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1.  Transcriptome dynamics in the asexual cycle of the chordate Botryllus schlosseri 
BMC Genomics  2016;17:275.
Background
We performed an analysis of the transcriptome during the blastogenesis of the chordate Botryllus schlosseri, focusing in particular on genes involved in cell death by apoptosis. The tunicate B. schlosseri is an ascidian forming colonies characterized by the coexistence of three blastogenetic generations: filter-feeding adults, buds on adults, and budlets on buds. Cyclically, adult tissues undergo apoptosis and are progressively resorbed and replaced by their buds originated by asexual reproduction. This is a feature of colonial tunicates, the only known chordates that can reproduce asexually.
Results
Thanks to a newly developed web-based platform (http://botryllus.cribi.unipd.it), we compared the transcriptomes of the mid-cycle, the pre-take-over, and the take-over phases of the colonial blastogenetic cycle. The platform is equipped with programs for comparative analysis and allows to select the statistical stringency. We enriched the genome annotation with 11,337 new genes; 581 transcripts were resolved as complete open reading frames, translated in silico into amino acid sequences and then aligned onto the non-redundant sequence database. Significant differentially expressed genes were classified within the gene ontology categories. Among them, we recognized genes involved in apoptosis activation, de-activation, and regulation.
Conclusions
With the current work, we contributed to the improvement of the first released B. schlosseri genome assembly and offer an overview of the transcriptome changes during the blastogenetic cycle, showing up- and down-regulated genes. These results are important for the comprehension of the events underlying colony growth and regression, cell proliferation, colony homeostasis, and competition among different generations.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-016-2598-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s12864-016-2598-1
PMCID: PMC4818882  PMID: 27038623
Ascidian; Apoptosis; Blastogenesis; Differentially expressed genes; RNAseq; Tunicata
2.  Metagenomic analysis and functional characterization of the biogas microbiome using high throughput shotgun sequencing and a novel binning strategy 
Background
Biogas production is an economically attractive technology that has gained momentum worldwide over the past years. Biogas is produced by a biologically mediated process, widely known as “anaerobic digestion.” This process is performed by a specialized and complex microbial community, in which different members have distinct roles in the establishment of a collective organization. Deciphering the complex microbial community engaged in this process is interesting both for unraveling the network of bacterial interactions and for applicability potential to the derived knowledge.
Results
In this study, we dissect the bioma involved in anaerobic digestion by means of high throughput Illumina sequencing (~51 gigabases of sequence data), disclosing nearly one million genes and extracting 106 microbial genomes by a novel strategy combining two binning processes. Microbial phylogeny and putative taxonomy performed using >400 proteins revealed that the biogas community is a trove of new species. A new approach based on functional properties as per network representation was developed to assign roles to the microbial species. The organization of the anaerobic digestion microbiome is resembled by a funnel concept, in which the microbial consortium presents a progressive functional specialization while reaching the final step of the process (i.e., methanogenesis). Key microbial genomes encoding enzymes involved in specific metabolic pathways, such as carbohydrates utilization, fatty acids degradation, amino acids fermentation, and syntrophic acetate oxidation, were identified. Additionally, the analysis identified a new uncultured archaeon that was putatively related to Methanomassiliicoccales but surprisingly having a methylotrophic methanogenic pathway.
Conclusion
This study is a pioneer research on the phylogenetic and functional characterization of the microbial community populating biogas reactors. By applying for the first time high-throughput sequencing and a novel binning strategy, the identified genes were anchored to single genomes providing a clear understanding of their metabolic pathways and highlighting their involvement in anaerobic digestion. The overall research established a reference catalog of biogas microbial genomes that will greatly simplify future genomic studies.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13068-016-0441-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s13068-016-0441-1
PMCID: PMC4736482  PMID: 26839589
Anaerobic digestion; Biogas; Metagenomics; Next-generation sequencing; Microbial community structure; Binning; Methanogens; Archaea; Bacteria
3.  Grapevine Rootstocks Differentially Affect the Rate of Ripening and Modulate Auxin-Related Genes in Cabernet Sauvignon Berries 
In modern viticulture, grafting commercial grapevine varieties on interspecific rootstocks is a common practice required for conferring resistance to many biotic and abiotic stresses. Nevertheless, the use of rootstocks to gain these essential traits is also known to impact grape berry development and quality, although the underlying mechanisms are still poorly understood. In grape berries, the onset of ripening (véraison) is regulated by a complex network of mobile signals including hormones such as auxins, ethylene, abscisic acid, and brassinosteroids. Recently, a new rootstock, designated M4, was selected based on its enhanced tolerance to water stress and medium vigor. This study investigates the effect of M4 on Cabernet Sauvignon (CS) berry development in comparison to the commercial 1103P rootstock. Physical and biochemical parameters showed that the ripening rate of CS berries is faster when grafted onto M4. A multifactorial analysis performed on mRNA-Seq data obtained from skin and pulp of berries grown in both graft combinations revealed that genes controlling auxin action (ARF and Aux/IAA) represent one of main categories affected by the rootstock genotype. Considering that the level of auxin tightly regulates the transcription of these genes, we investigated the behavior of the main gene families involved in auxin biosynthesis and conjugation. Molecular and biochemical analyses confirmed a link between the rate of berry development and the modulation of auxin metabolism. Moreover, the data indicate that this phenomenon appears to be particularly pronounced in skin tissue in comparison to the flesh.
doi:10.3389/fpls.2016.00069
PMCID: PMC4746306  PMID: 26904046
fruit development; polyphenols biosynthesis; auxin conjugation; transcriptional program; grapevine
4.  SATRAP: SOLiD Assembler TRAnslation Program 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(9):e0137436.
SOLiD DNA sequences are typically analyzed using a reference genome, while they are not recommended for de novo assembly of genomes or transcriptomes. This is mainly due to the difficulty in translating the SOLiD color-space data into normal base-space sequences. In fact, the nature of color-space is such that any misinterpreted color leads to a chain of further translation errors, producing totally wrong results. Here we describe SATRAP, a computer program designed to efficiently translate de novo assembled color-space sequences into a base-space format. The program was tested and validated using simulated and real transcriptomic data; its modularity allows an easy integration into more complex pipelines, such as Oases for RNA-seq de novo assembly. SATRAP is available at http://satrap.cribi.unipd.it, either as a multi-step pipeline incorporating several tools for RNA-seq assembly or as an individual module for use with the Oases package.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0137436
PMCID: PMC4569514  PMID: 26368549
5.  Comprehensive transcript profiling of two grapevine rootstock genotypes contrasting in drought susceptibility links the phenylpropanoid pathway to enhanced tolerance 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2015;66(19):5739-5752.
Highlights
Drought tolerance in the M4 grapevine rootstock genotype could be associated with a higher capability to counteract oxidative stresses by enhancing the accumulation of resveratrol in roots.
In light of ongoing climate changes in wine-growing regions, the selection of drought-tolerant rootstocks is becoming a crucial factor for developing a sustainable viticulture. In this study, M4, a new rootstock genotype that shows tolerance to drought, was compared from a genomic and transcriptomic point of view with the less drought-tolerant genotype 101.14. The root and leaf transcriptome of both 101.14 and the M4 rootstock genotype was analysed, following exposure to progressive drought conditions. Multifactorial analyses indicated that stress treatment represents the main factor driving differential gene expression in roots, whereas in leaves the genotype is the prominent factor. Upon stress, M4 roots and leaves showed a higher induction of resveratrol and flavonoid biosynthetic genes, respectively. The higher expression of VvSTS genes in M4, confirmed by the accumulation of higher levels of resveratrol in M4 roots compared with 101.14, was coupled to an up-regulation of several VvWRKY transcription factors. Interestingly, VvSTS promoter analyses performed on both the resequenced genomes highlighted a significantly higher number of W-BOX elements in the tolerant genotype. It is proposed that the elevated synthesis of resveratrol in M4 roots upon water stress could enhance the plant’s ability to cope with the oxidative stress usually associated with water deficit.
doi:10.1093/jxb/erv274
PMCID: PMC4566973  PMID: 26038306
Flavonoids; genome re-sequencing; mRNA-Seq; stilbenes; Vitis; water stress.
6.  A deep survey of alternative splicing in grape reveals changes in the splicing machinery related to tissue, stress condition and genotype 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:99.
Background
Alternative splicing (AS) significantly enhances transcriptome complexity. It is differentially regulated in a wide variety of cell types and plays a role in several cellular processes. Here we describe a detailed survey of alternative splicing in grape based on 124 SOLiD RNAseq analyses from different tissues, stress conditions and genotypes.
Results
We used the RNAseq data to update the existing grape gene prediction with 2,258 new coding genes and 3,336 putative long non-coding RNAs. Several gene structures have been improved and alternative splicing was described for about 30% of the genes. A link between AS and miRNAs was shown in 139 genes where we found that AS affects the miRNA target site. A quantitative analysis of the isoforms indicated that most of the spliced genes have one major isoform and tend to simultaneously co-express a low number of isoforms, typically two, with intron retention being the most frequent alternative splicing event.
Conclusions
As described in Arabidopsis, also grape displays a marked AS tissue-specificity, while stress conditions produce splicing changes to a minor extent. Surprisingly, some distinctive splicing features were also observed between genotypes. This was further supported by the observation that the panel of Serine/Arginine-rich splicing factors show a few, but very marked differences between genotypes. The finding that a part the splicing machinery can change in closely related organisms can lead to some interesting hypotheses for evolutionary adaptation, that could be particularly relevant in the response to sudden and strong selective pressures.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-14-99
PMCID: PMC4108029  PMID: 24739459
Alternative splicing; Transcriptome; RNAseq; Grapevine
7.  ZASP Interacts with the Mechanosensing Protein Ankrd2 and p53 in the Signalling Network of Striated Muscle 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92259.
ZASP is a cytoskeletal PDZ-LIM protein predominantly expressed in striated muscle. It forms multiprotein complexes and plays a pivotal role in the structural integrity of sarcomeres. Mutations in the ZASP protein are associated with myofibrillar myopathy, left ventricular non-compaction and dilated cardiomyopathy. The ablation of its murine homologue Cypher results in neonatal lethality. ZASP has several alternatively spliced isoforms, in this paper we clarify the nomenclature of its human isoforms as well as their dynamics and expression pattern in striated muscle. Interaction is demonstrated between ZASP and two new binding partners both of which have roles in signalling, regulation of gene expression and muscle differentiation; the mechanosensing protein Ankrd2 and the tumour suppressor protein p53. These proteins and ZASP form a triple complex that appears to facilitate poly-SUMOylation of p53. We also show the importance of two of its functional domains, the ZM-motif and the PDZ domain. The PDZ domain can bind directly to both Ankrd2 and p53 indicating that there is no competition between it and p53 for the same binding site on Ankrd2. However there is competition for this binding site between p53 and a region of the ZASP protein lacking the PDZ domain, but containing the ZM-motif. ZASP is negative regulator of p53 in transactivation experiments with the p53-responsive promoters, MDM2 and BAX. Mutations in the ZASP ZM-motif induce modification in protein turnover. In fact, two mutants, A165V and A171T, were not able to bind Ankrd2 and bound only poorly to alpha-actinin2. This is important since the A165V mutation is responsible for zaspopathy, a well characterized autosomal dominant distal myopathy. Although the mechanism by which this mutant causes disease is still unknown, this is the first indication of how a ZASP disease associated mutant protein differs from that of the wild type ZASP protein.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092259
PMCID: PMC3960238  PMID: 24647531
8.  RNA Sequencing of the Exercise Transcriptome in Equine Athletes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83504.
The horse is an optimal model organism for studying the genomic response to exercise-induced stress, due to its natural aptitude for athletic performance and the relative homogeneity of its genetic and environmental backgrounds. Here, we applied RNA-sequencing analysis through the use of SOLiD technology in an experimental framework centered on exercise-induced stress during endurance races in equine athletes. We monitored the transcriptional landscape by comparing gene expression levels between animals at rest and after competition. Overall, we observed a shift from coding to non-coding regions, suggesting that the stress response involves the differential expression of not annotated regions. Notably, we observed significant post-race increases of reads that correspond to repeats, especially the intergenic and intronic L1 and L2 transposable elements. We also observed increased expression of the antisense strands compared to the sense strands in intronic and regulatory regions (1 kb up- and downstream) of the genes, suggesting that antisense transcription could be one of the main mechanisms for transposon regulation in the horse under stress conditions. We identified a large number of transcripts corresponding to intergenic and intronic regions putatively associated with new transcriptional elements. Gene expression and pathway analysis allowed us to identify several biological processes and molecular functions that may be involved with exercise-induced stress. Ontology clustering reflected mechanisms that are already known to be stress activated (e.g., chemokine-type cytokines, Toll-like receptors, and kinases), as well as “nucleic acid binding” and “signal transduction activity” functions. There was also a general and transient decrease in the global rates of protein synthesis, which would be expected after strenuous global stress. In sum, our network analysis points toward the involvement of specific gene clusters in equine exercise-induced stress, including those involved in inflammation, cell signaling, and immune interactions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083504
PMCID: PMC3877044  PMID: 24391776
9.  The transcriptional landscape of the deep-sea bacterium Photobacterium profundum in both a toxR mutant and its parental strain 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:567.
Background
The deep-sea bacterium Photobacterium profundum is an established model for studying high pressure adaptation. In this paper we analyse the parental strain DB110 and the toxR mutant TW30 by massively parallel cDNA sequencing (RNA-seq). ToxR is a transmembrane DNA-binding protein first discovered in Vibrio cholerae, where it regulates a considerable number of genes involved in environmental adaptation and virulence. In P. profundum the abundance and activity of this protein is influenced by hydrostatic pressure and its role is related to the regulation of genes in a pressure-dependent manner.
Results
To better characterize the ToxR regulon, we compared the expression profiles of wt and toxR strains in response to pressure changes. Our results revealed a complex expression pattern with a group of 22 genes having expression profiles similar to OmpH that is an outer membrane protein transcribed in response to high hydrostatic pressure. Moreover, RNA-seq allowed a deep characterization of the transcriptional landscape that led to the identification of 460 putative small RNA genes and the detection of 298 protein-coding genes previously unknown. We were also able to perform a genome-wide prediction of operon structure, transcription start and termination sites, revealing an unexpected high number of genes (992) with large 5′-UTRs, long enough to harbour cis-regulatory RNA structures, suggesting a correlation between intergenic region size and UTR length.
Conclusion
This work led to a better understanding of high-pressure response in P. profundum. Furthermore, the high-resolution RNA-seq analysis revealed several unexpected features about transcriptional landscape and general mechanisms of controlling bacterial gene expression.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-567
PMCID: PMC3505737  PMID: 23107454
High-pressure adaptation; Deep sea; Extremophile; Transcription; Operon; RNA-seq; UTR; Vibrionaceae; Photobacterium profundum; ToxR
10.  First Survey of the Wheat Chromosome 5A Composition through a Next Generation Sequencing Approach 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26421.
Wheat is one of the world's most important crops and is characterized by a large polyploid genome. One way to reduce genome complexity is to isolate single chromosomes using flow cytometry. Low coverage DNA sequencing can provide a snapshot of individual chromosomes, allowing a fast characterization of their main features and comparison with other genomes. We used massively parallel 454 pyrosequencing to obtain a 2x coverage of wheat chromosome 5A. The resulting sequence assembly was used to identify TEs, genes and miRNAs, as well as to infer a virtual gene order based on the synteny with other grass genomes. Repetitive elements account for more than 75% of the genome. Gene content was estimated considering non-redundant reads showing at least one match to ESTs or proteins. The results indicate that the coding fraction represents 1.08% and 1.3% of the short and long arm respectively, projecting the number of genes of the whole chromosome to approximately 5,000. 195 candidate miRNA precursors belonging to 16 miRNA families were identified. The 5A genes were used to search for syntenic relationships between grass genomes. The short arm is closely related to Brachypodium chromosome 4, sorghum chromosome 8 and rice chromosome 12; the long arm to regions of Brachypodium chromosomes 4 and 1, sorghum chromosomes 1 and 2 and rice chromosomes 9 and 3. From these similarities it was possible to infer the virtual gene order of 392 (5AS) and 1,480 (5AL) genes of chromosome 5A, which was compared to, and found to be largely congruent with the available physical map of this chromosome.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026421
PMCID: PMC3196578  PMID: 22028874
11.  Multi-Tasking Role of the Mechanosensing Protein Ankrd2 in the Signaling Network of Striated Muscle 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e25519.
Background
Ankrd2 (also known as Arpp) together with Ankrd1/CARP and DARP are members of the MARP mechanosensing proteins that form a complex with titin (N2A)/calpain 3 protease/myopalladin. In muscle, Ankrd2 is located in the I-band of the sarcomere and moves to the nucleus of adjacent myofibers on muscle injury. In myoblasts it is predominantly in the nucleus and on differentiation shifts from the nucleus to the cytoplasm. In agreement with its role as a sensor it interacts both with sarcomeric proteins and transcription factors.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Expression profiling of endogenous Ankrd2 silenced in human myotubes was undertaken to elucidate its role as an intermediary in cell signaling pathways. Silencing Ankrd2 expression altered the expression of genes involved in both intercellular communication (cytokine-cytokine receptor interaction, endocytosis, focal adhesion, tight junction, gap junction and regulation of the actin cytoskeleton) and intracellular communication (calcium, insulin, MAPK, p53, TGF-β and Wnt signaling). The significance of Ankrd2 in cell signaling was strengthened by the fact that we were able to show for the first time that Nkx2.5 and p53 are upstream effectors of the Ankrd2 gene and that Ankrd1/CARP, another MARP member, can modulate the transcriptional ability of MyoD on the Ankrd2 promoter. Another novel finding was the interaction between Ankrd2 and proteins with PDZ and SH3 domains, further supporting its role in signaling. It is noteworthy that we demonstrated that transcription factors PAX6, LHX2, NFIL3 and MECP2, were able to bind both the Ankrd2 protein and its promoter indicating the presence of a regulatory feedback loop mechanism.
Conclusions/Significance
In conclusion we demonstrate that Ankrd2 is a potent regulator in muscle cells affecting a multitude of pathways and processes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025519
PMCID: PMC3189947  PMID: 22016770
12.  Combining ontologies and workflows to design formal protocols for biological laboratories 
Background
Laboratory protocols in life sciences tend to be written in natural language, with negative consequences on repeatability, distribution and automation of scientific experiments. Formalization of knowledge is becoming popular in science. In the case of laboratory protocols two levels of formalization are needed: one for the entities and individuals operations involved in protocols and another one for the procedures, which can be manually or automatically executed. This study aims to combine ontologies and workflows for protocol formalization.
Results
A laboratory domain specific ontology and the COW (Combining Ontologies with Workflows) software tool were developed to formalize workflows built on ontologies. A method was specifically set up to support the design of structured protocols for biological laboratory experiments. The workflows were enhanced with ontological concepts taken from the developed domain specific ontology.
The experimental protocols represented as workflows are saved in two linked files using two standard interchange languages (i.e. XPDL for workflows and OWL for ontologies). A distribution package of COW including installation procedure, ontology and workflow examples, is freely available from http://www.bmr-genomics.it/farm/cow.
Conclusions
Using COW, a laboratory protocol may be directly defined by wet-lab scientists without writing code, which will keep the resulting protocol's specifications clear and easy to read and maintain.
doi:10.1186/1759-4499-2-3
PMCID: PMC2873243  PMID: 20416048
13.  Large-scale detection and analysis of RNA editing in grape mtDNA by RNA deep-sequencing 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(14):4755-4767.
RNA editing is a widespread post-transcriptional molecular phenomenon that can increase proteomic diversity, by modifying the sequence of completely or partially non-functional primary transcripts, through a variety of mechanistically and evolutionarily unrelated pathways. Editing by base substitution has been investigated in both animals and plants. However, conventional strategies based on directed Sanger sequencing are time-consuming and effectively preclude genome wide identification of RNA editing and assessment of partial and tissue-specific editing sites. In contrast, the high-throughput RNA-Seq approach allows the generation of a comprehensive landscape of RNA editing at the genome level. Short reads from Solexa/Illumina GA and ABI SOLiD platforms have been used to investigate the editing pattern in mitochondria of Vitis vinifera providing significant support for 401 C-to-U conversions in coding regions and an additional 44 modifications in non-coding RNAs. Moreover, 76% of all C-to-U conversions in coding genes represent partial RNA editing events and 28% of them were shown to be significantly tissue specific. Solexa/Illumina and SOLiD platforms showed different characteristics with respect to the specific issue of large-scale editing analysis, and the combined approach presented here reduces the false positive rate of discovery of editing events.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkq202
PMCID: PMC2919710  PMID: 20385587
14.  Physical mapping in highly heterozygous genomes: a physical contig map of the Pinot Noir grapevine cultivar 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:204.
Background
Most of the grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) cultivars grown today are those selected centuries ago, even though grapevine is one of the most important fruit crops in the world. Grapevine has therefore not benefited from the advances in modern plant breeding nor more recently from those in molecular genetics and genomics: genes controlling important agronomic traits are practically unknown. A physical map is essential to positionally clone such genes and instrumental in a genome sequencing project.
Results
We report on the first whole genome physical map of grapevine built using high information content fingerprinting of 49,104 BAC clones from the cultivar Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir, as most grape varieties, is highly heterozygous at the sequence level. This resulted in the two allelic haplotypes sometimes assembling into separate contigs that had to be accommodated in the map framework or in local expansions of contig maps. We performed computer simulations to assess the effects of increasing levels of sequence heterozygosity on BAC fingerprint assembly and showed that the experimental assembly results are in full agreement with the theoretical expectations, given the heterozygosity levels reported for grape. The map is anchored to a dense linkage map consisting of 994 markers. 436 contigs are anchored to the genetic map, covering 342 of the 475 Mb that make up the grape haploid genome.
Conclusions
We have developed a resource that makes it possible to access the grapevine genome, opening the way to a new era both in grape genetics and breeding and in wine making. The effects of heterozygosity on the assembly have been analyzed and characterized by using several complementary approaches which could be easily transferred to the study of other genomes which present the same features.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-204
PMCID: PMC2865496  PMID: 20346114
15.  Correction: High throughput approaches reveal splicing of primary microRNA transcripts and tissue specific expression of mature microRNAs in Vitis vinifera 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:109.
The version of this article published in BMC Genomics 2009, 10:558, contains data in Table 1 which are now known to be unreliable, and an illustration, in Figure 1, of unusual miRNA processing events predicted by these unreliable data. In this full-length correction, new data replace those found to be unreliable, leading to a more straightforward interpretation without altering the principle conclusions of the study. Table 1 and associated methods have been corrected, Figure 1 deleted, supplementary file 1 added, and modifications made to the sections "Deep sequencing of small RNAs from grapevine leaf tissue" and "Microarray analysis of miRNA expression". The editors and authors regret the inconvenience caused to readers by premature publication of the original paper.
Background
MicroRNAs are short (~21 base) single stranded RNAs that, in plants, are generally coded by specific genes and cleaved specifically from hairpin precursors. MicroRNAs are critical for the regulation of multiple developmental, stress related and other physiological processes in plants. The recent annotation of the genome of the grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) allowed the identification of many putative conserved microRNA precursors, grouped into multiple gene families.
Results
Here we use oligonucleotide arrays to provide the first indication that many of these microRNAs show differential expression patterns between tissues and during the maturation of fruit in the grapevine. Furthermore we demonstrate that whole transcriptome sequencing and deep-sequencing of small RNA fractions can be used both to identify which microRNA precursors are expressed in different tissues and to estimate genomic coordinates and patterns of splicing and alternative splicing for many primary miRNA transcripts.
Conclusions
Our results show that many microRNAs are differentially expressed in different tissues and during fruit maturation in the grapevine. Furthermore, the demonstration that whole transcriptome sequencing can be used to identify candidate splicing events and approximate primary microRNA transcript coordinates represents a significant step towards the large-scale elucidation of mechanisms regulating the expression of microRNAs at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-109
PMCID: PMC2831844  PMID: 20152027
16.  High throughput approaches reveal splicing of primary microRNA transcripts and tissue specific expression of mature microRNAs in Vitis vinifera 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:558.
Background
MicroRNAs are short (~21 base) single stranded RNAs that, in plants, are generally coded by specific genes and cleaved specifically from hairpin precursors. MicroRNAs are critical for the regulation of multiple developmental, stress related and other physiological processes in plants. The recent annotation of the genome of the grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) allowed the identification of many putative conserved microRNA precursors, grouped into multiple gene families.
Results
Here we use oligonucleotide arrays to provide the first indication that many of these microRNAs show differential expression patterns between tissues and during the maturation of fruit in the grapevine. Furthermore we demonstrate that whole transcriptome sequencing and deep-sequencing of small RNA fractions can be used both to identify which microRNA precursors are expressed in different tissues and to estimate genomic coordinates and patterns of splicing and alternative splicing for many primary miRNA transcripts.
Conclusion
Our results show that many microRNAs are differentially expressed in different tissues and during fruit maturation in the grapevine. Furthermore, the demonstration that whole transcriptome sequencing can be used to identify candidate splicing events and approximate primary microRNA transcript coordinates represents a significant step towards the large-scale elucidation of mechanisms regulating the expression of microRNAs at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-10-558
PMCID: PMC2822795  PMID: 19939267
17.  A Class III PDZ Binding Motif in the Myotilin and FATZ Families Binds Enigma Family Proteins: a Common Link for Z-Disc Myopathies▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2008;29(3):822-834.
Interactions between Z-disc proteins regulate muscle functions and disruption of these interactions results in muscle disorders. Mutations in Z-disc components myotilin, ZASP/Cypher, and FATZ-2 (calsarcin-1/myozenin-2) are associated with myopathies. We report here that the myotilin and the FATZ (calsarcin/myozenin) families share high homology at their final C-terminal five amino acids. This C-terminal E[ST][DE][DE]L motif is present almost exclusively in these families and is evolutionary conserved. We show by in vitro and in vivo studies that proteins from the myotilin and FATZ (calsarcin/myozenin) families interact via this novel type of class III PDZ binding motif with the PDZ domains of ZASP/Cypher and other Enigma family members: ALP, CLP-36, and RIL. We show that the interactions can be modulated by phosphorylation. Calmodulin-dependent kinase II phosphorylates the C terminus of FATZ-3 (calsarcin-3/myozenin-3) and myotilin, whereas PKA phosphorylates that of FATZ-1 (calsarcin-2/myozenin-1) and FATZ-2 (calsarcin-1/myozenin-1). This is the first report of a binding motif common to both the myotilin and the FATZ (calsarcin/myozenin) families that is specific for interactions with Enigma family members.
doi:10.1128/MCB.01454-08
PMCID: PMC2630697  PMID: 19047374
18.  Muscle Research and Gene Ontology: New standards for improved data integration 
Background
The Gene Ontology Project provides structured controlled vocabularies for molecular biology that can be used for the functional annotation of genes and gene products. In a collaboration between the Gene Ontology (GO) Consortium and the muscle biology community, we have made large-scale additions to the GO biological process and cellular component ontologies. The main focus of this ontology development work concerns skeletal muscle, with specific consideration given to the processes of muscle contraction, plasticity, development, and regeneration, and to the sarcomere and membrane-delimited compartments. Our aims were to update the existing structure to reflect current knowledge, and to resolve, in an accommodating manner, the ambiguity in the language used by the community.
Results
The updated muscle terminologies have been incorporated into the GO. There are now 159 new terms covering critical research areas, and 57 existing terms have been improved and reorganized to follow their usage in muscle literature.
Conclusion
The revised GO structure should improve the interpretation of data from high-throughput (e.g. microarray and proteomic) experiments in the area of muscle science and muscle disease. We actively encourage community feedback on, and gene product annotation with these new terms. Please visit the Muscle Community Annotation Wiki .
doi:10.1186/1755-8794-2-6
PMCID: PMC2657163  PMID: 19178689
19.  Annotating genomes with massive-scale RNA sequencing 
Genome Biology  2008;9(12):R175.
A method for de novo genome annotation using high-throughput cDNA sequencing data.
Next generation technologies enable massive-scale cDNA sequencing (so-called RNA-Seq). Mainly because of the difficulty of aligning short reads on exon-exon junctions, no attempts have been made so far to use RNA-Seq for building gene models de novo, that is, in the absence of a set of known genes and/or splicing events. We present G-Mo.R-Se (Gene Modelling using RNA-Seq), an approach aimed at building gene models directly from RNA-Seq and demonstrate its utility on the grapevine genome.
doi:10.1186/gb-2008-9-12-r175
PMCID: PMC2646279  PMID: 19087247
20.  Protein evolution in deep sea bacteria: an analysis of amino acids substitution rates 
Background
Abyssal microorganisms have evolved particular features that enable them to grow in their extreme habitat. Genes belonging to specific functional categories are known to be particularly susceptible to high-pressure; therefore, they should show some evidence of positive selection. To verify this hypothesis we computed the amino acid substitution rates between two deep-sea microorganisms, Photobacterium profundum SS9 and Shewanella benthica KT99, and their respective shallow water relatives.
Results
A statistical analysis of all the orthologs, led to the identification of positive selected (PS) genes, which were then used to evaluate adaptation strategies. We were able to establish "Motility" and "Transport" as two classes significantly enriched with PS genes. The prevalence of transporters led us to analyze variable amino acids (PS sites) by mapping them according to their membrane topology, the results showed a higher frequency of substitutions in the extra-cellular compartment. A similar analysis was performed on soluble proteins, mapping the PS sites on the 3D structure, revealing a prevalence of substitutions on the protein surface. Finally, the presence of some flagellar proteins in the Vibrionaceae PS list confirms the importance of bacterial motility as a SS9 specific adaptation strategy.
Conclusion
The approach presented in this paper is suitable for identifying molecular adaptations to particular environmental conditions. The statistical method takes into account differences in the ratio between non-synonymous to synonymous substitutions, thus allowing the detection of the genes that underwent positive selection. We found that positive selection in deep-sea adapted bacteria targets a wide range of functions, for example solute transport, protein translocation, DNA synthesis and motility. From these data clearly emerges an involvement of the transport and metabolism processes in the deep-sea adaptation strategy of both bathytypes considered, whereas the adaptation of other biological processes seems to be specific to either one or the other. An important role is hypothesized for five PS genes belonging to the transport category that had been previously identified as differentially expressed in microarray experiments. Strikingly, structural mapping of PS sites performed independently on membrane and soluble proteins revealed that residues under positive selection tend to occur in specific protein regions.
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-313
PMCID: PMC2600651  PMID: 19014525
21.  Large-Scale Transposon Mutagenesis of Photobacterium profundum SS9 Reveals New Genetic Loci Important for Growth at Low Temperature and High Pressure▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;190(5):1699-1709.
Microorganisms adapted to piezopsychrophilic growth dominate the majority of the biosphere that is at relatively constant low temperatures and high pressures, but the genetic bases for the adaptations are largely unknown. Here we report the use of transposon mutagenesis with the deep-sea bacterium Photobacterium profundum strain SS9 to isolate dozens of mutant strains whose growth is impaired at low temperature and/or whose growth is altered as a function of hydrostatic pressure. In many cases the gene mutation-growth phenotype relationship was verified by complementation analysis. The largest fraction of loci associated with temperature sensitivity were involved in the biosynthesis of the cell envelope, in particular the biosynthesis of extracellular polysaccharide. The largest fraction of loci associated with pressure sensitivity were involved in chromosomal structure and function. Genes for ribosome assembly and function were found to be important for both low-temperature and high-pressure growth. Likewise, both adaptation to temperature and adaptation to pressure were affected by mutations in a number of sensory and regulatory loci, suggesting the importance of signal transduction mechanisms in adaptation to either physical parameter. These analyses were the first global analyses of genes conditionally required for low-temperature or high-pressure growth in a deep-sea microorganism.
doi:10.1128/JB.01176-07
PMCID: PMC2258685  PMID: 18156275
22.  CUDA compatible GPU cards as efficient hardware accelerators for Smith-Waterman sequence alignment 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9(Suppl 2):S10.
Background
Searching for similarities in protein and DNA databases has become a routine procedure in Molecular Biology. The Smith-Waterman algorithm has been available for more than 25 years. It is based on a dynamic programming approach that explores all the possible alignments between two sequences; as a result it returns the optimal local alignment. Unfortunately, the computational cost is very high, requiring a number of operations proportional to the product of the length of two sequences. Furthermore, the exponential growth of protein and DNA databases makes the Smith-Waterman algorithm unrealistic for searching similarities in large sets of sequences. For these reasons heuristic approaches such as those implemented in FASTA and BLAST tend to be preferred, allowing faster execution times at the cost of reduced sensitivity. The main motivation of our work is to exploit the huge computational power of commonly available graphic cards, to develop high performance solutions for sequence alignment.
Results
In this paper we present what we believe is the fastest solution of the exact Smith-Waterman algorithm running on commodity hardware. It is implemented in the recently released CUDA programming environment by NVidia. CUDA allows direct access to the hardware primitives of the last-generation Graphics Processing Units (GPU) G80. Speeds of more than 3.5 GCUPS (Giga Cell Updates Per Second) are achieved on a workstation running two GeForce 8800 GTX. Exhaustive tests have been done to compare our implementation to SSEARCH and BLAST, running on a 3 GHz Intel Pentium IV processor. Our solution was also compared to a recently published GPU implementation and to a Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD) solution. These tests show that our implementation performs from 2 to 30 times faster than any other previous attempt available on commodity hardware.
Conclusions
The results show that graphic cards are now sufficiently advanced to be used as efficient hardware accelerators for sequence alignment. Their performance is better than any alternative available on commodity hardware platforms. The solution presented in this paper allows large scale alignments to be performed at low cost, using the exact Smith-Waterman algorithm instead of the largely adopted heuristic approaches.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-9-S2-S10
PMCID: PMC2323659  PMID: 18387198
23.  Genes involved in TGFβ1-driven epithelial-mesenchymal transition of renal epithelial cells are topologically related in the human interactome map 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:383.
Background
Understanding how mesenchymal cells arise from epithelial cells could have a strong impact in unveiling mechanisms of epithelial cell plasticity underlying kidney regeneration and repair.
In primary human tubular epithelial cells (HUTEC) under different TGFβ1 concentrations we had observed epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) but not epithelial-myofibroblast transdifferentiation. We hypothesized that the process triggered by TGFβ1 could be a dedifferentiation event. The purpose of this study is to comprehensively delineate genetic programs associated with TGFβ1-driven EMT in our in vitro model using gene expression profile on large-scale oligonucleotide microarrays.
Results
In HUTEC under TGFβ1 stimulus, 977 genes were found differentially expressed. Thirty genes were identified whose expression depended directly on TGFβ1 concentration. By mapping the differentially expressed genes in the Human Interactome Map using Cytoscape software, we identified a single scale-free network consisting of 2630 interacting proteins and containing 449 differentially expressed proteins. We identified 27 hub proteins in the interactome with more than 29 edges incident on them and encoded by differentially expressed genes. The Gene Ontology analysis showed an excess of up-regulated proteins involved in biological processes, such as "morphogenesis", "cell fate determination" and "regulation of development", and the most up-regulated genes belonged to these categories. In addition, 267 genes were mapped to the KEGG pathways and 14 pathways with more than nine differentially expressed genes were identified. In our model, Smad signaling was not the TGFβ1 action effector; instead, the engagement of RAS/MAPK signaling pathway seems mainly to regulate genes involved in the cell cycle and proliferation/apoptosis.
Conclusion
Our present findings support the hypothesis that context-dependent EMT generated in our model by TGFβ1 might be the outcome of a dedifferentiation. In fact: 1) the principal biological categories involved in the process concern morphogenesis and development; 2) the most up-regulated genes belong to these categories; and, finally, 3) some intracellular pathways are involved, whose engagement during kidney development and nephrogenesis is well known. These long-term effects of TGFβ1 in HUTEC involve genes that are highly interconnected, thereby generating a scale-free network that we named the "TGFβ1 interactome", whose hubs represent proteins that may have a crucial role for HUTEC in response to TGFβ1.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-383
PMCID: PMC2174485  PMID: 17953753
24.  Characterization and Evolution of the Cell Cycle-Associated Mob Domain-Containing Proteins in Eukaryotes 
The MOB family includes a group of cell cycle-associated proteins highly conserved throughout eukaryotes, whose founding members are implicated in mitotic exit and co-ordination of cell cycle progression with cell polarity and morphogenesis. Here we report the characterization and evolution of the MOB domain-containing proteins as inferred from the 43 eukaryotic genomes so far sequenced. We show that genes for Mob-like proteins are present in at least 41 of these genomes, confirming the universal distribution of this protein family and suggesting its prominent biological function. The phylogenetic analysis reveals five distinct MOB domain classes, showing a progressive expansion of this family from unicellular to multicellular organisms, reaching the highest number in mammals. Plant Mob genes appear to have evolved from a single ancestor, most likely after the loss of one or more genes during the early stage of Viridiplantae evolutionary history. Three of the Mob classes are widespread among most of the analyzed organisms. The possible biological and molecular function of Mob proteins and their role in conserved signaling pathways related to cell proliferation, cell death and cell polarity are also presented and critically discussed.
PMCID: PMC2684140  PMID: 19468312
Mob genes; protein structure; phylogenesis; cytokinesis; apoptosis; morphogenesis
25.  A global gene evolution analysis on Vibrionaceae family using phylogenetic profile 
BMC Bioinformatics  2007;8(Suppl 1):S23.
Background
Vibrionaceae represent a significant portion of the cultivable heterotrophic sea bacteria; they strongly affect nutrient cycling and some species are devastating pathogens.
In this work we propose an improved phylogenetic profile analysis on 14 Vibrionaceae genomes, to study the evolution of this family on the basis of gene content.
The phylogenetic profile is based on the observation that genes involved in the same process (e.g. metabolic pathway or structural complex) tend to be concurrently present or absent within different genomes. This allows the prediction of hypothetical functions on the basis of a shared phylogenetic profiles. Moreover this approach is useful to identify putative laterally transferred elements on the basis of their presence on distantly phylogenetically related bacteria.
Results
Vibrionaceae ORFs were aligned against all the available bacterial proteomes. Phylogenetic profile is defined as an array of distances, based on aminoacid substitution matrixes, from single genes to all their orthologues. Final phylogenetic profiles, derived from non-redundant list of all ORFs, was defined as the median of all the profiles belonging to the cluster. The resulting phylogenetic profiles matrix contains gene clusters on the rows and organisms on the columns.
Cluster analysis identified groups of "core genes" with a widespread high similarity across all the organisms and several clusters that contain genes homologous only to a limited set of organisms. On each of these clusters, COG class enrichment has been calculated. The analysis reveals that clusters of core genes have the highest number of enriched classes, while the others are enriched just for few of them like DNA replication, recombination and repair.
Conclusion
We found that mobile elements have heterogeneous profiles not only across the entire set of organisms, but also within Vibrionaceae; this confirms their great influence on bacteria evolution even inside the same family. Furthermore, several hypothetical proteins highly correlate with mobile elements profiles suggesting a possible horizontal transfer mechanism for the evolution of these genes. Finally, we suggested the putative role of some ORFs having an unknown function on the basis of their phylogenetic profile similarity to well characterized genes.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-8-S1-S23
PMCID: PMC1885853  PMID: 17430568

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