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1.  Genomic Insights into Processes Driving the Infection of Alexandrium tamarense by the Parasitoid Amoebophrya sp. 
Eukaryotic Cell  2014;13(11):1439-1449.
The regulatory circuits during infection of dinoflagellates by their parasites are largely unknown on the molecular level. Here we provide molecular insights into these infection dynamics. Alexandrium tamarense is one of the most prominent harmful algal bloom dinoflagellates. Its pathogen, the dinoflagellate parasitoid Amoebophrya sp., has been observed to infect and control the blooms of this species. We generated a data set of transcripts from three time points (0, 6, and 96 h) during the infection of this parasite-host system. Assembly of all transcript data from the parasitoid (>900,000 reads/313 Mbp with 454/Roche next-generation sequencing [NGS]) yielded 14,455 contigs, to which we mapped the raw transcript reads of each time point of the infection cycle. We show that particular surface lectins are expressed at the beginning of the infection cycle which likely mediate the attachment to the host cell. In a later phase, signal transduction-related genes together with transmembrane transport and cytoskeleton proteins point to a high integration of processes involved in host recognition, adhesion, and invasion. At the final maturation stage, cell division- and proliferation-related genes were highly expressed, reflecting the fast cell growth and nuclear division of the parasitoid. Our molecular insights into dinoflagellate parasitoid interactions point to general mechanisms also known from other eukaryotic parasites, especially from the Alveolata. These similarities indicate the presence of fundamental processes of parasitoid infection that have remained stable throughout evolution within different phyla.
PMCID: PMC4248694  PMID: 25239978
2.  Comparative analyses of Legionella species identifies genetic features of strains causing Legionnaires’ disease 
Genome Biology  2014;15(11):505.
The genus Legionella comprises over 60 species. However, L. pneumophila and L. longbeachae alone cause over 95% of Legionnaires’ disease. To identify the genetic bases underlying the different capacities to cause disease we sequenced and compared the genomes of L. micdadei, L. hackeliae and L. fallonii (LLAP10), which are all rarely isolated from humans.
We show that these Legionella species possess different virulence capacities in amoeba and macrophages, correlating with their occurrence in humans. Our comparative analysis of 11 Legionella genomes belonging to five species reveals highly heterogeneous genome content with over 60% representing species-specific genes; these comprise a complete prophage in L. micdadei, the first ever identified in a Legionella genome. Mobile elements are abundant in Legionella genomes; many encode type IV secretion systems for conjugative transfer, pointing to their importance for adaptation of the genus. The Dot/Icm secretion system is conserved, although the core set of substrates is small, as only 24 out of over 300 described Dot/Icm effector genes are present in all Legionella species. We also identified new eukaryotic motifs including thaumatin, synaptobrevin or clathrin/coatomer adaptine like domains.
Legionella genomes are highly dynamic due to a large mobilome mainly comprising type IV secretion systems, while a minority of core substrates is shared among the diverse species. Eukaryotic like proteins and motifs remain a hallmark of the genus Legionella. Key factors such as proteins involved in oxygen binding, iron storage, host membrane transport and certain Dot/Icm substrates are specific features of disease-related strains.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13059-014-0505-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4256840  PMID: 25370836
Legionella; Genome; Legionnaires’ disease; Mobilome; Eukaryotic like proteins
3.  From Green to Red: Horizontal Gene Transfer of the Phycoerythrin Gene Cluster between Planktothrix Strains 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(21):6803-6812.
Horizontal gene transfer is common in cyanobacteria, and transfer of large gene clusters may lead to acquisition of new functions and conceivably niche adaption. In the present study, we demonstrate that horizontal gene transfer between closely related Planktothrix strains can explain the production of the same oligopeptide isoforms by strains of different colors. Comparison of the genomes of eight Planktothrix strains revealed that strains producing the same oligopeptide isoforms are closely related, regardless of color. We have investigated genes involved in the synthesis of the photosynthetic pigments phycocyanin and phycoerythrin, which are responsible for green and red appearance, respectively. Sequence comparisons suggest the transfer of a functional phycoerythrin gene cluster generating a red phenotype in a strain that is otherwise more closely related to green strains. Our data show that the insertion of a DNA fragment containing the 19.7-kb phycoerythrin gene cluster has been facilitated by homologous recombination, also replacing a region of the phycocyanin operon. These findings demonstrate that large DNA fragments spanning entire functional gene clusters can be effectively transferred between closely related cyanobacterial strains and result in a changed phenotype. Further, the results shed new light on the discussion of the role of horizontal gene transfer in the sporadic distribution of large gene clusters in cyanobacteria, as well as the appearance of red and green strains.
PMCID: PMC3811498  PMID: 23995927
4.  NKAP is a novel RS-related protein that interacts with RNA and RNA binding proteins 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(5):3177-3193.
NKAP is a highly conserved protein with roles in transcriptional repression, T-cell development, maturation and acquisition of functional competency and maintenance and survival of adult hematopoietic stem cells. Here we report the novel role of NKAP in splicing. With NKAP-specific antibodies we found that NKAP localizes to nuclear speckles. NKAP has an RS motif at the N-terminus followed by a highly basic domain and a DUF 926 domain at the C-terminal region. Deletion analysis showed that the basic domain is important for speckle localization. In pull-down experiments, we identified RNA-binding proteins, RNA helicases and splicing factors as interaction partners of NKAP, among them FUS/TLS. The FUS/TLS–NKAP interaction takes place through the RS domain of NKAP and the RGG1 and RGG3 domains of FUS/TLS. We analyzed the ability of NKAP to interact with RNA using in vitro splicing assays and found that NKAP bound both spliced messenger RNA (mRNA) and unspliced pre-mRNA. Genome-wide analysis using crosslinking and immunoprecipitation-seq revealed NKAP association with U1, U4 and U5 small nuclear RNA, and we also demonstrated that knockdown of NKAP led to an increase in pre-mRNA percentage. Our results reveal NKAP as nuclear speckle protein with roles in RNA splicing and processing.
PMCID: PMC3950704  PMID: 24353314
5.  The Mitochondrial Genome of Arctica islandica; Phylogeny and Variation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82857.
Arctica islandica is known as the longest-lived non-colonial metazoan species on earth and is therefore increasingly being investigated as a new model in aging research. As the mitochondrial genome is associated with the process of aging in many species and bivalves are known to possess a peculiar mechanism of mitochondrial genome inheritance including doubly uniparental inheritance (DUI), we aimed to assess the genomic variability of the A. islandica mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). We sequenced the complete mitochondrial genomes of A. islandica specimens from three different sites in the Western Palaearctic (Iceland, North Sea, Baltic Sea). We found the A. islandica mtDNA to fall within the normal size range (18 kb) and exhibit similar coding capacity as other animal mtDNAs. The concatenated protein sequences of all currently known Veneroidea mtDNAs were used to robustly place A. islandica in a phylogenetic framework. Analysis of the observed single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) patterns on further specimen revealed two prevailing haplotypes. Populations in the Baltic and the North Sea are very homogenous, whereas the Icelandic population, from which exceptionally old individuals have been collected, is the most diverse one. Homogeneity in Baltic and North Sea populations point to either stronger environmental constraints or more recent colonization of the habitat. Our analysis lays the foundation for further studies on A. islandica population structures, age research with this organism, and for phylogenetic studies. Accessions for the mitochondrial genome sequences: KC197241 Iceland; KF363951 Baltic Sea; KF363952 North Sea; KF465708 to KF465758 individual amplified regions from different speciemen
PMCID: PMC3847043  PMID: 24312674
6.  Conserved Gene Regulatory Function of the Carboxy-Terminal Domain of Dictyostelid C-Module-Binding Factor 
Eukaryotic Cell  2013;12(3):460-468.
C-module-binding factor A (CbfA) is a jumonji-type transcription regulator that is important for maintaining the expression and mobility of the retrotransposable element TRE5-A in the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. CbfA-deficient cells have lost TRE5-A retrotransposition, are impaired in the ability to feed on bacteria, and do not enter multicellular development because of a block in cell aggregation. In this study, we performed Illumina RNA-seq of growing CbfA mutant cells to obtain a list of CbfA-regulated genes. We demonstrate that the carboxy-terminal domain of CbfA alone is sufficient to mediate most CbfA-dependent gene expression. The carboxy-terminal domain of CbfA from the distantly related social amoeba Polysphondylium pallidum restored the expression of CbfA-dependent genes in the D. discoideum CbfA mutant, indicating a deep conservation in the gene regulatory function of this domain in the dictyostelid clade. The CbfA-like protein CbfB displays ∼25% sequence identity with CbfA in the amino-terminal region, which contains a JmjC domain and two zinc finger regions and is thought to mediate chromatin-remodeling activity. In contrast to CbfA proteins, where the carboxy-terminal domains are strictly conserved in all dictyostelids, CbfB proteins have completely unrelated carboxy-terminal domains. Outside the dictyostelid clade, CbfA-like proteins with the CbfA-archetypical JmjC/zinc finger arrangement and individual carboxy-terminal domains are prominent in filamentous fungi but are not found in yeasts, plants, and metazoans. Our data suggest that two functional regions of the CbfA-like proteins evolved at different rates to allow the occurrence of species-specific adaptation processes during genome evolution.
PMCID: PMC3629772  PMID: 23355006
7.  Analysis of phenotypic evolution in Dictyostelia highlights developmental plasticity as a likely consequence of colonial multicellularity 
Colony formation was the first step towards evolution of multicellularity in many macroscopic organisms. Dictyostelid social amoebas have used this strategy for over 600 Myr to form fruiting structures of increasing complexity. To understand in which order multicellular complexity evolved, we measured 24 phenotypic characters over 99 dictyostelid species. Using phylogenetic comparative methods, we show that the last common ancestor (LCA) of Dictyostelia probably erected small fruiting structures directly from aggregates. It secreted cAMP to coordinate fruiting body morphogenesis, and another compound to mediate aggregation. This phenotype persisted up to the LCAs of three of the four major groups of Dictyostelia. The group 4 LCA co-opted cAMP for aggregation and evolved much larger fruiting structures. However, it lost encystation, the survival strategy of solitary amoebas that is retained by many species in groups 1–3. Large structures, phototropism and a migrating intermediate ‘slug’ stage coevolved as evolutionary novelties within most groups. Overall, dictyostelids show considerable plasticity in the size and shape of multicellular structures, both within and between species. This probably reflects constraints placed by colonial life on developmental control mechanisms, which, depending on local cell density, need to direct from 10 to a million cells into forming a functional fructification.
PMCID: PMC3712420  PMID: 23782883
evolution of multicellularity; morphogenetic signalling; phylogenomics; phototropism; encystation; sporulation
8.  GenColors-based comparative genome databases for small eukaryotic genomes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(Database issue):D692-D699.
Many sequence data repositories can give a quick and easily accessible overview on genomes and their annotations. Less widespread is the possibility to compare related genomes with each other in a common database environment. We have previously described the GenColors database system ( and its applications to a number of bacterial genomes such as Borrelia, Legionella, Leptospira and Treponema. This system has an emphasis on genome comparison. It combines data from related genomes and provides the user with an extensive set of visualization and analysis tools. Eukaryote genomes are normally larger than prokaryote genomes and thus pose additional challenges for such a system. We have, therefore, adapted GenColors to also handle larger datasets of small eukaryotic genomes and to display eukaryotic gene structures. Further recent developments include whole genome views, genome list options and, for bacterial genome browsers, the display of horizontal gene transfer predictions. Two new GenColors-based databases for two fungal species ( and for four social amoebas ( were set up. Both new resources open up a single entry point for related genomes for the amoebozoa and fungal research communities and other interested users. Comparative genomics approaches are greatly facilitated by these resources.
PMCID: PMC3531143  PMID: 23193285
9.  The nuclear envelope protein Nesprin-2 has roles in cell proliferation and differentiation during wound healing 
Nucleus  2012;3(2):172-186.
Nesprin-2, a type II transmembrane protein of the nuclear envelope, is a component of the LINC complex that connects the nuclear lamina with the actin cytoskeleton. To elucidate its physiological role we studied wound healing in Nesprin-2 Giant deficient mice and found that a loss of the protein affected wound healing particularly at later stages during fibroblast differentiation and keratinocyte proliferation leading to delayed wound closure. We identified altered expression and localization of transcription factors as one of the underlying mechanisms. Furthermore, the actin cytoskeleton which surrounds the nucleus was altered and keratinocyte migration was slowed down and focal adhesion formation enhanced. We also uncovered a new activity of Nesprin-2. When we probed for an interaction of Nesprin-2 Giant with chromatin we observed in ChIP Seq experiments an association of the protein with heterochromatic and centromeric DNA. Through this activity Nesprin-2 can affect the nuclear landscape and gene regulation. Our findings suggest functions for Nesprin-2 at the nuclear envelope (NE) in gene regulation and in regulation of the actin cytoskeleton which impact on wound healing.
PMCID: PMC3383573  PMID: 22198684
LINC-complex; actin cytoskeleton; c-Fos; focal adhesion; keratinocyte; signaling; wound healing
10.  Comparative Genomic and Transcriptomic Characterization of the Toxigenic Marine Dinoflagellate Alexandrium ostenfeldii 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28012.
Many dinoflagellate species are notorious for the toxins they produce and ecological and human health consequences associated with harmful algal blooms (HABs). Dinoflagellates are particularly refractory to genomic analysis due to the enormous genome size, lack of knowledge about their DNA composition and structure, and peculiarities of gene regulation, such as spliced leader (SL) trans-splicing and mRNA transposition mechanisms. Alexandrium ostenfeldii is known to produce macrocyclic imine toxins, described as spirolides. We characterized the genome of A. ostenfeldii using a combination of transcriptomic data and random genomic clones for comparison with other dinoflagellates, particularly Alexandrium species. Examination of SL sequences revealed similar features as in other dinoflagellates, including Alexandrium species. SL sequences in decay indicate frequent retro-transposition of mRNA species. This probably contributes to overall genome complexity by generating additional gene copies. Sequencing of several thousand fosmid and bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) ends yielded a wealth of simple repeats and tandemly repeated longer sequence stretches which we estimated to comprise more than half of the whole genome. Surprisingly, the repeats comprise a very limited set of 79–97 bp sequences; in part the genome is thus a relatively uniform sequence space interrupted by coding sequences. Our genomic sequence survey (GSS) represents the largest genomic data set of a dinoflagellate to date. Alexandrium ostenfeldii is a typical dinoflagellate with respect to its transcriptome and mRNA transposition but demonstrates Alexandrium-like stop codon usage. The large portion of repetitive sequences and the organization within the genome is in agreement with several other studies on dinoflagellates using different approaches. It remains to be determined whether this unusual composition is directly correlated to the exceptionally genome organization of dinoflagellates with a low amount of histones and histone-like proteins.
PMCID: PMC3229502  PMID: 22164224
11.  RpkA, a Highly Conserved GPCR with a Lipid Kinase Domain, Has a Role in Phagocytosis and Anti-Bacterial Defense 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27311.
RpkA (Receptor phosphatidylinositol kinase A) is an unusual seven-helix transmembrane protein of Dictyostelium discoideum with a G protein coupled receptor (GPCR) signature and a C-terminal lipid kinase domain (GPCR-PIPK) predicted as a phosphatidylinositol-4-phosphate 5-kinase. RpkA-homologs are present in all so far sequenced Dictyostelidae as well as in several other lower eukaryotes like the oomycete Phytophthora, and in the Legionella host Acanthamoeba castellani. Here we show by immunofluorescence that RpkA localizes to endosomal membranes and is specifically recruited to phagosomes. RpkA interacts with the phagosomal protein complex V-ATPase as proteins of this complex co-precipitate with RpkA-GFP as well as with the GST-tagged PIPK domain of RpkA. Loss of RpkA leads to a defect in phagocytosis as measured by yeast particle uptake. The uptake of the pathogenic bacterium Legionella pneumophila was however unaltered whereas its intra-cellular replication was significantly enhanced in rpkA-. The difference between wild type and rpkA- was even more prominent when L. hackeliae was used. When we investigated the reason for the enhanced susceptibility for L. pneumophila of rpkA- we could not detect a difference in endosomal pH but rpkA- showed depletion of phosphoinositides (PIP and PIP2) when we compared metabolically labeled phosphoinositides from wild type and rpkA-. Furthermore rpkA- exhibited reduced nitrogen starvation tolerance, an indicator for a reduced autophagy rate. Our results indicate that RpkA is a component of the defense system of D. discoideum as well as other lower eukaryotes.
PMCID: PMC3206951  PMID: 22073313
12.  A comprehensive transcriptome and immune-gene repertoire of the lepidopteran model host Galleria mellonella 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:308.
The larvae of the greater wax moth Galleria mellonella are increasingly used (i) as mini-hosts to study pathogenesis and virulence factors of prominent bacterial and fungal human pathogens, (ii) as a whole-animal high throughput infection system for testing pathogen mutant libraries, and (iii) as a reliable host model to evaluate the efficacy of antibiotics against human pathogens. In order to compensate for the lack of genomic information in Galleria, we subjected the transcriptome of different developmental stages and immune-challenged larvae to next generation sequencing.
We performed a Galleria transcriptome characterization on the Roche 454-FLX platform combined with traditional Sanger sequencing to obtain a comprehensive transcriptome. To maximize sequence diversity, we pooled RNA extracted from different developmental stages, larval tissues including hemocytes, and from immune-challenged larvae and normalized the cDNA pool. We generated a total of 789,105 pyrosequencing and 12,032 high-quality Sanger EST sequences which clustered into 18,690 contigs with an average length of 1,132 bases. Approximately 40% of the ESTs were significantly similar (E ≤ e-03) to proteins of other insects, of which 45% have a reported function. We identified a large number of genes encoding proteins with established functions in immunity related sensing of microbial signatures and signaling, as well as effector molecules such as antimicrobial peptides and inhibitors of microbial proteinases. In addition, we found genes known as mediators of melanization or contributing to stress responses. Using the transcriptomic data, we identified hemolymph peptides and proteins induced upon immune challenge by 2D-gelelectrophoresis combined with mass spectrometric analysis.
Here, we have developed extensive transcriptomic resources for Galleria. The data obtained is rich in gene transcripts related to immunity, expanding remarkably our knowledge about immune and stress-inducible genes in Galleria and providing the complete sequences of genes whose primary structure have only partially been characterized using proteomic methods. The generated data provide for the first time access to the genetic architecture of immunity in this model host, allowing us to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying pathogen and parasite response and detailed analyses of both its immune responses against human pathogens, and its coevolution with entomopathogens.
PMCID: PMC3224240  PMID: 21663692
13.  Origin of land plants: Do conjugating green algae hold the key? 
The terrestrial habitat was colonized by the ancestors of modern land plants about 500 to 470 million years ago. Today it is widely accepted that land plants (embryophytes) evolved from streptophyte algae, also referred to as charophycean algae. The streptophyte algae are a paraphyletic group of green algae, ranging from unicellular flagellates to morphologically complex forms such as the stoneworts (Charales). For a better understanding of the evolution of land plants, it is of prime importance to identify the streptophyte algae that are the sister-group to the embryophytes. The Charales, the Coleochaetales or more recently the Zygnematales have been considered to be the sister group of the embryophytes However, despite many years of phylogenetic studies, this question has not been resolved and remains controversial.
Here, we use a large data set of nuclear-encoded genes (129 proteins) from 40 green plant taxa (Viridiplantae) including 21 embryophytes and six streptophyte algae, representing all major streptophyte algal lineages, to investigate the phylogenetic relationships of streptophyte algae and embryophytes. Our phylogenetic analyses indicate that either the Zygnematales or a clade consisting of the Zygnematales and the Coleochaetales are the sister group to embryophytes.
Our analyses support the notion that the Charales are not the closest living relatives of embryophytes. Instead, the Zygnematales or a clade consisting of Zygnematales and Coleochaetales are most likely the sister group of embryophytes. Although this result is in agreement with a previously published phylogenetic study of chloroplast genomes, additional data are needed to confirm this conclusion. A Zygnematales/embryophyte sister group relationship has important implications for early land plant evolution. If substantiated, it should allow us to address important questions regarding the primary adaptations of viridiplants during the conquest of land. Clearly, the biology of the Zygnematales will receive renewed interest in the future.
PMCID: PMC3088898  PMID: 21501468
14.  Comparative and functional genomics provide insights into the pathogenicity of dermatophytic fungi 
Genome Biology  2011;12(1):R7.
Millions of humans and animals suffer from superficial infections caused by a group of highly specialized filamentous fungi, the dermatophytes, which exclusively infect keratinized host structures. To provide broad insights into the molecular basis of the pathogenicity-associated traits, we report the first genome sequences of two closely phylogenetically related dermatophytes, Arthroderma benhamiae and Trichophyton verrucosum, both of which induce highly inflammatory infections in humans.
97% of the 22.5 megabase genome sequences of A. benhamiae and T. verrucosum are unambiguously alignable and collinear. To unravel dermatophyte-specific virulence-associated traits, we compared sets of potentially pathogenicity-associated proteins, such as secreted proteases and enzymes involved in secondary metabolite production, with those of closely related onygenales (Coccidioides species) and the mould Aspergillus fumigatus. The comparisons revealed expansion of several gene families in dermatophytes and disclosed the peculiarities of the dermatophyte secondary metabolite gene sets. Secretion of proteases and other hydrolytic enzymes by A. benhamiae was proven experimentally by a global secretome analysis during keratin degradation. Molecular insights into the interaction of A. benhamiae with human keratinocytes were obtained for the first time by global transcriptome profiling. Given that A. benhamiae is able to undergo mating, a detailed comparison of the genomes further unraveled the genetic basis of sexual reproduction in this species.
Our results enlighten the genetic basis of fundamental and putatively virulence-related traits of dermatophytes, advancing future research on these medically important pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3091305  PMID: 21247460
15.  Comparative gene expression in toxic versus non-toxic strains of the marine dinoflagellate Alexandrium minutum 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:248.
The dinoflagellate Alexandrium minutum typically produces paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins, which are known only from cyanobacteria and dinoflagellates. While a PSP toxin gene cluster has recently been characterized in cyanobacteria, the genetic background of PSP toxin production in dinoflagellates remains elusive.
We constructed and analysed an expressed sequence tag (EST) library of A. minutum, which contained 15,703 read sequences yielding a total of 4,320 unique expressed clusters. Of these clusters, 72% combined the forward-and reverse reads of at least one bacterial clone. This sequence resource was then used to construct an oligonucleotide microarray. We analysed the expression of all clusters in three different strains. While the cyanobacterial PSP toxin genes were not found among the A. minutum sequences, 192 genes were differentially expressed between toxic and non-toxic strains.
Based on this study and on the lack of identified PSP synthesis genes in the two existent Alexandrium tamarense EST libraries, we propose that the PSP toxin genes in dinoflagellates might be more different from their cyanobacterial counterparts than would be expected in the case of a recent gene transfer. As a starting point to identify possible PSP toxin-associated genes in dinoflagellates without relying on a priori sequence information, the sequences only present in mRNA pools of the toxic strain can be seen as putative candidates involved in toxin synthesis and regulation, or acclimation to intracellular PSP toxins.
PMCID: PMC2874808  PMID: 20403159
16.  A Cytohesin Homolog in Dictyostelium Amoebae 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9378.
Dictyostelium, an amoeboid motile cell, harbors several paralogous Sec7 genes that encode members of three distinct subfamilies of the Sec7 superfamily of Guanine nucleotide exchange factors. Among them are proteins of the GBF/BIG family present in all eukaryotes. The third subfamily represented with three members in D. discoideum is the cytohesin family that has been thought to be metazoan specific. Cytohesins are characterized by a Sec7 PH tandem domain and have roles in cell adhesion and migration.
Principal Findings
Dictyostelium SecG exhibits highest homologies to the cytohesins. It harbors at its amino terminus several ankyrin repeats that are followed by the Sec7 PH tandem domain. Mutants lacking SecG show reduced cell-substratum adhesion whereas cell-cell adhesion that is important for development is not affected. Accordingly, multicellular development proceeds normally in the mutant. During chemotaxis secG− cells elongate and migrate in a directed fashion towards cAMP, however speed is moderately reduced.
The data indicate that SecG is a relevant factor for cell-substrate adhesion and reveal the basic function of a cytohesin in a lower eukaryote.
PMCID: PMC2826412  PMID: 20186335
17.  The Smallest Known Genomes of Multicellular and Toxic Cyanobacteria: Comparison, Minimal Gene Sets for Linked Traits and the Evolutionary Implications 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9235.
Cyanobacterial morphology is diverse, ranging from unicellular spheres or rods to multicellular structures such as colonies and filaments. Multicellular species represent an evolutionary strategy to differentiate and compartmentalize certain metabolic functions for reproduction and nitrogen (N2) fixation into specialized cell types (e.g. akinetes, heterocysts and diazocytes). Only a few filamentous, differentiated cyanobacterial species, with genome sizes over 5 Mb, have been sequenced. We sequenced the genomes of two strains of closely related filamentous cyanobacterial species to yield further insights into the molecular basis of the traits of N2 fixation, filament formation and cell differentiation. Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii CS-505 is a cylindrospermopsin-producing strain from Australia, whereas Raphidiopsis brookii D9 from Brazil synthesizes neurotoxins associated with paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). Despite their different morphology, toxin composition and disjunct geographical distribution, these strains form a monophyletic group. With genome sizes of approximately 3.9 (CS-505) and 3.2 (D9) Mb, these are the smallest genomes described for free-living filamentous cyanobacteria. We observed remarkable gene order conservation (synteny) between these genomes despite the difference in repetitive element content, which accounts for most of the genome size difference between them. We show here that the strains share a specific set of 2539 genes with >90% average nucleotide identity. The fact that the CS-505 and D9 genomes are small and streamlined compared to those of other filamentous cyanobacterial species and the lack of the ability for heterocyst formation in strain D9 allowed us to define a core set of genes responsible for each trait in filamentous species. We presume that in strain D9 the ability to form proper heterocysts was secondarily lost together with N2 fixation capacity. Further comparisons to all available cyanobacterial genomes covering almost the entire evolutionary branch revealed a common minimal gene set for each of these cyanobacterial traits.
PMCID: PMC2821919  PMID: 20169071
18.  The DNA sequence of the human X chromosome 
Ross, Mark T. | Grafham, Darren V. | Coffey, Alison J. | Scherer, Steven | McLay, Kirsten | Muzny, Donna | Platzer, Matthias | Howell, Gareth R. | Burrows, Christine | Bird, Christine P. | Frankish, Adam | Lovell, Frances L. | Howe, Kevin L. | Ashurst, Jennifer L. | Fulton, Robert S. | Sudbrak, Ralf | Wen, Gaiping | Jones, Matthew C. | Hurles, Matthew E. | Andrews, T. Daniel | Scott, Carol E. | Searle, Stephen | Ramser, Juliane | Whittaker, Adam | Deadman, Rebecca | Carter, Nigel P. | Hunt, Sarah E. | Chen, Rui | Cree, Andrew | Gunaratne, Preethi | Havlak, Paul | Hodgson, Anne | Metzker, Michael L. | Richards, Stephen | Scott, Graham | Steffen, David | Sodergren, Erica | Wheeler, David A. | Worley, Kim C. | Ainscough, Rachael | Ambrose, Kerrie D. | Ansari-Lari, M. Ali | Aradhya, Swaroop | Ashwell, Robert I. S. | Babbage, Anne K. | Bagguley, Claire L. | Ballabio, Andrea | Banerjee, Ruby | Barker, Gary E. | Barlow, Karen F. | Barrett, Ian P. | Bates, Karen N. | Beare, David M. | Beasley, Helen | Beasley, Oliver | Beck, Alfred | Bethel, Graeme | Blechschmidt, Karin | Brady, Nicola | Bray-Allen, Sarah | Bridgeman, Anne M. | Brown, Andrew J. | Brown, Mary J. | Bonnin, David | Bruford, Elspeth A. | Buhay, Christian | Burch, Paula | Burford, Deborah | Burgess, Joanne | Burrill, Wayne | Burton, John | Bye, Jackie M. | Carder, Carol | Carrel, Laura | Chako, Joseph | Chapman, Joanne C. | Chavez, Dean | Chen, Ellson | Chen, Guan | Chen, Yuan | Chen, Zhijian | Chinault, Craig | Ciccodicola, Alfredo | Clark, Sue Y. | Clarke, Graham | Clee, Chris M. | Clegg, Sheila | Clerc-Blankenburg, Kerstin | Clifford, Karen | Cobley, Vicky | Cole, Charlotte G. | Conquer, Jen S. | Corby, Nicole | Connor, Richard E. | David, Robert | Davies, Joy | Davis, Clay | Davis, John | Delgado, Oliver | DeShazo, Denise | Dhami, Pawandeep | Ding, Yan | Dinh, Huyen | Dodsworth, Steve | Draper, Heather | Dugan-Rocha, Shannon | Dunham, Andrew | Dunn, Matthew | Durbin, K. James | Dutta, Ireena | Eades, Tamsin | Ellwood, Matthew | Emery-Cohen, Alexandra | Errington, Helen | Evans, Kathryn L. | Faulkner, Louisa | Francis, Fiona | Frankland, John | Fraser, Audrey E. | Galgoczy, Petra | Gilbert, James | Gill, Rachel | Glöckner, Gernot | Gregory, Simon G. | Gribble, Susan | Griffiths, Coline | Grocock, Russell | Gu, Yanghong | Gwilliam, Rhian | Hamilton, Cerissa | Hart, Elizabeth A. | Hawes, Alicia | Heath, Paul D. | Heitmann, Katja | Hennig, Steffen | Hernandez, Judith | Hinzmann, Bernd | Ho, Sarah | Hoffs, Michael | Howden, Phillip J. | Huckle, Elizabeth J. | Hume, Jennifer | Hunt, Paul J. | Hunt, Adrienne R. | Isherwood, Judith | Jacob, Leni | Johnson, David | Jones, Sally | de Jong, Pieter J. | Joseph, Shirin S. | Keenan, Stephen | Kelly, Susan | Kershaw, Joanne K. | Khan, Ziad | Kioschis, Petra | Klages, Sven | Knights, Andrew J. | Kosiura, Anna | Kovar-Smith, Christie | Laird, Gavin K. | Langford, Cordelia | Lawlor, Stephanie | Leversha, Margaret | Lewis, Lora | Liu, Wen | Lloyd, Christine | Lloyd, David M. | Loulseged, Hermela | Loveland, Jane E. | Lovell, Jamieson D. | Lozado, Ryan | Lu, Jing | Lyne, Rachael | Ma, Jie | Maheshwari, Manjula | Matthews, Lucy H. | McDowall, Jennifer | McLaren, Stuart | McMurray, Amanda | Meidl, Patrick | Meitinger, Thomas | Milne, Sarah | Miner, George | Mistry, Shailesh L. | Morgan, Margaret | Morris, Sidney | Müller, Ines | Mullikin, James C. | Nguyen, Ngoc | Nordsiek, Gabriele | Nyakatura, Gerald | O’Dell, Christopher N. | Okwuonu, Geoffery | Palmer, Sophie | Pandian, Richard | Parker, David | Parrish, Julia | Pasternak, Shiran | Patel, Dina | Pearce, Alex V. | Pearson, Danita M. | Pelan, Sarah E. | Perez, Lesette | Porter, Keith M. | Ramsey, Yvonne | Reichwald, Kathrin | Rhodes, Susan | Ridler, Kerry A. | Schlessinger, David | Schueler, Mary G. | Sehra, Harminder K. | Shaw-Smith, Charles | Shen, Hua | Sheridan, Elizabeth M. | Shownkeen, Ratna | Skuce, Carl D. | Smith, Michelle L. | Sotheran, Elizabeth C. | Steingruber, Helen E. | Steward, Charles A. | Storey, Roy | Swann, R. Mark | Swarbreck, David | Tabor, Paul E. | Taudien, Stefan | Taylor, Tineace | Teague, Brian | Thomas, Karen | Thorpe, Andrea | Timms, Kirsten | Tracey, Alan | Trevanion, Steve | Tromans, Anthony C. | d’Urso, Michele | Verduzco, Daniel | Villasana, Donna | Waldron, Lenee | Wall, Melanie | Wang, Qiaoyan | Warren, James | Warry, Georgina L. | Wei, Xuehong | West, Anthony | Whitehead, Siobhan L. | Whiteley, Mathew N. | Wilkinson, Jane E. | Willey, David L. | Williams, Gabrielle | Williams, Leanne | Williamson, Angela | Williamson, Helen | Wilming, Laurens | Woodmansey, Rebecca L. | Wray, Paul W. | Yen, Jennifer | Zhang, Jingkun | Zhou, Jianling | Zoghbi, Huda | Zorilla, Sara | Buck, David | Reinhardt, Richard | Poustka, Annemarie | Rosenthal, André | Lehrach, Hans | Meindl, Alfons | Minx, Patrick J. | Hillier, LaDeana W. | Willard, Huntington F. | Wilson, Richard K. | Waterston, Robert H. | Rice, Catherine M. | Vaudin, Mark | Coulson, Alan | Nelson, David L. | Weinstock, George | Sulston, John E. | Durbin, Richard | Hubbard, Tim | Gibbs, Richard A. | Beck, Stephan | Rogers, Jane | Bentley, David R.
Nature  2005;434(7031):325-337.
The human X chromosome has a unique biology that was shaped by its evolution as the sex chromosome shared by males and females. We have determined 99.3% of the euchromatic sequence of the X chromosome. Our analysis illustrates the autosomal origin of the mammalian sex chromosomes, the stepwise process that led to the progressive loss of recombination between X and Y, and the extent of subsequent degradation of the Y chromosome. LINE1 repeat elements cover one-third of the X chromosome, with a distribution that is consistent with their proposed role as way stations in the process of X-chromosome inactivation. We found 1,098 genes in the sequence, of which 99 encode proteins expressed in testis and in various tumour types. A disproportionately high number of mendelian diseases are documented for the X chromosome. Of this number, 168 have been explained by mutations in 113 X-linked genes, which in many cases were characterized with the aid of the DNA sequence.
PMCID: PMC2665286  PMID: 15772651
19.  High tandem repeat content in the genome of the short-lived annual fish Nothobranchius furzeri: a new vertebrate model for aging research 
Genome Biology  2009;10(2):R16.
A genomic analysis of the annual fish Nothobranchius furzeri, a vertebrate with the shortest known life span in captivity and which may provide a new model organism for aging research.
The annual fish Nothobranchius furzeri is the vertebrate with the shortest known life span in captivity. Fish of the GRZ strain live only three to four months under optimal laboratory conditions, show explosive growth, early sexual maturation and age-dependent physiological and behavioral decline, and express aging related biomarkers. Treatment with resveratrol and low temperature significantly extends the maximum life span. These features make N. furzeri a promising new vertebrate model for age research.
To contribute to establishing N. furzeri as a new model organism, we provide a first insight into its genome and a comparison to medaka, stickleback, tetraodon and zebrafish. The N. furzeri genome contains 19 chromosomes (2n = 38). Its genome of between 1.6 and 1.9 Gb is the largest among the analyzed fish species and has, at 45%, the highest repeat content. Remarkably, tandem repeats comprise 21%, which is 4-12 times more than in the other four fish species. In addition, G+C-rich tandem repeats preferentially localize to centromeric regions. Phylogenetic analysis based on coding sequences identifies medaka as the closest relative. Genotyping of an initial set of 27 markers and multi-locus fingerprinting of one microsatellite provides the first molecular evidence that the GRZ strain is highly inbred.
Our work presents a first basis for systematic genomic and genetic analyses aimed at understanding the mechanisms of life span determination in N. furzeri.
PMCID: PMC2688266  PMID: 19210790
20.  Centromere sequence and dynamics in Dictyostelium discoideum 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(6):1809-1816.
Centromeres play a pivotal role in the life of a eukaryote cell, perform an essential and conserved function, but this has not led to a standard centromere structure. It remains currently unclear, how the centromeric function is achieved by widely differing structures. Since centromeres are often large and consist mainly of repetitive sequences they have only been analyzed in great detail in a handful of organisms. The genome of Dictyostelium discoideum, a valuable model organism, was described a few years ago but its centromere organization remained largely unclear. Using available sequence information we reconstructed the putative centromere organization in three of the six chromosomes of D. discoideum. They mainly consist of one type of transposons that is confined to centromeric regions. Centromeres are dynamic due to transposon integration, but an optimal centromere size seems to exist in D. discoideum. One centromere probably has expanded recently, whereas another underwent major rearrangements.
In addition to insights into the centromere organization and dynamics of a protist eukaryote, this work also provides a starting point for the analysis of the evolution of centromere structures in social amoebas by comparative genomics.
PMCID: PMC2665215  PMID: 19179372
21.  The Actinome of Dictyostelium discoideum in Comparison to Actins and Actin-Related Proteins from Other Organisms 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(7):e2654.
Actin belongs to the most abundant proteins in eukaryotic cells which harbor usually many conventional actin isoforms as well as actin-related proteins (Arps). To get an overview over the sometimes confusing multitude of actins and Arps, we analyzed the Dictyostelium discoideum actinome in detail and compared it with the genomes from other model organisms. The D. discoideum actinome comprises 41 actins and actin-related proteins. The genome contains 17 actin genes which most likely arose from consecutive gene duplications, are all active, in some cases developmentally regulated and coding for identical proteins (Act8-group). According to published data, the actin fraction in a D. discoideum cell consists of more than 95% of these Act8-type proteins. The other 16 actin isoforms contain a conventional actin motif profile as well but differ in their protein sequences. Seven actin genes are potential pseudogenes. A homology search of the human genome using the most typical D. discoideum actin (Act8) as query sequence finds the major actin isoforms such as cytoplasmic beta-actin as best hit. This suggests that the Act8-group represents a nearly perfect actin throughout evolution. Interestingly, limited data from D. fasciculatum, a more ancient member among the social amoebae, show different relationships between conventional actins. The Act8-type isoform is most conserved throughout evolution. Modeling of the putative structures suggests that the majority of the actin-related proteins is functionally unrelated to canonical actin. The data suggest that the other actin variants are not necessary for the cytoskeleton itself but rather regulators of its dynamical features or subunits in larger protein complexes.
PMCID: PMC2441452  PMID: 18612387
22.  A first glimpse at the transcriptome of Physarum polycephalum 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:6.
Physarum polycephalum, an acellular plasmodial species belongs to the amoebozoa, a major branch in eukaryote evolution. Its complex life cycle and rich cell biology is reflected in more than 2500 publications on various aspects of its biochemistry, developmental biology, cytoskeleton, and cell motility. It now can be genetically manipulated, opening up the possibility of targeted functional analysis in this organism.
Here we describe a large fraction of the transcribed genes by sequencing a cDNA library from the plasmodial stage of the developmental cycle.
In addition to the genes for the basic metabolism we found an unexpected large number of genes involved in sophisticated signaling networks and identified potential receptors for environmental signals such as light. In accordance with the various developmental options of the plasmodial cell we found that many P. polycephalum genes are alternatively spliced. Using 30 donor and 30 acceptor sites we determined the splicing signatures of this species.
Comparisons to various other organisms including Dictyostelium, the closest relative, revealed that roughly half of the transcribed genes have no detectable counterpart, thus potentially defining species specific adaptations. On the other hand, we found highly conserved proteins, which are maintained in the metazoan lineage, but absent in D. discoideum or plants. These genes arose possibly in the last common ancestor of Amoebozoa and Metazoa but were lost in D. discoideum.
This work provides an analysis of up to half of the protein coding genes of Physarum polycephalum. The definition of splice motifs together with the description of alternatively spliced genes will provide a valuable resource for the ongoing genome project.
PMCID: PMC2258281  PMID: 18179708
23.  The ancestor of the Paulinella chromatophore obtained a carboxysomal operon by horizontal gene transfer from a Nitrococcus-like γ-proteobacterium 
Paulinella chromatophora is a freshwater filose amoeba with photosynthetic endosymbionts (chromatophores) of cyanobacterial origin that are closely related to free-living Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus species (PS-clade). Members of the PS-clade of cyanobacteria contain a proteobacterial form 1A RubisCO (ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase) that was acquired by horizontal gene transfer (HGT) of a carboxysomal operon. In rDNA-phylogenies, the Paulinella chromatophore diverged basal to the PS-clade, raising the question whether the HGT occurred before or after the split of the chromatophore ancestor.
Phylogenetic analyses of the almost complete rDNA operon with an improved taxon sampling containing most known cyanobacterial lineages recovered the Paulinella chromatophore as sister to the complete PS-clade. The sequence of the complete carboxysomal operon of Paulinella was determined. Analysis of RubisCO large subunit (rbcL) sequences revealed that Paulinella shares the proteobacterial form 1A RubisCO with the PS-clade. The γ-proteobacterium Nitrococcus mobilis was identified as sister of the Paulinella chromatophore and the PS-clade in the RubisCO phylogeny. Gene content and order in the carboxysomal operon correlates well with the RubisCO phylogeny demonstrating that the complete carboxysomal operon was acquired by the common ancestor of the Paulinella chromatophore and the PS-clade through HGT. The carboxysomal operon shows a significantly elevated AT content in Paulinella, which in the rbcL gene is confined to third codon positions. Combined phylogenies using rbcL and the rDNA-operon resulted in a nearly fully resolved tree of the PS-clade.
The HGT of the carboxysomal operon predated the divergence of the chromatophore ancestor from the PS-clade. Following HGT and divergence of the chromatophore ancestor, diversification of the PS-clade into at least three subclades occurred. The γ-proteobacterium Nitrococcus mobilis represents the closest known relative to the donor of the carboxysomal operon. The isolated position of the Paulinella chromatophore in molecular phylogenies as well as its elevated AT content suggests that the Paulinella chromatophore has already undergone typical steps in the reductive evolution of an endosymbiont.
PMCID: PMC1904183  PMID: 17550603
24.  Gain and loss of polyadenylation signals during evolution of green algae 
The Viridiplantae (green algae and land plants) consist of two monophyletic lineages: the Chlorophyta and the Streptophyta. Most green algae belong to the Chlorophyta, while the Streptophyta include all land plants and a small group of freshwater algae known as Charophyceae. Eukaryotes attach a poly-A tail to the 3' ends of most nuclear-encoded mRNAs. In embryophytes, animals and fungi, the signal for polyadenylation contains an A-rich sequence (often AAUAAA or related sequence) 13 to 30 nucleotides upstream from the cleavage site, which is commonly referred to as the near upstream element (NUE). However, it has been reported that the pentanucleotide UGUAA is used as polyadenylation signal for some genes in volvocalean algae.
We set out to investigate polyadenylation signal differences between streptophytes and chlorophytes that may have emerged shortly after the evolutionary split between Streptophyta and Chlorophyta. We therefore analyzed expressed genes (ESTs) from three streptophyte algae, Mesostigma viride, Klebsormidium subtile and Coleochaete scutata, and from two early-branching chlorophytes, Pyramimonas parkeae and Scherffelia dubia. In addition, to extend the database, our analyses included ESTs from six other chlorophytes (Acetabularia acetabulum, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, Helicosporidium sp. ex Simulium jonesii, Prototheca wickerhamii, Scenedesmus obliquus and Ulva linza) and one streptophyte (Closterium peracerosum). Our results indicate that polyadenylation signals in green algae vary widely. The UGUAA motif is confined to late-branching Chlorophyta. Most streptophyte algae do not have an A-rich sequence motif like that in embryophytes, animals and fungi. We observed polyadenylation signals similar to those of Arabidopsis and other land plants only in Mesostigma.
Polyadenylation signals in green algae show considerable variation. A new NUE (UGUAA) was invented in derived chlorophytes and replaced not only the A-rich NUE but the complete poly(A) signal in all chlorophytes investigated except Scherffelia (only NUE replaced) and Pyramimonas (UGUAA completely missing). The UGUAA element is completely absent from streptophytes. However, the structure of the poly(A) signal was often modified in streptophyte algae. In most species investigated, an A-rich NUE is missing; instead, these species seem to rely mainly on U-rich elements.
PMCID: PMC1868727  PMID: 17442103
25.  Role of RNA Polymerase III Transcription Factors in the Selection of Integration Sites by the Dictyostelium Non-Long Terminal Repeat Retrotransposon TRE5-A▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(22):8242-8251.
In the compact Dictyostelium discoideum genome, non-long terminal repeat (non-LTR) retrotransposons known as TREs avoid accidental integration-mediated gene disruption by targeting the vicinity of tRNA genes. In this study we provide the first evidence that proteins of a non-LTR retrotransposon interact with a target-specific transcription factor to direct its integration. We applied an in vivo selection system that allows for the isolation of natural TRE5-A integrations into a known genomic location upstream of tRNA genes. TRE5-A frequently modified the integration site in a way characteristic of other non-LTR retrotransposons by adding nontemplated extra nucleotides and generating small and extended target site deletions. Mutations within the B-box promoter of the targeted tRNA genes interfered with both the in vitro binding of RNA polymerase III transcription factor TFIIIC and the ability of TRE5-A to target these genes. An isolated B box was sufficient to enhance TRE5-A integration in the absence of a surrounding tRNA gene. The RNA polymerase III-transcribed ribosomal 5S gene recruits TFIIIC in a B-box-independent manner, yet it was readily targeted by TRE5-A in our assay. These results suggest a direct role of an RNA polymerase III transcription factor in the targeting process.
PMCID: PMC1636787  PMID: 16982688

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