Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e60224.
Nodularia spumigena is a filamentous diazotrophic cyanobacterium that dominates the annual late summer cyanobacterial blooms in the Baltic Sea. But N. spumigena also is common in brackish water bodies worldwide, suggesting special adaptation allowing it to thrive at moderate salinities. A draft genome analysis of N. spumigena sp. CCY9414 yielded a single scaffold of 5,462,271 nucleotides in length on which genes for 5,294 proteins were annotated. A subsequent strand-specific transcriptome analysis identified more than 6,000 putative transcriptional start sites (TSS). Orphan TSSs located in intergenic regions led us to predict 764 non-coding RNAs, among them 70 copies of a possible retrotransposon and several potential RNA regulators, some of which are also present in other N2-fixing cyanobacteria. Approximately 4% of the total coding capacity is devoted to the production of secondary metabolites, among them the potent hepatotoxin nodularin, the linear spumigin and the cyclic nodulapeptin. The transcriptional complexity associated with genes involved in nitrogen fixation and heterocyst differentiation is considerably smaller compared to other Nostocales. In contrast, sophisticated systems exist for the uptake and assimilation of iron and phosphorus compounds, for the synthesis of compatible solutes, and for the formation of gas vesicles, required for the active control of buoyancy. Hence, the annotation and interpretation of this sequence provides a vast array of clues into the genomic underpinnings of the physiology of this cyanobacterium and indicates in particular a competitive edge of N. spumigena in nutrient-limited brackish water ecosystems.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060224
PMCID: PMC3610870  PMID: 23555932
4.  Microevolution in Cyanobacteria: Re-sequencing a Motile Substrain of Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 
Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 is a widely used model cyanobacterium for studying photosynthesis, phototaxis, the production of biofuels and many other aspects. Here we present a re-sequencing study of the genome and seven plasmids of one of the most widely used Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 substrains, the glucose tolerant and motile Moscow or ‘PCC-M’ strain, revealing considerable evidence for recent microevolution. Seven single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) specifically shared between ‘PCC-M’ and the ‘PCC-N and PCC-P’ substrains indicate that ‘PCC-M’ belongs to the ‘PCC’ group of motile strains. The identified indels and SNPs in ‘PCC-M’ are likely to affect glucose tolerance, motility, phage resistance, certain stress responses as well as functions in the primary metabolism, potentially relevant for the synthesis of alkanes. Three SNPs in intergenic regions could affect the promoter activities of two protein-coding genes and one cis-antisense RNA. Two deletions in ‘PCC-M’ affect parts of clustered regularly interspaced short palindrome repeats-associated spacer-repeat regions on plasmid pSYSA, in one case by an unusual recombination between spacer sequences.
doi:10.1093/dnares/dss024
PMCID: PMC3514855  PMID: 23069868
CRISPR; genome sequence; plasmid; substrain; Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803
5.  Evidence for a major role of antisense RNAs in cyanobacterial gene regulation 
Information on the numbers and functions of naturally occurring antisense RNAs (asRNAs) in eubacteria has thus far remained incomplete. Here, we screened the model cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 for asRNAs using four different methods. In the final data set, the number of known noncoding RNAs rose from 6 earlier identified to 60 and of asRNAs from 1 to 73 (28 were verified using at least three methods). Among these, there are many asRNAs to housekeeping, regulatory or metabolic genes, as well as to genes encoding electron transport proteins. Transferring cultures to high light, carbon-limited conditions or darkness influenced the expression levels of several asRNAs, suggesting their functional relevance. Examples include the asRNA to rpl1, which accumulates in a light-dependent manner and may be required for processing the L11 r-operon and the SyR7 noncoding RNA, which is antisense to the murF 5′ UTR, possibly modulating murein biosynthesis. Extrapolated to the whole genome, ∼10% of all genes in Synechocystis are influenced by asRNAs. Thus, chromosomally encoded asRNAs may have an important function in eubacterial regulatory networks.
doi:10.1038/msb.2009.63
PMCID: PMC2758717  PMID: 19756044
antisense RNA; cyanobacteria; microarray; noncoding RNA; Synechocystis
6.  Biocomputational prediction of non-coding RNAs in model cyanobacteria 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:123.
Background
In bacteria, non-coding RNAs (ncRNA) are crucial regulators of gene expression, controlling various stress responses, virulence, and motility. Previous work revealed a relatively high number of ncRNAs in some marine cyanobacteria. However, for efficient genetic and biochemical analysis it would be desirable to identify a set of ncRNA candidate genes in model cyanobacteria that are easy to manipulate and for which extended mutant, transcriptomic and proteomic data sets are available.
Results
Here we have used comparative genome analysis for the biocomputational prediction of ncRNA genes and other sequence/structure-conserved elements in intergenic regions of the three unicellular model cyanobacteria Synechocystis PCC6803, Synechococcus elongatus PCC6301 and Thermosynechococcus elongatus BP1 plus the toxic Microcystis aeruginosa NIES843. The unfiltered numbers of predicted elements in these strains is 383, 168, 168, and 809, respectively, combined into 443 sequence clusters, whereas the numbers of individual elements with high support are 94, 56, 64, and 406, respectively. Removing also transposon-associated repeats, finally 78, 53, 42 and 168 sequences, respectively, are left belonging to 109 different clusters in the data set. Experimental analysis of selected ncRNA candidates in Synechocystis PCC6803 validated new ncRNAs originating from the fabF-hoxH and apcC-prmA intergenic spacers and three highly expressed ncRNAs belonging to the Yfr2 family of ncRNAs. Yfr2a promoter-luxAB fusions confirmed a very strong activity of this promoter and indicated a stimulation of expression if the cultures were exposed to elevated light intensities.
Conclusion
Comparison to entries in Rfam and experimental testing of selected ncRNA candidates in Synechocystis PCC6803 indicate a high reliability of the current prediction, despite some contamination by the high number of repetitive sequences in some of these species. In particular, we identified in the four species altogether 8 new ncRNA homologs belonging to the Yfr2 family of ncRNAs. Modelling of RNA secondary structures indicated two conserved single-stranded sequence motifs that might be involved in RNA-protein interactions or in the recognition of target RNAs. Since our analysis has been restricted to find ncRNA candidates with a reasonable high degree of conservation among these four cyanobacteria, there might be many more, requiring direct experimental approaches for their identification.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-10-123
PMCID: PMC2662882  PMID: 19309518
7.  A motif-based search in bacterial genomes identifies the ortholog of the small RNA Yfr1 in all lineages of cyanobacteria 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:375.
Background
Non-coding RNAs (ncRNA) are regulators of gene expression in all domains of life. They control growth and differentiation, virulence, motility and various stress responses. The identification of ncRNAs can be a tedious process due to the heterogeneous nature of this molecule class and the missing sequence similarity of orthologs, even among closely related species. The small ncRNA Yfr1 has previously been found in the Prochlorococcus/Synechococcus group of marine cyanobacteria.
Results
Here we show that screening available genome sequences based on an RNA motif and followed by experimental analysis works successfully in detecting this RNA in all lineages of cyanobacteria. Yfr1 is an abundant ncRNA between 54 and 69 nt in size that is ubiquitous for cyanobacteria except for two low light-adapted strains of Prochlorococcus, MIT 9211 and SS120, in which it must have been lost secondarily. Yfr1 consists of two predicted stem-loop elements separated by an unpaired sequence of 16–20 nucleotides containing the ultraconserved undecanucleotide 5'-ACUCCUCACAC-3'.
Conclusion
Starting with an ncRNA previously found in a narrow group of cyanobacteria only, we show here the highly specific and sensitive identification of its homologs within all lineages of cyanobacteria, whereas it was not detected within the genome sequences of E. coli and of 7 other eubacteria belonging to the alpha-proteobacteria, chlorobiaceae and spirochaete. The integration of RNA motif prediction into computational pipelines for the detection of ncRNAs in bacteria appears as a promising step to improve the quality of such predictions.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-375
PMCID: PMC2190773  PMID: 17941988
8.  Evidence for the rapid expansion of microRNA-mediated regulation in early land plant evolution 
BMC Plant Biology  2007;7:13.
Background
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are regulatory RNA molecules that are specified by their mode of action, the structure of primary transcripts, and their typical size of 20–24 nucleotides. Frequently, not only single miRNAs but whole families of closely related miRNAs have been found in animals and plants. Some families are widely conserved among different plant taxa. Hence, it is evident that these conserved miRNAs are of ancient origin and indicate essential functions that have been preserved over long evolutionary time scales. In contrast, other miRNAs seem to be species-specific and consequently must possess very distinct functions. Thus, the analysis of an early-branching species provides a window into the early evolution of fundamental regulatory processes in plants.
Results
Based on a combined experimental-computational approach, we report on the identification of 48 novel miRNAs and their putative targets in the moss Physcomitrella patens. From these, 18 miRNAs and two targets were verified in independent experiments. As a result of our study, the number of known miRNAs in Physcomitrella has been raised to 78. Functional assignments to mRNAs targeted by these miRNAs revealed a bias towards genes that are involved in regulation, cell wall biosynthesis and defense. Eight miRNAs were detected with different expression in protonema and gametophore tissue. The miRNAs 1–50 and 2–51 are located on a shared precursor that are separated by only one nucleotide and become processed in a tissue-specific way.
Conclusion
Our data provide evidence for a surprisingly diverse and complex miRNA population in Physcomitrella. Thus, the number and function of miRNAs must have significantly expanded during the evolution of early land plants. As we have described here within, the coupled maturation of two miRNAs from a shared precursor has not been previously identified in plants.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-7-13
PMCID: PMC1838911  PMID: 17359535
9.  Structural analysis of aligned RNAs 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(19):5471-5481.
The knowledge about classes of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) is growing very fast and it is mainly the structure which is the common characteristic property shared by members of the same class. For correct characterization of such classes it is therefore of great importance to analyse the structural features in great detail. In this manuscript I present RNAlishapes which combines various secondary structure analysis methods, such as suboptimal folding and shape abstraction, with a comparative approach known as RNA alignment folding. RNAlishapes makes use of an extended thermodynamic model and covariance scoring, which allows to reward covariation of paired bases. Applying the algorithm to a set of bacterial trp-operon leaders using shape abstraction it was able to identify the two alternating conformations of this attenuator. Besides providing in-depth analysis methods for aligned RNAs, the tool also shows a fairly well prediction accuracy. Therefore, RNAlishapes provides the community with a powerful tool for structural analysis of classes of RNAs and is also a reasonable method for consensus structure prediction based on sequence alignments. RNAlishapes is available for online use and download at .
doi:10.1093/nar/gkl692
PMCID: PMC1636479  PMID: 17020924
10.  Complete probabilistic analysis of RNA shapes 
BMC Biology  2006;4:5.
Background
Soon after the first algorithms for RNA folding became available, it was recognised that the prediction of only one energetically optimal structure is insufficient to achieve reliable results. An in-depth analysis of the folding space as a whole appeared necessary to deduce the structural properties of a given RNA molecule reliably. Folding space analysis comprises various methods such as suboptimal folding, computation of base pair probabilities, sampling procedures and abstract shape analysis. Common to many approaches is the idea of partitioning the folding space into classes of structures, for which certain properties can be derived.
Results
In this paper we extend the approach of abstract shape analysis. We show how to compute the accumulated probabilities of all structures that share the same shape. While this implies a complete (non-heuristic) analysis of the folding space, the computational effort depends only on the size of the shape space, which is much smaller. This approach has been integrated into the tool RNAshapes, and we apply it to various RNAs.
Conclusion
Analyses of conformational switches show the existence of two shapes with probabilities approximately 23 MathType@MTEF@5@5@+=feaafiart1ev1aaatCvAUfKttLearuWrP9MDH5MBPbIqV92AaeXatLxBI9gBaebbnrfifHhDYfgasaacH8akY=wiFfYdH8Gipec8Eeeu0xXdbba9frFj0=OqFfea0dXdd9vqai=hGuQ8kuc9pgc9s8qqaq=dirpe0xb9q8qiLsFr0=vr0=vr0dc8meaabaqaciaacaGaaeqabaqabeGadaaakeaadaWcaaqaaiabikdaYaqaaiabiodaZaaaaaa@2EA2@ vs. 13 MathType@MTEF@5@5@+=feaafiart1ev1aaatCvAUfKttLearuWrP9MDH5MBPbIqV92AaeXatLxBI9gBaebbnrfifHhDYfgasaacH8akY=wiFfYdH8Gipec8Eeeu0xXdbba9frFj0=OqFfea0dXdd9vqai=hGuQ8kuc9pgc9s8qqaq=dirpe0xb9q8qiLsFr0=vr0=vr0dc8meaabaqaciaacaGaaeqabaqabeGadaaakeaadaWcaaqaaiabigdaXaqaaiabiodaZaaaaaa@2EA0@, whereas the analysis of a microRNA precursor reveals one shape with a probability near to 1.0. Furthermore, it is shown that a shape can outperform an energetically more favourable one by achieving a higher probability. From these results, and the fact that we use a complete and exact analysis of the folding space, we conclude that this approach opens up new and promising routes for investigating and understanding RNA secondary structure.
doi:10.1186/1741-7007-4-5
PMCID: PMC1479382  PMID: 16480488
11.  Abstract shapes of RNA 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(16):4843-4851.
The function of a non-protein-coding RNA is often determined by its structure. Since experimental determination of RNA structure is time-consuming and expensive, its computational prediction is of great interest, and efficient solutions based on thermodynamic parameters are known. Frequently, however, the predicted minimum free energy structures are not the native ones, leading to the necessity of generating suboptimal solutions. While this can be accomplished by a number of programs, the user is often confronted with large outputs of similar structures, although he or she is interested in structures with more fundamental differences, or, in other words, with different abstract shapes. Here, we formalize the concept of abstract shapes and introduce their efficient computation. Each shape of an RNA molecule comprises a class of similar structures and has a representative structure of minimal free energy within the class. Shape analysis is implemented in the program RNAshapes. We applied RNAshapes to the prediction of optimal and suboptimal abstract shapes of several RNAs. For a given energy range, the number of shapes is considerably smaller than the number of structures, and in all cases, the native structures were among the top shape representatives. This demonstrates that the researcher can quickly focus on the structures of interest, without processing up to thousands of near-optimal solutions. We complement this study with a large-scale analysis of the growth behaviour of structure and shape spaces. RNAshapes is available for download and as an online version on the Bielefeld Bioinformatics Server.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkh779
PMCID: PMC519098  PMID: 15371549

Results 1-11 (11)