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1.  The Transcriptome of Nacobbus aberrans Reveals Insights into the Evolution of Sedentary Endoparasitism in Plant-Parasitic Nematodes 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2014;6(9):2181-2194.
Within the phylum Nematoda, plant-parasitism is hypothesized to have arisen independently on at least four occasions. The most economically damaging plant-parasitic nematode species, and consequently the most widely studied, are those that feed as they migrate destructively through host roots causing necrotic lesions (migratory endoparasites) and those that modify host root tissue to create a nutrient sink from which they feed (sedentary endoparasites). The false root-knot nematode Nacobbus aberrans is the only known species to have both migratory endoparasitic and sedentary endoparasitic stages within its life cycle. Moreover, its sedentary stage appears to have characteristics of both the root-knot and the cyst nematodes. We present the first large-scale genetic resource of any false-root knot nematode species. We use RNAseq to describe relative abundance changes in all expressed genes across the life cycle to provide interesting insights into the biology of this nematode as it transitions between modes of parasitism. A multigene phylogenetic analysis of N. aberrans with respect to plant-parasitic nematodes of all groups confirms its proximity to both cyst and root-knot nematodes. We present a transcriptome-wide analysis of both lateral gene transfer events and the effector complement. Comparing parasitism genes of typical root-knot and cyst nematodes to those of N. aberrans has revealed interesting similarities. Importantly, genes that were believed to be either cyst nematode, or root-knot nematode, “specific” have both been identified in N. aberrans. Our results provide insights into the characteristics of a common ancestor and the evolution of sedentary endoparasitism of plants by nematodes.
PMCID: PMC4202313  PMID: 25123114
plant-parasitic nematode; RNAseq; lateral gene transfer; host mimics; phylogenetics; effectors
2.  The genome and life-stage specific transcriptomes of Globodera pallida elucidate key aspects of plant parasitism by a cyst nematode 
Genome Biology  2014;15(3):R43.
Globodera pallida is a devastating pathogen of potato crops, making it one of the most economically important plant parasitic nematodes. It is also an important model for the biology of cyst nematodes. Cyst nematodes and root-knot nematodes are the two most important plant parasitic nematode groups and together represent a global threat to food security.
We present the complete genome sequence of G. pallida, together with transcriptomic data from most of the nematode life cycle, particularly focusing on the life cycle stages involved in root invasion and establishment of the biotrophic feeding site. Despite the relatively close phylogenetic relationship with root-knot nematodes, we describe a very different gene family content between the two groups and in particular extensive differences in the repertoire of effectors, including an enormous expansion of the SPRY domain protein family in G. pallida, which includes the SPRYSEC family of effectors. This highlights the distinct biology of cyst nematodes compared to the root-knot nematodes that were, until now, the only sedentary plant parasitic nematodes for which genome information was available. We also present in-depth descriptions of the repertoires of other genes likely to be important in understanding the unique biology of cyst nematodes and of potential drug targets and other targets for their control.
The data and analyses we present will be central in exploiting post-genomic approaches in the development of much-needed novel strategies for the control of G. pallida and related pathogens.
PMCID: PMC4054857  PMID: 24580726
3.  Galaxy tools and workflows for sequence analysis with applications in molecular plant pathology 
PeerJ  2013;1:e167.
The Galaxy Project offers the popular web browser-based platform Galaxy for running bioinformatics tools and constructing simple workflows. Here, we present a broad collection of additional Galaxy tools for large scale analysis of gene and protein sequences. The motivating research theme is the identification of specific genes of interest in a range of non-model organisms, and our central example is the identification and prediction of “effector” proteins produced by plant pathogens in order to manipulate their host plant. This functional annotation of a pathogen’s predicted capacity for virulence is a key step in translating sequence data into potential applications in plant pathology.
This collection includes novel tools, and widely-used third-party tools such as NCBI BLAST+ wrapped for use within Galaxy. Individual bioinformatics software tools are typically available separately as standalone packages, or in online browser-based form. The Galaxy framework enables the user to combine these and other tools to automate organism scale analyses as workflows, without demanding familiarity with command line tools and scripting. Workflows created using Galaxy can be saved and are reusable, so may be distributed within and between research groups, facilitating the construction of a set of standardised, reusable bioinformatic protocols.
The Galaxy tools and workflows described in this manuscript are open source and freely available from the Galaxy Tool Shed ( or
PMCID: PMC3792188  PMID: 24109552
Galaxy; Pipeline; Accessibility; Effector proteins; Workflow; Reproducibility; Annotation; Sequence analysis; Genomics
4.  Novel Bacteriophages Containing a Genome of Another Bacteriophage within Their Genomes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40683.
A novel bacteriophage infecting Staphylococus pasteuri was isolated during a screen for phages in Antarctic soils. The phage named SpaA1 is morphologically similar to phages of the family Siphoviridae. The 42,784 bp genome of SpaA1 is a linear, double-stranded DNA molecule with 3′ protruding cohesive ends. The SpaA1 genome encompasses 63 predicted protein-coding genes which cluster within three regions of the genome, each of apparently different origin, in a mosaic pattern. In two of these regions, the gene sets resemble those in prophages of Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki str. T03a001 (genes involved in DNA replication/transcription, cell entry and exit) and B. cereus AH676 (additional regulatory and recombination genes), respectively. The third region represents an almost complete genome (except for the short terminal segments) of a distinct bacteriophage, MZTP02. Nearly the same gene module was identified in prophages of B. thuringiensis serovar monterrey BGSC 4AJ1 and B. cereus Rock4-2. These findings suggest that MZTP02 can be shuttled between genomes of other bacteriophages and prophages, leading to the formation of chimeric genomes. The presence of a complete phage genome in the genome of other phages apparently has not been described previously and might represent a ‘fast track’ route of virus evolution and horizontal gene transfer. Another phage (BceA1) nearly identical in sequence to SpaA1, and also including the almost complete MZTP02 genome within its own genome, was isolated from a bacterium of the B. cereus/B. thuringiensis group. Remarkably, both SpaA1 and BceA1 phages can infect B. cereus and B. thuringiensis, but only one of them, SpaA1, can infect S. pasteuri. This finding is best compatible with a scenario in which MZTP02 was originally contained in BceA1 infecting Bacillus spp, the common hosts for these two phages, followed by emergence of SpaA1 infecting S. pasteuri.
PMCID: PMC3398947  PMID: 22815791
5.  Genomic Insights into the Origin of Parasitism in the Emerging Plant Pathogen Bursaphelenchus xylophilus 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(9):e1002219.
Bursaphelenchus xylophilus is the nematode responsible for a devastating epidemic of pine wilt disease in Asia and Europe, and represents a recent, independent origin of plant parasitism in nematodes, ecologically and taxonomically distinct from other nematodes for which genomic data is available. As well as being an important pathogen, the B. xylophilus genome thus provides a unique opportunity to study the evolution and mechanism of plant parasitism. Here, we present a high-quality draft genome sequence from an inbred line of B. xylophilus, and use this to investigate the biological basis of its complex ecology which combines fungal feeding, plant parasitic and insect-associated stages. We focus particularly on putative parasitism genes as well as those linked to other key biological processes and demonstrate that B. xylophilus is well endowed with RNA interference effectors, peptidergic neurotransmitters (including the first description of ins genes in a parasite) stress response and developmental genes and has a contracted set of chemosensory receptors. B. xylophilus has the largest number of digestive proteases known for any nematode and displays expanded families of lysosome pathway genes, ABC transporters and cytochrome P450 pathway genes. This expansion in digestive and detoxification proteins may reflect the unusual diversity in foods it exploits and environments it encounters during its life cycle. In addition, B. xylophilus possesses a unique complement of plant cell wall modifying proteins acquired by horizontal gene transfer, underscoring the impact of this process on the evolution of plant parasitism by nematodes. Together with the lack of proteins homologous to effectors from other plant parasitic nematodes, this confirms the distinctive molecular basis of plant parasitism in the Bursaphelenchus lineage. The genome sequence of B. xylophilus adds to the diversity of genomic data for nematodes, and will be an important resource in understanding the biology of this unusual parasite.
Author Summary
Bursaphelenchus xylophilus is an important plant pathogen, responsible for an epidemic of pine wilt disease in Asia and Europe. B. xylophilus has acquired the ability to parasitise plants independently from other economically important nematodes and has a complex life cycle that includes fungal feeding and a stage associated with an insect, as well as plant parasitism. We have sequenced the genome of B. xylophilus and used it as a resource to understand disease mechanisms and the biological basis of its complex ecology. The ability to break down cellulose, the major component of the plant cell wall, is a major problem for plant parasitic nematodes as few animals can produce the required enzymes (cellulases). Previous work has shown that other plant parasitic nematodes have acquired cellulases from bacteria but we show that all Bursaphelenchus cellulases were most likely acquired independently from fungi. We also describe a complex set of genes encoding enzymes that can break down proteins and other molecules, perhaps reflecting the range of organisms with which B. xylophilus interacts during its life cycle. The genome sequence of Bursaphelenchus represents an important step forward in understanding its biology, and will contribute to efforts to control the devastating disease it causes.
PMCID: PMC3164644  PMID: 21909270
6.  The Sanger FASTQ file format for sequences with quality scores, and the Solexa/Illumina FASTQ variants 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;38(6):1767-1771.
FASTQ has emerged as a common file format for sharing sequencing read data combining both the sequence and an associated per base quality score, despite lacking any formal definition to date, and existing in at least three incompatible variants. This article defines the FASTQ format, covering the original Sanger standard, the Solexa/Illumina variants and conversion between them, based on publicly available information such as the MAQ documentation and conventions recently agreed by the Open Bioinformatics Foundation projects Biopython, BioPerl, BioRuby, BioJava and EMBOSS. Being an open access publication, it is hoped that this description, with the example files provided as Supplementary Data, will serve in future as a reference for this important file format.
PMCID: PMC2847217  PMID: 20015970
7.  Biopython: freely available Python tools for computational molecular biology and bioinformatics 
Bioinformatics  2009;25(11):1422-1423.
Summary: The Biopython project is a mature open source international collaboration of volunteer developers, providing Python libraries for a wide range of bioinformatics problems. Biopython includes modules for reading and writing different sequence file formats and multiple sequence alignments, dealing with 3D macro molecular structures, interacting with common tools such as BLAST, ClustalW and EMBOSS, accessing key online databases, as well as providing numerical methods for statistical learning.
Availability: Biopython is freely available, with documentation and source code at under the Biopython license.
Contact: All queries should be directed to the Biopython mailing lists, see
PMCID: PMC2682512  PMID: 19304878
8.  Resistance gene enrichment sequencing (RenSeq) enables reannotation of the NB-LRR gene family from sequenced plant genomes and rapid mapping of resistance loci in segregating populations 
The Plant Journal  2013;76(3):530-544.
RenSeq is a NB-LRR (nucleotide binding-site leucine-rich repeat) gene-targeted, Resistance gene enrichment and sequencing method that enables discovery and annotation of pathogen resistance gene family members in plant genome sequences. We successfully applied RenSeq to the sequenced potato Solanum tuberosum clone DM, and increased the number of identified NB-LRRs from 438 to 755. The majority of these identified R gene loci reside in poorly or previously unannotated regions of the genome. Sequence and positional details on the 12 chromosomes have been established for 704 NB-LRRs and can be accessed through a genome browser that we provide. We compared these NB-LRR genes and the corresponding oligonucleotide baits with the highest sequence similarity and demonstrated that ∼80% sequence identity is sufficient for enrichment. Analysis of the sequenced tomato S. lycopersicum ‘Heinz 1706’ extended the NB-LRR complement to 394 loci. We further describe a methodology that applies RenSeq to rapidly identify molecular markers that co-segregate with a pathogen resistance trait of interest. In two independent segregating populations involving the wild Solanum species S. berthaultii (Rpi-ber2) and S. ruiz-ceballosii (Rpi-rzc1), we were able to apply RenSeq successfully to identify markers that co-segregate with resistance towards the late blight pathogen Phytophthora infestans. These SNP identification workflows were designed as easy-to-adapt Galaxy pipelines.
PMCID: PMC3935411  PMID: 23937694
NB-LRR; pathogen resistance; Solanaceae; target enrichment; next-generation sequencing; Solanum tuberosum Group Phureja clone DM1-3 516 R44; Solanum ruiz-ceballosii; Solanum berthaultii; Solanum lycopersicum; technical advance

Results 1-8 (8)