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The latest research articles published by BMC Genomics
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Identification of microRNAs associated with allergic airway disease using a genetically diverse mouse population

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 08:00
Background: Allergic airway diseases (AADs) such as asthma are characterized in part by granulocytic airway inflammation. The gene regulatory networks that govern granulocyte recruitment are poorly understood, but evidence is accruing that microRNAs (miRNAs) play an important role. To identify miRNAs that may underlie AADs, we used two complementary approaches that leveraged the genotypic and phenotypic diversity of the Collaborative Cross (CC) mouse population. In the first approach, we sought to identify miRNA expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) that overlap QTL for AAD-related phenotypes. Specifically, CC founder strains and incipient lines of the CC were sensitized and challenged with house dust mite allergen followed by measurement of granulocyte recruitment to the lung. Total lung RNA was isolated and miRNA was measured using arrays for CC founders and qRT-PCR for incipient CC lines. Results: Among CC founders, 92 miRNAs were differentially expressed. We measured the expression of 40 of the most highly expressed of these 92 miRNAs in the incipient lines of the CC and identified 18 eQTL corresponding to 14 different miRNAs. Surprisingly, half of these eQTL were distal to the corresponding miRNAs, and even on different chromosomes. One of the largest-effect local miRNA eQTL was for miR-342-3p, for which we identified putative causal variants by bioinformatic analysis of the effects of single nucleotide polymorphisms on RNA structure. None of the miRNA eQTL co-localized with QTL for eosinophil or neutrophil recruitment. In the second approach, we constructed putative miRNA/mRNA regulatory networks and identified three miRNAs (miR-497, miR-351 and miR-31) as candidate master regulators of genes associated with neutrophil recruitment. Analysis of a dataset from human keratinocytes transfected with a miR-31 inhibitor revealed two target genes in common with miR-31 targets correlated with neutrophils, namely Oxsr1 and Nsf. Conclusions: miRNA expression in the allergically inflamed murine lung is regulated by genetic loci that are smaller in effect size compared to mRNA eQTL and often act in trans. Thus our results indicate that the genetic architecture of miRNA expression is different from mRNA expression. We identified three miRNAs, miR-497, miR-351 and miR-31, that are candidate master regulators of genes associated with neutrophil recruitment. Because miR-31 is expressed in airway epithelia and is predicted to target genes with known links to neutrophilic inflammation, we suggest that miR-31 is a potentially novel regulator of airway inflammation.

C/D box sRNA-guided 2&#8242;-<it>O</it>-methylation patterns of archaeal rRNA molecules

Sat, 08/22/2015 - 08:00
Background: In archaea and eukaryotes, ribonucleoprotein complexes containing small C/D box s(no)RNAs use base pair complementarity to target specific sites within ribosomal RNA for 2'-O-ribose methylation. These modifications aid in the folding and stabilization of nascent rRNA molecules and their assembly into ribosomal particles. The genomes of hyperthermophilic archaea encode large numbers of C/D box sRNA genes, suggesting an increased necessity for rRNA stabilization at extreme growth temperatures. Results: We have identified the complete sets of C/D box sRNAs from seven archaea using RNA-Seq methodology. In total, 489 C/D box sRNAs were identified, each containing two guide regions. A combination of computational and manual analyses predicts 719 guide interactions with 16S and 23S rRNA molecules. This first pan-archaeal description of guide sequences identifies (i) modified rRNA nucleotides that are frequently conserved between species and (ii) regions within rRNA that are hotspots for 2'-O-methylation. Gene duplication, rearrangement, mutational drift and convergent evolution of sRNA genes and guide sequences were observed. In addition, several C/D box sRNAs were identified that use their two guides to target locations distant in the rRNA sequence but close in the secondary and tertiary structure. We propose that they act as RNA chaperones and facilitate complex folding events between distant sequences. Conclusions: This pan-archaeal analysis of C/D box sRNA guide regions identified conserved patterns of rRNA 2'-O-methylation in archaea. The interaction between the sRNP complexes and the nascent rRNA facilitates proper folding and the methyl modifications stabilize higher order rRNA structure within the assembled ribosome.

Stool microbiota composition is associated with the prospective risk of <it>Plasmodium falciparum</it> infection

Sat, 08/22/2015 - 08:00
Background: In humans it is unknown if the composition of the gut microbiota alters the risk of Plasmodium falciparum infection or the risk of developing febrile malaria once P. falciparum infection is established. Here we collected stool samples from a cohort composed of 195 Malian children and adults just prior to an intense P. falciparum transmission season. We assayed these samples using massively parallel sequencing of the 16S ribosomal RNA gene to identify the composition of the gut bacterial communities in these individuals. During the ensuing 6-month P. falciparum transmission season we examined the relationship between the stool microbiota composition of individuals in this cohort and their prospective risk of both P. falciparum infection and febrile malaria. Results: Consistent with prior studies, stool microbial diversity in the present cohort increased with age, although the overall microbiota profile was distinct from cohorts in other regions of Africa, Asia and North America. Age-adjusted Cox regression analysis revealed a significant association between microbiota composition and the prospective risk of P. falciparum infection; however, no relationship was observed between microbiota composition and the risk of developing febrile malaria once P. falciparum infection was established. Conclusions: These findings underscore the diversity of gut microbiota across geographic regions, and suggest that strategic modulation of gut microbiota composition could decrease the risk of P. falciparum infection in malaria-endemic areas, potentially as an adjunct to partially effective malaria vaccines.

Transcriptomic changes in the plant pathogenic fungus <it>Rhizoctonia solani</it> AG-3 in response to the antagonistic bacteria <it>Serratia proteamaculans</it> and <it>Serratia plymuthica</it>

Sat, 08/22/2015 - 08:00
Background: Improved understanding of bacterial-fungal interactions in the rhizosphere should assist in the successful application of bacteria as biological control agents against fungal pathogens of plants, providing alternatives to chemicals in sustainable agriculture. Rhizoctonia solani is an important soil-associated fungal pathogen and its chemical treatment is not feasible or economic. The genomes of the plant-associated bacteria Serratia proteamaculans S4 and Serratia plymuthica AS13 have been sequenced, revealing genetic traits that may explain their diverse plant growth promoting activities and antagonistic interactions with R. solani. To understand the functional response of this pathogen to different bacteria and to elucidate whether the molecular mechanisms that the fungus exploits involve general stress or more specific responses, we performed a global transcriptome profiling of R. solani Rhs1AP anastomosis group 3 (AG-3) during interaction with the S4 and AS13 species of Serratia using RNA-seq. Results: Approximately 104,504 million clean 75-100 bp paired-end reads were obtained from three libraries, each in triplicate (AG3-Control, AG3-S4 and AG3-AS13). Transcriptome analysis revealed that approximately 10 % of the fungal transcriptome was differentially expressed during challenge with Serratia. The numbers of S4- and AS13-specific differentially expressed genes (DEG) were 866 and 292 respectively, while there were 1035 common DEGs in the two treatment groups. Four hundred and sixty and 242 genes respectively had values of log 2 fold-change > 3 and for further analyses this cut-off value was used. Functional classification of DEGs based on Gene Ontology enrichment analysis and on KEGG pathway annotations revealed a general shift in fungal gene expression in which genes related to xenobiotic degradation, toxin and antioxidant production, energy, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism and hyphal rearrangements were subjected to transcriptional regulation. Conclusions: This RNA-seq profiling generated a novel dataset describing the functional response of the phytopathogen R. solani AG3 to the plant-associated Serratia bacteria S4 and AS13. Most genes were regulated in the same way in the presence of both bacterial isolates, but there were also some strain-specific responses. The findings in this study will be beneficial for further research on biological control and in depth exploration of bacterial-fungal interactions in the rhizosphere.

<it>Campylobacter</it> group II phage CP21 is the prototype of a new subgroup revealing a distinct modular genome organization and host specificity

Sat, 08/22/2015 - 08:00
Background: The application of phages is a promising tool to reduce the number of Campylobacter along the food chain. Besides the efficacy against a broad range of strains, phages have to be safe in terms of their genomes. Thus far, no genes with pathogenic potential (e.g., genes encoding virulence factors) have been detected in Campylobacter phages. However, preliminary studies suggested that the genomes of group II phages may be diverse and prone to genomic rearrangements. Results: We determined and analysed the genomic sequence (182,761 bp) of group II phage CP21 that is closely related to the already characterized group II phages CP220 and CPt10. The genomes of these phages are comprised of four modules separated by very similar repeat regions, some of which harbouring open reading frames (ORFs). Though, the arrangement of the modules and the location of some ORFs on the genomes are different in CP21 and in CP220/CPt10. In this work, a PCR system was established to study the modular genome organization of other group II phages demonstrating that they belong to different subgroups of the CP220-like virus genus, the prototypes of which are CP21 and CP220. The subgroups revealed different restriction patterns and, interestingly enough, also distinct host specificities, tail fiber proteins and tRNA genes. We additionally analysed the genome of group II phage vB_CcoM-IBB_35 (IBB_35) for which to date only five individual contigs could be determined. We show that the contigs represent modules linked by long repeat regions enclosing some yet not identified ORFs (e.g., for a head completion protein). The data suggest that IBB_35 is a member of the CP220 subgroup. Conclusion: Campylobacter group II phages are diverse regarding their genome organization. Since all hitherto characterized group II phages contain numerous genes for transposases and homing endonucleases as well as similar repeat regions, it cannot be excluded that these phages are genetically unstable. To answer this question, further experiments and sequencing of more group II phages should be performed.

Candidate effectors contribute to race differentiation and virulence of the lentil anthracnose pathogen <it>Colletotrichum lentis</it>

Sat, 08/22/2015 - 08:00
Background: The hemibiotroph Colletotrichum lentis, causative agent of anthracnose on Lens culinaris (lentil) was recently described as a new species. During its interaction with the host plant, C. lentis likely secretes numerous effector proteins, including toxins to alter the plant’s innate immunity, thereby gaining access to the host tissues for nutrition and reproduction. Results: In silico analysis of 2000 ESTs generated from C. lentis-infected lentil leaf tissues identified 15 candidate effectors. In planta infection stage-specific gene expression waves among candidate effectors were revealed for the appressorial penetration phase, biotrophic phase and necrotrophic phase. No sign of positive selection pressure [ω (dN/dS) < 1] in effectors was detected at the intraspecific level. A single nucleotide polymorphism in the ORF of candidate effector ClCE6, used to develop a KASPar marker, differentiated perfectly between pathogenic race 0 and race 1 isolates when tested on 52 isolates arbitrarily selected from a large culture collection representing the western Canadian population of C. lentis. Furthermore, an EST encoding argininosuccinate lyase (Arg) was identified as a bacterial gene. A toxin protein ClToxB was further characterized as a potential host-specific toxin through heterologous in planta expression. The knock-down of ClToxB transcripts by RNAi resulted in reduced virulence, suggesting that ClToxB is a virulence factor. In silico analysis of the ClToxB sequence and comparative genomics revealed that ToxB is unlikely a foreign gene in the C. lentis genome. Incongruency between established species relationships and that established based on gene sequence data confirmed ToxB arose through evolution from a common ancestor, whereas the bacterial gene Arg identified in C. lentis was horizontally transferred from bacteria. Conclusions: EST mining and expression profiling revealed a set of in planta expressed candidate effectors. We developed a KASPar assay using effector polymorphism to differentiate C. lentis races. Comparative genomics revealed a foreign gene encoding a potential virulence factor Arg, which was horizontally transferred from bacteria into the genus Colletotrichum. ClToxB is further characterized as a host-specific toxin that is likely to contribute to quantitative differences in virulence between the races 0 and 1.

Deciphering common and specific transcriptional immune responses in pea towards the oomycete pathogens <it>Aphanomyces euteiches</it> and <it>Phytophthora pisi</it>

Fri, 08/21/2015 - 08:00
Background: Root rot caused by Aphanomyces euteiches is one of the most destructive pea diseases while a distantly related species P. pisi has been recently described as the agent of pea and faba bean root rot. These two oomycete pathogens with different pathogenicity factor repertories have both evolved specific mechanisms to infect pea. However, little is known about the genes and mechanisms of defence against these pathogens in pea. In the present study, the transcriptomic response of pea to these two pathogens was investigated at two time points during early phase of infection using a Medicago truncatula microarray. Results: Of the 37,976 genes analysed, 574 and 817 were differentially expressed in response to A. euteiches at 6 hpi and 20 hpi, respectively, while 544 and 611 genes were differentially regulated against P. pisi at 6 hpi and 20 hpi, respectively. Differentially expressed genes associated with plant immunity responses were involved in cell wall reinforcement, hormonal signalling and phenylpropanoid metabolism. Activation of cell wall modification, regulation of jasmonic acid biosynthesis and induction of ethylene signalling pathway were among the common transcriptional responses to both of these oomycetes. However, induction of chalcone synthesis and the auxin pathway were specific transcriptional changes against A. euteiches. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate a global view of differentially expressed pea genes during compatible interactions with P. pisi and A. euteiches at an early phase of infection. The results suggest that distinct signalling pathways are triggered in pea by these two pathogens that lead to common and specific immune mechanisms in response to these two oomycetes. The generated knowledge may eventually be used in breeding pea varieties with resistance against root rot disease.

Characterization and comparative profiling of the small RNA transcriptomes in two phases of flowering in <it>Cymbidium ensifolium</it>

Thu, 08/20/2015 - 08:00
Background: Cymbidium ensifolium is one of the most important ornamental flowers in China, with an elegant shape, beautiful appearance, and a fragrant aroma. Its unique flower shape has long attracted scientists. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are critical regulators in plant development and physiology, including floral development. However, to date, few studies have examined miRNAs in C. ensifolium. Results: In this study, we employed Solexa technology to sequence four small RNA libraries from two flowering phases to identify miRNAs related to floral development. We identified 48 mature conserved miRNA and 71 precursors. These conserved miRNA belonged to 20 families. We also identified 45 novel miRNA which includes 21 putative novel miRNAs*, and 28 hairpin forming precursors. Two trans-acting small interfering RNAs (ta-siRNAs) were identified, one of which was homologous to TAS3a1. TAS3a1 belongs to the TAS3 family, which has been previously reported to target auxin response factors (ARF) and be involved in plant growth and floral development. Moreover, we built a C. ensifolium transctriptome database to identify genes targeted by miRNA, which resulted in 790 transcriptomic target unigenes. The target unigenes were annotated with information from the non-redundant (Nr), gene ontology database (GO), eukaryotic orthologous groups (KOGs) and Kyoto encyclopedia of genes and genomes (KEGG) database. The unigenes included MADS-box transcription factors targeted by miR156, miR172 and miR5179, and various hormone responding factors targeted by miR159. The MADS-box transcription factors are well known to determine the identity of flower organs and hormone responding factors involved in floral development. In expression analysis, three novel and four conserved miRNA were differentially expressed between two phases of flowering. The results were confirmed by RNA-seq and qRT-PCR. The differential expression of two miRNA, miR160 and miR396, targeted ARFs and growth regulating factor (GRF), respectively. However, most of these small RNA were clustered in the uncharacterized group, which suggests there may be many novel small non-coding RNAs yet to be discovered. Conclusion: Our study provides a diverse set of miRNAs related to cymbidium floral development and serves as a useful resource for investigating miRNA-mediated regulatory mechanisms of floral development.

Early evolutionary history and genomic features of gene duplicates in the human genome

Thu, 08/20/2015 - 08:00
Background: Human gene duplicates have been the focus of intense research since the development of array-based and targeted next-generation sequencing approaches in the last decade. These studies have primarily concentrated on determining the extant copy-number variation from a population-genomic perspective but lack a robust evolutionary framework to elucidate the early structural and genomic characteristics of gene duplicates at emergence and their subsequent evolution with increasing age. Results: We analyzed 184 gene duplicate pairs comprising small gene families in the draft human genome with 10 % or less synonymous sequence divergence. Human gene duplicates primarily originate from DNA-mediated events, taking up genomic residence as intrachromosomal copies in direct or inverse orientation. The distribution of paralogs on autosomes follows random expectations in contrast to their significant enrichment on the sex chromosomes. Furthermore, human gene duplicates exhibit a skewed gradient of distribution along the chromosomal length with significant clustering in pericentromeric regions. Surprisingly, despite the large average length of human genes, the majority of extant duplicates (83 %) are complete duplicates, wherein the entire ORF of the ancestral copy was duplicated. The preponderance of complete duplicates is in accord with an extremely large median duplication span of 36 kb, which enhances the probability of capturing ancestral ORFs in their entirety. With increasing evolutionary age, human paralogs exhibit declines in (i) the frequency of intrachromosomal paralogs, and (ii) the proportion of complete duplicates. These changes may reflect lower survival rates of certain classes of duplicates and/or the role of purifying selection. Duplications arising from RNA-mediated events comprise a small fraction (11.4 %) of all human paralogs and are more numerous in older evolutionary cohorts of duplicates. Conclusions: The degree of structural resemblance, genomic location and duplication span appear to influence the long-term maintenance of paralogs in the human genome. The median duplication span in the human genome far exceeds that in C. elegans and yeast and likely contributes to the high prevalence of complete duplicates relative to structurally heterogeneous duplicates (partial and chimeric). The relative roles of regulatory sequence versus exon-intron structure changes in the acquisition of novel function by human paralogs remains to be determined.

Male and female mice show significant differences in hepatic transcriptomic response to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-<it>p</it>-dioxin

Wed, 08/19/2015 - 20:00
Background: 2,3,7,8–tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dixion (TCDD) is the most potent of the dioxin congeners, capable of causing a wide range of toxic effects across numerous animal models. Previous studies have demonstrated that males and females of the same species can display divergent sensitivity phenotypes to TCDD toxicities. Although it is now clear that most TCDD-induced toxic outcomes are mediated by the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), the mechanism of differential responses to TCDD exposure between sexes remains largely unknown. To investigate the differential sensitivities in male and female mice, we profiled the hepatic transcriptomic responses 4 days following exposure to various amounts of TCDD (125, 250, 500 or 1000 μg/kg) in adult male and female C57BL/6Kuo mice. Results: Several key findings were revealed by our study. 1) Hepatic transcriptomes varied significantly between the sexes at all doses examined. 2) The liver transcriptome of males was more dysregulated by TCDD than that of females. 3) The alteration of “AHR-core” genes was consistent in magnitude, regardless of sex. 4) A subset of genes demonstrated sex-dependent TCDD-induced transcriptional changes, including Fmo3 and Nr1i3, which were significantly induced in livers of male mice only. In addition, a meta-analysis was performed to contrast transcriptomic profiles of various organisms and tissues following exposure to equitoxic doses of TCDD. Minimal overlap was observed in the differences between TCDD-sensitive or TCDD-resistant models. Conclusions: Sex-dependent sensitivities to TCDD exposure are associated with a set of sex-specific TCDD-responsive genes. In addition, complex interactions between the aryl hydrocarbon and sex hormone receptors may affect the observable differences in sensitivity phenotypes between the sexes. Further work is necessary to better understand the roles of those genes altered by TCDD in a sex-dependent manner, and their association with changes to sex hormones and receptors.

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