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1.  RNA-seq of the aging brain in the short-lived fish N. furzeri – conserved pathways and novel genes associated with neurogenesis 
Aging Cell  2014;13(6):965-974.
The brains of teleost fish show extensive adult neurogenesis and neuronal regeneration. The patterns of gene regulation during fish brain aging are unknown. The short-lived teleost fish Nothobranchius furzeri shows markers of brain aging including reduced learning performances, gliosis, and reduced adult neurogenesis. We used RNA-seq to quantify genome-wide transcript regulation and sampled five different time points to characterize whole-genome transcript regulation during brain aging of N. furzeri. Comparison with human datasets revealed conserved up-regulation of ribosome, lysosome, and complement activation and conserved down-regulation of synapse, mitochondrion, proteasome, and spliceosome. Down-regulated genes differ in their temporal profiles: neurogenesis and extracellular matrix genes showed rapid decay, synaptic and axonal genes a progressive decay. A substantial proportion of differentially expressed genes (∼40%) showed inversion of their temporal profiles in the last time point: spliceosome and proteasome showed initial down-regulation and stress-response genes initial up-regulation. Extensive regulation was detected for chromatin remodelers of the DNMT and CBX families as well as members of the polycomb complex and was mirrored by an up-regulation of the H3K27me3 epigenetic mark. Network analysis showed extensive coregulation of cell cycle/DNA synthesis genes with the uncharacterized zinc-finger protein ZNF367 as central hub. In situ hybridization showed that ZNF367 is expressed in neuronal stem cell niches of both embryonic zebrafish and adult N. furzeri. Other genes down-regulated with age, not previously associated with adult neurogenesis and with similar patterns of expression are AGR2, DNMT3A, KRCP, MEX3A, SCML4, and CBX1. CBX7, on the other hand, was up-regulated with age.
PMCID: PMC4326923  PMID: 25059688
animal model; brain aging; epigenetics; gene expression; neural stem cells; neurogenesis; teleost; transcriptomics
2.  The strange case of East African annual fishes: aridification correlates with diversification for a savannah aquatic group? 
BMC Evolutionary Biology  2014;14(1):210.
Annual Nothobranchius fishes are distributed in East and Southern Africa and inhabit ephemeral pools filled during the monsoon season. Nothobranchius show extreme life-history adaptations: embryos survive by entering diapause and they are the vertebrates with the fastest maturation and the shortest lifespan. The distribution of Nothobranchius overlaps with the East Africa Rift System. The geological and paleoclimatic history of this region is known in detail: in particular, aridification of East Africa and expansion of grassland habitats started 8 Mya and three humid periods between 3 and 1 Mya are superimposed on the longer-term aridification. These climatic oscillations are thought to have shaped evolution of savannah African mammals. We reconstructed the phylogeny of Nothobranchius and dated the different stages of diversification in relation to these paleoclimatic events.
We sequenced one mitochondrial locus and five nuclear loci in 63 specimens and obtained a robust phylogeny. Nothobranchius can be divided in four geographically separated clades whose boundaries largely correspond to the East Africa Rift system. Statistical analysis of dispersal and vicariance identifies a Nilo-Sudan origin with southwards dispersion and confirmed that these four clades are the result of vicariance events In the absence of fossil Nothobranchius, molecular clock was calibrated using more distant outgroups (secondary calibration). This method estimates the age of the Nothobranchius genus to be 8.3 (6.0 – 10.7) My and the separation of the four clades 4.8 (2.7-7.0) Mya. Diversification within the clades was estimated to have started ~3 Mya and most species pairs were estimated to have an age of 0.5-1 My.
The mechanism of Nothobranchius diversification was allopatric and driven by geographic isolation. We propose a scenario where diversification of Nothobranchius started in rough coincidence with aridification of East Africa, establishment of grassland habitats and the appearance of the typical African bovid fauna of the savannah. Although confidence intervals for the estimated ages of the four Nothobranchius clades are quite large, this scenario is compatible with the biology of extant Nothobranchius that are critically dependent on savannah habitats. Therefore, Nothobranchius diversification might have been shaped by the same paleoclimatic events that shaped African ungulate evolution.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12862-014-0210-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4209228  PMID: 25311226
Killifish; allopatric speciation; life history evolution; evolution of aging; Africa biogeography
3.  Transcriptome profiling of natural dichromatism in the annual fishes Nothobranchius furzeri and Nothobranchius kadleci 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):754.
The annual fish Nothobranchius furzeri is characterized by a natural dichromatism with yellow-tailed and red-tailed male individuals. These differences are due to different distributions of xanthophores and erythrophores in the two morphs. Previous crossing studies have showed that dichromatism in N. furzeri is inherited as a simple Mendelian trait with the yellow morph dominant over the red morph. The causative genetic variation was mapped by linkage analysis in a chromosome region containing the Mc1r locus. However, subsequent mapping showed that Mc1r is most likely not responsible for the color difference in N. furzeri. To gain further insight into the molecular basis of this phenotype, we performed RNA-seq on F2 progeny of a cross between N. furzeri male and N. kadleci female.
We identified 210 differentially-expressed genes between yellow and red fin samples. Functional annotation analysis revealed that genes with higher transcript levels in the yellow morph are enriched for the melanin synthesis pathway indicating that xanthophores are more similar to melanophores than are the erythrophores. Genes with higher expression levels in red-tails included xanthine dehydrogenase (Xdh), coding for a biosynthetic enzyme in the pteridine synthesis pathway, and genes related to muscle contraction. Comparison of DEGs obtained in this study with genes associated with pigmentation in the Midas cichlid (A. citrinellus) reveal similarities like involvement of the melanin biosynthesis pathway, the genes Ptgir, Rasef (RAS and EF-hand domain containing), as well as genes primarily expressed in muscle such as Ttn and Ttnb (titin, titin b).
Regulation of genes in the melanin synthetic pathway is an expected finding and shows that N. furzeri is a genetically-tractable species for studying the genetic basis of natural phenotypic variations. The current list of differentially-expressed genes can be compared with the results of fine-mapping, to reveal the genetic architecture of this natural phenotype. However, an evolutionarily-conserved role of muscle-related genes in tail fin pigmentation is novel finding and interesting perspective for the future.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-754) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4168119  PMID: 25183398
Tail pigmentation; Functional Annotation Clustering; Melanin biosynthesis pathway; Xanthophore; Erythrophore; Muscle genes
4.  Physiological state co-regulates thousands of mammalian mRNA splicing events at tandem splice sites and alternative exons 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(14):8895-8904.
Thousands of tandem alternative splice sites (TASS) give rise to mRNA insertion/deletion variants with small size differences. Recent work has concentrated on the question of biological relevance in general, and the physiological regulation of TASS in particular. We have quantitatively studied 11 representative TASS cases in comparison to one mutually exclusive exon case and two cassette exons (CEs) using a panel of human and mouse tissues, as well as cultured cell lines. Tissues show small but significant differences in TASS isoform ratios, with a variance 4- to 20-fold lower than seen for CEs. Remarkably, in cultured cells, all studied alternative splicing (AS) cases showed a cell-density-dependent shift of isoform ratios with similar time series profiles. A respective genome-wide co-regulation of TASS splicing was shown by next-generation mRNA sequencing data. Moreover, data from human and mouse organs indicate that this co-regulation of TASS occurs in vivo, with brain showing the strongest difference to other organs. Together, the results indicate a physiological AS regulation mechanism that functions almost independently from the splice site context and sequence.
PMCID: PMC4132704  PMID: 25030907
5.  Role of Sirtuins in Lifespan Regulation is Linked to Methylation of Nicotinamide 
Nature chemical biology  2013;9(11):693-700.
Sirtuins, a family of histone deacetylases, have a fiercely debated role in regulating lifespan. Contrasting recent observations, we here find that overexpression of sir-2.1, the orthologue of mammalian SirT1, does extend C. elegans lifespan. Sirtuins mandatorily convert NAD+ into nicotinamide (NAM). We here find that NAM and its metabolite, 1-methylnicotinamide (MNA), extend C. elegans lifespan, even in the absence of sir-2.1. We identify anmt-1 to encode a C. elegans orthologue of nicotinamide-N-methyltransferase (NNMT), the enzyme that methylates NAM to generate MNA. Disruption and overexpression of anmt-1 have opposing effects on lifespan independent of sirtuins, with loss of anmt-1 fully inhibiting sir-2.1-mediated lifespan extension. MNA serves as a substrate for a newly identified aldehyde oxidase, GAD-3, to generate hydrogen peroxide acting as a mitohormetic ROS signal to promote C. elegans longevity. Taken together, sirtuin-mediated lifespan extension depends on methylation of NAM, providing an unexpected mechanistic role for sirtuins beyond histone deacetylation.
PMCID: PMC4076143  PMID: 24077178
6.  The age related markers lipofuscin and apoptosis show different genetic architecture by QTL mapping in short-lived Nothobranchius fish 
Aging (Albany NY)  2014;6(6):468-480.
Annual fish of the genus Nothobranchius show large variations in lifespan and expression of age-related phenotypes between closely related populations. We studied N. kadleci and its sister species N. furzeri GRZ strain, and found that N.kadleci is longer-lived than the N. furzeri. Lipofuscin and apoptosis measured in the liver increased with age in N. kadleci with different profiles: lipofuscin increased linearly, while apoptosis declined in the oldest animals. More lipofuscin (P < 0.001) and apoptosis (P < 0.001) was observed in N. furzeri than in N. kadleci at 16w age. Lipofuscin and apoptotic cells were then quantified in hybrids from the mating of N. furzeri to N. kadleci. F1 individuals showed heterosis for lipofuscin but additive effects for apoptosis. These two age-related phenotypes were not correlated in F2 hybrids. Quantitative trait loci analysis of 287 F2 fish using 237 markers identified two QTL accounting for 10% of lipofuscin variance (P < 0.001) with overdominance effect. Apoptotic cells revealed three significant- and two suggestive QTL explaining 19% of variance (P < 0.001), showing additive and dominance effects, and two interacting loci. Our results show that lipofuscin and apoptosis are markers of different age-dependent biological processes controlled by different genetic mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC4100809  PMID: 25093339
Nothobranchius; lifespan; lipofuscin; apoptosis; quantitative trait loci; aging
7.  Characterization of a Novel Picornavirus Isolate from a Diseased European Eel (Anguilla anguilla) 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(19):10895-10899.
A novel picornavirus was isolated from specimens of a diseased European eel (Anguilla anguilla). This virus induced a cytopathic effect in eel embryonic kidney cells and high mortality in a controlled transmission study using elvers. Eel picornavirus has a genome of 7,496 nucleotides that encodes a polyprotein of 2,259 amino acids. It has a typical picornavirus genome layout, but its low similarity to known viral proteins suggests a novel species in the family Picornaviridae.
PMCID: PMC3807381  PMID: 23885066
8.  RepARK—de novo creation of repeat libraries from whole-genome NGS reads 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(9):e80.
Generation of repeat libraries is a critical step for analysis of complex genomes. In the era of next-generation sequencing (NGS), such libraries are usually produced using a whole-genome shotgun (WGS) derived reference sequence whose completeness greatly influences the quality of derived repeat libraries. We describe here a de novo repeat assembly method—RepARK (Repetitive motif detection by Assembly of Repetitive K-mers)—which avoids potential biases by using abundant k-mers of NGS WGS reads without requiring a reference genome. For validation, repeat consensuses derived from simulated and real Drosophila melanogaster NGS WGS reads were compared to repeat libraries generated by four established methods. RepARK is orders of magnitude faster than the other methods and generates libraries that are: (i) composed almost entirely of repetitive motifs, (ii) more comprehensive and (iii) almost completely annotated by TEclass. Additionally, we show that the RepARK method is applicable to complex genomes like human and can even serve as a diagnostic tool to identify repetitive sequences contaminating NGS datasets.
PMCID: PMC4027187  PMID: 24634442
9.  Narrowing down the distal border of the copy number variable beta-defensin gene cluster on human 8p23 
BMC Research Notes  2014;7:93.
Copy number variation (CNV) in the range from 2 to 12 per diploid genome is an outstanding feature of the beta-defensin gene (DEFB) cluster on human chromosome 8p23.1 numerously demonstrated by different methods. So far, CNV was proven for a 115 kb region between DEFB4 and 21 kb proximal of DEFB107 but the borders for the entire CNV repeat unit are still unknown. Our study aimed to narrow down the distal border of the DEFB cluster.
We established tests for length polymorphisms based on amplification and capillary electrophoresis with laser-induced fluorescence (CE-LIF) analysis of seven insertion/deletion (indel) containing regions spread over the entire cluster. The tests were carried out with 25 genomic DNAs with different previously determined cluster copy numbers. CNV was demonstrated for six indels between ~1 kb distal of DEFB108P and 10 kb proximal of DEFB107. In contrast, the most distal indel is not affected by CNV.
Our analysis fixes the minimal length of proven CNV to 157 kb including DEFB108P but excluding DEFB109P. The distal border between CNV and non-CNV part of the DEF cluster is located in the 59 kb interval chr8:7,171,082-7,230,128.
PMCID: PMC3942070  PMID: 24552181
Defensin; CNV borders; Length polymorphism; Paralog ratio test; Indel; DEFB108P; DEFB109P
10.  8p23 beta-defensin copy number determination by single-locus pseudogene-based paralog ratio tests risk bias due to low-frequency sequence variations 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:64.
The copy number variation (CNV) in beta-defensin genes (DEFB) on human chromosome 8p23 has been proposed to contribute to the phenotypic differences in inflammatory diseases. However, determination of exact DEFB CN is a major challenge in association studies. Quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR), paralog ratio tests (PRT) and multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) have been extensively used to determine DEFB CN in different laboratories, but inter-method inconsistencies were observed frequently. In this study we asked which one is superior among the three methods for DEFB CN determination.
We developed a clustering approach for MLPA and PRT to statistically correlate data from a single experiment. Then we compared qPCR, a newly designed PRT and MLPA for DEFB CN determination in 285 DNA samples. We found MLPA had the best convergence and clustering results of the raw data and the highest call rate. In addition, the concordance rates between MLPA or PRT and qPCR (32.12% and 37.99%, respectively) were unacceptably low with underestimated CN by qPCR. Concordance rate between MLPA and PRT (90.52%) was high but PRT systematically underestimated CN by one in a subset of samples. In these samples a sequence variant which caused complete PCR dropout of the respective DEFB cluster copies was found in one primer binding site of one of the targeted paralogous pseudogenes.
MLPA is superior to PRT and even more to qPCR for DEFB CN determination. Although the applied PRT provides in most cases reliable results, such a test is particularly sensitive to low-frequency sequence variations preferably accumulating in loci like pseudogenes which are most likely not under selective pressure. In the light of the superior performance of multiplex assays, the drawbacks of such single PRTs could be overcome by combining more test markers.
PMCID: PMC3937106  PMID: 24460793
Beta-defensin; Copy number variation; Quantitative real-time PCR; Paralog ratio tests; Multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification; Clustering; Pseudogene; Low frequency sequence variations
11.  Mutation in ST6GALNAC5 identified in family with coronary artery disease 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:3595.
We aimed to identify the genetic cause of coronary artery disease (CAD) in an Iranian pedigree. Genetic linkage analysis identified three loci with an LOD score of 2.2. Twelve sequence variations identified by exome sequencing were tested for segregation with disease. A p.Val99Met causing mutation in ST6GALNAC5 was considered the likely cause of CAD. ST6GALNAC5 encodes sialyltransferase 7e. The variation affects a highly conserved amino acid, was absent in 800 controls, and was predicted to damage protein function. ST6GALNAC5 is positioned within loci previously linked to CAD-associated parameters. While hypercholesterolemia was a prominent feature in the family, clinical and genetic data suggest that this condition is not caused by the mutation in ST6GALNAC5. Sequencing of ST6GALNAC5 in 160 Iranian patients revealed a candidate causative stop-loss mutation in two other patients. The p.Val99Met and stop-loss mutations both caused increased sialyltransferase activity. Sequence data from combined Iranian and US controls and CAD affected individuals provided evidence consistent with potential role of ST6GALNAC5 in CAD. We conclude that ST6GALNAC5 mutations can cause CAD. There is substantial literature suggesting a relation between sialyltransferase and sialic acid levels and coronary disease. Our findings provide strong evidence for the existence of this relation.
PMCID: PMC3884232  PMID: 24399302
12.  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
13.  Extension of Life Span by Impaired Glucose Metabolism in Caenorhabditis elegans Is Accompanied by Structural Rearrangements of the Transcriptomic Network 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77776.
Glucose restriction mimicked by feeding the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans with 2-deoxy-D-glucose (DOG) - a glucose molecule that lacks the ability to undergo glycolysis - has been found to increase the life span of the nematodes considerably. To facilitate understanding of the molecular mechanisms behind this life extension, we analyzed transcriptomes of DOG-treated and untreated roundworms obtained by RNA-seq at different ages. We found that, depending on age, DOG changes the magnitude of the expression values of about 2 to 24 percent of the genes significantly, although our results reveal that the gross changes introduced by DOG are small compared to the age-induced changes. We found that 27 genes are constantly either up- or down-regulated by DOG over the whole life span, among them several members of the cytochrome P450 family. The monotonic change with age of the temporal expression patterns of the genes was investigated, leading to the result that 21 genes reverse their monotonic behaviour under impaired glycolysis. Put simply, the DOG-treatment reduces the gross transcriptional activity but increases the interconnectedness of gene expression. However, a detailed analysis of network parameters discloses that the introduced changes differ remarkably between individual signalling pathways. We found a reorganization of the hubs of the mTOR pathway when standard diet is replaced by DOG feeding. By constructing correlation based difference networks, we identified those signalling pathways that are most vigorously changed by impaired glycolysis. Taken together, we have found a number of genes and pathways that are potentially involved in the DOG-driven extension of life span of C. elegans. Furthermore, our results demonstrate how the network structure of ageing-relevant signalling pathways is reorganised under impaired glycolysis.
PMCID: PMC3813781  PMID: 24204961
14.  Alternative 5’ Untranslated Regions Are Involved in Expression Regulation of Human Heme Oxygenase-1 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77224.
The single nucleotide polymorphism rs2071746 and a (GT)n microsatellite within the human gene encoding heme oxygenase-1 (HMOX1) are associated with incidence or outcome in a variety of diseases. Most of these associations involve either release of heme or oxidative stress. Both polymorphisms are localized in the promoter region, but previously reported correlations with heme oxygenase-1 expression remain not coherent. This ambiguity suggests a more complex organization of the 5’ gene region which we sought to investigate more fully.
We evaluated the 5‘ end of HMOX1 and found a novel first exon 1a placing the two previously reported polymorphisms in intronic or exonic positions within the 5’ untranslated region respectively. Expression of exon 1a can be induced in HepG2 hepatoma cells by hemin and is a repressor of heme oxygenase-1 translation as shown by luciferase reporter assays. Moreover, minigene approaches revealed that the quantitative outcome of alternative splicing within the 5’ untranslated region is affected by the (GT)n microsatellite.
This data supporting an extended HMOX1 gene model and provide further insights into expression regulation of heme oxygenase-1. Alternative splicing within the HMOX1 5' untranslated region contributes to translational regulation and is a mechanistic feature involved in the interplay between genetic variations, heme oxygenase-1 expression and disease outcome.
PMCID: PMC3788786  PMID: 24098580
15.  Novel CIC Point Mutations and an Exon-Spanning, Homozygous Deletion Identified in Oligodendroglial Tumors by a Comprehensive Genomic Approach Including Transcriptome Sequencing 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e76623.
Oligodendroglial tumors form a distinct subgroup of gliomas, characterized by a better response to treatment and prolonged overall survival. Most oligodendrogliomas and also some oligoastrocytomas are characterized by a unique and typical unbalanced translocation, der(1,19), resulting in a 1p/19q co-deletion. Candidate tumor suppressor genes targeted by these losses, CIC on 19q13.2 and FUBP1 on 1p31.1, were only recently discovered. We analyzed 17 oligodendrogliomas and oligoastrocytomas by applying a comprehensive approach consisting of RNA expression analysis, DNA sequencing of CIC, FUBP1, IDH1/2, and array CGH. We confirmed three different genetic subtypes in our samples: i) the “oligodendroglial” subtype with 1p/19q co-deletion in twelve out of 17 tumors; ii) the “astrocytic” subtype in three tumors; iii) the “other” subtype in two tumors. All twelve tumors with the 1p/19q co-deletion carried the most common IDH1 R132H mutation. In seven of these tumors, we found protein-disrupting point mutations in the remaining allele of CIC, four of which are novel. One of these tumors also had a deleterious mutation in FUBP1. Only by integrating RNA expression and array CGH data, were we able to discover an exon-spanning homozygous microdeletion within the remaining allele of CIC in an additional tumor with 1p/19q co-deletion. Therefore we propose that the mutation rate might be underestimated when looking at sequence variants alone. In conclusion, the high frequency and the spectrum of CIC mutations in our 1p/19q-codeleted tumor cohort support the hypothesis that CIC acts as a tumor suppressor in these tumors, whereas FUBP1 might play only a minor role.
PMCID: PMC3785522  PMID: 24086756
16.  Distribution, functional impact, and origin mechanisms of copy number variation in the barley genome 
Genome Biology  2013;14(6):R58.
There is growing evidence for the prevalence of copy number variation (CNV) and its role in phenotypic variation in many eukaryotic species. Here we use array comparative genomic hybridization to explore the extent of this type of structural variation in domesticated barley cultivars and wild barleys.
A collection of 14 barley genotypes including eight cultivars and six wild barleys were used for comparative genomic hybridization. CNV affects 14.9% of all the sequences that were assessed. Higher levels of CNV diversity are present in the wild accessions relative to cultivated barley. CNVs are enriched near the ends of all chromosomes except 4H, which exhibits the lowest frequency of CNVs. CNV affects 9.5% of the coding sequences represented on the array and the genes affected by CNV are enriched for sequences annotated as disease-resistance proteins and protein kinases. Sequence-based comparisons of CNV between cultivars Barke and Morex provided evidence that DNA repair mechanisms of double-strand breaks via single-stranded annealing and synthesis-dependent strand annealing play an important role in the origin of CNV in barley.
We present the first catalog of CNVs in a diploid Triticeae species, which opens the door for future genome diversity research in a tribe that comprises the economically important cereal species wheat, barley, and rye. Our findings constitute a valuable resource for the identification of CNV affecting genes of agronomic importance. We also identify potential mechanisms that can generate variation in copy number in plant genomes.
PMCID: PMC3706897  PMID: 23758725
Barley, Copy number variation; Comparative genomic hybridization; Disease-resistance genes; Double-strand break repair mechanisms
17.  Comparative evaluation of establishing a human gut microbial community within rodent models 
Gut Microbes  2012;3(3):234-249.
The structure of the human gut microbial community is determined by host genetics and environmental factors, where alterations in its structure have been associated with the onset of different diseases. Establishing a defined human gut microbial community within inbred rodent models provides a means to study microbial-related pathologies, however, an in-depth comparison of the established human gut microbiota in the different models is lacking. We compared the efficiency of establishing the bacterial component of a defined human microbial community within germ-free (GF) rats, GF mice and antibiotic-treated specific pathogen-free mice. Remarkable differences were observed between the different rodent models. While the majority of abundant human-donor bacterial phylotypes were established in the GF rats, only a subset was present in the GF mice. Despite the fact that members of the phylum Bacteriodetes were well established in all rodent models, mice enriched for phylotypes related to species of Bacteroides. In contrary to the efficiency of Clostridiales to populate the GF rat in relative proportions to that of the human-donor, members of Clostridia cluster IV only poorly colonize the mouse gut. Thus, the genetic background of the different recipient rodent systems (that is, rats and mice) strongly influences the nature of the populating human gut microbiota, determining each model’s biological suitability.
PMCID: PMC3427216  PMID: 22572831
Keywords: human intestinal microbiota; bacterial community; germ-free; gnotobiotic; rats and mice; T-RFLP; 454-pyrosequencing; F/B ratio; multivariate statistical analysis
18.  The transcript catalogue of the short-lived fish Nothobranchius furzeri provides insights into age-dependent changes of mRNA levels 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:185.
The African annual fish Nothobranchius furzeri has over recent years been established as a model species for ageing-related studies. This is mainly based on its exceptionally short lifespan and the presence of typical characteristics of vertebrate ageing. To substantiate its role as an alternative vertebrate ageing model, a transcript catalogue is needed, which can serve e.g. as basis for identifying ageing-related genes.
To build the N. furzeri transcript catalogue, thirteen cDNA libraries were sequenced using Sanger, 454/Roche and Solexa/Illumina technologies yielding about 39 Gb. In total, 19,875 protein-coding genes were identified and annotated. Of these, 71% are represented by at least one transcript contig with a complete coding sequence. Further, transcript levels of young and old fish of the strains GRZ and MZM-0403, which differ in lifespan by twofold, were studied by RNA-seq. In skin and brain, 85 differentially expressed genes were detected; these have a role in cell cycle control and proliferation, inflammation and tissue maintenance. An RNA-seq experiment for zebrafish skin confirmed the ageing-related relevance of the findings in N. furzeri. Notably, analyses of transcript levels between zebrafish and N. furzeri but also between N. furzeri strains differed largely, suggesting that ageing is accelerated in the short-lived N. furzeri strain GRZ compared to the longer-lived strain MZM-0403.
We provide a comprehensive, annotated N. furzeri transcript catalogue and a first transcriptome-wide insight into N. furzeri ageing. This data will serve as a basis for future functional studies of ageing-related genes.
PMCID: PMC3605293  PMID: 23496936
Nothobranchius furzeri; Model fish species; Ageing; Transcriptome assembly; Transcript catalogue; Gene expression; RNA-seq
19.  Neuronal ROS signaling rather than AMPK/sirtuin-mediated energy sensing links dietary restriction to lifespan extension 
Molecular Metabolism  2013;2(2):92-102.
Dietary restriction (DR) extends lifespan and promotes metabolic health in evolutionary distinct species. DR is widely believed to promote longevity by causing an energy deficit leading to increased mitochondrial respiration. We here show that inhibitors of mitochondrial complex I promote physical activity, stress resistance as well as lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans despite normal food uptake, i.e. in the absence of DR. However, complex I inhibition does not further extend lifespan in dietarily restricted nematodes, indicating that impaired complex I activity mimics DR. Promotion of longevity due to complex I inhibition occurs independently of known energy sensors, including DAF-16/FoxO, as well as AAK-2/AMPK and SIR-2.1/sirtuins, or both. Consistent with the concept of mitohormesis, complex I inhibition transiently increases mitochondrial formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that activate PMK-1/p38 MAP kinase and SKN-1/NRF-2. Interference with this retrograde redox signal as well as ablation of two redox-sensitive neurons in the head of the worm similarly prevents extension of lifespan. These findings unexpectedly indicate that DR extends organismal lifespan through transient neuronal ROS signaling rather than sensing of energy depletion, providing unexpected pharmacological options to promote exercise capacity and healthspan despite unaltered eating habits.
PMCID: PMC3817383  PMID: 24199155
DAF, abnormal dauer formation; AAK, C. elegans AMP-activated protein kinase; SIR, yeast silent information regulator related; SKN, skinhead; PMK, C. elegans p38 map kinase family; FoxO, forkhead box protein O; NRF, nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor; EAT, eating: abnormal pharyngeal pumping; MPTP, 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine; BHA, butylated hydroxyl-anisole; Caenorhabditis elegans; Aging; Dietary restriction; Mitochondria; Mitohormesis; Redox signaling; Reactive oxygen species
20.  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
21.  Association studies of the copy-number variable ß-defensin cluster on 8p23.1 in adenocarcinoma and chronic pancreatitis 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:629.
Human ß-defensins are a family of antimicrobial peptides located at the mucosal surface. Both sequence multi-site variations (MSV) and copy-number variants (CNV) of the defensin-encoding genes are associated with increased risk for various diseases, including cancer and inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis and acute pancreatitis. In a case–control study, we investigated the association between MSV in DEFB104 as well as defensin gene (DEF) cluster copy number (CN), and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) and chronic pancreatitis (CP).
Two groups of PDAC (N=70) and CP (N=60) patients were compared to matched healthy control groups CARLA1 (N=232) and CARLA2 (N=160), respectively. Four DEFB104 MSV were haplotyped by PCR, cloning and sequencing. DEF cluster CN was determined by multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification.
Neither the PDAC nor the CP cohorts show significant differences in the DEFB104 haplotype distribution compared to the respective control groups CARLA1 and CARLA2, respectively.
The diploid DEF cluster CN exhibit a significantly different distribution between PDAC and CARLA1 (Fisher’s exact test P=0.027), but not between CP and CARLA2 (P=0.867).
Different DEF cluster b CN distribution between PDAC patients and healthy controls indicate a potential protective effect of higher CNs against the disease.
PMCID: PMC3532138  PMID: 23148552
Defensins; Single nucleotide variants; Copy number variation; Chronic pancreatitis; Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma
22.  Sequencing of 21 Varicella-Zoster Virus Genomes Reveals Two Novel Genotypes and Evidence of Recombination 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(3):1608-1622.
Genotyping of 21 varicella-zoster virus (VZV) strains using a scattered single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) method revealed ambiguous SNPs and two nontypeable isolates. For a further genetic characterization, the genomes of all strains were sequenced using the 454 technology. Almost-complete genome sequences were assembled, and most remaining gaps were closed with Sanger sequencing. Phylogenetic analysis of 42 genomes revealed five established and two novel VZV genotypes, provisionally termed VIII and IX. Genotypes VIII and IX are distinct from the previously reported provisional genotypes VI and VII as judged from the SNP pattern. The alignments showed evidence of ancient recombination events in the phylogeny of clade 4 and recent recombinations within single strains: 3/2005 (clade 1), 11 and 405/2007 (clade 3), 8 and DR (clade 4), CA123 and 413/2000 (clade 5), and strains of the novel genotypes VIII and IX. Bayesian tree inference of the thymidine kinase and the polymerase genes of the VZV clades and other varicelloviruses revealed that VZV radiation began some 110,000 years ago, which correlates with the out-of-Africa dispersal of modern humans. The split of ancestral clades 2/4 and 1/3/5/VIII/IX shows the greatest node height.
PMCID: PMC3264370  PMID: 22130537
23.  Sequence Composition and Gene Content of the Short Arm of Rye (Secale cereale) Chromosome 1 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e30784.
The purpose of the study is to elucidate the sequence composition of the short arm of rye chromosome 1 (Secale cereale) with special focus on its gene content, because this portion of the rye genome is an integrated part of several hundreds of bread wheat varieties worldwide.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Multiple Displacement Amplification of 1RS DNA, obtained from flow sorted 1RS chromosomes, using 1RS ditelosomic wheat-rye addition line, and subsequent Roche 454FLX sequencing of this DNA yielded 195,313,589 bp sequence information. This quantity of sequence information resulted in 0.43× sequence coverage of the 1RS chromosome arm, permitting the identification of genes with estimated probability of 95%. A detailed analysis revealed that more than 5% of the 1RS sequence consisted of gene space, identifying at least 3,121 gene loci representing 1,882 different gene functions. Repetitive elements comprised about 72% of the 1RS sequence, Gypsy/Sabrina (13.3%) being the most abundant. More than four thousand simple sequence repeat (SSR) sites mostly located in gene related sequence reads were identified for possible marker development. The existence of chloroplast insertions in 1RS has been verified by identifying chimeric chloroplast-genomic sequence reads. Synteny analysis of 1RS to the full genomes of Oryza sativa and Brachypodium distachyon revealed that about half of the genes of 1RS correspond to the distal end of the short arm of rice chromosome 5 and the proximal region of the long arm of Brachypodium distachyon chromosome 2. Comparison of the gene content of 1RS to 1HS barley chromosome arm revealed high conservation of genes related to chromosome 5 of rice.
The present study revealed the gene content and potential gene functions on this chromosome arm and demonstrated numerous sequence elements like SSRs and gene-related sequences, which can be utilised for future research as well as in breeding of wheat and rye.
PMCID: PMC3273464  PMID: 22328922
24.  Coevolution of aah: A dps-Like Gene with the Host Bacterium Revealed by Comparative Genomic Analysis 
The Scientific World Journal  2012;2012:504905.
A protein named AAH was isolated from the bacterium Microbacterium arborescens SE14, a gut commensal of the lepidopteran larvae. It showed not only a high sequence similarity to Dps-like proteins (DNA-binding proteins from starved cell) but also reversible hydrolase activity. A comparative genomic analysis was performed to gain more insights into its evolution. The GC profile of the aah gene indicated that it was evolved from a low GC ancestor. Its stop codon usage was also different from the general pattern of Actinobacterial genomes. The phylogeny of dps-like proteins showed strong correlation with the phylogeny of host bacteria. A conserved genomic synteny was identified in some taxonomically related Actinobacteria, suggesting that the ancestor genes had incorporated into the genome before the divergence of Micrococcineae from other families. The aah gene had evolved new function but still retained the typical dodecameric structure.
PMCID: PMC3289904  PMID: 22454608
25.  RNA Sequencing Reveals Differential Expression of Mitochondrial and Oxidation Reduction Genes in the Long-Lived Naked Mole-Rat When Compared to Mice 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e26729.
The naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber) is a long-lived, cancer resistant rodent and there is a great interest in identifying the adaptations responsible for these and other of its unique traits. We employed RNA sequencing to compare liver gene expression profiles between naked mole-rats and wild-derived mice. Our results indicate that genes associated with oxidoreduction and mitochondria were expressed at higher relative levels in naked mole-rats. The largest effect is nearly 300-fold higher expression of epithelial cell adhesion molecule (Epcam), a tumour-associated protein. Also of interest are the protease inhibitor, alpha2-macroglobulin (A2m), and the mitochondrial complex II subunit Sdhc, both ageing-related genes found strongly over-expressed in the naked mole-rat. These results hint at possible candidates for specifying species differences in ageing and cancer, and in particular suggest complex alterations in mitochondrial and oxidation reduction pathways in the naked mole-rat. Our differential gene expression analysis obviated the need for a reference naked mole-rat genome by employing a combination of Illumina/Solexa and 454 platforms for transcriptome sequencing and assembling transcriptome contigs of the non-sequenced species. Overall, our work provides new research foci and methods for studying the naked mole-rat's fascinating characteristics.
PMCID: PMC3207814  PMID: 22073188

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