There are no mucosal adjuvant formulations licensed for human use, despite protection against many mucosally-transmitted infections probably requiring immunity at the site of pathogen entry1. Polyethyleneimines (PEI) are organic polycations used as nucleic acid transfection reagents in vitro, and gene and DNA vaccine delivery vehicles in vivo2, 3. Here we show that PEI has unexpected and unusually potent mucosal adjuvant activity in conjunction with viral subunit glycoprotein antigens. Single intranasal administration of influenza HA or HSV-2 gD with PEI elicited robust protection from otherwise lethal infection, and was superior to existing experimental mucosal adjuvants. PEI formed nanoscale complexes with antigen that were taken up by antigen presenting cells in vitro and in vivo, promoted DC trafficking to draining lymph nodes and induced non-proinflammatory cytokine responses. PEI adjuvanticity required release of host dsDNA that triggered Irf-3-dependent signaling. PEI therefore merits further investigation as a mucosal adjuvant for human use.
mucosal adjuvant; influenza HA; HSV-2 gD; HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein; innate immunity; adaptive immunity
The setup of synthetic biological systems involving millions of bases is still limited by the required high quality of synthetic DNA. Important drivers to further open up the field are the accuracy and scale of chemical DNA synthesis and the downstream processing of longer DNA assembled from short fragments. We developed a new, highly parallel and miniaturized method for the preparation of high quality DNA termed “Megacloning” by using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology in a preparative way. We demonstrate our method by processing both conventional and microarray-derived DNA oligonucleotides in combination with a bead-based high throughput pyrosequencing platform, gaining a 500-fold error reduction for microarray oligonucleotides in a first embodiment. We also show the assembly of synthetic genes as part of the Megacloning process. In principle, up to millions of DNA fragments can be sequenced, characterized and sorted in a single Megacloner run, enabling many new applications.
Massively-parallel cDNA sequencing has opened the way to deep and efficient probing of transcriptomes. Current approaches for transcript reconstruction from such data often rely on aligning reads to a reference genome, and are thus unsuitable for samples with a partial or missing reference genome. Here, we present the Trinity methodology for de novo full-length transcriptome reconstruction, and evaluate it on samples from fission yeast, mouse, and whitefly – an insect whose genome has not yet been sequenced. Trinity fully reconstructs a large fraction of the transcripts present in the data, also reporting alternative splice isoforms and transcripts from recently duplicated genes. In all cases, Trinity performs better than other available de novo transcriptome assembly programs, and its sensitivity is comparable to methods relying on genome alignments. Our approach provides a unified and general solution for transcriptome reconstruction in any sample, especially in the complete absence of a reference genome.
Cytosine methylation, an epigenetic modification of DNA, is a target of growing interest for developing high throughput profiling technologies. Here we introduce two new, complementary techniques for cytosine methylation profiling utilizing next generation sequencing technology: bisulfite padlock probes (BSPPs) and methyl sensitive cut counting (MSCC). In the first method, we designed a set of ~10,000 BSPPs distributed over the ENCODE pilot project regions to take advantage of existing expression and chromatin immunoprecipitation data. We observed a pattern of low promoter methylation coupled with high gene body methylation in highly expressed genes. Using the second method, MSCC, we gathered genome-scale data for 1.4 million HpaII sites and confirmed that gene body methylation in highly expressed genes is a consistent phenomenon over the entire genome. Our observations highlight the usefulness of techniques which are not inherently or intentionally biased in favor of only profiling particular subsets like CpG islands or promoter regions.
The blood-brain barrier (BBB) plays an important role in brain health and is often compromised in disease. Moreover, as a result of its significant barrier properties, this endothelial interface restricts neurotherapeutic uptake. Thus, a renewable source of human BBB endothelium could prove enabling for brain research and pharmaceutical development. Herein, we demonstrate that endothelial cells generated from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) can be specified to possess many BBB attributes, including well-organized tight junctions, expression of nutrient transporters, and polarized efflux transporter activity. Importantly, hPSC-derived BBB endothelial cells respond to astrocytic cues yielding impressive barrier properties as measured by transendothelial electrical resistance (1450±140 Ωxcm2) and molecular permeability that correlates well with in vivo brain uptake. In addition, specification of hPSC-derived BBB endothelial cells occurs in concert with neural cell co-differentiation via Wnt/β-catenin signaling, consistent with previous transgenic studies. This study represents the first example of organ-specific endothelial differentiation from hPSCs.
In the last decade, genome-wide transcriptome analyses have been routinely used to monitor tissue-, disease- and cell type-specific gene expression, but it has been technically challenging to generate expression profiles from single cells. Here we describe a novel and robust mRNA-Seq protocol (Smart-Seq) that is applicable down to single cell levels. Compared with existing methods, Smart-Seq has improved read coverage across transcripts, which significantly enhances detailed analyses of alternative transcript isoforms and identification of SNPs. We have determined the sensitivity and quantitative accuracy of Smart-Seq for single-cell transcriptomics by evaluating it on total RNA dilution series. Applying Smart-Seq to circulating tumor cells from melanomas, we identified distinct gene expression patterns, including new candidate biomarkers for melanoma circulating tumor cells. Importantly, our protocol can easily be utilized for addressing fundamental biological problems requiring genome-wide transcriptome profiling in rare cells.
Engineered transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) have shown promise as facile and broadly applicable genome editing tools. However, no publicly available high-throughput method for constructing TALENs has been published and large-scale assessments of the success rate and targeting range of the technology remain lacking. Here we describe the Fast Ligation-based Automatable Solid-phase High-throughput (FLASH) platform, a rapid and cost-effective method we developed to enable large-scale assembly of TALENs. We tested 48 FLASH-assembled TALEN pairs in a human cell-based EGFP reporter system and found that all 48 possessed efficient gene modification activities. We also used FLASH to assemble TALENs for 96 endogenous human genes implicated in cancer and/or epigenetic regulation and found that 84 pairs were able to efficiently introduce targeted alterations. Our results establish the robustness of TALEN technology and demonstrate that FLASH facilitates high-throughput genome editing at a scale not currently possible with engineered zinc-finger nucleases or meganucleases.
Whole genome amplification by the multiple displacement amplification (MDA) method allows sequencing of genomes from single cells of bacteria that cannot be cultured. However, genome assembly is challenging because of highly non-uniform read coverage generated by MDA. We describe an improved assembly approach tailored for single cell Illumina sequences that incorporates a progressively increasing coverage cutoff. This allows variable coverage datasets to be utilized effectively with assembly of E. coli and S. aureus single cell reads capturing >91% of genes within contigs, approaching the 95% captured from a multi-cell E. coli assembly. We apply this method to assemble a single cell genome of the uncultivated SAR324 clade of Deltaproteobacteria, a cosmopolitan bacterial lineage in the global ocean. Metabolic reconstruction suggests that SAR324 is aerobic, motile and chemotaxic. These new methods enable acquisition of genome assemblies for individual uncultivated bacteria, providing cell-specific genetic information absent from metagenomic studies.
For the first time in more than 50 years, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved a drug specifically for the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). This drug, belimumab (Benlysta), is a human monoclonal antibody that neutralizes the B-cell survival factor, B-lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS). The approval of belimumab combined a pioneering approach to genomics-based gene discovery, an astute appreciation of translational medicine, a disciplined clinical strategy, a willingness to take calculated risks, a devoted cadre of patients and physicians and a healthy dose of serendipity. Collectively, these efforts have provided a model for the development of a new generation of drugs to treat the broad manifestations of SLE. However, as a substantial percentage of SLE patients do not respond to belimumab, further research is needed to better characterize the pathogenetic mechanisms of SLE, identify additional therapeutic targets, and develop effective and nontoxic novel agents against these targets.
A significant risk in the clinical application of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), including human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells (hESCs and hiPSCs), is teratoma formation from residual undifferentiated cells. We have raised a monoclonal antibody (mAb) against hESCs, designated SSEA-5, which binds a novel antigen highly and specifically expressed on hPSCs--the H type-1 glycan. Separation of SSEA-5 high cells through fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) drastically reduced teratoma formation potential. To ensure complete removal we identified additional markers exhibiting a large dynamic expression range during differentiation: CD9, CD30, CD50, CD90, and CD200. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) conducted on human fetal tissues and bioinformatics analysis of a microarray database revealed that concurrent expression of these markers is both common and specific to hPSCs. When applied to incompletely differentiated hESC cultures, immunodepletion with SSEA-5 and 2 additional markers completely removed teratoma formation potential.
There has been considerable progress in identifying signaling pathways directing the differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) into specialized cell types including neurons. However, extrinsic factor-based differentiation of hPSCs is a slow, step-wise process mimicking the protracted timing of normal human development.
Using a small molecule screen we identified a combination of five small molecule pathway inhibitors sufficient to yield hPSC-derived neurons at >75% efficiency within 10 days of differentiation. The resulting neurons express canonical markers and functional properties of human nociceptors including TTX-resistant, SCN10A-dependent sodium currents and response to nociceptive stimuli including ATP and capsaicin. Neuronal fate acquisition occurs three-fold faster than during in vivo1 development suggesting that use of small molecule pathway inhibitors could develop into a general strategy for accelerating developmental timing in vitro. The quick and high efficiency derivation of nociceptors offers unprecedented access to this medically relevant cell type for studies of human pain.
Despite much research, our understanding of the rules by which cis-regulatory sequences are translated into expression levels is still lacking. We devised a method for obtaining parallel and highly accurate expression measurements of thousands of fully designed promoters, and applied it to measure the effect of systematic changes to location, number, orientation, affinity and organization of transcription factor (TF) binding sites and of nucleosome disfavoring sequences. Our analyses reveal a clear relationship between expression and binding site number, and TF-specific dependencies of expression on the distance between sites and gene starts including a striking ~10bp periodic relationship. We also demonstrate the utility of our approach for measuring TF sequence specificities and sensitivity of TF sites to surrounding sequence context, and for profiling the activity of most yeast transcription factors. Our method is readily applicable for studying both the cis and trans effects of genotype on transcriptional, post-transcriptional, and translational control.
Heparin has been used clinically as an anticoagulant for over 60 years. Typically isolated from porcine intestine, heparin is a mixture of dimeric glycosidic sequences generating complex polysaccharide glycosaminoglycan chains. Recently, certain lots of heparin have been associated with an acute, rapid onset of significant side effects indicative of an allergic-type reaction. To identify potential causes for this serious rise in side effects, we examined lots of heparin that correlated with adverse events using orthogonal high resolution analytical techniques. Through comparison of these results with those obtained on reference lots, suspect lots were found to contain a highly sulfated chondroitin sulfate contaminant. Through detailed structural analysis, the contaminant was found to contain a disaccharide repeat unit of glucuronic acid linked β1→3 to a β-galactosamine. Surprisingly, the disaccharide unit contains an unusual sulfation pattern and is sulfated at the 2-O and 3-O positions of the glucuronic acid as well as at the 4-O and 6-O positions of the galactosamine. The presence of such a contaminant could elicit a biological response as highly sulfated polysaccharides, such as dextran sulfate, are known to be potent mediators of the immune system. Given the nature of the contaminant, traditional screening tests - such as those present as part of the current United States Pharmacopeia heparin monograph - cannot differentiate between affected and unaffected lots. Our analysis suggests effective screening methods that can be employed to determine whether or not heparin lots contain the contaminants reported here.
Lysosomal storage diseases are characterized by deficiencies in lysosomal enzymes, allowing accumulation of target substrate in cells and eventually causing cell death. Enzyme replacement therapy is the principal treatment for most of these diseases. However, these therapies are often complicated by immune responses to the enzymes, blocking efficacy and causing severe adverse outcomes by neutralizing product activity. It is thus crucial to understand the relationships between genetic mutations, endogenous residual enzyme proteins (cross-reactive immunologic material), development of neutralizing antibodies and their impact on clinical outcomes of lysosomal storage diseases. For patients in whom neutralizing antibodies may cause severe adverse clinical outcomes, it is paramount to develop tolerance inducing protocols to preclude, where predictable, or treat such life-threatening responses.
The potential of genetically modified (GM) crops to transfer foreign genes through pollen to related plant species has been cited as an environmental concern. Until more is known concerning the environmental impact of novel genes on indigenous crops and weeds, practical and regulatory considerations will likely require the adoption of gene-containment approaches for future generations of GM crops. Most molecular approaches with potential for controlling gene flow among crops and weeds have thus far focused on maternal inheritance, male sterility, and seed sterility. Several other containment strategies may also prove useful in restricting gene flow, including apomixis (vegetative propagation and asexual seed formation), cleistogamy (self-fertilization without opening of the flower), genome incompatibility, chemical induction/deletion of transgenes, fruit-specific excision of transgenes, and transgenic mitigation (transgenes that compromise fitness in the hybrid). As yet, however, no strategy has proved broadly applicable to all crop species, and a combination of approaches may prove most effective for engineering the next generation of GM crops.
We report a fully defined synthetic polymer coating, poly[2-(methacryloyloxy)ethyl dimethyl-(3-sulfopropyl)ammonium hydroxide] (PMEDSAH), which sustains long-term human embryonic stem (hES) cell growth in several different culture media, including commercially available defined media. The development of a standardized, controllable and sustainable culture matrix for hES cells is an essential step in elucidating mechanisms that control hES cell behavior and in optimizing conditions for biomedical applications of hES cells.
Single-molecule techniques have been developed for commercial DNA sequencing1,2. One emerging strategy uses a nanopore to analyze DNA molecules as they are driven electrophoretically in single file order past a sensor3-5. However, uncontrolled DNA strand electrophoresis through nanopores is too fast for accurate base reads6. A proposed solution would employ processive enzymes to deliver DNA through the pore at a slower average rate7. Here, we describe forward and reverse ratcheting of DNA templates through the α–hemolysin (α-HL) nanopore controlled by wild-type phi29 DNA polymerase (phi29 DNAP). DNA strands were examined in single file order at one nucleotide spatial precision in real time. The registry error probability (either an insertion or deletion during one pass along a template strand) ranged from 10% to 24.5% absent optimization. This general strategy facilitates multiple reads of individual template strands and is transferrable to other nanopore devices for implementation of DNA sequence analysis.
The International Stem Cell Initiative analyzed 125 human embryonic stem (ES) cell lines and 11 induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell lines, from 38 laboratories worldwide, for genetic changes occurring during culture. Most lines were analyzed at an early and late passage. Single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analysis revealed that they included representatives of most major ethnic groups. Most lines remained karyotypically normal, but there was a progressive tendency to acquire changes on prolonged culture, commonly affecting chromosomes 1, 12, 17 and 20. DNA methylation patterns changed haphazardly with no link to time in culture. Structural variants, determined from the SNP arrays, also appeared sporadically. No common variants related to culture were observed on chromosomes 1, 12 and 17, but a minimal amplicon in chromosome 20q11.21, including three genes, ID1, BCL2L1 and HM13, expressed in human ES cells, occurred in >20% of the lines. Of these genes, BCL2L1 is a strong candidate for driving culture adaptation of ES cells.
Learning to read and write the transcriptional regulatory code is of central importance to progress in genetic analysis and engineering. Here, we describe a massively parallel reporter assay (MPRA) that enables systematic dissection of transcriptional regulatory elements by integrating microarray-based DNA synthesis and high-throughput tag sequencing. We apply MPRA to compare more than 27,000 distinct variants of two inducible enhancers in human cells: a synthetic cAMP-regulated enhancer and the virus-inducible interferon beta enhancer. We first show that the resulting data define accurate maps of functional transcription factor binding sites in both enhancers at single-nucleotide resolution. We then use the data to train quantitative sequence-activity models (QSAMs) of the two enhancers. We show that QSAMs from two cellular states can be combined to identify novel enhancer variants that optimize potentially conflicting objectives, such as maximizing induced activity while minimizing basal activity.
The functional consequences of genetic variation in mammalian regulatory elements are poorly understood. We report the in vivo dissection of three mammalian liver enhancers at single nucleotide resolution via a massively parallelized reporter assay. For each enhancer, we synthesized a library of >100,000 mutant haplotypes with 2–3% divergence from wild-type. Each haplotype was linked to a unique sequence tag embedded within a transcriptional cassette. We introduced each enhancer library into mouse liver and measured the relative activities of individual haplotypes en masse by sequencing of the transcribed tags. Linear regression yielded highly reproducible estimates of the impact of every possible single nucleotide change on enhancer activity. The functional impact of most mutations was modest, with ~22% impacting activity by >1.2-fold, and only ~3% by >2-fold. These results suggest that mammalian enhancers are relatively robust to single nucleotide changes. Several, but not all positions with higher impact showed evidence for purifying selection, or co-localized with known liver-associated transcription factor binding sites, demonstrating the value of empirical high-resolution functional analysis.
Calculating absolute copy numbers in cancer genome sequences identifies disease-associated genes and provides insights into tumor evolution and heterogeneity.
Homozygosity for the naturally occurring Δ32 deletion in the HIV co-receptor CCR5 confers resistance to HIV-1 infection. We generated an HIV-resistant genotype de novo using engineered zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs) to disrupt endogenous CCR5. Transient expression of CCR5 ZFNs permanently and specifically disrupted ~50% of CCR5 alleles in a pool of primary human CD4+ T cells. Genetic disruption of CCR5 provided robust, stable and heritable protection against HIV-1 infection in vitro and in vivo in a NOG model of HIV infection. HIV-1-infected mice engrafted with ZFN-modified CD4+ T cells had lower viral loads and higher CD4+ T-cell counts than mice engrafted with wild-type CD4+ T cells, consistent with the potential to reconstitute immune function in individuals with HIV/AIDS by maintenance of an HIV-resistant CD4+ T-cell population. Thus adoptive transfer of ex vivo expanded CCR5 ZFN–modified autologous CD4+ T cells in HIV patients is an attractive approach for the treatment of HIV-1 infection.