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1.  Cell type-specific termination of transcription by transposable element sequences 
Mobile DNA  2012;3:15.
Transposable elements (TEs) encode sequences necessary for their own transposition, including signals required for the termination of transcription. TE sequences within the introns of human genes show an antisense orientation bias, which has been proposed to reflect selection against TE sequences in the sense orientation owing to their ability to terminate the transcription of host gene transcripts. While there is evidence in support of this model for some elements, the extent to which TE sequences actually terminate transcription of human gene across the genome remains an open question.
Using high-throughput sequencing data, we have characterized over 9,000 distinct TE-derived sequences that provide transcription termination sites for 5,747 human genes across eight different cell types. Rarefaction curve analysis suggests that there may be twice as many TE-derived termination sites (TE-TTS) genome-wide among all human cell types. The local chromatin environment for these TE-TTS is similar to that seen for 3′ UTR canonical TTS and distinct from the chromatin environment of other intragenic TE sequences. However, those TE-TTS located within the introns of human genes were found to be far more cell type-specific than the canonical TTS. TE-TTS were much more likely to be found in the sense orientation than other intragenic TE sequences of the same TE family and TE-TTS in the sense orientation terminate transcription more efficiently than those found in the antisense orientation. Alu sequences were found to provide a large number of relatively weak TTS, whereas LTR elements provided a smaller number of much stronger TTS.
TE sequences provide numerous termination sites to human genes, and TE-derived TTS are particularly cell type-specific. Thus, TE sequences provide a powerful mechanism for the diversification of transcriptional profiles between cell types and among evolutionary lineages, since most TE-TTS are evolutionarily young. The extent of transcription termination by TEs seen here, along with the preference for sense-oriented TE insertions to provide TTS, is consistent with the observed antisense orientation bias of human TEs.
PMCID: PMC3517506  PMID: 23020800
Polyadenylation; Transcription termination; Orientation bias; Gene regulation
2.  Genome Sequences for Five Strains of the Emerging Pathogen Haemophilus haemolyticus 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(20):5879-5880.
We report the first whole-genome sequences for five strains, two carried and three pathogenic, of the emerging pathogen Haemophilus haemolyticus. Preliminary analyses indicate that these genome sequences encode markers that distinguish H. haemolyticus from its closest Haemophilus relatives and provide clues to the identity of its virulence factors.
PMCID: PMC3187195  PMID: 21952546
3.  On the presence and role of human gene-body DNA methylation 
Oncotarget  2012;3(4):462-474.
DNA methylation of promoter sequences is a repressive epigenetic mark that down-regulates gene expression. However, DNA methylation is more prevalent within gene-bodies than seen for promoters, and gene-body methylation has been observed to be positively correlated with gene expression levels. This paradox remains unexplained, and accordingly the role of DNA methylation in gene-bodies is poorly understood. We addressed the presence and role of human gene-body DNA methylation using a meta-analysis of human genome-wide methylation, expression and chromatin data sets. Methylation is associated with transcribed regions as genic sequences have higher levels of methylation than intergenic or promoter sequences. We also find that the relationship between gene-body DNA methylation and expression levels is non-monotonic and bell-shaped. Mid-level expressed genes have the highest levels of gene-body methylation, whereas the most lowly and highly expressed sets of genes both have low levels of methylation. While gene-body methylation can be seen to efficiently repress the initiation of intragenic transcription, the vast majority of methylated sites within genes are not associated with intragenic promoters. In fact, highly expressed genes initiate the most intragenic transcription, which is inconsistent with the previously held notion that gene-body methylation serves to repress spurious intragenic transcription to allow for efficient transcriptional elongation. These observations lead us to propose a model to explain the presence of human gene-body methylation. This model holds that the repression of intragenic transcription by gene-body methylation is largely epiphenomenal, and suggests that gene-body methylation levels are predominantly shaped via the accessibility of the DNA to methylating enzyme complexes.
PMCID: PMC3380580  PMID: 22577155
genome-wide methylation; epigenetic mark; intragenic transcription; methylating enzyme complexes
4.  Epigenetic regulation of human cis-natural antisense transcripts 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(4):1438-1445.
Mammalian genomes encode numerous cis-natural antisense transcripts (cis-NATs). The extent to which these cis-NATs are actively regulated and ultimately functionally relevant, as opposed to transcriptional noise, remains a matter of debate. To address this issue, we analyzed the chromatin environment and RNA Pol II binding properties of human cis-NAT promoters genome-wide. Cap analysis of gene expression data were used to identify thousands of cis-NAT promoters, and profiles of nine histone modifications and RNA Pol II binding for these promoters in ENCODE cell types were analyzed using chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by sequencing (ChIP-seq) data. Active cis-NAT promoters are enriched with activating histone modifications and occupied by RNA Pol II, whereas weak cis-NAT promoters are depleted for both activating modifications and RNA Pol II. The enrichment levels of activating histone modifications and RNA Pol II binding show peaks centered around cis-NAT transcriptional start sites, and the levels of activating histone modifications at cis-NAT promoters are positively correlated with cis-NAT expression levels. Cis-NAT promoters also show highly tissue-specific patterns of expression. These results suggest that human cis-NATs are actively transcribed by the RNA Pol II and that their expression is epigenetically regulated, prerequisites for a functional potential for many of these non-coding RNAs.
PMCID: PMC3287164  PMID: 22371288
5.  Do human transposable element small RNAs serve primarily as genome defenders or genome regulators? 
Mobile Genetic Elements  2012;2(1):19-25.
It is currently thought that small RNA (sRNA) based repression mechanisms are primarily employed to mitigate the mutagenic threat posed by the activity of transposable elements (TEs). This can be achieved by the sRNA guided processing of TE transcripts via Dicer-dependent (e.g., siRNA) or Dicer-independent (e.g., piRNA) mechanisms. For example, potentially active human L1 elements are silenced by mRNA cleavage induced by element encoded siRNAs, leading to a negative correlation between element mRNA and siRNA levels. On the other hand, there is emerging evidence that TE derived sRNAs can also be used to regulate the host genome. Here, we evaluated these two hypotheses for human TEs by comparing the levels of TE derived mRNA and TE sRNA across six tissues. The genome defense hypothesis predicts a negative correlation between TE mRNA and TE sRNA levels, whereas the genome regulatory hypothesis predicts a positive correlation. On average, TE mRNA and TE sRNA levels are positively correlated across human tissues. These correlations are higher than seen for human genes or for randomly permuted control data sets. Overall, Alu subfamilies show the highest positive correlations of element mRNA and sRNA levels across tissues, although a few of the youngest, and potentially most active, Alu subfamilies do show negative correlations. Thus, Alu derived sRNAs may be related to both genome regulation and genome defense. These results are inconsistent with a simple model whereby TE derived sRNAs reduce levels of standing TE mRNA via transcript cleavage, and suggest that human cells efficiently process TE transcripts into sRNA based on the available message levels. This may point to a widespread role for processed TE transcripts in genome regulation or to alternative roles of TE-to-sRNA processing including the mitigation of TE transcript cytotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC3383446  PMID: 22754749
RNA interference; RNA processing; gene expression; genome regulation; small RNA
6.  Transcription factor binding sites are highly enriched within microRNA precursor sequences 
Biology Direct  2011;6:61.
Transcription factors are thought to regulate the transcription of microRNA genes in a manner similar to that of protein-coding genes; that is, by binding to conventional transcription factor binding site DNA sequences located in or near promoter regions that lie upstream of the microRNA genes. However, in the course of analyzing the genomics of human microRNA genes, we noticed that annotated transcription factor binding sites commonly lie within 70- to 110-nt long microRNA small hairpin precursor sequences.
We report that about 45% of all human small hairpin microRNA (pre-miR) sequences contain at least one predicted transcription factor binding site motif that is conserved across human, mouse and rat, and this rises to over 75% if one excludes primate-specific pre-miRs. The association is robust and has extremely strong statistical significance; it affects both intergenic and intronic pre-miRs and both isolated and clustered microRNA genes. We also confirmed and extended this finding using a separate analysis that examined all human pre-miR sequences regardless of conservation across species.
The transcription factor binding sites localized within small hairpin microRNA precursor sequences may possibly regulate their transcription. Transcription factors may also possibly bind directly to nascent primary microRNA gene transcripts or small hairpin microRNA precursors and regulate their processing.
This article was reviewed by Guillaume Bourque (nominated by Jerzy Jurka), Dmitri Pervouchine (nominated by Mikhail Gelfand), and Yuriy Gusev.
PMCID: PMC3240832  PMID: 22136256
Transcription factors; microRNA biogenesis; drosha
7.  Neisseria Base: a comparative genomics database for Neisseria meningitidis 
Neisseria meningitidis is an important pathogen, causing life-threatening diseases including meningitis, septicemia and in some cases pneumonia. Genomic studies hold great promise for N. meningitidis research, but substantial database resources are needed to deal with the wealth of information that comes with completely sequenced and annotated genomes. To address this need, we developed Neisseria Base (NBase), a comparative genomics database and genome browser that houses and displays publicly available N. meningitidis genomes. In addition to existing N. meningitidis genome sequences, we sequenced and annotated 19 new genomes using 454 pyrosequencing and the CG-Pipeline genome analysis tool. In total, NBase hosts 27 complete N. meningitidis genome sequences along with their associated annotations. The NBase platform is designed to be scalable, via the underlying database schema and modular code architecture, such that it can readily incorporate new genomes and their associated annotations. The front page of NBase provides user access to these genomes through searching, browsing and downloading. NBase search utility includes BLAST-based sequence similarity searches along with a variety of semantic search options. All genomes can be browsed using a modified version of the GBrowse platform, and a plethora of information on each gene can be viewed using a customized details page. NBase also has a whole-genome comparison tool that yields single-nucleotide polymorphism differences between two user-defined groups of genomes. Using the virulent ST-11 lineage as an example, we demonstrate how this comparative genomics utility can be used to identify novel genomic markers for molecular profiling of N. meningitidis.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC3263597  PMID: 21930505
8.  A computational genomics pipeline for prokaryotic sequencing projects 
Bioinformatics  2010;26(15):1819-1826.
Motivation: New sequencing technologies have accelerated research on prokaryotic genomes and have made genome sequencing operations outside major genome sequencing centers routine. However, no off-the-shelf solution exists for the combined assembly, gene prediction, genome annotation and data presentation necessary to interpret sequencing data. The resulting requirement to invest significant resources into custom informatics support for genome sequencing projects remains a major impediment to the accessibility of high-throughput sequence data.
Results: We present a self-contained, automated high-throughput open source genome sequencing and computational genomics pipeline suitable for prokaryotic sequencing projects. The pipeline has been used at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the analysis of Neisseria meningitidis and Bordetella bronchiseptica genomes. The pipeline is capable of enhanced or manually assisted reference-based assembly using multiple assemblers and modes; gene predictor combining; and functional annotation of genes and gene products. Because every component of the pipeline is executed on a local machine with no need to access resources over the Internet, the pipeline is suitable for projects of a sensitive nature. Annotation of virulence-related features makes the pipeline particularly useful for projects working with pathogenic prokaryotes.
Availability and implementation: The pipeline is licensed under the open-source GNU General Public License and available at the Georgia Tech Neisseria Base ( The pipeline is implemented with a combination of Perl, Bourne Shell and MySQL and is compatible with Linux and other Unix systems.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC2905547  PMID: 20519285

Results 1-8 (8)