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Preview: PLoS Genetics: New Articles

PLOS Genetics: New Articles

A Peer-Reviewed Open-Access Journal

Updated: 2018-04-22T01:45:29Z


(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 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 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)

(XML) Correction: SRC-2-mediated coactivation of anti-tumorigenic target genes suppresses MYC-induced liver cancer


by Shruthy Suresh, Deniz Durakoglugil, Xiaorong Zhou, Bokai Zhu, Sarah A. Comerford, Chao Xing, Xian-Jin Xie, Brian York, Kathryn A. O’Donnell


(XML) Supramolecular assembly of the beta-catenin destruction complex and the effect of Wnt signaling on its localization, molecular size, and activity in vivo


by Kristina N. Schaefer, Teresa T. Bonello, Shiping Zhang, Clara E. Williams, David M. Roberts, Daniel J. McKay, Mark Peifer

Wnt signaling provides a paradigm for cell-cell signals that regulate embryonic development and stem cell homeostasis and are inappropriately activated in cancers. The tumor suppressors APC and Axin form the core of the multiprotein destruction complex, which targets the Wnt-effector beta-catenin for phosphorylation, ubiquitination and destruction. Based on earlier work, we hypothesize that the destruction complex is a supramolecular entity that self-assembles by Axin and APC polymerization, and that regulating assembly and stability of the destruction complex underlie its function. We tested this hypothesis in Drosophila embryos, a premier model of Wnt signaling. Combining biochemistry, genetic tools to manipulate Axin and APC2 levels, advanced imaging and molecule counting, we defined destruction complex assembly, stoichiometry, and localization in vivo, and its downregulation in response to Wnt signaling. Our findings challenge and revise current models of destruction complex function. Endogenous Axin and APC2 proteins and their antagonist Dishevelled accumulate at roughly similar levels, suggesting competition for binding may be critical. By expressing Axin:GFP at near endogenous levels we found that in the absence of Wnt signals, Axin and APC2 co-assemble into large cytoplasmic complexes containing tens to hundreds of Axin proteins. Wnt signals trigger recruitment of these to the membrane, while cytoplasmic Axin levels increase, suggesting altered assembly/disassembly. Glycogen synthase kinase3 regulates destruction complex recruitment to the membrane and release of Armadillo/beta-catenin from the destruction complex. Manipulating Axin or APC2 levels had no effect on destruction complex activity when Wnt signals were absent, but, surprisingly, had opposite effects on the destruction complex when Wnt signals were present. Elevating Axin made the complex more resistant to inactivation, while elevating APC2 levels enhanced inactivation. Our data suggest both absolute levels and the ratio of these two core components affect destruction complex function, supporting models in which competition among Axin partners determines destruction complex activity.(image)

(XML) TGFβ signaling related genes are involved in hormonal mediation during termite soldier differentiation


by Yudai Masuoka, Hajime Yaguchi, Kouhei Toga, Shuji Shigenobu, Kiyoto Maekawa

A working knowledge of the proximate factors intrinsic to sterile caste differentiation is necessary to understand the evolution of eusocial insects. Genomic and transcriptomic analyses in social hymenopteran insects have resulted in the hypothesis that sterile castes are generated by the novel function of co-opted or recruited universal gene networks found in solitary ancestors. However, transcriptome analysis during caste differentiation has not been tested in termites, and evolutionary processes associated with acquiring the caste are still unknown. Termites possess the soldier caste, which is regarded as the first acquired permanently sterile caste in the taxon. In this study, we performed a comparative transcriptome analysis in termite heads during 3 molting processes, i.e., worker, presoldier and soldier molts, under natural conditions in an incipient colony of the damp-wood termite Zootermopsis nevadensis. Although similar expression patterns were observed during each molting process, more than 50 genes were shown to be highly expressed before the presoldier (intermediate stage of soldier) molt. We then performed RNA interference (RNAi) of the candidate 13 genes, including transcription factors and uncharacterized protein genes, during presoldier differentiation induced by juvenile hormone (JH) analog treatment. Presoldiers induced after RNAi of two genes related to TGFβ (Transforming growth factor beta) signaling were extremely unusual and possessed soldier-like phenotypes. These individuals also displayed aggressive behaviors similar to natural soldiers when confronted with Formica ants as hypothetical enemies. These presoldiers never molted into the next instar, presumably due to the decreased expression levels of 20E signaling genes. These results suggest that TGFβ signaling was acquired for the novel function of regulating between JH and 20E signaling during soldier differentiation in termites.(image)

(XML) Effector gene birth in plant parasitic nematodes: Neofunctionalization of a housekeeping glutathione synthetase gene


by Catherine J. Lilley, Abbas Maqbool, Duqing Wu, Hazijah B. Yusup, Laura M. Jones, Paul R. J. Birch, Mark J. Banfield, Peter E. Urwin, Sebastian Eves-van den Akker

Plant pathogens and parasites are a major threat to global food security. Plant parasitism has arisen four times independently within the phylum Nematoda, resulting in at least one parasite of every major food crop in the world. Some species within the most economically important order (Tylenchida) secrete proteins termed effectors into their host during infection to re-programme host development and immunity. The precise detail of how nematodes evolve new effectors is not clear. Here we reconstruct the evolutionary history of a novel effector gene family. We show that during the evolution of plant parasitism in the Tylenchida, the housekeeping glutathione synthetase (GS) gene was extensively replicated. New GS paralogues acquired multiple dorsal gland promoter elements, altered spatial expression to the secretory dorsal gland, altered temporal expression to primarily parasitic stages, and gained a signal peptide for secretion. The gene products are delivered into the host plant cell during infection, giving rise to “GS-like effectors”. Remarkably, by solving the structure of GS-like effectors we show that during this process they have also diversified in biochemical activity, and likely represent the founding members of a novel class of GS-like enzyme. Our results demonstrate the re-purposing of an endogenous housekeeping gene to form a family of effectors with modified functions. We anticipate that our discovery will be a blueprint to understand the evolution of other plant-parasitic nematode effectors, and the foundation to uncover a novel enzymatic function.(image)

(XML) A Distalless-responsive enhancer of the Hox gene Sex combs reduced is required for segment- and sex-specific sensory organ development in Drosophila


by Sebnem Ece Eksi, Olga Barmina, Christopher L. McCallough, Artyom Kopp, Teresa Vales Orenic

Hox genes are involved in the patterning of animal body parts at multiple levels of regulatory hierarchies. Early expression of Hox genes in different domains along the embryonic anterior-posterior (A/P) axis in insects, vertebrates, and other animals establishes segmental or regional identity. However, Hox gene function is also required later in development for the patterning and morphogenesis of limbs and other organs. In Drosophila, spatiotemporal modulation of Sex combs reduced (Scr) expression within the first thoracic (T1) leg underlies the generation of segment- and sex-specific sense organ patterns. High Scr expression in defined domains of the T1 leg is required for the development of T1-specific transverse bristle rows in both sexes and sex combs in males, implying that the patterning of segment-specific sense organs involves incorporation of Scr into the leg development and sex determination gene networks. We sought to gain insight into this process by identifying the cis-and trans-regulatory factors that direct Scr expression during leg development. We have identified two cis-regulatory elements that control spatially modulated Scr expression within T1 legs. One of these enhancers directs sexually dimorphic expression and is required for the formation of T1-specific bristle patterns. We show that the Distalless and Engrailed homeodomain transcription factors act through sequences in this enhancer to establish elevated Scr expression in spatially defined domains. This enhancer functions to integrate Scr into the intrasegmental gene regulatory network, such that Scr serves as a link between leg patterning, sex determination, and sensory organ development.(image)

(XML) Odorant binding protein 69a connects social interaction to modulation of social responsiveness in Drosophila


by Assa Bentzur, Anat Shmueli, Liora Omesi, Julia Ryvkin, Jon-Michael Knapp, Moshe Parnas, Fred P. Davis, Galit Shohat-Ophir

Living in a social environment requires the ability to respond to specific social stimuli and to incorporate information obtained from prior interactions into future ones. One of the mechanisms that facilitates social interaction is pheromone-based communication. In Drosophila melanogaster, the male-specific pheromone cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA) elicits different responses in male and female flies, and functions to modulate behavior in a context and experience-dependent manner. Although it is the most studied pheromone in flies, the mechanisms that determine the complexity of the response, its intensity and final output with respect to social context, sex and prior interaction, are still not well understood. Here we explored the functional link between social interaction and pheromone-based communication and discovered an odorant binding protein that links social interaction to sex specific changes in cVA related responses. Odorant binding protein 69a (Obp69a) is expressed in auxiliary cells and secreted into the olfactory sensilla. Its expression is inversely regulated in male and female flies by social interactions: cVA exposure reduces its levels in male flies and increases its levels in female flies. Increasing or decreasing Obp69a levels by genetic means establishes a functional link between Obp69a levels and the extent of male aggression and female receptivity. We show that activation of cVA-sensing neurons is sufficeint to regulate Obp69a levels in the absence of cVA, and requires active neurotransmission between the sensory neuron to the second order olfactory neuron. The cross-talk between sensory neurons and non-neuronal auxiliary cells at the olfactory sensilla, represents an additional component in the machinery that promotes behavioral plasticity to the same sensory stimuli in male and female flies.(image)

(XML) Functional diversification accompanies gene family expansion of MED2 homologs in Candida albicans


by Matthew J. Dunn, Griffin M. Kinney, Pamela M. Washington, Judith Berman, Matthew Z. Anderson

Gene duplication facilitates functional diversification and provides greater phenotypic flexibility to an organism. Expanded gene families arise through repeated gene duplication but the extent of functional divergence that accompanies each paralogous gene is generally unexplored because of the difficulty in isolating the effects of single family members. The telomere-associated (TLO) gene family is a remarkable example of gene family expansion, with 14 members in the more pathogenic Candida albicans relative to two TLO genes in the closely-related species C. dubliniensis. TLO genes encode interchangeable Med2 subunits of the major transcriptional regulatory complex Mediator. To identify biological functions associated with each C. albicans TLO, expression of individual family members was regulated using a Tet-ON system and the strains were assessed across a range of phenotypes involved in growth and virulence traits. All TLOs affected multiple phenotypes and a single phenotype was often affected by multiple TLOs, including simple phenotypes such as cell aggregation and complex phenotypes such as virulence in a Galleria mellonella model of infection. No phenotype was regulated by all TLOs, suggesting neofunctionalization or subfunctionalization of ancestral properties among different family members. Importantly, regulation of three phenotypes could be mapped to individual polymorphic sites among the TLO genes, including an indel correlated with two phenotypes, growth in sucrose and macrophage killing. Different selective pressures have operated on the TLO sequence, with the 5’ conserved Med2 domain experiencing purifying selection and the gene/clade-specific 3’ end undergoing extensive positive selection that may contribute to the impact of individual TLOs on phenotypic variability. Therefore, expansion of the TLO gene family has conferred unique regulatory properties to each paralog such that it influences a range of phenotypes. We posit that the genetic diversity associated with this expansion contributed to C. albicans success as a commensal and opportunistic pathogen.(image)

(XML) Massive lateral transfer of genes encoding plant cell wall-degrading enzymes to the mycoparasitic fungus Trichoderma from its plant-associated hosts


by Irina S. Druzhinina, Komal Chenthamara, Jian Zhang, Lea Atanasova, Dongqing Yang, Youzhi Miao, Mohammad J. Rahimi, Marica Grujic, Feng Cai, Shadi Pourmehdi, Kamariah Abu Salim, Carina Pretzer, Alexey G. Kopchinskiy, Bernard Henrissat, Alan Kuo, Hope Hundley, Mei Wang, Andrea Aerts, Asaf Salamov, Anna Lipzen, Kurt LaButti, Kerrie Barry, Igor V. Grigoriev, Qirong Shen, Christian P. Kubicek

Unlike most other fungi, molds of the genus Trichoderma (Hypocreales, Ascomycota) are aggressive parasites of other fungi and efficient decomposers of plant biomass. Although nutritional shifts are common among hypocrealean fungi, there are no examples of such broad substrate versatility as that observed in Trichoderma. A phylogenomic analysis of 23 hypocrealean fungi (including nine Trichoderma spp. and the related Escovopsis weberi) revealed that the genus Trichoderma has evolved from an ancestor with limited cellulolytic capability that fed on either fungi or arthropods. The evolutionary analysis of Trichoderma genes encoding plant cell wall-degrading carbohydrate-active enzymes and auxiliary proteins (pcwdCAZome, 122 gene families) based on a gene tree / species tree reconciliation demonstrated that the formation of the genus was accompanied by an unprecedented extent of lateral gene transfer (LGT). Nearly one-half of the genes in Trichoderma pcwdCAZome (41%) were obtained via LGT from plant-associated filamentous fungi belonging to different classes of Ascomycota, while no LGT was observed from other potential donors. In addition to the ability to feed on unrelated fungi (such as Basidiomycota), we also showed that Trichoderma is capable of endoparasitism on a broad range of Ascomycota, including extant LGT donors. This phenomenon was not observed in E. weberi and rarely in other mycoparasitic hypocrealean fungi. Thus, our study suggests that LGT is linked to the ability of Trichoderma to parasitize taxonomically related fungi (up to adelphoparasitism in strict sense). This may have allowed primarily mycotrophic Trichoderma fungi to evolve into decomposers of plant biomass.(image)

(XML) Genome-wide detection of conservative site-specific recombination in bacteria


by Ognjen Sekulovic, Elizabeth Mathias Garrett, Jacob Bourgeois, Rita Tamayo, Aimee Shen, Andrew Camilli

The ability of clonal bacterial populations to generate genomic and phenotypic heterogeneity is thought to be of great importance for many commensal and pathogenic bacteria. One common mechanism contributing to diversity formation relies on the inversion of small genomic DNA segments in a process commonly referred to as conservative site-specific recombination. This phenomenon is known to occur in several bacterial lineages, however it remains notoriously difficult to identify due to the lack of conserved features. Here, we report an easy-to-implement method based on high-throughput paired-end sequencing for genome-wide detection of conservative site-specific recombination on a single-nucleotide level. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the method by successfully detecting several novel inversion sites in an epidemic isolate of the enteric pathogen Clostridium difficile. Using an experimental approach, we validate the inversion potential of all detected sites in C. difficile and quantify their prevalence during exponential and stationary growth in vitro. In addition, we demonstrate that the master recombinase RecV is responsible for the inversion of some but not all invertible sites. Using a fluorescent gene-reporter system, we show that at least one gene from a two-component system located next to an invertible site is expressed in an on-off mode reminiscent of phase variation. We further demonstrate the applicability of our method by mining 209 publicly available sequencing datasets and show that conservative site-specific recombination is common in the bacterial realm but appears to be absent in some lineages. Finally, we show that the gene content associated with the inversion sites is diverse and goes beyond traditionally described surface components. Overall, our method provides a robust platform for detection of conservative site-specific recombination in bacteria and opens a new avenue for global exploration of this important phenomenon.(image)