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1.  Ecotype Diversity and Conversion in Photobacterium profundum Strains 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e96953.
Photobacterium profundum is a cosmopolitan marine bacterium capable of growth at low temperature and high hydrostatic pressure. Multiple strains of P. profundum have been isolated from different depths of the ocean and display remarkable differences in their physiological responses to pressure. The genome sequence of the deep-sea piezopsychrophilic strain Photobacterium profundum SS9 has provided some clues regarding the genetic features required for growth in the deep sea. The sequenced genome of Photobacterium profundum strain 3TCK, a non-piezophilic strain isolated from a shallow-water environment, is now available and its analysis expands the identification of unique genomic features that correlate to environmental differences and define the Hutchinsonian niche of each strain. These differences range from variations in gene content to specific gene sequences under positive selection. Genome plasticity between Photobacterium bathytypes was investigated when strain 3TCK-specific genes involved in photorepair were introduced to SS9, demonstrating that horizontal gene transfer can provide a mechanism for rapid colonisation of new environments.
PMCID: PMC4019646  PMID: 24824441
2.  A deep survey of alternative splicing in grape reveals changes in the splicing machinery related to tissue, stress condition and genotype 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:99.
Alternative splicing (AS) significantly enhances transcriptome complexity. It is differentially regulated in a wide variety of cell types and plays a role in several cellular processes. Here we describe a detailed survey of alternative splicing in grape based on 124 SOLiD RNAseq analyses from different tissues, stress conditions and genotypes.
We used the RNAseq data to update the existing grape gene prediction with 2,258 new coding genes and 3,336 putative long non-coding RNAs. Several gene structures have been improved and alternative splicing was described for about 30% of the genes. A link between AS and miRNAs was shown in 139 genes where we found that AS affects the miRNA target site. A quantitative analysis of the isoforms indicated that most of the spliced genes have one major isoform and tend to simultaneously co-express a low number of isoforms, typically two, with intron retention being the most frequent alternative splicing event.
As described in Arabidopsis, also grape displays a marked AS tissue-specificity, while stress conditions produce splicing changes to a minor extent. Surprisingly, some distinctive splicing features were also observed between genotypes. This was further supported by the observation that the panel of Serine/Arginine-rich splicing factors show a few, but very marked differences between genotypes. The finding that a part the splicing machinery can change in closely related organisms can lead to some interesting hypotheses for evolutionary adaptation, that could be particularly relevant in the response to sudden and strong selective pressures.
PMCID: PMC4108029  PMID: 24739459
Alternative splicing; Transcriptome; RNAseq; Grapevine
3.  ZASP Interacts with the Mechanosensing Protein Ankrd2 and p53 in the Signalling Network of Striated Muscle 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92259.
ZASP is a cytoskeletal PDZ-LIM protein predominantly expressed in striated muscle. It forms multiprotein complexes and plays a pivotal role in the structural integrity of sarcomeres. Mutations in the ZASP protein are associated with myofibrillar myopathy, left ventricular non-compaction and dilated cardiomyopathy. The ablation of its murine homologue Cypher results in neonatal lethality. ZASP has several alternatively spliced isoforms, in this paper we clarify the nomenclature of its human isoforms as well as their dynamics and expression pattern in striated muscle. Interaction is demonstrated between ZASP and two new binding partners both of which have roles in signalling, regulation of gene expression and muscle differentiation; the mechanosensing protein Ankrd2 and the tumour suppressor protein p53. These proteins and ZASP form a triple complex that appears to facilitate poly-SUMOylation of p53. We also show the importance of two of its functional domains, the ZM-motif and the PDZ domain. The PDZ domain can bind directly to both Ankrd2 and p53 indicating that there is no competition between it and p53 for the same binding site on Ankrd2. However there is competition for this binding site between p53 and a region of the ZASP protein lacking the PDZ domain, but containing the ZM-motif. ZASP is negative regulator of p53 in transactivation experiments with the p53-responsive promoters, MDM2 and BAX. Mutations in the ZASP ZM-motif induce modification in protein turnover. In fact, two mutants, A165V and A171T, were not able to bind Ankrd2 and bound only poorly to alpha-actinin2. This is important since the A165V mutation is responsible for zaspopathy, a well characterized autosomal dominant distal myopathy. Although the mechanism by which this mutant causes disease is still unknown, this is the first indication of how a ZASP disease associated mutant protein differs from that of the wild type ZASP protein.
PMCID: PMC3960238  PMID: 24647531
4.  RNA Sequencing of the Exercise Transcriptome in Equine Athletes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83504.
The horse is an optimal model organism for studying the genomic response to exercise-induced stress, due to its natural aptitude for athletic performance and the relative homogeneity of its genetic and environmental backgrounds. Here, we applied RNA-sequencing analysis through the use of SOLiD technology in an experimental framework centered on exercise-induced stress during endurance races in equine athletes. We monitored the transcriptional landscape by comparing gene expression levels between animals at rest and after competition. Overall, we observed a shift from coding to non-coding regions, suggesting that the stress response involves the differential expression of not annotated regions. Notably, we observed significant post-race increases of reads that correspond to repeats, especially the intergenic and intronic L1 and L2 transposable elements. We also observed increased expression of the antisense strands compared to the sense strands in intronic and regulatory regions (1 kb up- and downstream) of the genes, suggesting that antisense transcription could be one of the main mechanisms for transposon regulation in the horse under stress conditions. We identified a large number of transcripts corresponding to intergenic and intronic regions putatively associated with new transcriptional elements. Gene expression and pathway analysis allowed us to identify several biological processes and molecular functions that may be involved with exercise-induced stress. Ontology clustering reflected mechanisms that are already known to be stress activated (e.g., chemokine-type cytokines, Toll-like receptors, and kinases), as well as “nucleic acid binding” and “signal transduction activity” functions. There was also a general and transient decrease in the global rates of protein synthesis, which would be expected after strenuous global stress. In sum, our network analysis points toward the involvement of specific gene clusters in equine exercise-induced stress, including those involved in inflammation, cell signaling, and immune interactions.
PMCID: PMC3877044  PMID: 24391776
5.  First Survey of the Wheat Chromosome 5A Composition through a Next Generation Sequencing Approach 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26421.
Wheat is one of the world's most important crops and is characterized by a large polyploid genome. One way to reduce genome complexity is to isolate single chromosomes using flow cytometry. Low coverage DNA sequencing can provide a snapshot of individual chromosomes, allowing a fast characterization of their main features and comparison with other genomes. We used massively parallel 454 pyrosequencing to obtain a 2x coverage of wheat chromosome 5A. The resulting sequence assembly was used to identify TEs, genes and miRNAs, as well as to infer a virtual gene order based on the synteny with other grass genomes. Repetitive elements account for more than 75% of the genome. Gene content was estimated considering non-redundant reads showing at least one match to ESTs or proteins. The results indicate that the coding fraction represents 1.08% and 1.3% of the short and long arm respectively, projecting the number of genes of the whole chromosome to approximately 5,000. 195 candidate miRNA precursors belonging to 16 miRNA families were identified. The 5A genes were used to search for syntenic relationships between grass genomes. The short arm is closely related to Brachypodium chromosome 4, sorghum chromosome 8 and rice chromosome 12; the long arm to regions of Brachypodium chromosomes 4 and 1, sorghum chromosomes 1 and 2 and rice chromosomes 9 and 3. From these similarities it was possible to infer the virtual gene order of 392 (5AS) and 1,480 (5AL) genes of chromosome 5A, which was compared to, and found to be largely congruent with the available physical map of this chromosome.
PMCID: PMC3196578  PMID: 22028874
6.  Development of an oligo DNA microarray for the European sea bass and its application to expression profiling of jaw deformity 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:354.
The European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) is a marine fish of great importance for fisheries and aquaculture. Functional genomics offers the possibility to discover the molecular mechanisms underlying productive traits in farmed fish, and a step towards the application of marker assisted selection methods in this species. To this end, we report here on the development of an oligo DNA microarray for D. labrax.
A database consisting of 19,048 unique transcripts was constructed, of which 12,008 (63%) could be annotated by similarity and 4,692 received a GO functional annotation. Two non-overlapping 60mer probes were designed for each unique transcript and in-situ synthesized on glass slides using Agilent SurePrint™ technology. Probe design was positively completed for 19,035 target clusters; the oligo microarray was then applied to profile gene expression in mandibles and whole-heads of fish affected by prognathism, a skeletal malformation that strongly affects sea bass production. Statistical analysis identified 242 transcripts that are significantly down-regulated in deformed individuals compared to normal fish, with a significant enrichment in genes related to nervous system development and functioning. A set of genes spanning a wide dynamic range in gene expression level were selected for quantitative RT-PCR validation. Fold change correlation between microarray and qPCR data was always significant.
The microarray platform developed for the European sea bass has a high level of flexibility, reliability, and reproducibility. Despite the well known limitations in achieving a proper functional annotation in non-model species, sufficient information was obtained to identify biological processes that are significantly enriched among differentially expressed genes. New insights were obtained on putative mechanisms involved on mandibular prognathism, suggesting that bone/nervous system development might play a role in this phenomenon.
PMCID: PMC2889902  PMID: 20525278
7.  Development and validation of a gene expression oligo microarray for the gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata) 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:580.
Aquaculture represents the most sustainable alternative of seafood supply to substitute for the declining marine fisheries, but severe production bottlenecks remain to be solved. The application of genomic technologies offers much promise to rapidly increase our knowledge on biological processes in farmed species and overcome such bottlenecks. Here we present an integrated platform for mRNA expression profiling in the gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata), a marine teleost of great importance for aquaculture.
A public data base was constructed, consisting of 19,734 unique clusters (3,563 contigs and 16,171 singletons). Functional annotation was obtained for 8,021 clusters. Over 4,000 sequences were also associated with a GO entry. Two 60mer probes were designed for each gene and in-situ synthesized on glass slides using Agilent SurePrint™ technology. Platform reproducibility and accuracy were assessed on two early stages of sea bream development (one-day and four days old larvae). Correlation between technical replicates was always > 0.99, with strong positive correlation between paired probes. A two class SAM test identified 1,050 differentially expressed genes between the two developmental stages. Functional analysis suggested that down-regulated transcripts (407) in older larvae are mostly essential/housekeeping genes, whereas tissue-specific genes are up-regulated in parallel with the formation of key organs (eye, digestive system). Cross-validation of microarray data was carried out using quantitative qRT-PCR on 11 target genes, selected to reflect the whole range of fold-change and both up-regulated and down-regulated genes. A statistically significant positive correlation was obtained comparing expression levels for each target gene across all biological replicates. Good concordance between qRT-PCR and microarray data was observed between 2- and 7-fold change, while fold-change compression in the microarray was present for differences greater than 10-fold in the qRT-PCR.
A highly reliable oligo-microarray platform was developed and validated for the gilthead sea bream despite the presently limited knowledge of the species transcriptome. Because of the flexible design this array will be able to accommodate additional probes as soon as novel unique transcripts are available.
PMCID: PMC2648989  PMID: 19055773
8.  Large-Scale Transposon Mutagenesis of Photobacterium profundum SS9 Reveals New Genetic Loci Important for Growth at Low Temperature and High Pressure▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;190(5):1699-1709.
Microorganisms adapted to piezopsychrophilic growth dominate the majority of the biosphere that is at relatively constant low temperatures and high pressures, but the genetic bases for the adaptations are largely unknown. Here we report the use of transposon mutagenesis with the deep-sea bacterium Photobacterium profundum strain SS9 to isolate dozens of mutant strains whose growth is impaired at low temperature and/or whose growth is altered as a function of hydrostatic pressure. In many cases the gene mutation-growth phenotype relationship was verified by complementation analysis. The largest fraction of loci associated with temperature sensitivity were involved in the biosynthesis of the cell envelope, in particular the biosynthesis of extracellular polysaccharide. The largest fraction of loci associated with pressure sensitivity were involved in chromosomal structure and function. Genes for ribosome assembly and function were found to be important for both low-temperature and high-pressure growth. Likewise, both adaptation to temperature and adaptation to pressure were affected by mutations in a number of sensory and regulatory loci, suggesting the importance of signal transduction mechanisms in adaptation to either physical parameter. These analyses were the first global analyses of genes conditionally required for low-temperature or high-pressure growth in a deep-sea microorganism.
PMCID: PMC2258685  PMID: 18156275
9.  Characterization and Evolution of the Cell Cycle-Associated Mob Domain-Containing Proteins in Eukaryotes 
The MOB family includes a group of cell cycle-associated proteins highly conserved throughout eukaryotes, whose founding members are implicated in mitotic exit and co-ordination of cell cycle progression with cell polarity and morphogenesis. Here we report the characterization and evolution of the MOB domain-containing proteins as inferred from the 43 eukaryotic genomes so far sequenced. We show that genes for Mob-like proteins are present in at least 41 of these genomes, confirming the universal distribution of this protein family and suggesting its prominent biological function. The phylogenetic analysis reveals five distinct MOB domain classes, showing a progressive expansion of this family from unicellular to multicellular organisms, reaching the highest number in mammals. Plant Mob genes appear to have evolved from a single ancestor, most likely after the loss of one or more genes during the early stage of Viridiplantae evolutionary history. Three of the Mob classes are widespread among most of the analyzed organisms. The possible biological and molecular function of Mob proteins and their role in conserved signaling pathways related to cell proliferation, cell death and cell polarity are also presented and critically discussed.
PMCID: PMC2684140  PMID: 19468312
Mob genes; protein structure; phylogenesis; cytokinesis; apoptosis; morphogenesis
10.  A global gene evolution analysis on Vibrionaceae family using phylogenetic profile 
BMC Bioinformatics  2007;8(Suppl 1):S23.
Vibrionaceae represent a significant portion of the cultivable heterotrophic sea bacteria; they strongly affect nutrient cycling and some species are devastating pathogens.
In this work we propose an improved phylogenetic profile analysis on 14 Vibrionaceae genomes, to study the evolution of this family on the basis of gene content.
The phylogenetic profile is based on the observation that genes involved in the same process (e.g. metabolic pathway or structural complex) tend to be concurrently present or absent within different genomes. This allows the prediction of hypothetical functions on the basis of a shared phylogenetic profiles. Moreover this approach is useful to identify putative laterally transferred elements on the basis of their presence on distantly phylogenetically related bacteria.
Vibrionaceae ORFs were aligned against all the available bacterial proteomes. Phylogenetic profile is defined as an array of distances, based on aminoacid substitution matrixes, from single genes to all their orthologues. Final phylogenetic profiles, derived from non-redundant list of all ORFs, was defined as the median of all the profiles belonging to the cluster. The resulting phylogenetic profiles matrix contains gene clusters on the rows and organisms on the columns.
Cluster analysis identified groups of "core genes" with a widespread high similarity across all the organisms and several clusters that contain genes homologous only to a limited set of organisms. On each of these clusters, COG class enrichment has been calculated. The analysis reveals that clusters of core genes have the highest number of enriched classes, while the others are enriched just for few of them like DNA replication, recombination and repair.
We found that mobile elements have heterogeneous profiles not only across the entire set of organisms, but also within Vibrionaceae; this confirms their great influence on bacteria evolution even inside the same family. Furthermore, several hypothetical proteins highly correlate with mobile elements profiles suggesting a possible horizontal transfer mechanism for the evolution of these genes. Finally, we suggested the putative role of some ORFs having an unknown function on the basis of their phylogenetic profile similarity to well characterized genes.
PMCID: PMC1885853  PMID: 17430568
11.  Laterally transferred elements and high pressure adaptation in Photobacterium profundum strains 
BMC Genomics  2005;6:122.
Oceans cover approximately 70% of the Earth's surface with an average depth of 3800 m and a pressure of 38 MPa, thus a large part of the biosphere is occupied by high pressure environments. Piezophilic (pressure-loving) organisms are adapted to deep-sea life and grow optimally at pressures higher than 0.1 MPa. To better understand high pressure adaptation from a genomic point of view three different Photobacterium profundum strains were compared. Using the sequenced piezophile P. profundum strain SS9 as a reference, microarray technology was used to identify the genomic regions missing in two other strains: a pressure adapted strain (named DSJ4) and a pressure-sensitive strain (named 3TCK). Finally, the transcriptome of SS9 grown under different pressure (28 MPa; 45 MPa) and temperature (4°C; 16°C) conditions was analyzed taking into consideration the differentially expressed genes belonging to the flexible gene pool.
These studies indicated the presence of a large flexible gene pool in SS9 characterized by various horizontally acquired elements. This was verified by extensive analysis of GC content, codon usage and genomic signature of the SS9 genome. 171 open reading frames (ORFs) were found to be specifically absent or highly divergent in the piezosensitive strain, but present in the two piezophilic strains. Among these genes, six were found to also be up-regulated by high pressure.
These data provide information on horizontal gene flow in the deep sea, provide additional details of P. profundum genome expression patterns and suggest genes which could perform critical functions for abyssal survival, including perhaps high pressure growth.
PMCID: PMC1239915  PMID: 16162277
12.  MIDAW: a web tool for statistical analysis of microarray data 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(Web Server issue):W644-W649.
MIDAW (microarray data analysis web tool) is a web interface integrating a series of statistical algorithms that can be used for processing and interpretation of microarray data. MIDAW consists of two main sections: data normalization and data analysis. In the normalization phase the simultaneous processing of several experiments with background correction, global and local mean and variance normalization are carried out. The data analysis section allows graphical display of expression data for descriptive purposes, estimation of missing values, reduction of data dimension, discriminant analysis and identification of marker genes. The statistical results are organized in dynamic web pages and tables, where the transcript/gene probes contained in a specific microarray platform can be linked (according to user choice) to external databases (GenBank, Entrez Gene, UniGene). Tutorial files help the user throughout the statistical analysis to ensure that the forms are filled out correctly. MIDAW has been developed using Perl and PHP and it uses R/Bioconductor languages and routines. MIDAW is GPL licensed and freely accessible at . Perl and PHP source codes are available from the authors upon request.
PMCID: PMC1160257  PMID: 15980553

Results 1-12 (12)