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1.  Assembly of eukaryotic algal chromosomes in yeast 
Synthetic genomic approaches offer unique opportunities to use powerful yeast and Escherichia coli genetic systems to assemble and modify chromosome-sized molecules before returning the modified DNA to the target host. For example, the entire 1 Mb Mycoplasma mycoides chromosome can be stably maintained and manipulated in yeast before being transplanted back into recipient cells. We have previously demonstrated that cloning in yeast of large (> ~ 150 kb), high G + C (55%) prokaryotic DNA fragments was improved by addition of yeast replication origins every ~100 kb. Conversely, low G + C DNA is stable (up to at least 1.8 Mb) without adding supplemental yeast origins. It has not been previously tested whether addition of yeast replication origins similarly improves the yeast-based cloning of large (>150 kb) eukaryotic DNA with moderate G + C content. The model diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum has an average G + C content of 48% and a 27.4 Mb genome sequence that has been assembled into chromosome-sized scaffolds making it an ideal test case for assembly and maintenance of eukaryotic chromosomes in yeast.
We present a modified chromosome assembly technique in which eukaryotic chromosomes as large as ~500 kb can be assembled from cloned ~100 kb fragments. We used this technique to clone fragments spanning P. tricornutum chromosomes 25 and 26 and to assemble these fragments into single, chromosome-sized molecules. We found that addition of yeast replication origins improved the cloning, assembly, and maintenance of the large chromosomes in yeast. Furthermore, purification of the fragments to be assembled by electroelution greatly increased assembly efficiency.
Entire eukaryotic chromosomes can be successfully cloned, maintained, and manipulated in yeast. These results highlight the improvement in assembly and maintenance afforded by including yeast replication origins in eukaryotic DNA with moderate G + C content (48%). They also highlight the increased efficiency of assembly that can be achieved by purifying fragments before assembly.
PMCID: PMC4029449  PMID: 24325901
Eukaryote; Chromosome; TAR cloning; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; Autonomously replicating sequence (ARS); Phaeodactylum tricornutum
2.  Tandem repeat coupled with endonuclease cleavage (TREC): a seamless modification tool for genome engineering in yeast 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(8):2570-2576.
The complete synthetic Mycoplasma genitalium genome (∼583 kb) has been assembled and cloned as a circular plasmid in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Attempts to engineer the cloned genome by standard genetic methods involving the URA3/5-fluoroorotic acid (5-FOA) counter-selection have shown a high background of 5-FOA resistant clones derived from spontaneous deletions of the bacterial genome maintained in yeast. Here, we report a method that can seamlessly modify the bacterial genome in yeast with high efficiency. This method requires two sequential homologous recombination events. First, the target region is replaced with a mutagenesis cassette that consists of a knock-out CORE (an18-bp I-SceI recognition site, the SCEI gene under the control of the GAL1 promoter, and the URA3 marker) and a DNA fragment homologous to the sequence upstream of the target site. The replacement generates tandem repeat sequences flanking the CORE. Second, galactose induces the expression of I-SceI, which generates a double-strand break (DSB) at the recognition site. This DSB promotes intra-molecular homologous recombination between the repeat sequences, and leads to an excision of the CORE. As a result, a seamless modification is generated. This method can be adapted for a variety of genomic modifications and may provide an important tool to modify and design natural or synthetic genomes propagated in yeast.
PMCID: PMC2860121  PMID: 20228123
3.  Genome-Wide Mutation Avalanches Induced in Diploid Yeast Cells by a Base Analog or an APOBEC Deaminase 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(9):e1003736.
Genetic information should be accurately transmitted from cell to cell; conversely, the adaptation in evolution and disease is fueled by mutations. In the case of cancer development, multiple genetic changes happen in somatic diploid cells. Most classic studies of the molecular mechanisms of mutagenesis have been performed in haploids. We demonstrate that the parameters of the mutation process are different in diploid cell populations. The genomes of drug-resistant mutants induced in yeast diploids by base analog 6-hydroxylaminopurine (HAP) or AID/APOBEC cytosine deaminase PmCDA1 from lamprey carried a stunning load of thousands of unselected mutations. Haploid mutants contained almost an order of magnitude fewer mutations. To explain this, we propose that the distribution of induced mutation rates in the cell population is uneven. The mutants in diploids with coincidental mutations in the two copies of the reporter gene arise from a fraction of cells that are transiently hypersensitive to the mutagenic action of a given mutagen. The progeny of such cells were never recovered in haploids due to the lethality caused by the inactivation of single-copy essential genes in cells with too many induced mutations. In diploid cells, the progeny of hypersensitive cells survived, but their genomes were saturated by heterozygous mutations. The reason for the hypermutability of cells could be transient faults of the mutation prevention pathways, like sanitization of nucleotide pools for HAP or an elevated expression of the PmCDA1 gene or the temporary inability of the destruction of the deaminase. The hypothesis on spikes of mutability may explain the sudden acquisition of multiple mutational changes during evolution and carcinogenesis.
Author Summary
Evolution and carcinogenesis are driven by mutations. Cells maintain constant mutation rates and can afford only transient mutagenesis bursts for adaptation. The nature of the mutational avalanches is not very clear. We sequenced the whole genomes of mutants induced in haploid and diploid yeast by nucleobase analog HAP and by DNA editing cytosine deaminase. Mutants selected in diploids are saturated with passenger mutations. Far fewer mutations are found in haploid mutants. Treatment with a mutagen without selection results in intermediate mutagenesis. The observed transient hypermutability of diploids under mutagenic insult helps to explain the wellspring of mutations that arise during evolution and carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3764175  PMID: 24039593
4.  Breaking the HAC Barrier: Histone H3K9 acetyl/methyl balance regulates CENP-A assembly 
The EMBO Journal  2012;31(10):2391-2402.
Establishment of Human Artificial Chromosomes (HACs) depends on an interplay of H3 lysine 9 modifications at centromeres, providing insights into the pathways that control incorporation of the kinetochore-specificing histone H3 variant CENP-A.
The kinetochore is responsible for accurate chromosome segregation. However, the mechanism by which kinetochores assemble and are maintained remains unclear. Here we report that de novo CENP-A assembly and kinetochore formation on human centromeric alphoid DNA arrays is regulated by a histone H3K9 acetyl/methyl balance. Tethering of histone acetyltransferases (HATs) to alphoid DNA arrays breaks a cell type-specific barrier for de novo stable CENP-A assembly and induces assembly of other kinetochore proteins at the ectopic alphoid site. Similar results are obtained following tethering of CENP-A deposition factors hMis18α or HJURP. HAT tethering bypasses the need for hMis18α, but HJURP is still required for de novo kinetochore assembly. In contrast, H3K9 methylation following tethering of H3K9 tri-methylase (Suv39h1) to the array prevents de novo CENP-A assembly and kinetochore formation. CENP-A arrays assembled de novo by this mechanism can form human artificial chromosomes (HACs) that are propagated indefinitely in human cells.
PMCID: PMC3364751  PMID: 22473132
CENP-A; centromeres; chromosomes; epigenetic regulation; heterochromatin
5.  Rapid generation of long tandem DNA repeat arrays by homologous recombination in yeast to study their function in mammalian genomes 
We describe here a method to rapidly convert any desirable DNA fragment, as small as 100 bp, into long tandem DNA arrays up to 140 kb in size that are inserted into a microbe vector. This method includes rolling-circle phi29 amplification (RCA) of the sequence in vitro and assembly of the RCA products in vivo by homologous recombination in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The method was successfully used for a functional analysis of centromeric and pericentromeric repeats and construction of new vehicles for gene delivery to mammalian cells. The method may have general application in elucidating the role of tandem repeats in chromosome organization and dynamics. Each cycle of the protocol takes ~ two weeks to complete.
PMCID: PMC3200152  PMID: 21982381
6.  Cloning whole bacterial genomes in yeast 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(8):2558-2569.
Most microbes have not been cultured, and many of those that are cultivatable are difficult, dangerous or expensive to propagate or are genetically intractable. Routine cloning of large genome fractions or whole genomes from these organisms would significantly enhance their discovery and genetic and functional characterization. Here we report the cloning of whole bacterial genomes in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as single-DNA molecules. We cloned the genomes of Mycoplasma genitalium (0.6 Mb), M. pneumoniae (0.8 Mb) and M. mycoides subspecies capri (1.1 Mb) as yeast circular centromeric plasmids. These genomes appear to be stably maintained in a host that has efficient, well-established methods for DNA manipulation.
PMCID: PMC2860123  PMID: 20211840
7.  Inactivation of a Human Kinetochore by Specific Targeting of Chromatin Modifiers 
Developmental Cell  2008;14(4):507-522.
We have used a human artificial chromosome (HAC) to manipulate the epigenetic state of chromatin within an active kinetochore. The HAC has a dimeric α-satellite repeat containing one natural monomer with a CENP-B binding site, and one completely artificial synthetic monomer with the CENP-B box replaced by a tetracycline operator (tetO). This HAC exhibits normal kinetochore protein composition and mitotic stability. Targeting of several tet-repressor (tetR) fusions into the centromere had no effect on kinetochore function. However, altering the chromatin state to a more open configuration with the tTA transcriptional activator or to a more closed state with the tTS transcription silencer caused missegregation and loss of the HAC. tTS binding caused the loss of CENP-A, CENP-B, CENP-C, and H3K4me2 from the centromere accompanied by an accumulation of histone H3K9me3. Our results reveal that a dynamic balance between centromeric chromatin and heterochromatin is essential for vertebrate kinetochore activity.
PMCID: PMC2311382  PMID: 18410728
8.  Evolutionary Diversification of SPANX-N Sperm Protein Gene Structure and Expression 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(4):e359.
The sperm protein associated with nucleus in the X chromosome (SPANX) genes cluster at Xq27 in two subfamilies, SPANX-A/D and SPANX-N. SPANX-A/D is specific for hominoids and is fairly well characterized. The SPANX-N gave rise to SPANX-A/D in the hominoid lineage ∼7 MYA. Given the proposed role of SPANX genes in spermatogenesis, we have extended studies to SPANX-N gene evolution, variation, regulation of expression, and intra-sperm localization. By immunofluorescence analysis, SPANX-N proteins are localized in post-meiotic spermatids exclusively, like SPANX-A/D. But in contrast to SPANX-A/D, SPANX-N are found in all ejaculated spermatozoa rather than only in a subpopulation, are localized in the acrosome rather than in the nuclear envelope, and are expressed at a low level in several nongametogenic adult tissues as well as many cancers. Presence of a binding site for CTCF and its testis-specific paralogue BORIS in the SPANX promoters suggests, by analogy to MAGE-A1 and NY-ESO-1, that their activation in spermatogenesis is mediated by the programmed replacement of CTCF by BORIS. Based on the relative density of CpG, the more extended expression of SPANX-N compared to SPANX-A/D in nongametogenic tissues is likely attributed to differences in promoter methylation. Our findings suggest that the recent duplication of SPANX genes in hominoids was accompanied by different localization of SPANX-N proteins in post-meiotic sperm and additional expression in several nongonadal tissues. This suggests a corresponding functional diversification of SPANX gene families in hominoids. SPANX proteins thus provide unique targets to investigate their roles in the function of spermatozoa, selected malignancies, and for SPANX-N, in other tissues as well.
PMCID: PMC1831492  PMID: 17406683
9.  Rapid generation of long synthetic tandem repeats and its application for analysis in human artificial chromosome formation 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(15):e130.
Human artificial chromosomes (HACs) provide a unique opportunity to study kinetochore formation and to develop a new generation of vectors with potential in gene therapy. An investigation into the structural and the functional relationship in centromeric tandem repeats in HACs requires the ability to manipulate repeat substructure efficiently. We describe here a new method to rapidly amplify human alphoid tandem repeats of a few hundred base pairs into long DNA arrays up to 120 kb. The method includes rolling-circle amplification (RCA) of repeats in vitro and assembly of the RCA products by in vivo recombination in yeast. The synthetic arrays are competent in HAC formation when transformed into human cells. As short multimers can be easily modified before amplification, this new technique can identify repeat monomer regions critical for kinetochore seeding. The method may have more general application in elucidating the role of other tandem repeats in chromosome organization and dynamics.
PMCID: PMC1197135  PMID: 16141190
10.  A general cloning system to selectively isolate any eukaryotic or prokaryotic genomic region in yeast 
BMC Genomics  2003;4:16.
Transformation-associated recombination (TAR) cloning in yeast is a unique method for selective isolation of large chromosomal fragments or entire genes from complex genomes. The technique involves homologous recombination, during yeast spheroplast transformation, between genomic DNA and a TAR vector that has short (~ 60 bp) 5' and 3' gene targeting sequences (hooks).
TAR cloning requires that the cloned DNA fragment carry at least one autonomously replicating sequence (ARS) that can function as the origin of replication in yeast, which prevents wide application of the method. In this paper, we describe a novel TAR cloning system that allows isolation of genomic regions lacking yeast ARS-like sequences. ARS is inserted into the TAR vector along with URA3 as a counter-selectable marker. The hooks are placed between the TATA box and the transcription initiation site of URA3. Insertion of any sequence between hooks results in inactivation of URA3 expression. That inactivation confers resistance to 5-fluoroorotic acid, allowing selection of TAR cloning events against background vector recircularization events.
The new system greatly expands the area of application of TAR cloning by allowing isolation of any chromosomal region from eukaryotic and prokaryotic genomes regardless of the presence of autonomously replicating sequences.
PMCID: PMC156606  PMID: 12720573
transformation-associated recombination cloning; gene isolation; counter-selection
11.  Optimum conditions for selective isolation of genes from complex genomes by transformation-associated recombination cloning 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(6):e29.
Transformation-associated recombination (TAR) cloning in yeast is used to isolate a desired chromosomal region or gene from a complex genome without construction of a genomic library. The technique involves homologous recombination during yeast spheroplast transformation between genomic DNA and a TAR vector containing short 5′ and 3′ gene-specific targeting hooks. Efficient gene capture requires a high yield of transformants, and we demonstrate here that the transformant yield increases ∼10-fold when the genomic DNA is sheared to 100–200 kb before being presented to the spheroplasts. Here we determine the most effective concentration of genomic DNA, and also show that the targeted sequences recombine much more efficiently with the vector’s targeting hooks when they are located at the ends of the genomic DNA fragment. We demonstrate that the yield of gene-positive clones increases ∼20-fold after endonuclease digestion of genomic DNA, which caused double strand breaks near the targeted sequences. These findings have led to a greatly improved protocol.
PMCID: PMC152883  PMID: 12626728
12.  Difference between deoxyribose- and tetrahydrofuran-type abasic sites in the in vivo mutagenic responses in yeast 
Nucleic Acids Research  2002;30(23):5129-5135.
We have analyzed the mutagenic specificity of an abasic site in DNA using the yeast oligonucleotide transformation assay. Oligonucleotides containing an abasic site or its analog were introduced into B7528 or its derivatives, and nucleotide incorporation opposite abasic sites was analyzed. Cytosine was most frequently incorporated opposite a natural abasic site (O) (‘C-rule’), followed by thymine. Deletion of REV1 decreased the transformation efficiency and the incorporation of cytosine nearly to a background level. In contrast, deletion of RAD30 did not affect them. We compared the mutagenic specificity with that of a tetrahydrofuran abasic site (F), an abasic analog used widely. Its mutation spectrum was clearly different from that of O. Adenine, not cytosine, was most favorably incorporated. However, deletion of REV1 decreased the transformation efficiency with F-containing oligonucleotide as in the case of O. These results suggest that the bypass mechanism of F is different from that of O, although the bypasses in both cases are dependent on REV1. We also found that the mutagenic specificity of F can be affected by not only the adjacent bases, but also a base located two positions away from F.
PMCID: PMC137977  PMID: 12466536
13.  The RFC2 Gene, Encoding the Third-Largest Subunit of the Replication Factor C Complex, Is Required for an S-Phase Checkpoint in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1998;18(8):4914-4923.
Replication factor C (RF-C), an auxiliary factor for DNA polymerases δ and ɛ, is a multiprotein complex consisting of five different polypeptides. It recognizes a primer on a template DNA, binds to a primer terminus, and helps load proliferating cell nuclear antigen onto the DNA template. The RFC2 gene encodes the third-largest subunit of the RF-C complex. To elucidate the role of this subunit in DNA metabolism, we isolated a thermosensitive mutation (rfc2-1) in the RFC2 gene. It was shown that mutant cells having the rfc2-1 mutation exhibit (i) temperature-sensitive cell growth; (ii) defects in the integrity of chromosomal DNA at restrictive temperatures; (iii) progression through cell cycle without definitive terminal morphology and rapid loss of cell viability at restrictive temperatures; (iv) sensitivity to hydroxyurea, methyl methanesulfonate, and UV light; and (v) increased rate of spontaneous mitotic recombination and chromosome loss. These phenotypes of the mutant suggest that the RFC2 gene product is required not only for chromosomal DNA replication but also for a cell cycle checkpoint. It was also shown that the rfc2-1 mutation is synthetically lethal with either the cdc44-1 or rfc5-1 mutation and that the restrictive temperature of rfc2-1 mutant cells can be lowered by combining either with the cdc2-2 or pol2-11 mutation. Finally, it was shown that the temperature-sensitive cell growth phenotype and checkpoint defect of the rfc2-1 mutation can be suppressed by a multicopy plasmid containing the RFC5 gene. These results suggest that the RFC2 gene product interacts with the CDC44/RFC1 and RFC5 gene products in the RF-C complex and with both DNA polymerases δ and ɛ during chromosomal DNA replication.
PMCID: PMC109075  PMID: 9671499

Results 1-13 (13)