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Preview: PLoS Genetics: New Articles

PLOS Genetics: New Articles

A Peer-Reviewed Open-Access Journal

Updated: 2018-04-27T08:38:40Z


(XML) Altered distribution of ATG9A and accumulation of axonal aggregates in neurons from a mouse model of AP-4 deficiency syndrome


by Raffaella De Pace, Miguel Skirzewski, Markus Damme, Rafael Mattera, Jeffrey Mercurio, Arianne M. Foster, Loreto Cuitino, Michal Jarnik, Victoria Hoffmann, H. Douglas Morris, Tae-Un Han, Grazia M. S. Mancini, Andrés Buonanno, Juan S. Bonifacino

The hereditary spastic paraplegias (HSP) are a clinically and genetically heterogeneous group of disorders characterized by progressive lower limb spasticity. Mutations in subunits of the heterotetrameric (ε-β4-μ4-σ4) adaptor protein 4 (AP-4) complex cause an autosomal recessive form of complicated HSP referred to as “AP-4 deficiency syndrome”. In addition to lower limb spasticity, this syndrome features intellectual disability, microcephaly, seizures, thin corpus callosum and upper limb spasticity. The pathogenetic mechanism, however, remains poorly understood. Here we report the characterization of a knockout (KO) mouse for the AP4E1 gene encoding the ε subunit of AP-4. We find that AP-4 ε KO mice exhibit a range of neurological phenotypes, including hindlimb clasping, decreased motor coordination and weak grip strength. In addition, AP-4 ε KO mice display a thin corpus callosum and axonal swellings in various areas of the brain and spinal cord. Immunohistochemical analyses show that the transmembrane autophagy-related protein 9A (ATG9A) is more concentrated in the trans-Golgi network (TGN) and depleted from the peripheral cytoplasm both in skin fibroblasts from patients with mutations in the μ4 subunit of AP-4 and in various neuronal types in AP-4 ε KO mice. ATG9A mislocalization is associated with increased tendency to accumulate mutant huntingtin (HTT) aggregates in the axons of AP-4 ε KO neurons. These findings indicate that the AP-4 ε KO mouse is a suitable animal model for AP-4 deficiency syndrome, and that defective mobilization of ATG9A from the TGN and impaired autophagic degradation of protein aggregates might contribute to neuroaxonal dystrophy in this disorder.(image)

(XML) Gtr/Ego-independent TORC1 activation is achieved through a glutamine-sensitive interaction with Pib2 on the vacuolar membrane


by Hirofumi Ukai, Yasuhiro Araki, Shintaro Kira, Yu Oikawa, Alexander I. May, Takeshi Noda

TORC1 is a central regulator of cell growth in response to amino acids. The role of the evolutionarily conserved Gtr/Rag pathway in the regulation of TORC1 is well-established. Recent genetic studies suggest that an additional regulatory pathway, depending on the activity of Pib2, plays a role in TORC1 activation independently of the Gtr/Rag pathway. However, the interplay between the Pib2 pathway and the Gtr/Rag pathway remains unclear. In this study, we show that Pib2 and Gtr/Ego form distinct complexes with TORC1 in a mutually exclusive manner, implying dedicated functional relationships between TORC1 and Pib2 or Gtr/Rag in response to specific amino acids. Furthermore, simultaneous depletion of Pib2 and the Gtr/Ego system abolishes TORC1 activity and completely compromises the vacuolar localization of TORC1. Thus, the amino acid-dependent activation of TORC1 is achieved through the Pib2 and Gtr/Ego pathways alone. Finally, we show that glutamine induces a dose-dependent increase in Pib2-TORC1 complex formation, and that glutamine binds directly to the Pib2 complex. These data provide strong preliminary evidence for Pib2 functioning as a putative glutamine sensor in the regulation of TORC1.(image)

(XML) Non-canonical role of the SNARE protein Ykt6 in autophagosome-lysosome fusion


by Szabolcs Takáts, Gábor Glatz, Győző Szenci, Attila Boda, Gábor V. Horváth, Krisztina Hegedűs, Attila L. Kovács, Gábor Juhász

The autophagosomal SNARE Syntaxin17 (Syx17) forms a complex with Snap29 and Vamp7/8 to promote autophagosome-lysosome fusion via multiple interactions with the tethering complex HOPS. Here we demonstrate that, unexpectedly, one more SNARE (Ykt6) is also required for autophagosome clearance in Drosophila. We find that loss of Ykt6 leads to large-scale accumulation of autophagosomes that are unable to fuse with lysosomes to form autolysosomes. Of note, loss of Syx5, the partner of Ykt6 in ER-Golgi trafficking does not prevent autolysosome formation, pointing to a more direct role of Ykt6 in fusion. Indeed, Ykt6 localizes to lysosomes and autolysosomes, and forms a SNARE complex with Syx17 and Snap29. Interestingly, Ykt6 can be outcompeted from this SNARE complex by Vamp7, and we demonstrate that overexpression of Vamp7 rescues the fusion defect of ykt6 loss of function cells. Finally, a point mutant form with an RQ amino acid change in the zero ionic layer of Ykt6 protein that is thought to be important for fusion-competent SNARE complex assembly retains normal autophagic activity and restores full viability in mutant animals, unlike palmitoylation or farnesylation site mutant Ykt6 forms. As Ykt6 and Vamp7 are both required for autophagosome-lysosome fusion and are mutually exclusive subunits in a Syx17-Snap29 complex, these data suggest that Vamp7 is directly involved in membrane fusion and Ykt6 acts as a non-conventional, regulatory SNARE in this process.(image)

(XML) Control of yeast retrotransposons mediated through nucleoporin evolution


by Paul A. Rowley, Kurt Patterson, Suzanne B. Sandmeyer, Sara L. Sawyer

Yeasts serve as hosts to several types of genetic parasites. Few studies have addressed the evolutionary trajectory of yeast genes that control the stable co-existence of these parasites with their host cell. In Saccharomyces yeasts, the retrovirus-like Ty retrotransposons must access the nucleus. We show that several genes encoding components of the yeast nuclear pore complex have experienced natural selection for substitutions that change the encoded protein sequence. By replacing these S. cerevisiae genes with orthologs from other Saccharomyces species, we discovered that natural sequence changes have affected the mobility of Ty retrotransposons. Specifically, changing the genetic sequence of NUP84 or NUP82 to match that of other Saccharomyces species alters the mobility of S. cerevisiae Ty1 and Ty3. Importantly, all tested housekeeping functions of NUP84 and NUP82 remained equivalent across species. Signatures of natural selection, resulting in altered interactions with viruses and parasitic genetic elements, are common in host defense proteins. Yet, few instances have been documented in essential housekeeping proteins. The nuclear pore complex is the gatekeeper of the nucleus. This study shows how the evolution of this large, ubiquitous eukaryotic complex can alter the replication of a molecular parasite, but concurrently maintain essential host functionalities regarding nucleocytoplasmic trafficking.(image)

(XML) WUSCHEL-RELATED HOMEOBOX4 acts as a key regulator in early leaf development in rice


by Yukiko Yasui, Yoshihiro Ohmori, Yumiko Takebayashi, Hitoshi Sakakibara, Hiro-Yuki Hirano

Rice (Oryza sativa) has long and narrow leaves with parallel veins, similar to other grasses. Relative to Arabidopsis thaliana which has oval-shaped leaves, our understanding of the mechanism of leaf development is insufficient in grasses. In this study, we show that OsWOX4, a member of the WUSCHEL-RELATED HOMEOBOX gene family, plays important roles in early leaf development in rice. Inducible downregulation of OsWOX4 resulted in severe defects in leaf development, such as an arrest of vascular differentiation, a partial defect in the early cell proliferation required for midrib formation, and a failure to maintain cellular activity in general parenchyma cells. In situ analysis showed that knockdown of OsWOX4 reduced the expression of two LONELY GUY genes, which function in the synthesis of active cytokinin, in developing vascular bundles. Consistent with this, cytokinin levels were downregulated by OsWOX4 knockdown. Transcriptome analysis further showed that OsWOX4 regulates multiple genes, including those responsible for cell cycle progression and hormone action, consistent with the effects of OsWOX4 downregulation on leaf phenotypes. Collectively, these results suggest that OsWOX4 acts as a key regulator at an early stage of leaf development. Our previous work revealed that OsWOX4 is involved in the maintenance of shoot apical meristem in rice, whereas AtWOX4 is specifically associated with the maintenance of vascular stem cells in Arabidopsis. Thus, the function of the two orthologous genes seems to be diversified between rice and Arabidopsis.(image)

(XML) Intronic PAH gene mutations cause a splicing defect by a novel mechanism involving U1snRNP binding downstream of the 5’ splice site


by Ainhoa Martínez-Pizarro, Maja Dembic, Belén Pérez, Brage S. Andresen, Lourdes R. Desviat

Phenylketonuria (PKU), one of the most common inherited diseases of amino acid metabolism, is caused by mutations in the phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH) gene. Recently, PAH exon 11 was identified as a vulnerable exon due to a weak 3’ splice site, with different exonic mutations affecting exon 11 splicing through disruption of exonic splicing regulatory elements. In this study, we report a novel intron 11 regulatory element, which is involved in exon 11 splicing, as revealed by the investigated pathogenic effect of variants c.1199+17G>A and c.1199+20G>C, identified in PKU patients. Both mutations cause exon 11 skipping in a minigene system. RNA binding assays indicate that binding of U1snRNP70 to this intronic region is disrupted, concomitant with a slightly increased binding of inhibitors hnRNPA1/2. We have investigated the effect of deletions and point mutations, as well as overexpression of adapted U1snRNA to show that this splicing regulatory motif is important for regulation of correct splicing at the natural 5’ splice site. The results indicate that U1snRNP binding downstream of the natural 5’ splice site determines efficient exon 11 splicing, thus providing a basis for development of therapeutic strategies to correct PAH exon 11 splicing mutations. In this work, we expand the functional effects of non-canonical intronic U1 snRNP binding by showing that it may enhance exon definition and that, consequently, intronic mutations may cause exon skipping by a novel mechanism, where they disrupt stimulatory U1 snRNP binding close to the 5’ splice site. Notably, our results provide further understanding of the reported therapeutic effect of exon specific U1 snRNA for splicing mutations in disease.(image)

(XML) Unexpected cancer-predisposition gene variants in Cowden syndrome and Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome patients without underlying germline PTEN mutations


by Lamis Yehia, Ying Ni, Kaitlin Sesock, Farshad Niazi, Benjamin Fletcher, Hannah JinLian Chen, Thomas LaFramboise, Charis Eng

Patients with heritable cancer syndromes characterized by germline PTEN mutations (termed PTEN hamartoma tumor syndrome, PHTS) benefit from PTEN-enabled cancer risk assessment and clinical management. PTEN-wildtype patients (~50%) remain at increased risk of developing certain cancers. Existence of germline mutations in other known cancer susceptibility genes has not been explored in these patients, with implications for different medical management. We conducted a 4-year multicenter prospective study of incident patients with features of Cowden/Cowden-like (CS/CS-like) and Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndromes (BRRS) without PTEN mutations. Exome sequencing and targeted analysis were performed including 59 clinically actionable genes from the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG) and 24 additional genes associated with inherited cancer syndromes. Pathogenic or likely pathogenic cancer susceptibility gene alterations were found in 7 of the 87 (8%) CS/CS-like and BRRS patients and included MUTYH, RET, TSC2, BRCA1, BRCA2, ERCC2 and HRAS. We found classic phenotypes associated with the identified genes in 5 of the 7 (71.4%) patients. Variant positive patients were enriched for the presence of second malignant neoplasms compared to patients without identified variants (OR = 6.101, 95% CI 1.143–35.98, p = 0.035). Germline variant spectrum and frequencies were compared to The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), including 6 apparently sporadic cancers associated with PHTS. With comparable overall prevalence of germline variants, the spectrum of mutated genes was different in our patients compared to TCGA. Intriguingly, we also found notable enrichment of variants of uncertain significance (VUS) in our patients (OR = 2.3, 95% CI 1.5–3.5, p = 0.0002). Our data suggest that only a small subset of PTEN-wildtype CS/CS-like and BRRS patients could be accounted for by germline variants in some of the known cancer-related genes. Thus, the existence of alterations in other and more likely non-classic cancer-associated genes is plausible, reflecting the complexity of these heterogeneous hereditary cancer syndromes.(image)

(XML) Supervised machine learning reveals introgressed loci in the genomes of Drosophila simulans and D. sechellia


by Daniel R. Schrider, Julien Ayroles, Daniel R. Matute, Andrew D. Kern

Hybridization and gene flow between species appears to be common. Even though it is clear that hybridization is widespread across all surveyed taxonomic groups, the magnitude and consequences of introgression are still largely unknown. Thus it is crucial to develop the statistical machinery required to uncover which genomic regions have recently acquired haplotypes via introgression from a sister population. We developed a novel machine learning framework, called FILET (Finding Introgressed Loci via Extra-Trees) capable of revealing genomic introgression with far greater power than competing methods. FILET works by combining information from a number of population genetic summary statistics, including several new statistics that we introduce, that capture patterns of variation across two populations. We show that FILET is able to identify loci that have experienced gene flow between related species with high accuracy, and in most situations can correctly infer which population was the donor and which was the recipient. Here we describe a data set of outbred diploid Drosophila sechellia genomes, and combine them with data from D. simulans to examine recent introgression between these species using FILET. Although we find that these populations may have split more recently than previously appreciated, FILET confirms that there has indeed been appreciable recent introgression (some of which might have been adaptive) between these species, and reveals that this gene flow is primarily in the direction of D. simulans to D. sechellia.(image)

(XML) One for all and all for One: Improving replication of genetic studies through network diffusion


by Daniel Lancour, Adam Naj, Richard Mayeux, Jonathan L. Haines, Margaret A. Pericak-Vance, Gerard C. Schellenberg, Mark Crovella, Lindsay A. Farrer, Simon Kasif

Improving accuracy in genetic studies would greatly accelerate understanding the genetic basis of complex diseases. One approach to achieve such an improvement for risk variants identified by the genome wide association study (GWAS) approach is to incorporate previously known biology when screening variants across the genome. We developed a simple approach for improving the prioritization of candidate disease genes that incorporates a network diffusion of scores from known disease genes using a protein network and a novel integration with GWAS risk scores, and tested this approach on a large Alzheimer disease (AD) GWAS dataset. Using a statistical bootstrap approach, we cross-validated the method and for the first time showed that a network approach improves the expected replication rates in GWAS studies. Several novel AD genes were predicted including CR2, SHARPIN, and PTPN2. Our re-prioritized results are enriched for established known AD-associated biological pathways including inflammation, immune response, and metabolism, whereas standard non-prioritized results were not. Our findings support a strategy of considering network information when investigating genetic risk factors.(image)

(XML) Patterning mechanisms diversify neuroepithelial domains in the Drosophila optic placode


by Abhishek Kumar Mishra, F. Javier Bernardo-Garcia, Cornelia Fritsch, Tim-Henning Humberg, Boris Egger, Simon G. Sprecher

The central nervous system develops from monolayered neuroepithelial sheets. In a first step patterning mechanisms subdivide the seemingly uniform epithelia into domains allowing an increase of neuronal diversity in a tightly controlled spatial and temporal manner. In Drosophila, neuroepithelial patterning of the embryonic optic placode gives rise to the larval eye primordium, consisting of two photoreceptor (PR) precursor types (primary and secondary), as well as the optic lobe primordium, which during larval and pupal stages develops into the prominent optic ganglia. Here, we characterize a genetic network that regulates the balance between larval eye and optic lobe precursors, as well as between primary and secondary PR precursors. In a first step the proneural factor Atonal (Ato) specifies larval eye precursors, while the orphan nuclear receptor Tailless (Tll) is crucial for the specification of optic lobe precursors. The Hedgehog and Notch signaling pathways act upstream of Ato and Tll to coordinate neural precursor specification in a timely manner. The correct spatial placement of the boundary between Ato and Tll in turn is required to control the precise number of primary and secondary PR precursors. In a second step, Notch signaling also controls a binary cell fate decision, thus, acts at the top of a cascade of transcription factor interactions to define photoreceptor subtype identity. Our model serves as an example of how combinatorial action of cell extrinsic and cell intrinsic factors control neural tissue patterning.(image)

(XML) FoxO restricts growth and differentiation of cells with elevated TORC1 activity under nutrient restriction


by Katarzyna Nowak, Avantika Gupta, Hugo Stocker

TORC1, a central regulator of cell survival, growth, and metabolism, is activated in a variety of cancers. Loss of the tumor suppressors PTEN and Tsc1/2 results in hyperactivation of TORC1. Tumors caused by the loss of PTEN, but not Tsc1/2, are often malignant and have been shown to be insensitive to nutrient restriction (NR). In Drosophila, loss of PTEN or Tsc1 results in hypertrophic overgrowth of epithelial tissues under normal nutritional conditions, and an enhanced TORC1-dependent hyperplastic overgrowth of PTEN mutant tissue under NR. Here we demonstrate that epithelial cells lacking Tsc1 or Tsc2 also acquire a growth advantage under NR. The overgrowth correlates with high TORC1 activity, and activating TORC1 downstream of Tsc1 by overexpression of Rheb is sufficient to enhance tissue growth. In contrast to cells lacking PTEN, Tsc1 mutant cells show decreased PKB activity, and the extent of Tsc1 mutant overgrowth is dependent on the loss of PKB-mediated inhibition of the transcription factor FoxO. Removal of FoxO function from Tsc1 mutant tissue induces massive hyperplasia, precocious differentiation, and morphological defects specifically under NR, demonstrating that FoxO activation is responsible for restricting overgrowth of Tsc1 mutant tissue. The activation status of FoxO may thus explain why tumors caused by the loss of Tsc1 –in contrast to PTEN–rarely become malignant.(image)

(XML) Robustness encoded across essential and accessory replicons of the ecologically versatile bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti


by George C. diCenzo, Alex B. Benedict, Marco Fondi, Graham C. Walker, Turlough M. Finan, Alessio Mengoni, Joel S. Griffitts

Bacterial genome evolution is characterized by gains, losses, and rearrangements of functional genetic segments. The extent to which large-scale genomic alterations influence genotype-phenotype relationships has not been investigated in a high-throughput manner. In the symbiotic soil bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti, the genome is composed of a chromosome and two large extrachromosomal replicons (pSymA and pSymB, which together constitute 45% of the genome). Massively parallel transposon insertion sequencing (Tn-seq) was employed to evaluate the contributions of chromosomal genes to growth fitness in both the presence and absence of these extrachromosomal replicons. Ten percent of chromosomal genes from diverse functional categories are shown to genetically interact with pSymA and pSymB. These results demonstrate the pervasive robustness provided by the extrachromosomal replicons, which is further supported by constraint-based metabolic modeling. A comprehensive picture of core S. meliloti metabolism was generated through a Tn-seq-guided in silico metabolic network reconstruction, producing a core network encompassing 726 genes. This integrated approach facilitated functional assignments for previously uncharacterized genes, while also revealing that Tn-seq alone missed over a quarter of wild-type metabolism. This work highlights the many functional dependencies and epistatic relationships that may arise between bacterial replicons and across a genome, while also demonstrating how Tn-seq and metabolic modeling can be used together to yield insights not obtainable by either method alone.(image)

(XML) Threshold-dependent repression of SPL gene expression by miR156/miR157 controls vegetative phase change in Arabidopsis thaliana


by Jia He, Mingli Xu, Matthew R. Willmann, Kevin McCormick, Tieqiang Hu, Li Yang, Colby G. Starker, Daniel F. Voytas, Blake C. Meyers, R. Scott Poethig

Vegetative phase change is regulated by a decrease in the abundance of the miRNAs, miR156 and miR157, and the resulting increase in the expression of their targets, SQUAMOSA PROMOTER BINDING PROTEIN-LIKE (SPL) transcription factors. To determine how miR156/miR157 specify the quantitative and qualitative changes in leaf morphology that occur during vegetative phase change, we measured their abundance in successive leaves and characterized the phenotype of mutations in different MIR156 and MIR157 genes. miR156/miR157 decline rapidly between leaf 1&2 and leaf 3 and decrease more slowly after this point. The amount of miR156/miR157 in leaves 1&2 greatly exceeds the threshold required to specify their identity. Subsequent leaves have relatively low levels of miR156/miR157 and are sensitive to small changes in their abundance. In these later-formed leaves, the amount of miR156/miR157 is close to the threshold required to specify juvenile vs. adult identity; a relatively small decrease in the abundance of miR156/157 in these leaves produces a disproportionately large increase in SPL proteins and a significant change in leaf morphology. miR157 is more abundant than miR156 but has a smaller effect on shoot morphology and SPL gene expression than miR156. This may be attributable to the inefficiency with which miR157 is loaded into AGO1, as well as to the presence of an extra nucleotide at the 5' end of miR157 that is mis-paired in the miR157:SPL13 duplex. miR156 represses different targets by different mechanisms: it regulates SPL9 by a combination of transcript cleavage and translational repression and regulates SPL13 primarily by translational repression. Our results offer a molecular explanation for the changes in leaf morphology that occur during shoot development in Arabidopsis and provide new insights into the mechanism by which miR156 and miR157 regulate gene expression.(image)

(XML) Selection on the regulation of sympathetic nervous activity in humans and chimpanzees


by Kang Seon Lee, Paramita Chatterjee, Eun-Young Choi, Min Kyung Sung, Jaeho Oh, Hyejung Won, Seong-Min Park, Youn-Jae Kim, Soojin V. Yi, Jung Kyoon Choi

Adrenergic α2C receptor (ADRA2C) is an inhibitory modulator of the sympathetic nervous system. Knockout mice for this gene show physiological and behavioural alterations that are associated with the fight-or-flight response. There is evidence of positive selection on the regulation of this gene during chicken domestication. Here, we find that the neuronal expression of ADRA2C is lower in human and chimpanzee than in other primates. On the basis of three-dimensional chromatin structure, we identified a cis-regulatory region whose DNA sequences have been significantly accelerated in human and chimpanzee. Active histone modification marks this region in rhesus macaque but not in human and chimpanzee; instead, repressive marks are enriched in various human brain samples. This region contains two neuron-restrictive silencer factor (NRSF) binding motifs, each of which harbours a polymorphism. Our genotyping and analysis of population genome data indicate that at both polymorphic sites, the derived allele has reached fixation in humans and chimpanzees but not in bonobos, whereas only the ancestral allele is present among macaques. Our CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing and reporter assays show that both derived nucleotides repress ADRA2C, most likely by increasing NRSF binding. In addition, we detected signatures of recent positive selection for lower neuronal ADRA2C expression in humans. Our findings indicate that there has been selective pressure for enhanced sympathetic nervous activity in the evolution of humans and chimpanzees.(image)

(XML) Potential and limits for rapid genetic adaptation to warming in a Great Barrier Reef coral


by Mikhail V. Matz, Eric A. Treml, Galina V. Aglyamova, Line K. Bay

Can genetic adaptation in reef-building corals keep pace with the current rate of sea surface warming? Here we combine population genomics, biophysical modeling, and evolutionary simulations to predict future adaptation of the common coral Acropora millepora on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Genomics-derived migration rates were high (0.1–1% of immigrants per generation across half the latitudinal range of the GBR) and closely matched the biophysical model of larval dispersal. Both genetic and biophysical models indicated the prevalence of southward migration along the GBR that would facilitate the spread of heat-tolerant alleles to higher latitudes as the climate warms. We developed an individual-based metapopulation model of polygenic adaptation and parameterized it with population sizes and migration rates derived from the genomic analysis. We find that high migration rates do not disrupt local thermal adaptation, and that the resulting standing genetic variation should be sufficient to fuel rapid region-wide adaptation of A. millepora populations to gradual warming over the next 20–50 coral generations (100–250 years). Further adaptation based on novel mutations might also be possible, but this depends on the currently unknown genetic parameters underlying coral thermal tolerance and the rate of warming realized. Despite this capacity for adaptation, our model predicts that coral populations would become increasingly sensitive to random thermal fluctuations such as ENSO cycles or heat waves, which corresponds well with the recent increase in frequency of catastrophic coral bleaching events.(image)

(XML) Extensive reshaping of bacterial operons by programmed mRNA decay


by Daniel Dar, Rotem Sorek

Bacterial operons synchronize the expression of multiple genes by placing them under the control of a shared promoter. It was previously shown that polycistronic transcripts can undergo differential RNA decay, leaving some genes within the polycistron more stable than others, but, the extent of regulation by differential mRNA decay or its evolutionary conservation remains unknown. Here, we find that a substantial fraction of E. coli genes display non-uniform mRNA stoichiometries despite being coded from the same operon. We further show that these altered operon stoichiometries are shaped post-transcriptionally by differential mRNA decay, which is regulated by RNA structures that protect specific regions in the transcript from degradation. These protective RNA structures are generally coded within the protein-coding regions of the regulated genes and are frequently evolutionarily conserved. Furthermore, we provide evidence that differences in ribosome densities across polycistronic transcript segments, together with the conserved structural RNA elements, play a major role in the differential decay process. Our results highlight a major role for differential mRNA decay in shaping bacterial transcriptomes.(image)

(XML) An interplay between multiple sirtuins promotes completion of DNA replication in cells with short telomeres


by Antoine Simoneau, Étienne Ricard, Hugo Wurtele

The evolutionarily-conserved sirtuin family of histone deacetylases regulates a multitude of DNA-associated processes. A recent genome-wide screen conducted in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae identified Yku70/80, which regulate nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) and telomere structure, as being essential for cell proliferation in the presence of the pan-sirtuin inhibitor nicotinamide (NAM). Here, we show that sirtuin-dependent deacetylation of both histone H3 lysine 56 and H4 lysine 16 promotes growth of yku70Δ and yku80Δ cells, and that the NAM sensitivity of these mutants is not caused by defects in DNA double-strand break repair by NHEJ, but rather by their inability to maintain normal telomere length. Indeed, our results indicate that in the absence of sirtuin activity, cells with abnormally short telomeres, e.g., yku70/80Δ or est1/2Δ mutants, present striking defects in S phase progression. Our data further suggest that early firing of replication origins at short telomeres compromises the cellular response to NAM- and genotoxin-induced replicative stress. Finally, we show that reducing H4K16ac in yku70Δ cells limits activation of the DNA damage checkpoint kinase Rad53 in response to replicative stress, which promotes usage of translesion synthesis and S phase progression. Our results reveal a novel interplay between sirtuin-mediated regulation of chromatin structure and telomere-regulating factors in promoting timely completion of S phase upon replicative stress.(image)

(XML) Targeted next generation sequencing identifies functionally deleterious germline mutations in novel genes in early-onset/familial prostate cancer


by Paula Paulo, Sofia Maia, Carla Pinto, Pedro Pinto, Augusta Monteiro, Ana Peixoto, Manuel R. Teixeira

Considering that mutations in known prostate cancer (PrCa) predisposition genes, including those responsible for hereditary breast/ovarian cancer and Lynch syndromes, explain less than 5% of early-onset/familial PrCa, we have sequenced 94 genes associated with cancer predisposition using next generation sequencing (NGS) in a series of 121 PrCa patients. We found monoallelic truncating/functionally deleterious mutations in seven genes, including ATM and CHEK2, which have previously been associated with PrCa predisposition, and five new candidate PrCa associated genes involved in cancer predisposing recessive disorders, namely RAD51C, FANCD2, FANCI, CEP57 and RECQL4. Furthermore, using in silico pathogenicity prediction of missense variants among 18 genes associated with breast/ovarian cancer and/or Lynch syndrome, followed by KASP genotyping in 710 healthy controls, we identified “likely pathogenic” missense variants in ATM, BRIP1, CHEK2 and TP53. In conclusion, this study has identified putative PrCa predisposing germline mutations in 14.9% of early-onset/familial PrCa patients. Further data will be necessary to confirm the genetic heterogeneity of inherited PrCa predisposition hinted in this study.(image)

(XML) Cytokinin stabilizes WUSCHEL by acting on the protein domains required for nuclear enrichment and transcription


by Stephen A. Snipes, Kevin Rodriguez, Aaron E. DeVries, Kaori N. Miyawaki, Mariano Perales, Mingtang Xie, G. Venugopala Reddy

Concentration-dependent transcriptional regulation and the spatial regulation of transcription factor levels are poorly studied in plant development. WUSCHEL, a stem cell-promoting homeodomain transcription factor, accumulates at a higher level in the rib meristem than in the overlying central zone, which harbors stem cells in the shoot apical meristems of Arabidopsis thaliana. The differential accumulation of WUSCHEL in adjacent cells is critical for the spatial regulation and levels of CLAVATA3, a negative regulator of WUSCHEL transcription. Earlier studies have revealed that DNA-dependent dimerization, subcellular partitioning and protein destabilization control WUSCHEL protein levels and spatial accumulation. Moreover, the destabilization of WUSCHEL may also depend on the protein concentration. However, the roles of extrinsic spatial cues in maintaining differential accumulation of WUS are not understood. Through transient manipulation of hormone levels, hormone response patterns and analysis of the receptor mutants, we show that cytokinin signaling in the rib meristem acts through the transcriptional regulatory domains, the acidic domain and the WUSCHEL-box, to stabilize the WUS protein. Furthermore, we show that the same WUSCHEL-box functions as a degron sequence in cytokinin deficient regions in the central zone, leading to the destabilization of WUSCHEL. The coupled functions of the WUSCHEL-box in nuclear retention as described earlier, together with cytokinin sensing, reinforce higher nuclear accumulation of WUSCHEL in the rib meristem. In contrast a sub-threshold level may expose the WUSCHEL-box to destabilizing signals in the central zone. Thus, the cytokinin signaling acts as an asymmetric spatial cue in stabilizing the WUSCHEL protein to lead to its differential accumulation in neighboring cells, which is critical for concentration-dependent spatial regulation of CLAVATA3 transcription and meristem maintenance. Furthermore, our work shows that cytokinin response is regulated independently of the WUSCHEL function which may provide robustness to the regulation of WUSCHEL concentration.(image)

(XML) Synergistic co-regulation and competition by a SOX9-GLI-FOXA phasic transcriptional network coordinate chondrocyte differentiation transitions


by Zhijia Tan, Ben Niu, Kwok Yeung Tsang, Ian G. Melhado, Shinsuke Ohba, Xinjun He, Yongheng Huang, Cheng Wang, Andrew P. McMahon, Ralf Jauch, Danny Chan, Michael Q. Zhang, Kathryn S. E. Cheah

The growth plate mediates bone growth where SOX9 and GLI factors control chondrocyte proliferation, differentiation and entry into hypertrophy. FOXA factors regulate hypertrophic chondrocyte maturation. How these factors integrate into a Gene Regulatory Network (GRN) controlling these differentiation transitions is incompletely understood. We adopted a genome-wide whole tissue approach to establish a Growth Plate Differential Gene Expression Library (GP-DGEL) for fractionated proliferating, pre-hypertrophic, early and late hypertrophic chondrocytes, as an overarching resource for discovery of pathways and disease candidates. De novo motif discovery revealed the enrichment of SOX9 and GLI binding sites in the genes preferentially expressed in proliferating and prehypertrophic chondrocytes, suggesting the potential cooperation between SOX9 and GLI proteins. We integrated the analyses of the transcriptome, SOX9, GLI1 and GLI3 ChIP-seq datasets, with functional validation by transactivation assays and mouse mutants. We identified new SOX9 targets and showed SOX9-GLI directly and cooperatively regulate many genes such as Trps1, Sox9, Sox5, Sox6, Col2a1, Ptch1, Gli1 and Gli2. Further, FOXA2 competes with SOX9 for the transactivation of target genes. The data support a model of SOX9-GLI-FOXA phasic GRN in chondrocyte development. Together, SOX9-GLI auto-regulate and cooperate to activate and repress genes in proliferating chondrocytes. Upon hypertrophy, FOXA competes with SOX9, and control toward terminal differentiation passes to FOXA, RUNX, AP1 and MEF2 factors.(image)

(XML) Cyclic di-AMP regulation of osmotic homeostasis is essential in Group B Streptococcus


by Laura Devaux, Dona Sleiman, Maria-Vittoria Mazzuoli, Myriam Gominet, Philippe Lanotte, Patrick Trieu-Cuot, Pierre-Alexandre Kaminski, Arnaud Firon

Cyclic nucleotides are universally used as secondary messengers to control cellular physiology. Among these signalling molecules, cyclic di-adenosine monophosphate (c-di-AMP) is a specific bacterial second messenger recognized by host cells during infections and its synthesis is assumed to be necessary for bacterial growth by controlling a conserved and essential cellular function. In this study, we sought to identify the main c-di-AMP dependent pathway in Streptococcus agalactiae, the etiological agent of neonatal septicaemia and meningitis. By conditionally inactivating dacA, the only diadenyate cyclase gene, we confirm that c-di-AMP synthesis is essential in standard growth conditions. However, c-di-AMP synthesis becomes rapidly dispensable due to the accumulation of compensatory mutations. We identified several mutations restoring the viability of a ΔdacA mutant, in particular a loss-of-function mutation in the osmoprotectant transporter BusAB. Identification of c-di-AMP binding proteins revealed a conserved set of potassium and osmolyte transporters, as well as the BusR transcriptional factor. We showed that BusR negatively regulates busAB transcription by direct binding to the busAB promoter. Loss of BusR repression leads to a toxic busAB expression in absence of c-di-AMP if osmoprotectants, such as glycine betaine, are present in the medium. In contrast, deletion of the gdpP c-di-AMP phosphodiesterase leads to hyperosmotic susceptibility, a phenotype dependent on a functional BusR. Taken together, we demonstrate that c-di-AMP is essential for osmotic homeostasis and that the predominant mechanism is dependent on the c-di-AMP binding transcriptional factor BusR. The regulation of osmotic homeostasis is likely the conserved and essential function of c-di-AMP, but each species has evolved specific c-di-AMP mechanisms of osmoregulation to adapt to its environment.(image)

(XML) Transcription factor HAT1 is a substrate of SnRK2.3 kinase and negatively regulates ABA synthesis and signaling in Arabidopsis responding to drought


by Wenrong Tan, Dawei Zhang, Huapeng Zhou, Ting Zheng, Yanhai Yin, Honghui Lin

Drought is a major threat to plant growth and crop productivity. The phytohormone abscisic acid (ABA) plays a critical role in plant response to drought stress. Although ABA signaling-mediated drought tolerance has been widely investigated in Arabidopsis thaliana, the feedback mechanism and components negatively regulating this pathway are less well understood. Here we identified a member of Arabidopsis HD-ZIP transcription factors HAT1 which can interacts with and be phosphorylated by SnRK2s. hat1hat3, loss-of-function mutant of HAT1 and its homolog HAT3, was hypersensitive to ABA in primary root inhibition, ABA-responsive genes expression, and displayed enhanced drought tolerance, whereas HAT1 overexpressing lines were hyposensitive to ABA and less tolerant to drought stress, suggesting that HAT1 functions as a negative regulator in ABA signaling-mediated drought response. Furthermore, expression levels of ABA biosynthesis genes ABA3 and NCED3 were repressed by HAT1 directly binding to their promoters, resulting in the ABA level was increased in hat1hat3 and reduced in HAT1OX lines. Further evidence showed that both protein stability and binding activity of HAT1 was repressed by SnRK2.3 phosphorylation. Overexpressing SnRK2.3 in HAT1OX transgenic plant made a reduced HAT1 protein level and suppressed the HAT1OX phenotypes in ABA and drought response. Our results thus establish a new negative regulation mechanism of HAT1 which helps plants fine-tune their drought responses.(image)

(XML) Phosphorelay through the bifunctional phosphotransferase PhyT controls the general stress response in an alphaproteobacterium


by Lisa Gottschlich, Miriam Bortfeld-Miller, Christoph Gäbelein, Sebastian Dintner, Julia A. Vorholt

Two-component systems constitute phosphotransfer signaling pathways and enable adaptation to environmental changes, an essential feature for bacterial survival. The general stress response (GSR) in the plant-protecting alphaproteobacterium Sphingomonas melonis Fr1 involves a two-component system consisting of multiple stress-sensing histidine kinases (Paks) and the response regulator PhyR; PhyR in turn regulates the alternative sigma factor EcfG, which controls expression of the GSR regulon. While Paks had been shown to phosphorylate PhyR in vitro, it remained unclear if and under which conditions direct phosphorylation happens in the cell, as Paks also phosphorylate the single domain response regulator SdrG, an essential yet enigmatic component of the GSR signaling pathway. Here, we analyze the role of SdrG and investigate an alternative function of the membrane-bound PhyP (here re-designated PhyT), previously assumed to act as a PhyR phosphatase. In vitro assays show that PhyT transfers a phosphoryl group from SdrG to PhyR via phosphoryl transfer on a conserved His residue. This finding, as well as complementary GSR reporter assays, indicate the participation of SdrG and PhyT in a Pak-SdrG-PhyT-PhyR phosphorelay. Furthermore, we demonstrate complex formation between PhyT and PhyR. This finding is substantiated by PhyT-dependent membrane association of PhyR in unstressed cells, while the response regulator is released from the membrane upon stress induction. Our data support a model in which PhyT sequesters PhyR, thereby favoring Pak-dependent phosphorylation of SdrG. In addition, PhyT assumes the role of the SdrG-phosphotransferase to activate PhyR. Our results place SdrG into the GSR signaling cascade and uncover a dual role of PhyT in the GSR.(image)

(XML) Innovation in an E. coli evolution experiment is contingent on maintaining adaptive potential until competition subsides


by Dacia Leon, Simon D'Alton, Erik M. Quandt, Jeffrey E. Barrick

Key innovations are disruptive evolutionary events that enable a species to escape constraints and rapidly diversify. After 15 years of the Lenski long-term evolution experiment with Escherichia coli, cells in one of the twelve populations evolved the ability to utilize citrate, an abundant but previously untapped carbon source in the environment. Descendants of these cells became dominant in the population and subsequently diversified as a consequence of invading this vacant niche. Mutations responsible for the appearance of rudimentary citrate utilization and for refining this ability have been characterized. However, the complete nature of the genetic and/or ecological events that set the stage for this key innovation is unknown. In particular, it is unclear why it took so long for citrate utilization to evolve and why it still has evolved in only one of the twelve E. coli populations after 30 years of the Lenski experiment. In this study, we recapitulated the initial mutation needed to evolve citrate utilization in strains isolated from throughout the first 31,500 generations of the history of this population. We found that there was already a slight fitness benefit for this mutation in the original ancestor of the evolution experiment and in other early isolates. However, evolution of citrate utilization was blocked at this point due to competition with other mutations that improved fitness in the original niche. Subsequently, an anti-potentiated genetic background evolved in which it was deleterious to evolve rudimentary citrate utilization. Only later, after further mutations accumulated that restored the benefit of this first-step mutation and the overall rate of adaptation in the population slowed, was citrate utilization likely to evolve. Thus, intense competition and the types of mutations that it favors can lead to short-sighted evolutionary trajectories that hide a stepping stone needed to access a key innovation from many future generations.(image)

(XML) Linkage mapping of yeast cross protection connects gene expression variation to a higher-order organismal trait


by Tara N. Stuecker, Amanda N. Scholes, Jeffrey A. Lewis

Gene expression variation is extensive in nature, and is hypothesized to play a major role in shaping phenotypic diversity. However, connecting differences in gene expression across individuals to higher-order organismal traits is not trivial. In many cases, gene expression variation may be evolutionarily neutral, and in other cases expression variation may only affect phenotype under specific conditions. To understand connections between gene expression variation and stress defense phenotypes, we have been leveraging extensive natural variation in the gene expression response to acute ethanol in laboratory and wild Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains. Previous work found that the genetic architecture underlying these expression differences included dozens of “hotspot” loci that affected many transcripts in trans. In the present study, we provide new evidence that one of these expression QTL hotspot loci affects natural variation in one particular stress defense phenotype—ethanol-induced cross protection against severe doses of H2O2. A major causative polymorphism is in the heme-activated transcription factor Hap1p, which we show directly impacts cross protection, but not the basal H2O2 resistance of unstressed cells. This provides further support that distinct cellular mechanisms underlie basal and acquired stress resistance. We also show that Hap1p-dependent cross protection relies on novel regulation of cytosolic catalase T (Ctt1p) during ethanol stress in a wild oak strain. Because ethanol accumulation precedes aerobic respiration and accompanying reactive oxygen species formation, wild strains with the ability to anticipate impending oxidative stress would likely be at an advantage. This study highlights how strategically chosen traits that better correlate with gene expression changes can improve our power to identify novel connections between gene expression variation and higher-order organismal phenotypes.(image)

(XML) The UBR-1 ubiquitin ligase regulates glutamate metabolism to generate coordinated motor pattern in Caenorhabditis elegans


by Jyothsna Chitturi, Wesley Hung, Anas M. Abdel Rahman, Min Wu, Maria A. Lim, John Calarco, Renee Baran, Xun Huang, James W. Dennis, Mei Zhen

UBR1 is an E3 ubiquitin ligase best known for its ability to target protein degradation by the N-end rule. The physiological functions of UBR family proteins, however, remain not fully understood. We found that the functional loss of C. elegans UBR-1 leads to a specific motor deficit: when adult animals generate reversal movements, A-class motor neurons exhibit synchronized activation, preventing body bending. This motor deficit is rescued by removing GOT-1, a transaminase that converts aspartate to glutamate. Both UBR-1 and GOT-1 are expressed and critically required in premotor interneurons of the reversal motor circuit to regulate the motor pattern. ubr-1 and got-1 mutants exhibit elevated and decreased glutamate level, respectively. These results raise an intriguing possibility that UBR proteins regulate glutamate metabolism, which is critical for neuronal development and signaling.(image)

(XML) When genes move, genomes collide


by Yaniv Brandvain, Daniel R. Matute


(XML) Global characterization of copy number variants in epilepsy patients from whole genome sequencing


by Jean Monlong, Simon L. Girard, Caroline Meloche, Maxime Cadieux-Dion, Danielle M. Andrade, Ron G. Lafreniere, Micheline Gravel, Dan Spiegelman, Alexandre Dionne-Laporte, Cyrus Boelman, Fadi F. Hamdan, Jacques L. Michaud, Guy Rouleau, Berge A. Minassian, Guillaume Bourque, Patrick Cossette

Epilepsy will affect nearly 3% of people at some point during their lifetime. Previous copy number variants (CNVs) studies of epilepsy have used array-based technology and were restricted to the detection of large or exonic events. In contrast, whole-genome sequencing (WGS) has the potential to more comprehensively profile CNVs but existing analytic methods suffer from limited accuracy. We show that this is in part due to the non-uniformity of read coverage, even after intra-sample normalization. To improve on this, we developed PopSV, an algorithm that uses multiple samples to control for technical variation and enables the robust detection of CNVs. Using WGS and PopSV, we performed a comprehensive characterization of CNVs in 198 individuals affected with epilepsy and 301 controls. For both large and small variants, we found an enrichment of rare exonic events in epilepsy patients, especially in genes with predicted loss-of-function intolerance. Notably, this genome-wide survey also revealed an enrichment of rare non-coding CNVs near previously known epilepsy genes. This enrichment was strongest for non-coding CNVs located within 100 Kbp of an epilepsy gene and in regions associated with changes in the gene expression, such as expression QTLs or DNase I hypersensitive sites. Finally, we report on 21 potentially damaging events that could be associated with known or new candidate epilepsy genes. Our results suggest that comprehensive sequence-based profiling of CNVs could help explain a larger fraction of epilepsy cases.(image)

(XML) New insights into the transposition mechanisms of IS6110 and its dynamic distribution between Mycobacterium tuberculosis Complex lineages


by Jesús Gonzalo-Asensio, Irene Pérez, Nacho Aguiló, Santiago Uranga, Ana Picó, Carlos Lampreave, Alberto Cebollada, Isabel Otal, Sofía Samper, Carlos Martín

The insertion Sequence IS6110, only present in the pathogens of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis Complex (MTBC), has been the gold-standard epidemiological marker for TB for more than 25 years, but biological implications of IS6110 transposition during MTBC adaptation to humans remain elusive. By studying 2,236 clinical isolates typed by IS6110-RFLP and covering the MTBC, we remarked a lineage-specific content of IS6110 being higher in modern globally distributed strains. Once observed the IS6110 distribution in the MTBC, we selected representative isolates and found a correlation between the normalized expression of IS6110 and its abundance in MTBC chromosomes. We also studied the molecular regulation of IS6110 transposition and we found a synergistic action of two post-transcriptional mechanisms: a -1 ribosomal frameshift and a RNA pseudoknot which interferes translation. The construction of a transcriptionally active transposase resulted in 20-fold increase of the transposition frequency. Finally, we examined transposition in M. bovis and M. tuberculosis during laboratory starvation and in a mouse infection model of TB. Our results shown a higher transposition in M. tuberculosis, that preferably happens during TB infection in mice and after one year of laboratory culture, suggesting that IS6110 transposition is dynamically adapted to the host and to adverse growth conditions.(image)

(XML) Gene duplicates cause hybrid lethality between sympatric species of Mimulus


by Matthew P. Zuellig, Andrea L. Sweigart

Hybrid incompatibilities play a critical role in the evolution and maintenance of species. We have discovered a simple genetic incompatibility that causes lethality in hybrids between two closely related species of yellow monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus and M. nasutus). This hybrid incompatibility, which causes one sixteenth of F2 hybrid seedlings to lack chlorophyll and die shortly after germination, occurs between sympatric populations that are connected by ongoing interspecific gene flow. Using complimentary genetic mapping and gene expression analyses, we show that lethality occurs in hybrids that lack a functional copy of the critical photosynthetic gene pTAC14. In M. guttatus, this gene was duplicated, but the ancestral copy is no longer expressed. In M. nasutus, the duplication is missing altogether. As a result, hybrids die when they are homozygous for the nonfunctional M. guttatus copy and missing the duplicate from M. nasutus, apparently due to misregulated transcription of key photosynthetic genes. Our study indicates that neutral evolutionary processes may play an important role in the evolution of hybrid incompatibilities and opens the door to direct investigations of their contribution to reproductive isolation among naturally hybridizing species.(image)