Exposure to environmental toxins is a 21st century global health problem that is often the result of dietary intake. Although efforts are made to reduce dietary toxin levels, they are often unsuccessful, warranting research into novel methods to reduce host exposure. Food-grade microbes that can be delivered to the gastrointestinal tract and that are capable of sequestering toxins present a safe and cost-effective intervention. We sought to investigate the potential for probiotic-supplemented yogurt to lower heavy metal levels in at-risk populations of pregnant women and in children in Mwanza, Tanzania, and to examine the microbiome in relation to toxin levels. Two populations suspected to have high toxic metal exposures were studied. A group of 44 school-aged children was followed over 25 days, and 60 pregnant women were followed over their last two trimesters until birth. A yogurt containing 10(10) CFU Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 per 250 g was administered, while control groups received either whole milk or no intervention. Changes in blood metal levels were assessed, and the gut microbiomes of the children were profiled by analyzing 16S rRNA sequencing via the Ion Torrent platform. The children and pregnant women in the study were found to have elevated blood levels of lead and mercury compared to age- and sex-matched Canadians. Consumption of probiotic yogurt had a protective effect against further increases in mercury (3.2 nmol/liter; P = 0.035) and arsenic (2.3 nmol/liter; P = 0.011) blood levels in the pregnant women, but this trend was not statistically significant in the children. Elevated blood lead was associated with increases in Succinivibrionaceae and Gammaproteobacteria relative abundance levels in stool.
A lactobacilli dominated microbiota in most pre and post-menopausal women is an indicator of vaginal health. The objective of this double blinded, placebo-controlled crossover study was to evaluate in 14 post-menopausal women with an intermediate Nugent score, the effect of 3 days of vaginal administration of probiotic L. rhamnosus GR-1 and L. reuteri RC-14 (2.5×109 CFU each) on the microbiota and host response. The probiotic treatment did not result in an improved Nugent score when compared to when placebo. Analysis using 16S rRNA sequencing and metabolomics profiling revealed that the relative abundance of Lactobacillus was increased following probiotic administration as compared to placebo, which was weakly associated with an increase in lactate levels. A decrease in Atopobium was also observed. Analysis of host responses by microarray showed the probiotics had an immune-modulatory response including effects on pattern recognition receptors such as TLR2 while also affecting epithelial barrier function. This is the first study to use an interactomic approach for the study of vaginal probiotic administration in post-menopausal women. It shows that in some cases multifaceted approaches are required to detect the subtle molecular changes induced by the host to instillation of probiotic strains.
ATRX and MeCP2 belong to an expanding group of chromatin-associated proteins implicated in human neurodevelopmental disorders, although their gene-regulatory activities are not fully resolved. Loss of ATRX prevents full repression of an imprinted gene network in the postnatal brain and in this study we address the mechanistic aspects of this regulation. We show that ATRX binds many imprinted domains individually but that transient co-localization between imprinted domains in the nuclei of neurons does not require ATRX. We demonstrate that MeCP2 is required for ATRX recruitment and that deficiency of either ATRX or MeCP2 causes decreased frequency of long-range chromatin interactions associated with altered nucleosome density at CTCF-binding sites and reduced CTCF occupancy. These findings indicate that MeCP2 and ATRX regulate gene expression at a subset of imprinted domains by maintaining a nucleosome configuration conducive to CTCF binding and to the maintenance of higher order chromatin structure.
The active sites of enzymes consist of residues necessary for catalysis and structurally important noncatalytic residues that together maintain the architecture and function of the active site. Examples of evolutionary interactions between catalytic and noncatalytic residues have been difficult to define and experimentally validate due to a general intolerance of these residues to substitution. Here, using computational methods to predict coevolving residues, we identify a network of positions consisting of two catalytic metal-binding residues and two adjacent noncatalytic residues in LAGLIDADG homing endonucleases (LHEs). Distinct combinations of the four residues in the network map to distinct LHE subfamilies, with a striking distribution of the metal-binding Asp (D) and Glu (E) residues. Mutation of these four positions in three LHEs--I-LtrI, I-OnuI, and I-HjeMI--indicate that the combinations of residues tolerated are specific to each enzyme. Kinetic analyses under single-turnover conditions revealed that I-LtrI activity could be modulated over an ?100-fold range by mutation of residues in the coevolving network. I-LtrI catalytic site variants with low activity could be rescued by compensatory mutations at adjacent noncatalytic sites that restore an optimal coevolving network and vice versa. Our results demonstrate that LHE activity is constrained by an evolutionary barrier of residues with strong context-dependent effects. Creation of optimal coevolving active-site networks is therefore an important consideration in engineering of LHEs and other enzymes.
Probiotics are extensively used to promote gastrointestinal health, and emerging evidence suggests that their beneficial properties can extend beyond the local environment of the gut. Here, we determined whether oral probiotic administration can alter the progression of postinfarction heart failure.
In recent years, a greater appreciation for the microbes inhabiting human body sites has emerged. In the female mammary gland, milk has been shown to contain bacterial species, ostensibly reaching the ducts from the skin. We decided to investigate whether there is a microbiome within the mammary tissue. Using 16S rRNA sequencing and culture, we analyzed breast tissue from 81 women with and without cancer in Canada and Ireland. A diverse population of bacteria was detected within tissue collected from sites all around the breast in women aged 18 to 90, not all of whom had a history of lactation. The principal phylum was Proteobacteria. The most abundant taxa in the Canadian samples were Bacillus (11.4%), Acinetobacter (10.0%), Enterobacteriaceae (8.3%), Pseudomonas (6.5%), Staphylococcus (6.5%), Propionibacterium (5.8%), Comamonadaceae (5.7%), Gammaproteobacteria (5.0%), and Prevotella (5.0%). In the Irish samples the most abundant taxa were Enterobacteriaceae (30.8%), Staphylococcus (12.7%), Listeria welshimeri (12.1%), Propionibacterium (10.1%), and Pseudomonas (5.3%). None of the subjects had signs or symptoms of infection, but the presence of viable bacteria was confirmed in some samples by culture. The extent to which these organisms play a role in health or disease remains to be determined.
Positions in a protein are thought to coevolve to maintain important structural and functional interactions over evolutionary time. The detection of putative coevolving positions can provide important new insights into a protein family in the same way that knowledge is gained by recognizing evolutionarily conserved characters and characteristics. Putatively coevolving positions can be detected with statistical methods that identify covarying positions. However, positions in protein alignments can covary for many other reasons than coevolution; thus, it is crucial to create high-quality multiple sequence alignments for coevolution inference. Furthermore, it is important to understand common signs and sources of error. When confounding factors are accounted for, coevolution is a rich resource for protein engineering information.
Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is a promising therapy for Clostridium difficile infection (CDI). However, questions remain regarding efficacy and safety in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients, as well as longitudinal stability of donor stool composition. This report describes an IBD patient with two CDIs 18 months apart, each successfully treated with FMT with no IBD flares or complications. Microbiome composition analysis of patient samples during each infection revealed low-diversity microbiota patterns similar to those previously described in non-IBD patients with CDI and active IBD alone. Samples taken after each transplant demonstrated quick remodeling towards the donor's sample composition coinciding with symptom resolution. Of note, samples taken from the same donor 18 months apart reflected marked differences in microbiota abundances, suggesting that the use of single donors in FMT programs offers little benefit in ensuring predictability of donor stool composition over time. This report describes similar microbial composition patterns during CDI in IBD patients to those described previously in non-IBD patients, and supports FMT as safe and effective treatment for recurring CDI in this patient population.
Human milk is an important source of bacteria for the developing infant and has been shown to influence the bacterial composition of the neonatal gut, which in turn can affect disease risk later in life. Human milk is also an important source of nutrients, influencing bacterial composition but also directly affecting the host. While recent studies have emphasized the adverse effects of antibiotic therapy on the infant microbiota, the effects of maternal chemotherapy have not been previously studied. Here we report the effects of drug administration on the microbiota and metabolome of human milk.
Experimental designs that take advantage of high-throughput sequencing to generate datasets include RNA sequencing (RNA-seq), chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq), sequencing of 16S rRNA gene fragments, metagenomic analysis and selective growth experiments. In each case the underlying data are similar and are composed of counts of sequencing reads mapped to a large number of features in each sample. Despite this underlying similarity, the data analysis methods used for these experimental designs are all different, and do not translate across experiments. Alternative methods have been developed in the physical and geological sciences that treat similar data as compositions. Compositional data analysis methods transform the data to relative abundances with the result that the analyses are more robust and reproducible.
To augment capacity-building for microbiome and probiotic research in Africa, a workshop was held in Nairobi, Kenya, at which researchers discussed human, animal, insect, and agricultural microbiome and probiotics/prebiotics topics. Five recommendations were made to promote future basic and translational research that benefits Africans.
We assessed the dynamics of hand microbial community structure of 34 healthcare workers from a single surgical intensive care unit over a short (3 week) time period, whilst taking into account the technical sources of variability introduced by specimen collection, DNA extraction, and sequencing. Sample collection took place at 3 different time points. Only the sampling collection method appeared to have a significant impact on the observed hand microbial community structure among the healthcare workers. Analysis of samples collected using glove-juice showed a slightly more similar microbial composition within individual hand samples over time than between the hands of different individuals over time. This was not true for samples collected using a swab, where samples from a single individual were no more similar to each other over time than those among other individuals over time, suggesting they were essentially independent. DNA extraction techniques (lysozyme only versus enzyme cocktail) and sequencing (replicate set 1 versus 2) using Ion Torrent Personal Genome Machine, were not influential to the microbial community structures. Glove-juice sample collection may likely be the method of choice in hand hygiene studies in the healthcare setting.
Mec1, a member of the phosphoinositide three-kinase-related kinase (PIKK) family of proteins, is involved in the response to replicative stress and DNA damage and in telomere maintenance. An essential 30 to 35 residue, the FATC domain is found at the C-terminus of all PIKK family members. To investigate the roles of the C-terminal residues of Mec1, we characterized alleles of Saccharomyces cerevisiae mec1 that alter the FATC domain. A change of the terminal tryptophan to alanine resulted in temperature-sensitive growth, sensitivity to hydroxyurea, and diminished kinase activity in vitro. Addition of a terminal glycine or deletion of one, two, or three residues resulted in loss of cell viability and kinase function. Each of these Mec1 derivatives was less stable than wild-type Mec1, eluted abnormally from a size exclusion column, and showed reduced nuclear localization. We identified rpn3-L140P, which encodes a component of the 19S proteasomal regulatory particle of the 26S proteasome, as a suppressor of the temperature-sensitive growth caused by mec1-W2368A. The rpn3-L140P allele acted in a partially dominant fashion. It was not able to suppress the inviability of the C-terminal truncations or additions or the hydroxyurea sensitivity of mec1-W2368A. The rpn3-L140P allele restored Mec1-W2368A to nearly wild-type protein levels at 37°, an effect partially mimicked by the proteasome inhibitor MG-132. Our study supports a role for the C-terminus in Mec1 folding and stability, and suggests a role for the proteasome in regulating Mec1 levels.
High-throughput sequencing technology is rapidly improving in quality, speed and cost. It is therefore becoming more widely used to study whole communities of prokaryotes in many niches. This review discusses these techniques, including nucleic acid extraction from different environments, sample preparation and high-throughput sequencing platforms. We also discuss commonly used and recently developed bioinformatic tools applied to microbiomes, including analyzing amplicon sequences, metagenome shotgun sequences and metatranscriptome sequences. This field is relatively new and rapidly evolving, thus we hope that this review will provide a baseline for understanding these methods of microbiome analyses. Additionally, we seek to stimulate others to solve the many problems that still exist with the sensitivity, specificity and interpretation of high throughput microbiome sequence analysis.
GJs (gap junctions) allow direct intercellular communication, and consist of Cxs (connexins). In the mammalian central nervous system, oligodendrocytes express Cx47, Cx32 and Cx29, whereas astrocytes express Cx43, Cx30 and Cx26. Homotypic Cx47/Cx47 GJs couple oligodendrocytes, and heterotypic Cx47/Cx43 channels are the primary GJs at oligodendrocyte/astrocyte junctions. Interestingly, autosomal recessive mutations in the gene GJC2 encoding Cx47 have been linked to a central hypomyelinating disease termed PMLD (Pelizaeus-Merzbacher-like disease). The aim of the present study was to determine the cellular distribution and functional properties of PMLD-associated Cx47 mutants (I46M, G149S, G236R, G236S, M286T and T398I). Expressing GFP (green fluorescent protein)-tagged mutant versions of Cx47 in gap-junction-deficient model cells revealed that these mutants were detected at the cell-cell interface similar to that observed for wild-type Cx47. Furthermore, four of the six mutants showed no electrical coupling in both Cx47/Cx47 and Cx47/Cx43 GJ channels. These results suggest that most of the PMLD-linked Cx47 mutants disrupt Cx47/Cx47 and Cx47/Cx43 GJ function in the glial network, which may play a role in leading to PMLD symptoms.
The vaginal microbiota, in particular Lactobacillus species, play an important role in female health through modulation of immunity, countering pathogens and maintaining a pH below 4.7. We report the isolation and genome sequence of Lactobacillus pentosus strain KCA1 (formally known as L. plantarum) from the vagina of a healthy Nigerian woman. The genome was sequenced using Illumina GA II technology. The resulting 16,920,226 paired-end reads were assembled with the Velvet tool. Contigs were annotated using the RAST server, and manually curated. A comparative analysis with the available genomes of L. pentosus IG1 and L. plantarum WCFS1 showed that over 15% of the predicted functional activities are found only in this strain. The strain has a chromosome sequence of 3,418,159 bp with a G+C content of 46.4%, and is devoid of plasmids. Novel gene clusters or variants of known genes relative to the reference genomes were found. In particular, the strain has loci encoding additional putative mannose phosphotransferase systems. Clusters of genes include those for utilization of hydantoin, isopropylmalate, malonate, rhamnosides, and genes for assimilation of polyglycans, suggesting the metabolic versatility of L. pentosus KCA1. Loci encoding putative phage defense systems were also found including clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs), abortive infection (Abi) systems and toxin-antitoxin systems (TA). A putative cluster of genes for biosynthesis of a cyclic bacteriocin precursor, here designated as pentocin KCA1 (penA) were identified. These findings add crucial information for understanding the genomic and geographic diversity of vaginal lactobacilli.
Menstrual toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a serious illness that afflicts women of premenopausal age worldwide and arises from vaginal infection by Staphylococcus aureus and concurrent production of toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 (TSST-1). Studies have illustrated the capacity of lactobacilli to reduce S. aureus virulence, including the capacity to suppress TSST-1. We hypothesized that an aberrant microbiota characteristic of pathogenic bacteria would induce the increased production of TSST-1 and that this might represent a risk factor for the development of TSS. A S. aureus TSST-1 reporter strain was grown in the presence of vaginal swab contents collected from women with a clinically healthy vaginal status, women with an intermediate status, and those diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis (BV). Bacterial supernatant challenge assays were also performed to test the effects of aerobic vaginitis (AV)-associated pathogens toward TSST-1 production. While clinical samples from healthy and BV women suppressed toxin production, in vitro studies demonstrated that Streptococcus agalactiae and Enterococcus spp. significantly induced TSST-1 production, while some Lactobacillus spp. suppressed it. The findings suggest that women colonized by S. aureus and with AV, but not BV, may be more susceptible to menstrual TSS and would most benefit from prophylactic treatment.
Experimental variance is a major challenge when dealing with high-throughput sequencing data. This variance has several sources: sampling replication, technical replication, variability within biological conditions, and variability between biological conditions. The high per-sample cost of RNA-Seq often precludes the large number of experiments needed to partition observed variance into these categories as per standard ANOVA models. We show that the partitioning of within-condition to between-condition variation cannot reasonably be ignored, whether in single-organism RNA-Seq or in Meta-RNA-Seq experiments, and further find that commonly-used RNA-Seq analysis tools, as described in the literature, do not enforce the constraint that the sum of relative expression levels must be one, and thus report expression levels that are systematically distorted. These two factors lead to misleading inferences if not properly accommodated. As it is usually only the biological between-condition and within-condition differences that are of interest, we developed ALDEx, an ANOVA-like differential expression procedure, to identify genes with greater between- to within-condition differences. We show that the presence of differential expression and the magnitude of these comparative differences can be reasonably estimated with even very small sample sizes.
Bacteriocin-producing probiotic Streptococcus salivarius M18 offers beneficial modulatory capabilities within the oral microbiome, apparently through potent inhibitory activity against potentially deleterious bacteria, such as Streptococcus pyogenes. The oral cavity persistence of S. salivarius M18 was investigated in 75 subjects receiving four different doses for 28 days. Sixty per cent of the subjects already had some inhibitor-producing S. salivarius in their saliva prior to probiotic intervention. Strain M18s persistence was dependent upon the dose, but not the period of administration. Culture analysis indicated that in some individuals the introduced strain had almost entirely replaced the indigenous S. salivarius, though the total numbers of the species did not increase. Selected subjects showing either high or low probiotic persistence had their salivary populations profiled using Illumina sequencing of the V6 region of the 16S rRNA gene. Analysis indicated that while certain bacterial phenotypes were markedly modulated, the overall composition of the oral microbiome was not modified by the probiotic treatment. Megaplasmids encoding bacteriocins and adhesion factors were transferred in vitro to generate a transconjugant S. salivarius exhibiting enhanced antimicrobial production and binding capabilities to HEp-2 cells. Since no widespread perturbation of the existing indigenous microbiota was associated with oral instillation and given its antimicrobial activity against potentially pathogenic streptococci, it appears that application of probiotic strain M18 offers potential low impact alternative to classical antibiotic prophylaxis. For candidate probiotic strains having relatively poor antimicrobial or adhesive properties, unique derivatives displaying improved probiotic performance may be engineered in vitro by megaplasmid transfer.
Homing endonucleases mobilize their own genes by generating double-strand breaks at individual target sites within potential host DNA. Because of their high specificity, these proteins are used for "genome editing" in higher eukaryotes. However, alteration of homing endonuclease specificity is quite challenging. Here we describe the identification and phylogenetic analysis of over 200 naturally occurring LAGLIDADG homing endonucleases (LHEs). Biochemical and structural characterization of endonucleases from one clade within the phylogenetic tree demonstrates strong conservation of protein structure contrasted against highly diverged DNA target sites and indicates that a significant fraction of these proteins are sufficiently stable and active to serve as engineering scaffolds. This information was exploited to create a targeting enzyme to disrupt the endogenous monoamine oxidase B gene in human cells. The ubiquitous presence and diversity of LHEs described in this study may facilitate the creation of many tailored nucleases for genome editing.
After menopause, many women experience vaginal dryness and atrophy of tissue, often attributed to the loss of estrogen. An understudied aspect of vaginal health in women who experience dryness due to atrophy is the role of the resident microbes. It is known that the microbiota has an important role in healthy vaginal homeostasis, including maintaining the pH balance and excluding pathogens. The objectives of this study were twofold: first to identify the microbiome of post-menopausal women with and without vaginal dryness and symptoms of atrophy; and secondly to examine any differences in epithelial gene expression associated with atrophy. The vaginal microbiome of 32 post-menopausal women was profiled using Illumina sequencing of the V6 region of the 16S rRNA gene. Sixteen subjects were selected for follow-up sampling every two weeks for 10 weeks. In addition, 10 epithelial RNA samples (6 healthy and 4 experiencing vaginal dryness) were acquired for gene expression analysis by Affymetrix Human Gene array. The microbiota abundance profiles were relatively stable over 10 weeks compared to previously published data on premenopausal women. There was an inverse correlation between Lactobacillus ratio and dryness and an increased bacterial diversity in women experiencing moderate to severe vaginal dryness. In healthy participants, Lactobacillus iners and L. crispatus were generally the most abundant, countering the long-held view that lactobacilli are absent or depleted in menopause. Vaginal dryness and atrophy were associated with down-regulation of human genes involved in maintenance of epithelial structure and barrier function, while those associated with inflammation were up-regulated consistent with the adverse clinical presentation.
In a healthy host, a balance exists between members of the microbiota, such that potential pathogenic and non-pathogenic organisms can be found in apparent harmony. During infection, this balance can become disturbed, leading to often dramatic changes in the composition of the microbiota. For most bacterial infections, nonspecific antibiotics are used, killing the non-pathogenic members of the microbiota as well as the pathogens and leading to a substantial delay in the restoration of a healthy microbiota. However, in some cases, infections can self-resolve without the intervention of antibiotics. In this Review, we explore the mechanisms underlying microbiota restoration following insult (antibiotic or otherwise) to the skin, oral cavity, and gastrointestinal and urogenital tracts, highlighting recovery by natural processes and after probiotic administration.
Lactobacilli have long been regarded as important constituents of the healthy human vagina. Lactobacillus iners is the most frequently detected bacterial species in the vagina, but little is known about its characteristics. We report a description of the whole-genome sequence of L. iners AB-1 along with comparative analysis of published genomes of closely related strains of lactobacilli. The genome is the smallest Lactobacillus reported to date, with a 1.3-Mbp single chromosome. The genome seems to have undergone one or more rapid evolution events that resulted in large-scale gene loss and horizontal acquisition of a number of genes for survival in the vagina. L. iners may exhibit specialized adaptation mechanisms to the vaginal environment, such as an iron-sulfur cluster assembly system, and several unique ? factors to regulate gene transcription in this fluctuating environment. A potentially highly expressed homolog of a cholesterol-binding lysin may also contribute to host cell adhesion or act as a defense mechanism against other microbes. Notably, there is a lack of apparent adhesion proteins, but several cell-anchor proteins were identified and may be important for interaction with the host mucosal tissues. L. iners is widely present in healthy females as well as those suffering from bacterial vaginosis or who have undergone antimicrobial therapy, suggesting that it is an important indigenous species of the vagina.
We developed a low-cost, high-throughput microbiome profiling method that uses combinatorial sequence tags attached to PCR primers that amplify the rRNA V6 region. Amplified PCR products are sequenced using an Illumina paired-end protocol to generate millions of overlapping reads. Combinatorial sequence tagging can be used to examine hundreds of samples with far fewer primers than is required when sequence tags are incorporated at only a single end. The number of reads generated permitted saturating or near-saturating analysis of samples of the vaginal microbiome. The large number of reads allowed an in-depth analysis of errors, and we found that PCR-induced errors composed the vast majority of non-organism derived species variants, an observation that has significant implications for sequence clustering of similar high-throughput data. We show that the short reads are sufficient to assign organisms to the genus or species level in most cases. We suggest that this method will be useful for the deep sequencing of any short nucleotide region that is taxonomically informative; these include the V3, V5 regions of the bacterial 16S rRNA genes and the eukaryotic V9 region that is gaining popularity for sampling protist diversity.
Women living with HIV and co-infected with bacterial vaginosis (BV) are at higher risk for transmitting HIV to a partner or newborn. It is poorly understood which bacterial communities constitute BV or the normal vaginal microbiota among this population and how the microbiota associated with BV responds to antibiotic treatment.
Unigenic evolution is a large-scale mutagenesis experiment used to identify residues that are potentially important for protein function. Both currently-used methods for the analysis of unigenic evolution data analyze windows of contiguous sites, a strategy that increases statistical power but incorrectly assumes that functionally-critical sites are contiguous. In addition, both methods require the questionable assumption of asymptotically-large sample size due to the presumption of approximate normality.
Tra1 is a component of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae SAGA and NuA4 complexes and a member of the PIKK family, which contain a C-terminal phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-like (PI3K) domain followed by a 35-residue FATC domain. Single residue changes of L3733A and F3744A, within the FATC domain, resulted in transcriptional changes and phenotypes that were similar but not identical to those caused by mutations in the PI3K domain or deletions of other SAGA or NuA4 components. The distinct nature of the FATC mutations was also apparent from the additive effect of tra1-L3733A with SAGA, NuA4, and tra1 PI3K domain mutations. Tra1-L3733A associates with SAGA and NuA4 components and with the Gal4 activation domain, to the same extent as wild-type Tra1; however, steady-state levels of Tra1-L3733A were reduced. We suggest that decreased stability of Tra1-L3733A accounts for the phenotypes since intragenic suppressors of tra1-L3733A restored Tra1 levels, and reducing wild-type Tra1 led to comparable growth defects. Also supporting a key role for the FATC domain in the structure/function of Tra1, addition of a C-terminal glycine residue resulted in decreased association with Spt7 and Esa1, and loss of cellular viability. These findings demonstrate the regulatory potential of mechanisms targeting the FATC domains of PIKK proteins.
Mutual information (MI) is a quantity that measures the dependence between two arbitrary random variables and has been repeatedly used to solve a wide variety of bioinformatic problems. Recently, when attempting to quantify the effects of sampling variance on computed values of MI in proteins, we encountered striking differences among various novel estimates of MI. These differences revealed that estimating the true value of MI is not a straightforward procedure, and minor variations of assumptions yielded remarkably different estimates.
There is currently no way to verify the quality of a multiple sequence alignment that is independent of the assumptions used to build it. Sequence alignments are typically evaluated by a number of established criteria: sequence conservation, the number of aligned residues, the frequency of gaps, and the probable correct gap placement. Covariation analysis is used to find putatively important residue pairs in a sequence alignment. Different alignments of the same protein family give different results demonstrating that covariation depends on the quality of the sequence alignment. We thus hypothesized that current criteria are insufficient to build alignments for use with covariation analyses.
We demonstrated that a pair of positions in phosphoglycerate kinase that score highly by three nonparametric covariation measures are important for function even though the positions can be occupied by aliphatic, aromatic, or charged residues. Examination of these pairs suggested that the majority of the covariation scores could be explained by within-clade conservation. However, an analysis of diversity showed that the conservation within clades of covarying pairs was indistinguishable from pairs of positions that do not covary, thus ruling out both clade conservation and extensive homoplasy as means to identify covarying positions. Mutagenesis showed that the residues in the covarying pair were epistatic, with the type of epistasis being dependent on the initial pair. The results show that nonconserved covarying positions that affect protein function can be identified with high precision.
Insight into protein structure and function is best obtained through a synthesis of experimental, structural and bioinformatic data. Here, we outline a framework that we call MUSE (mutual information, unigenic evolution and structure-guided elucidation), which facilitated the identification of previously unknown residues that are relevant for function of the GIY-YIG homing endonuclease I-BmoI. Our approach synthesizes three types of data: mutual information analyses that identify co-evolving residues within the GIY-YIG catalytic domain; a unigenic evolution strategy that identifies hyper- and hypo-mutable residues of I-BmoI; and interpretation of the unigenic and co-evolution data using a homology model. In particular, we identify novel positions within the GIY-YIG domain as functionally important. Proof-of-principle experiments implicate the non-conserved I71 as functionally relevant, with an I71N mutant accumulating a nicked cleavage intermediate. Moreover, many additional positions within the catalytic, linker and C-terminal domains of I-BmoI were implicated as important for function. Our results represent a platform on which to pursue future studies of I-BmoI and other GIY-YIG-containing proteins, and demonstrate that MUSE can successfully identify novel functionally critical residues that would be ignored in a traditional structure-function analysis within an extensively studied small domain of approximately 90 amino acids.
Intricate networks of protein kinases are intimately involved in the regulation of cellular events related to cell proliferation and survival. In addition to protein kinases, cells also contain networks of proteases including aspartic-acid directed caspases organized in cascades that play a major role in the regulation of cell survival through their involvement in the initiation and execution phases of apoptosis. Perturbations in regulatory protein kinase and caspase networks induce alterations in cell survival and frequently accompany transformation and tumorigenesis. Furthermore, recent studies have documented that caspases or their substrates are subject to phosphorylation in cells illustrating a potential convergence of protein kinase and caspase signaling pathways. Interestingly, a number of caspase substrates are protected from cleavage when they are phosphorylated at sites that are adjacent to caspase cleavage sites. While it is theoretically possible that many distinct protein kinases could protect proteins from caspase-mediated cleavage, protein kinase CK2 is of particular interest because acidic amino acids, including aspartic acid residues that are recognized by caspases, are its dominant specificity determinants.
Six infants in an Old Order Amish pedigree were observed to be affected with endocrine-cerebro-osteodysplasia (ECO). ECO is a previously unidentified neonatal lethal recessive disorder with multiple anomalies involving the endocrine, cerebral, and skeletal systems. Autozygosity mapping and sequencing identified a previously unknown missense mutation, R272Q, in ICK, encoding intestinal cell kinase (ICK). Our results established that R272 is conserved across species and among ethnicities, and three-dimensional analysis of the protein structure suggests protein instability due to the R272Q mutation. We also demonstrate that the R272Q mutant fails to localize at the nucleus and has diminished kinase activity. These findings suggest that ICK plays a key role in the development of multiple organ systems.
A working group from across Canada comprised of clinician and basic scientists, epidemiologists, ethicists, Health Canada regulatory authorities and representatives of major funding agencies (Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Crohns and Colitis Foundation of Canada) met to review the current experience with fecal microbial therapy and to identify the key areas of study required to move this field forward. The report highlights the promise of fecal microbial therapy and related synthetic stool therapy (together called microbial ecosystems therapeutics) for the treatment of Clostridium difficile colitis and, possibly, other disorders. It identifies pressing clinical issues that need to be addressed as well as social, ethical and regulatory barriers to the use of these important therapies.
The use of sequence alignments to understand protein families is ubiquitous in molecular biology. High quality alignments are difficult to build and protein alignment remains one of the largest open problems in computational biology. Misalignments can lead to inferential errors about protein structure, folding, function, phylogeny, and residue importance. Identifying alignment errors is difficult because alignments are built and validated on the same primary criteria: sequence conservation. Local covariation identifies systematic misalignments and is independent of conservation. We demonstrate an alignment curation tool, LoCo, that integrates local covariation scores with the Jalview alignment editor. Using LoCo, we illustrate how local covariation is capable of identifying alignment errors due to the reduction of positional independence in the region of misalignment. We highlight three alignments from the benchmark database, BAliBASE 3, that contain regions of high local covariation, and investigate the causes to illustrate these types of scenarios. Two alignments contain sequential and structural shifts that cause elevated local covariation. Realignment of these misaligned segments reduces local covariation; these alternative alignments are supported with structural evidence. We also show that local covariation identifies active site residues in a validated alignment of paralogous structures. Loco is available at https://sourceforge.net/projects/locoprotein/files/.
Urogenital diseases, especially infection and cancer, are major causes of death and morbidity in females. Yet, millions of women in the developing world have no access to basic urogynecological care, and the diagnosis and treatment of widespread aberrant bacterial conditions (bacterial vaginosis [BV] and aerobic vaginitis [AV]) remain suboptimal the world over. Samples from women living in resource-disadvantaged and developed countries have been analyzed by high-throughput sequencing to reveal the diversity of bacteria in the vagina, how rapidly the bacterial population fluctuates over time, and how rapidly the switch occurs between healthy and aberrant conditions. Unfortunately, clinical diagnostic methods are inefficient and too often outdated therapies are administered. The net result is suboptimal care and recurrent disease that adversely affects the quality of life. This viewpoint outlines a scientific and translational road map designed to improve the cervicovaginal health and treatment of disease. This comprises (1) improving education of women and physicians on the vaginal microbiota; (2) having agencies target funding for research to improve diagnosis and test new therapies; and (3) making sure that new approaches are accessible in developing countries, empowering to women, and are acceptable and appropriate for different populations.
Tra1 is a 3744-residue component of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae SAGA, NuA4, and ASTRA complexes. Tra1 contains essential C-terminal PI3K and FATC domains, but unlike other PIKK (phosphoinositide three-kinase-related kinase) family members, lacks kinase activity. To analyze functions of the FATC domain, we selected for suppressors of tra1-F3744A, an allele that results in slow growth under numerous conditions of stress. Two alleles of TTI2, tti2-F328S and tti2-I336F, acted in a partially dominant fashion to suppress the growth-related phenotypes associated with tra1-F3744A as well as its resulting defects in transcription. tti2-F328S suppressed an additional FATC domain mutation (tra1-L3733A), but not a mutation in the PI3K domain or deletions of SAGA or NuA4 components. We find eGFP-tagged Tti2 distributed throughout the cell. Tti2 is a component of the ASTRA complex, and in mammalian cells associates with molecular chaperones in complex with Tti1 and Tel2. Consistent with this finding, Tra1 levels are reduced in a strain with a temperature-sensitive allele of tel2. Further agreeing with a possible role for Tti2 in the folding or stabilization of Tra1, tra1-F3744A was mislocalized to the cytoplasm, particularly under conditions of stress. Since an intragenic mutation of tra1-R3590I also suppressed F3744A, we propose that Tti2 is required for the folding/stability of the C-terminal FATC and PI3K domains of Tra1 into their functionally active form.
Tra1 is an essential protein in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It was first identified in the SAGA and NuA4 complexes, both with functions in multiple aspects of gene regulation and DNA repair, and recently found in the ASTRA complex. Tra1 belongs to the PIKK family of proteins with a C-terminal PI3K domain followed by a FATC domain. Previously we found that mutation of leucine to alanine at position 3733 in the FATC domain of Tra1 (tra1-L3733A) results in transcriptional changes and slow growth under conditions of stress. To further define the regulatory interactions of Tra1 we isolated extragenic suppressors of the tra1-L3733A allele.
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