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1.  A High-Fidelity Cell Lineage Tracing Method for Obtaining Systematic Spatiotemporal Gene Expression Patterns in Caenorhabditis elegans 
G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics  2013;3(5):851-863.
Advances in microscopy and fluorescent reporters have allowed us to detect the onset of gene expression on a cell-by-cell basis in a systematic fashion. This information, however, is often encoded in large repositories of images, and developing ways to extract this spatiotemporal expression data is a difficult problem that often uses complex domain-specific methods for each individual data set. We present a more unified approach that incorporates general previous information into a hierarchical probabilistic model to extract spatiotemporal gene expression from 4D confocal microscopy images of developing Caenorhabditis elegans embryos. This approach reduces the overall error rate of our automated lineage tracing pipeline by 3.8-fold, allowing us to routinely follow the C. elegans lineage to later stages of development, where individual neuronal subspecification becomes apparent. Unlike previous methods that often use custom approaches that are organism specific, our method uses generalized linear models and extensions of standard reversible jump Markov chain Monte Carlo methods that can be readily extended to other organisms for a variety of biological inference problems relating to cell fate specification. This modeling approach is flexible and provides tractable avenues for incorporating additional previous information into the model for similar difficult high-fidelity/low error tolerance image analysis problems for systematically applied genomic experiments.
doi:10.1534/g3.113.005918
PMCID: PMC3656732  PMID: 23550142
C. elegans; cell fate; gene expression; image analysis; lineage
2.  Evidence for compensatory upregulation of expressed X-linked genes in mammals, Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster 
Nature genetics  2011;43(12):1179-1185.
Many animal species use a chromosome-based mechanism of sex determination, which has led to the coordinate evolution of dosage-compensation systems. Dosage compensation not only corrects the imbalance in the number of X chromosomes between the sexes but also is hypothesized to correct dosage imbalance within cells that is due to monoallelic X-linked expression and biallelic autosomal expression, by upregulating X-linked genes twofold (termed ‘Ohno’s hypothesis’). Although this hypothesis is well supported by expression analyses of individual X-linked genes and by microarray-based transcriptome analyses, it was challenged by a recent study using RNA sequencing and proteomics. We obtained new, independent RNA-seq data, measured RNA polymerase distribution and reanalyzed published expression data in mammals, C. elegans and Drosophila. Our analyses, which take into account the skewed gene content of the X chromosome, support the hypothesis of upregulation of expressed X-linked genes to balance expression of the genome.
doi:10.1038/ng.948
PMCID: PMC3576853  PMID: 22019781
3.  Comparison and calibration of transcriptome data from RNA-Seq and tiling arrays 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:383.
Background
Tiling arrays have been the tool of choice for probing an organism's transcriptome without prior assumptions about the transcribed regions, but RNA-Seq is becoming a viable alternative as the costs of sequencing continue to decrease. Understanding the relative merits of these technologies will help researchers select the appropriate technology for their needs.
Results
Here, we compare these two platforms using a matched sample of poly(A)-enriched RNA isolated from the second larval stage of C. elegans. We find that the raw signals from these two technologies are reasonably well correlated but that RNA-Seq outperforms tiling arrays in several respects, notably in exon boundary detection and dynamic range of expression. By exploring the accuracy of sequencing as a function of depth of coverage, we found that about 4 million reads are required to match the sensitivity of two tiling array replicates. The effects of cross-hybridization were analyzed using a "nearest neighbor" classifier applied to array probes; we describe a method for determining potential "black list" regions whose signals are unreliable. Finally, we propose a strategy for using RNA-Seq data as a gold standard set to calibrate tiling array data. All tiling array and RNA-Seq data sets have been submitted to the modENCODE Data Coordinating Center.
Conclusions
Tiling arrays effectively detect transcript expression levels at a low cost for many species while RNA-Seq provides greater accuracy in several regards. Researchers will need to carefully select the technology appropriate to the biological investigations they are undertaking. It will also be important to reconsider a comparison such as ours as sequencing technologies continue to evolve.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-383
PMCID: PMC3091629  PMID: 20565764
4.  Using machine learning to speed up manual image annotation: application to a 3D imaging protocol for measuring single cell gene expression in the developing C. elegans embryo 
BMC Bioinformatics  2010;11:84.
Background
Image analysis is an essential component in many biological experiments that study gene expression, cell cycle progression, and protein localization. A protocol for tracking the expression of individual C. elegans genes was developed that collects image samples of a developing embryo by 3-D time lapse microscopy. In this protocol, a program called StarryNite performs the automatic recognition of fluorescently labeled cells and traces their lineage. However, due to the amount of noise present in the data and due to the challenges introduced by increasing number of cells in later stages of development, this program is not error free. In the current version, the error correction (i.e., editing) is performed manually using a graphical interface tool named AceTree, which is specifically developed for this task. For a single experiment, this manual annotation task takes several hours.
Results
In this paper, we reduce the time required to correct errors made by StarryNite. We target one of the most frequent error types (movements annotated as divisions) and train a support vector machine (SVM) classifier to decide whether a division call made by StarryNite is correct or not. We show, via cross-validation experiments on several benchmark data sets, that the SVM successfully identifies this type of error significantly. A new version of StarryNite that includes the trained SVM classifier is available at http://starrynite.sourceforge.net.
Conclusions
We demonstrate the utility of a machine learning approach to error annotation for StarryNite. In the process, we also provide some general methodologies for developing and validating a classifier with respect to a given pattern recognition task.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-11-84
PMCID: PMC2838868  PMID: 20146825
5.  Control of Cell Cycle Timing during C. elegans Embryogenesis 
Developmental biology  2008;318(1):65-72.
As a fundamental process of development, cell proliferation must be coordinated with other processes such as fate differentiation. Through statistical analysis of individual cell cycle lengths of the first eight out of ten rounds of embryonic cell division in C. elegans, we identified synchronous and invariantly ordered divisions that are tightly associated with fate differentiation. Our results suggest a three-tier model for fate control of cell cycle pace: the primary control of cell cycle pace is established by lineage and the founder cell fate, then fine-tuned by tissue and organ differentiation within each lineage, then further modified by individualization of cells as they acquire unique morphological and physiological roles in the variant body plan. We then set out to identify the pace-setting mechanisms in different fates. Our results suggest that ubiquitin-mediated degradation of CDC-25.1 is a rate-determining step for the E (gut) and P3 (muscle and germline) lineages but not others, even though CDC-25.1 and its apparent decay have been detected in all lineages. Our results demonstrate the power of C. elegans embryogenesis as a model to dissect the interaction between differentiation and proliferation, and an effective approach combining genetic and statistical analysis at single-cell resolution.
doi:10.1016/j.ydbio.2008.02.054
PMCID: PMC2442716  PMID: 18430415
statistics; single cell; fate differentiation; cdc25; Skp1-related
6.  Comparison of C. elegans and C. briggsae Genome Sequences Reveals Extensive Conservation of Chromosome Organization and Synteny 
PLoS Biology  2007;5(7):e167.
To determine whether the distinctive features of Caenorhabditis elegans chromosomal organization are shared with the C. briggsae genome, we constructed a single nucleotide polymorphism–based genetic map to order and orient the whole genome shotgun assembly along the six C. briggsae chromosomes. Although these species are of the same genus, their most recent common ancestor existed 80–110 million years ago, and thus they are more evolutionarily distant than, for example, human and mouse. We found that, like C. elegans chromosomes, C. briggsae chromosomes exhibit high levels of recombination on the arms along with higher repeat density, a higher fraction of intronic sequence, and a lower fraction of exonic sequence compared with chromosome centers. Despite extensive intrachromosomal rearrangements, 1:1 orthologs tend to remain in the same region of the chromosome, and colinear blocks of orthologs tend to be longer in chromosome centers compared with arms. More strikingly, the two species show an almost complete conservation of synteny, with 1:1 orthologs present on a single chromosome in one species also found on a single chromosome in the other. The conservation of both chromosomal organization and synteny between these two distantly related species suggests roles for chromosome organization in the fitness of an organism that are only poorly understood presently.
Author Summary
The importance of chromosomal organization in the fitness of a species is only poorly understood. The publication of the C. elegans genome sequence in 1998 revealed features of higher level organization that suggested its chromosomes were organized into distinct domains. Chromosome arms were accumulating changes more rapidly than the centers of chromosomes. In this paper, we have compared the organization of the nematode C. briggsae genome with that of C. elegans. By building a genetic map based on DNA variations between two strains of C. briggsae, and by using that map to organize the draft genome sequence of C. briggsae published in 2003, we found the following: (1) Intrachromosomal rearrangements are frequent within and even between arms but are less common within central regions and between arms and centers. (2) Genes have remained overwhelmingly on the same chromosomes. (3) The distinctive features that distinguish C. elegans arms from centers also are seen in C. briggsae chromosomes. The conservation of these features between these two species, despite the approximately 100 million years since their most recent common ancestor, provides clear evidence of the selective advantages of the domain architecture of chromosomes. The continuing association of genes on the same chromosomes suggests that this may also be advantageous.
The conservation of both chromosomal organization and synteny between two distantly related species suggests roles for chromosome organization in the fitness of an organism.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050167
PMCID: PMC1914384  PMID: 17608563
7.  Codon usage patterns in Nematoda: analysis based on over 25 million codons in thirty-two species 
Genome Biology  2006;7(8):R75.
A codon usage table for 32 nematode species is presented and suggests that total genomic GC content drives codon usage.
Background
Codon usage has direct utility in molecular characterization of species and is also a marker for molecular evolution. To understand codon usage within the diverse phylum Nematoda, we analyzed a total of 265,494 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from 30 nematode species. The full genomes of Caenorhabditis elegans and C. briggsae were also examined. A total of 25,871,325 codons were analyzed and a comprehensive codon usage table for all species was generated. This is the first codon usage table available for 24 of these organisms.
Results
Codon usage similarity in Nematoda usually persists over the breadth of a genus but then rapidly diminishes even within each clade. Globodera, Meloidogyne, Pristionchus, and Strongyloides have the most highly derived patterns of codon usage. The major factor affecting differences in codon usage between species is the coding sequence GC content, which varies in nematodes from 32% to 51%. Coding GC content (measured as GC3) also explains much of the observed variation in the effective number of codons (R = 0.70), which is a measure of codon bias, and it even accounts for differences in amino acid frequency. Codon usage is also affected by neighboring nucleotides (N1 context). Coding GC content correlates strongly with estimated noncoding genomic GC content (R = 0.92). On examining abundant clusters in five species, candidate optimal codons were identified that may be preferred in highly expressed transcripts.
Conclusion
Evolutionary models indicate that total genomic GC content, probably the product of directional mutation pressure, drives codon usage rather than the converse, a conclusion that is supported by examination of nematode genomes.
doi:10.1186/gb-2006-7-8-r75
PMCID: PMC1779591
8.  AceTree: a tool for visual analysis of Caenorhabditis elegans embryogenesis 
BMC Bioinformatics  2006;7:275.
Background
The invariant lineage of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has potential as a powerful tool for the description of mutant phenotypes and gene expression patterns. We previously described procedures for the imaging and automatic extraction of the cell lineage from C. elegans embryos. That method uses time-lapse confocal imaging of a strain expressing histone-GFP fusions and a software package, StarryNite, processes the thousands of images and produces output files that describe the location and lineage relationship of each nucleus at each time point.
Results
We have developed a companion software package, AceTree, which links the images and the annotations using tree representations of the lineage. This facilitates curation and editing of the lineage. AceTree also contains powerful visualization and interpretive tools, such as space filling models and tree-based expression patterning, that can be used to extract biological significance from the data.
Conclusion
By pairing a fast lineaging program written in C with a user interface program written in Java we have produced a powerful software suite for exploring embryonic development.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-7-275
PMCID: PMC1501046  PMID: 16740163
9.  Investigating hookworm genomes by comparative analysis of two Ancylostoma species 
BMC Genomics  2005;6:58.
Background
Hookworms, infecting over one billion people, are the mostly closely related major human parasites to the model nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Applying genomics techniques to these species, we analyzed 3,840 and 3,149 genes from Ancylostoma caninum and A. ceylanicum.
Results
Transcripts originated from libraries representing infective L3 larva, stimulated L3, arrested L3, and adults. Most genes are represented in single stages including abundant transcripts like hsp-20 in infective L3 and vit-3 in adults. Over 80% of the genes have homologs in C. elegans, and nearly 30% of these were with observable RNA interference phenotypes. Homologies were identified to nematode-specific and clade V specific gene families. To study the evolution of hookworm genes, 574 A. caninum / A. ceylanicum orthologs were identified, all of which were found to be under purifying selection with distribution ratios of nonsynonymous to synonymous amino acid substitutions similar to that reported for C. elegans / C. briggsae orthologs. The phylogenetic distance between A. caninum and A. ceylanicum is almost identical to that for C. elegans / C. briggsae.
Conclusion
The genes discovered should substantially accelerate research toward better understanding of the parasites' basic biology as well as new therapies including vaccines and novel anthelmintics.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-6-58
PMCID: PMC1112591  PMID: 15854223
10.  Analysis and functional classification of transcripts from the nematode Meloidogyne incognita 
Genome Biology  2003;4(4):R26.
As an entrée to characterizing plant parasitic nematode genomes, 5,700 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from the infective second-stage larvae (L2) of the root-knot nematode Meloidogyne incognita have been analyzed. In addition to identifying putative nematode-specific and Tylenchida-specific genes, sequencing revealed previously uncharacterized horizontal gene transfer candidates in Meloidogyne with high identity to rhizobacterial genes.
Background
Plant parasitic nematodes are major pathogens of most crops. Molecular characterization of these species as well as the development of new techniques for control can benefit from genomic approaches. As an entrée to characterizing plant parasitic nematode genomes, we analyzed 5,700 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from second-stage larvae (L2) of the root-knot nematode Meloidogyne incognita.
Results
From these, 1,625 EST clusters were formed and classified by function using the Gene Ontology (GO) hierarchy and the Kyoto KEGG database. L2 larvae, which represent the infective stage of the life cycle before plant invasion, express a diverse array of ligand-binding proteins and abundant cytoskeletal proteins. L2 are structurally similar to Caenorhabditis elegans dauer larva and the presence of transcripts encoding glyoxylate pathway enzymes in the M. incognita clusters suggests that root-knot nematode larvae metabolize lipid stores while in search of a host. Homology to other species was observed in 79% of translated cluster sequences, with the C. elegans genome providing more information than any other source. In addition to identifying putative nematode-specific and Tylenchida-specific genes, sequencing revealed previously uncharacterized horizontal gene transfer candidates in Meloidogyne with high identity to rhizobacterial genes including homologs of nodL acetyltransferase and novel cellulases.
Conclusions
With sequencing from plant parasitic nematodes accelerating, the approaches to transcript characterization described here can be applied to more extensive datasets and also provide a foundation for more complex genome analyses.
doi:10.1186/gb-2003-4-4-r26
PMCID: PMC154577  PMID: 12702207
11.  The Genome Sequence of Caenorhabditis briggsae: A Platform for Comparative Genomics 
PLoS Biology  2003;1(2):e45.
The soil nematodes Caenorhabditis briggsae and Caenorhabditis elegans diverged from a common ancestor roughly 100 million years ago and yet are almost indistinguishable by eye. They have the same chromosome number and genome sizes, and they occupy the same ecological niche. To explore the basis for this striking conservation of structure and function, we have sequenced the C. briggsae genome to a high-quality draft stage and compared it to the finished C. elegans sequence. We predict approximately 19,500 protein-coding genes in the C. briggsae genome, roughly the same as in C. elegans. Of these, 12,200 have clear C. elegans orthologs, a further 6,500 have one or more clearly detectable C. elegans homologs, and approximately 800 C. briggsae genes have no detectable matches in C. elegans. Almost all of the noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) known are shared between the two species. The two genomes exhibit extensive colinearity, and the rate of divergence appears to be higher in the chromosomal arms than in the centers. Operons, a distinctive feature of C. elegans, are highly conserved in C. briggsae, with the arrangement of genes being preserved in 96% of cases. The difference in size between the C. briggsae (estimated at approximately 104 Mbp) and C. elegans (100.3 Mbp) genomes is almost entirely due to repetitive sequence, which accounts for 22.4% of the C. briggsae genome in contrast to 16.5% of the C. elegans genome. Few, if any, repeat families are shared, suggesting that most were acquired after the two species diverged or are undergoing rapid evolution. Coclustering the C. elegans and C. briggsae proteins reveals 2,169 protein families of two or more members. Most of these are shared between the two species, but some appear to be expanding or contracting, and there seem to be as many as several hundred novel C. briggsae gene families. The C. briggsae draft sequence will greatly improve the annotation of the C. elegans genome. Based on similarity to C. briggsae, we found strong evidence for 1,300 new C. elegans genes. In addition, comparisons of the two genomes will help to understand the evolutionary forces that mold nematode genomes.
With the Caenorhabditis briggsae genome now in hand, C. elegans biologists have a powerful new research tool to refine their knowledge of gene function in C. elegans and to study the path of genome evolution
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0000045
PMCID: PMC261899  PMID: 14624247

Results 1-11 (11)