Glycans form the primary nutritional source for microbes in the human gut, and understanding their metabolism is a critical yet understudied aspect of microbiome research. Here, we present a novel computational pipeline for modeling glycan degradation (GlyDeR) which predicts the glycan degradation potency of 10,000 reference glycans based on either genomic or metagenomic data. We first validated GlyDeR by comparing degradation profiles for genomes in the Human Microbiome Project against KEGG reaction annotations. Next, we applied GlyDeR to the analysis of human and mammalian gut microbial communities, which revealed that the glycan degradation potential of a community is strongly linked to host diet and can be used to predict diet with higher accuracy than sequence data alone. Finally, we show that a microbe's glycan degradation potential is significantly correlated (R = 0.46) with its abundance, with even higher correlations for potential pathogens such as the class Clostridia (R = 0.76). GlyDeR therefore represents an important tool for advancing our understanding of bacterial metabolism in the gut and for the future development of more effective prebiotics for microbial community manipulation.
The target of rapamycin (TOR) kinase belongs to the highly conserved eukaryotic family of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-related kinases. TOR proteins are found at the core of two evolutionary conserved complexes, known as TORC1 and TORC2. In fission yeast, TORC2 is dispensable for proliferation under optimal growth conditions but is required for starvation and stress responses. TORC2 has been implicated in a wide variety of functions; however, the signals that regulate TORC2 activity have so far remained obscure. TORC2 has one known direct substrate, the AGC kinase Gad8, which is related to AKT in human cells. Gad8 is phosphorylated by TORC2 at Ser-546 (equivalent to AKT Ser-473), leading to its activation. Here, we show that glucose is necessary and sufficient to induce Gad8 Ser-546 phosphorylation in vivo and Gad8 kinase activity in vitro. The glucose signal that activates TORC2-Gad8 is mediated via the cAMP/PKA pathway, a major glucose-sensing pathway. By contrast, Pmk1, similar to human extracellular signal-regulated kinases and a major stress-induced mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) in fission yeast, inhibits TORC2-dependent Gad8 phosphorylation and activation. Inhibition of TORC2-Gad8 also occurs in response to ionic or osmotic stress, in a manner dependent on the cAMP/PKA and Pmk1-MAPK signaling pathways. Our findings highlight the significance of glucose availability in regulation of TORC2-Gad8 and indicate a novel link between the cAMP/PKA, Pmk1/MAPK, and TORC2-Gad8 signaling.
Telomeres are nucleoprotein structures that cap the ends of the linear eukaryotic chromosomes and thereby protect their stability and integrity. Telomeres play central roles in maintaining the genome's integrity, distinguishing between the natural chromosomal ends and unwanted double-stranded breaks. In addition, telomeres are replicated by a special reverse transcriptase called telomerase, in a complex mechanism that is coordinated with the genome's replication. Telomeres also play an important role in tethering the chromosomes to the nuclear envelope, thus helping in positioning the chromosomes within the nucleus. The special chromatin configuration of telomeres affects the expression of nearby genes; nonetheless, telomeres are transcribed, creating noncoding RNA molecules that hybridize to the chromosomal ends and seem to play regulatory roles. The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, with its sophisticated genetics and molecular biology, has provided many fundamental concepts in telomere biology, which were later found to be conserved in all organisms. Here, we present an overview of all the aspects of telomere biology investigated in yeast, which continues to provide new insights into this complex and important subject, which has significant medical implications, especially in the fields of aging and cancer.
Genome-wide systematic screens in yeast have uncovered a large gene network (the telomere length maintenance network or TLM), encompassing more than 400 genes, which acts coordinatively to maintain telomere length. Identifying the genes was an important first stage; the next challenge is to decipher their mechanism of action and to organize then into functional groups or pathways. Here we present a new telomere-length measuring program, TelQuant, and a novel assay, telomere length kinetics assay, and use them to organize tlm mutants into functional classes. Our results show that a mutant defective for the relatively unknown MET7 gene has the same telomeric kinetics as mutants defective for the ribonucleotide reductase subunit Rnr1, in charge of the limiting step in dNTP synthesis, or for the Ku heterodimer, a well-established telomere complex. We confirm the epistatic relationship between the mutants and show that physical interactions exist between Rnr1 and Met7. We also show that Met7 and the Ku heterodimer affect dNTP formation, and play a role in non-homologous end joining. Thus, our telomere kinetics assay uncovers new functional groups, as well as complex genetic interactions between tlm mutants.
DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) are the most severe type of DNA damage. DSBs are repaired by non-homologous end-joining or homology directed repair (HDR). Identifying novel small molecules that affect HDR is of great importance both for research use and therapy. Molecules that elevate HDR may improve gene targeting whereas inhibiting molecules can be used for chemotherapy, since some of the cancers are more sensitive to repair impairment. Here, we performed a high-throughput chemical screen for FDA approved drugs, which affect HDR in cancer cells. We found that HDR frequencies are increased by retinoic acid and Idoxuridine and reduced by the antihypertensive drug Spironolactone. We further revealed that Spironolactone impairs Rad51 foci formation, sensitizes cancer cells to DNA damaging agents, to Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors and cross-linking agents and inhibits tumor growth in xenografts, in mice. This study suggests Spironolactone as a new candidate for chemotherapy.
Protein-protein interactions (PPIs) govern basic cellular processes through signal transduction and complex formation. The diversity of those processes gives rise to a remarkable diversity of interactions types, ranging from transient phosphorylation interactions to stable covalent bonding. Despite our increasing knowledge on PPIs in humans and other species, their types remain relatively unexplored and few annotations of types exist in public databases. Here, we propose the first method for systematic prediction of PPI type based solely on the techniques by which the interaction was detected. We show that different detection methods are better suited for detecting specific types. We apply our method to ten interaction types on a large scale human PPI dataset. We evaluate the performance of the method using both internal cross validation and external data sources. In cross validation, we obtain an area under receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve ranging from 0.65 to 0.97 with an average of 0.84 across the predicted types. Comparing the predicted interaction types to external data sources, we obtained significant agreements for phosphorylation and ubiquitination interactions, with hypergeometric p-value?=?2.3e(-54) and 5.6e(-28) respectively. We examine the biological relevance of our predictions using known signaling pathways and chart the abundance of interaction types in cell processes. Finally, we investigate the cross-relations between different interaction types within the network and characterize the discovered patterns, or motifs. We expect the resulting annotated network to facilitate the reconstruction of process-specific subnetworks and assist in predicting protein function or interaction.
TOR proteins reside in two distinct complexes, TOR complex 1 and 2 (TORC1 and TORC2) that are central for the regulation of cellular growth, proliferation and survival. TOR is also the target for the immunosuppressive and anti-cancer drug rapamycin. In Schizosaccharaomyces pombe, disruption of the TSC complex, mutations in which can lead to the Tuberous Sclerosis syndrome in humans, results in a rapamycin sensitive phenotype under poor nitrogen conditions. We show here that the sensitivity to rapamycin is mediated via inhibition of TORC1 and suppressed by overexpression of isp7(+), a member of the family of 2-oxoglutarate-Fe(II) dependent oxygenases. The transcript level of isp7(+) is negatively regulated by TORC1 but positively regulated by TORC2. Yet, we find extensive similarity between the transcriptome of cells disrupted for isp7(+) and cells mutated in the catalytic subunit of TORC1. Moreover, Isp7 regulates amino acid permease expression similarly to TORC1 and in contrast to TORC2. Overexpression of isp7(+) induces TORC1-dependent phosphorylation of ribosomal protein Rps6, while inhibiting TORC2-dependent phosphorylation and activation of the AGC-like kinase Gad8. Taken together, our findings suggest a central role for Isp7 in amino acid homeostasis and the presence of isp7(+)-dependent regulatory loops that affect both TORC1 and TORC2.
Telomeres are nucleoprotein structures that cap the ends of the linear eukaryotic chromosomes, thus protecting their stability and integrity. They play important roles in DNA replication and repair and are central to our understanding of aging and cancer development. In rapidly dividing cells, telomere length is maintained by the activity of telomerase. About 400 TLM (telomere length maintenance) genes have been identified in yeast, as participants of an intricate homeostasis network that keeps telomere length constant. Two papers have recently shown that despite this extremely complex control, telomere length can be manipulated by external stimuli. These results have profound implications for our understanding of cellular homeostatic systems in general and of telomere length maintenance in particular. In addition, they point to the possibility of developing aging and cancer therapies based on telomere length manipulation.
Telomeres protect the chromosome ends from degradation and play crucial roles in cellular aging and disease. Recent studies have additionally found a correlation between psychological stress, telomere length, and health outcome in humans. However, studies have not yet explored the causal relationship between stress and telomere length, or the molecular mechanisms underlying that relationship. Using yeast as a model organism, we show that stresses may have very different outcomes: alcohol and acetic acid elongate telomeres, whereas caffeine and high temperatures shorten telomeres. Additional treatments, such as oxidative stress, show no effect. By combining genome-wide expression measurements with a systematic genetic screen, we identify the Rap1/Rif1 pathway as the central mediator of the telomeric response to environmental signals. These results demonstrate that telomere length can be manipulated, and that a carefully regulated homeostasis may become markedly deregulated in opposing directions in response to different environmental cues.
Elg1 and Srs2 are two proteins involved in maintaining genome stability in yeast. After DNA damage, the homotrimeric clamp PCNA, which provides stability and processivity to DNA polymerases and serves as a docking platform for DNA repair enzymes, undergoes modification by the ubiquitin-like molecule SUMO. PCNA SUMOylation helps recruit Srs2 and Elg1 to the replication fork. In the absence of Elg1, both SUMOylated PCNA and Srs2 accumulate at the chromatin fraction, indicating that Elg1 is required for removing SUMOylated PCNA and Srs2 from DNA. Despite this interaction, which suggests that the two proteins work together, double mutants elg1? srs2? have severely impaired growth as haploids and exhibit synergistic sensitivity to DNA damage and a synergistic increase in gene conversion. In addition, diploid elg1? srs2? double mutants are dead, which implies that an essential function in the cell requires at least one of the two gene products for survival. To gain information about this essential function, we have carried out a high copy number suppressor screen to search for genes that, when overexpressed, suppress the synthetic lethality between elg1? and srs2?. We report the identification of 36 such genes, which are enriched for functions related to DNA- and chromatin-binding, chromatin packaging and modification, and mRNA export from the nucleus.
DNA damage can occur due to environmental insults or intrinsic metabolic processes and is a major threat to genome stability. The DNA damage response is composed of a series of well coordinated cellular processes that include activation of the DNA damage checkpoint, transient cell cycle arrest, DNA damage repair, and reentry into the cell cycle. Here we demonstrate that mutant cells defective for TOR complex 2 (TORC2) or the downstream AGC-like kinase, Gad8, are highly sensitive to chronic replication stress but are insensitive to ionizing radiation. We show that in response to replication stress, TORC2 is dispensable for Chk1-mediated cell cycle arrest but is required for the return to cell cycle progression. Rad52 is a DNA repair and recombination protein that forms foci at DNA damage sites and stalled replication forks. TORC2 mutant cells show increased spontaneous nuclear Rad52 foci, particularly during S phase, suggesting that TORC2 protects cells from DNA damage that occurs during normal DNA replication. Consistently, the viability of TORC2-Gad8 mutant cells is dependent on the presence of the homologous recombination pathway and other proteins that are required for replication restart following fork replication stalling. Our findings indicate that TORC2 is required for genome integrity. This may be relevant for the growing amount of evidence implicating TORC2 in cancer development.
Fanconi anemia (FA) is a human syndrome characterized by genomic instability and increased incidence of cancer. FA is a genetically heterogeneous disease caused by mutations in at least 15 different genes; several of these genes are conserved in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Elg1 is also a conserved protein that forms an RFC-like complex, which interacts with SUMOylated PCNA. The mammalian Elg1 protein has been recently found to interact with the FA complex. Here we analyze the genetic interactions between elg1? and mutants of the yeast FA-like pathway. We show that Elg1 physically contacts the Mhf1/Mhf2 histone-like complex and genetically interacts with MPH1 (ortholog of the FANCM helicase) and CHL1 (ortholog of the FANCJ helicase) genes. We analyze the sensitivity of double, triple, quadruple and quintuple mutants to methylmethane sulfonate (MMS) and to hydroxyurea (HU). Our results show that genetic interactions depend on the type of DNA damaging agent used and show a hierarchy: Chl1 and Elg1 play major roles in the survival to these genotoxins and exhibit synthetic fitness reduction. Mph1 plays a lesser role, and the effect of the Mhf1/2 complex is seen only in the absence of Elg1 on HU-containing medium. Finally, we dissect the relationship between yeast FA-like mutants and the replication clamp, PCNA. Our results point to an intricate network of interactions rather than a single, linear repair pathway.
The most dangerous insults to the genomes integrity are those that break both strands of the DNA. Double-strand breaks can be repaired by homologous recombination; in this conserved mechanism, a global genomic homology search finds sequences similar to those near the break, and uses them as a template for DNA synthesis and ligation. Chromosomes occupy restricted territories within the nucleus. We show that yeast genomic regions whose nuclear territories overlap recombine more efficiently than sequences located in spatially distant territories. Tethering of telomeres and centromeres reduces the efficiency of recombination between distant genomic loci, lowering the chances of non-allelic recombination. Our results challenge present models that posit an active scanning of the whole nuclear volume by the broken chromosomal end; they demonstrate that the search for homology is a limiting step in homologous recombination, and emphasize the importance of nuclear organization in genome maintenance.
PCNA is a homotrimeric ring with important roles in DNA replication and repair. PCNA is loaded and unloaded by the RFC complex, which is composed of five subunits (Rfc1-5). Three additional complexes that share with RFC the small subunits (Rfc2-5) and contain alternative large subunits were found in yeast and other eukaryotes. We have recently reported that one of these, the Elg1-RFC complex, interacts with SUMOylated PCNA and may play a role in its unloading during DNA repair. Here we report that a yeast-two-hybrid screen with the N terminus of Elg1(which interacts with SUMOylated PCNA) uncovered interactions with proteins that belong to the SUMO pathway, including Slx5 and Slx8, which form an E3 ubiquitin ligase that ubiquitinates SUMOylated proteins. Mutations in SLX5 result in a genomic instability phenotype similar to that of elg1 mutants. The physical interaction between the N terminus of Elg1 and Slx5 is mediated by poly-SUMO chains but not by PCNA modifications, and requires Siz2, but not Siz1, activity. Thus our results highlight the many important roles played by Elg1, some of which are PCNA-dependent and some PCNA-independent.
Revealing the ecological principles that shape communities is a major challenge of the post-genomic era. To date, a systematic approach for describing inter-species interactions has been lacking. Here we independently predict the competitive and cooperative potential between 6,903 bacterial pairs derived from a collection of 118 species metabolic models. We chart an intricate association between competition and cooperation indicating that the cooperative potential is maximized at moderate levels of resource overlap. Utilizing ecological data from 2,801 samples, we explore the associations between bacterial interactions and coexistence patterns. The high level of competition observed between species with mutual-exclusive distribution patterns supports the role of competition in community assembly. Cooperative interactions are typically unidirectional with no obvious benefit to the giver. However, within their natural communities, bacteria typically form close cooperative loops resulting in indirect benefit to all species involved. These findings are important for the future design of consortia optimized towards bioremediation and bio-production applications.
Homing endonucleases (HEases) are a large and diverse group of site-specific DNAases. They reside within self-splicing introns and inteins, and promote their horizontal dissemination. In recent years, HEases have been the focus of extensive research due to their promising potential use in gene targeting procedures for the treatment of genetic diseases and for the genetic engineering of crop, animal models and cell lines.
DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) and other lesions occur frequently during cell growth and in meiosis. These are often repaired by homologous recombination (HR). HR may result in the formation of DNA structures called Holliday junctions (HJs), which need to be resolved to allow chromosome segregation. Whereas HJs are present in most HR events in meiosis, it has been proposed that in vegetative cells most HR events occur through intermediates lacking HJs. A recent screen in yeast has shown HJ resolution activity for a protein called Yen1, in addition to the previously known Mus81/Mms4 complex. Yeast strains deleted for both YEN1 and MMS4 show a reduction in growth rate, and are very sensitive to DNA-damaging agents. In addition, we investigate the genetic interaction of yen1 and mms4 with mutants defective in different repair pathways. We find that in the absence of Yen1 and Mms4 deletion of RAD1 or RAD52 have no further effect, whereas additional sensitivity is seen if RAD51 is deleted. Finally, we show that yeast cells are unable to carry out meiosis in the absence of both resolvases. Our results show that both Yen1 and Mms4/Mus81 play important (although not identical) roles during vegetative growth and in meiosis.
In recent years, both homing endonucleases (HEases) and zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs) have been engineered and selected for the targeting of desired human loci for gene therapy. However, enzyme engineering is lengthy and expensive and the off-target effect of the manufactured endonucleases is difficult to predict. Moreover, enzymes selected to cleave a human DNA locus may not cleave the homologous locus in the genome of animal models because of sequence divergence, thus hampering attempts to assess the in vivo efficacy and safety of any engineered enzyme prior to its application in human trials. Here, we show that naturally occurring HEases can be found, that cleave desirable human targets. Some of these enzymes are also shown to cleave the homologous sequence in the genome of animal models. In addition, the distribution of off-target effects may be more predictable for native HEases. Based on our experimental observations, we present the HomeBase algorithm, database and web server that allow a high-throughput computational search and assignment of HEases for the targeting of specific loci in the human and other genomes. We validate experimentally the predicted target specificity of candidate fungal, bacterial and archaeal HEases using cell free, yeast and archaeal assays.
Telomeres are specialized DNA-protein structures at the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes. Telomeric DNA is synthesized by telomerase, which is expressed only at the early stages of development [1, 2]. To become malignant, any cell has to be able to replenish telomeres . Thus, understanding how telomere length is monitored has significant medical implications, especially in the fields of aging and cancer. In yeast, telomerase is constitutively active. A large network of genes participates in controlling telomere length [4-8]. Tor1 and Tor2 (targets of rapamycin ) are two similar kinases that regulate cell growth . Both can be found as part of the TOR complex 1 (TORC1 ), which coordinates the response to nutrient starvation and is sensitive to rapamycin . The rapamycin-insensitive TOR complex 2 (TORC2) contains only Tor2 and regulates actin cytoskeleton polarization . Here we provide evidence for a role of TORC1 in telomere shortening upon starvation in yeast cells. The TORC1 signal is transduced by the Gln3/Gat1/Ure2 pathway, which controls the levels of the Ku heterodimer, a telomere regulator. We discuss the potential implications for the usage of rapamycin as a therapeutic agent against cancer and the effect that calorie restriction may have on telomere length.
Coevolutionary networks can encapsulate information about the dynamics of presence and absence of gene families in organisms. Analysis of such networks should reveal fundamental principles underlying the evolution of cellular systems and the functionality of sets of genes. In this study, we describe a new approach for analyzing coevolutionary networks. Our method detects Mutually Exclusive Orthologous Modules (MEOMs). A MEOM is composed of two sets of gene families, each including gene families that tend to appear in the same organisms, such that the two sets tend to mutually exclude each other (if one set appears in a certain organism the second set does not). Thus, a MEOM reflects the evolutionary replacement of one set of genes by another due to reasons such as lineage/environmental specificity, incompatibility, or functional redundancy. We use our method to analyze a coevolutionary network that is based on 383 microorganisms from the three domains of life. As we demonstrate, our method is useful for detecting meaningful evolutionary clades of organisms as well as sets of proteins that interact with each other. Among our results, we report that: 1) MEOMs tend to include gene families whose cellular functions involve transport, energy production, metabolism, and translation, suggesting that changes in the metabolic environments that require adaptation to new sources of energy are central triggers of complex/pathway replacement in evolution. 2) Many MEOMs are related to outer membrane proteins, such proteins are involved in interaction with the environment and could thus be replaced as a result of adaptation. 3) MEOMs tend to separate organisms with large phylogenetic distance but they also separate organisms that live in different ecological niches. 4) Strikingly, although many MEOMs can be identified, there are much fewer cases where the two cliques in the MEOM completely mutually exclude each other, demonstrating the flexibility of protein evolution. 5) CO dehydrogenase and thymidylate synthase and the glycine cleavage genes mutually exclude each other in archaea; this may represent an alternative route for generation of methyl donors for thymidine synthesis.
Translation is a central process of life, and its regulation is crucial for cell growth. In this article, focusing on two model organisms, Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we study how three major local features of a genes coding sequence (its adaptation to the tRNA pool, its amino acid charge, and its mRNA folding energy) affect its translation elongation.
Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is a major force in microbial evolution. Previous studies have suggested that a variety of factors, including restricted recombination and toxicity of foreign gene products, may act as barriers to the successful integration of horizontally transferred genes. This study identifies an additional central barrier to HGT-the lack of co-adaptation between the codon usage of the transferred gene and the tRNA pool of the recipient organism. Analyzing the genomic sequences of more than 190 microorganisms and the HGT events that have occurred between them, we show that the number of genes that were horizontally transferred between organisms is positively correlated with the similarity between their tRNA pools. Those genes that are better adapted to the tRNA pools of the target genomes tend to undergo more frequent HGT. At the community (or environment) level, organisms that share a common ecological niche tend to have similar tRNA pools. These results remain significant after controlling for diverse ecological and evolutionary parameters. Our analysis demonstrates that there are bi-directional associations between the similarity in the tRNA pools of organisms and the number of HGT events occurring between them. Similar tRNA pools between a donor and a host tend to increase the probability that a horizontally acquired gene will become fixed in its new genome. Our results also suggest that frequent HGT may be a homogenizing force that increases the similarity in the tRNA pools of organisms within the same community.
We describe the first large scale analysis of gene translation that is based on a model that takes into account the physical and dynamical nature of this process. The Ribosomal Flow Model (RFM) predicts fundamental features of the translation process, including translation rates, protein abundance levels, ribosomal densities and the relation between all these variables, better than alternative (non-physical) approaches. In addition, we show that the RFM can be used for accurate inference of various other quantities including genes initiation rates and translation costs. These quantities could not be inferred by previous predictors. We find that increasing the number of available ribosomes (or equivalently the initiation rate) increases the genomic translation rate and the mean ribosome density only up to a certain point, beyond which both saturate. Strikingly, assuming that the translation system is tuned to work at the pre-saturation point maximizes the predictive power of the model with respect to experimental data. This result suggests that in all organisms that were analyzed (from bacteria to Human), the global initiation rate is optimized to attain the pre-saturation point. The fact that similar results were not observed for heterologous genes indicates that this feature is under selection. Remarkably, the gap between the performance of the RFM and alternative predictors is strikingly large in the case of heterologous genes, testifying to the models promising biotechnological value in predicting the abundance of heterologous proteins before expressing them in the desired host.
Inteins are selfish genetic elements that disrupt the sequence of protein-coding genes and are excised post-translationally. Most inteins also contain a HEN (homing endonuclease) domain, which is important for their horizontal transmission. The present review focuses on the evolution of inteins and their nested HENs, and highlights several unsolved questions that could benefit from molecular genetic approaches. Such approaches can be well carried out in halophilic archaea, which are naturally intein-rich and have highly developed genetic tools for their study. In particular, the fitness effects of harbouring an intein/HEN can be tested in direct competition assays, providing additional insights that will improve current evolutionary models.
The inference of ancestral genomes is a fundamental problem in molecular evolution. Due to the statistical nature of this problem, the most likely or the most parsimonious ancestral genomes usually include considerable error rates. In general, these errors cannot be abolished by utilizing more exhaustive computational approaches, by using longer genomic sequences, or by analyzing more taxa. In recent studies, we showed that co-evolution is an important force that can be used for significantly improving the inference of ancestral genome content. In this work we formally define a computational problem for the inference of ancestral genome content by co-evolution. We show that this problem is NP-hard and hard to approximate and present both a Fixed Parameter Tractable (FPT) algorithm, and heuristic approximation algorithms for solving it. The running time of these algorithms on simulated inputs with hundreds of protein families and hundreds of co-evolutionary relations was fast (up to four minutes) and it achieved an approximation ratio of <1.3. We use our approach to study the ancestral genome content of the Fungi. To this end, we implement our approach on a dataset of 33, 931 protein families and 20, 317 co-evolutionary relations. Our algorithm added and removed hundreds of proteins from the ancestral genomes inferred by maximum likelihood (ML) or maximum parsimony (MP) while slightly affecting the likelihood/parsimony score of the results. A biological analysis revealed various pieces of evidence that support the biological plausibility of the new solutions. In addition, we showed that our approach reconstructs missing values at the leaves of the Fungi evolutionary tree better than ML or MP.
Most of the phenotypes in nature are complex and are determined by many quantitative trait loci (QTLs). In this study we identify gene sets that contribute to one important complex trait: the ability of yeast cells to survive under alkali stress. We carried out an in-lab evolution (ILE) experiment, in which we grew yeast populations under increasing alkali stress to enrich for beneficial mutations. The populations acquired different sets of affecting alleles, showing that evolution can provide alternative solutions to the same challenge. We measured the contribution of each allele to the phenotype. The sum of the effects of the QTLs was larger than the difference between the ancestor phenotype and the evolved strains, suggesting epistatic interactions between the QTLs. In parallel, a clinical isolated strain was used to map natural QTLs affecting growth at high pH. In all, 17 candidate regions were found. Using a predictive algorithm based on the distances in protein-interaction networks, candidate genes were defined and validated by gene disruption. Many of the QTLs found by both methods are not directly implied in pH homeostasis but have more general, and often regulatory, roles.
Replication-factor C (RFC) is a protein complex that loads the processivity clamp PCNA onto DNA. Elg1 is a conserved protein with homology to the largest subunit of RFC, but its function remained enigmatic. Here, we show that yeast Elg1 interacts physically and genetically with PCNA, in a manner that depends on PCNA modification, and exhibits preferential affinity for SUMOylated PCNA. This interaction is mediated by three small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO)-interacting motifs and a PCNA-interacting protein box close to the N-terminus of Elg1. These motifs are important for the ability of Elg1 to maintain genomic stability. SUMOylated PCNA is known to recruit the helicase Srs2, and in the absence of Elg1, Srs2 and SUMOylated PCNA accumulate on chromatin. Strains carrying mutations in both ELG1 and SRS2 exhibit a synthetic fitness defect that depends on PCNA modification. Our results underscore the importance of Elg1, Srs2 and SUMOylated PCNA in the maintenance of genomic stability.
Synonymous mutations do not alter the protein produced yet can have a significant effect on protein levels. The mechanisms by which this effect is achieved are controversial; although some previous studies have suggested that codon bias is the most important determinant of translation efficiency, a recent study suggested that mRNA folding at the beginning of genes is the dominant factor via its effect on translation initiation. Using the Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae transcriptomes, we conducted a genome-scale study aiming at dissecting the determinants of translation efficiency. There is a significant association between codon bias and translation efficiency across all endogenous genes in E. coli and S. cerevisiae but no association between folding energy and translation efficiency, demonstrating the role of codon bias as an important determinant of translation efficiency. However, folding energy does modulate the strength of association between codon bias and translation efficiency, which is maximized at very weak mRNA folding (i.e., high folding energy) levels. We find a strong correlation between the genomic profiles of ribosomal density and genomic profiles of folding energy across mRNA, suggesting that lower folding energies slow down the ribosomes and decrease translation efficiency. Accordingly, we find that selection forces act near uniformly to decrease the folding energy at the beginning of genes. In summary, these findings testify that in endogenous genes, folding energy affects translation efficiency in a global manner that is not related to the expression levels of individual genes, and thus cannot be detected by correlation with their expression levels.
Co-evolution is the process in which two (or more) sets of orthologs exhibit a similar or correlative pattern of evolution. Co-evolution is a powerful way to learn about the functional interdependencies between sets of genes and cellular functions and to predict physical interactions. More generally, it can be used for answering fundamental questions about the evolution of biological systems.Orthologs that exhibit a strong signal of co-evolution in a certain part of the evolutionary tree may show a mild signal of co-evolution in other branches of the tree. The major reasons for this phenomenon are noise in the biological input, genes that gain or lose functions, and the fact that some measures of co-evolution relate to rare events such as positive selection. Previous publications in the field dealt with the problem of finding sets of genes that co-evolved along an entire underlying phylogenetic tree, without considering the fact that often co-evolution is local.
To expand the known spectrum of genes that maintain genome stability, we screened a recently released collection of temperature sensitive (Ts) yeast mutants for a chromosome instability (CIN) phenotype. Proteasome subunit genes represented a major functional group, and subsequent analysis demonstrated an evolutionarily conserved role in CIN. Analysis of individual proteasome core and lid subunit mutations showed that the CIN phenotype at semi-permissive temperature is associated with failure of subunit localization to the nucleus. The resultant proteasome dysfunction affects chromosome stability by impairing the kinetics of double strand break (DSB) repair. We show that the DNA repair protein Mms22 is required for DSB repair, and recruited to chromatin in a ubiquitin-dependent manner as a result of DNA damage. Moreover, subsequent proteasome-mediated degradation of Mms22 is necessary and sufficient for cell cycle progression through the G(2)/M arrest induced by DNA damage. Our results demonstrate for the first time that a double strand break repair protein is a proteasome target, and thus link nuclear proteasomal activity and DSB repair.
DNA sequence polymorphism in a regulatory protein can have a widespread transcriptional effect. Here we present a computational approach for analyzing modules of genes with a common regulation that are affected by specific DNA polymorphisms. We identify such regulatory-linkage modules by integrating genotypic and expression data for individuals in a segregating population with complementary expression data of strains mutated in a variety of regulatory proteins. Our procedure searches simultaneously for groups of co-expressed genes, for their common underlying linkage interval, and for their shared regulatory proteins. We applied the method to a cross between laboratory and wild strains of S. cerevisiae, demonstrating its ability to correctly suggest modules and to outperform extant approaches. Our results suggest that middle sporulation genes are under the control of polymorphism in the sporulation-specific tertiary complex Sum1p/Rfm1p/Hst1p. In another example, our analysis reveals novel inter-relations between Swi3 and two mitochondrial inner membrane proteins underlying variation in a module of aerobic cellular respiration genes. Overall, our findings demonstrate that this approach provides a useful framework for the systematic mapping of quantitative trait loci and their role in gene expression variation.
Inferring the gene content of ancestral genomes is a fundamental challenge in molecular evolution. Due to the statistical nature of this problem, ancestral genomes inferred by the maximum likelihood (ML) or the maximum-parsimony (MP) methods are prone to considerable error rates. In general, these errors are difficult to abolish by using longer genomic sequences or by analyzing more taxa. This study describes a new approach for improving ancestral genome reconstruction, the ancestral coevolver (ACE), which utilizes coevolutionary information to improve the accuracy of such reconstructions over previous approaches. The principal idea is to reduce the potentially large solution space by choosing a single optimal (or near optimal) solution that is in accord with the coevolutionary relationships between protein families. Simulation experiments, both on artificial and real biological data, show that ACE yields a marked decrease in error rate compared with ML or MP. Applied to a large data set (95 organisms, 4873 protein families, and 10,000 coevolutionary relationships), some of the ancestral genomes reconstructed by ACE were remarkably different in their gene content from those reconstructed by ML or MP alone (more than 10% in some nodes). These reconstructions, while having almost similar likelihood/parsimony scores as those obtained with ML/MP, had markedly higher concordance with the coevolutionary information. Specifically, when ACE was implemented to improve the results of ML, it added a large number of proteins to those encoded by LUCA (last universal common ancestor), most of them ribosomal proteins and components of the F(0)F(1)-type ATP synthase/ATPases, complexes that are vital in most living organisms. Our analysis suggests that LUCA appears to have been bacterial-like and had a genome size similar to the genome sizes of many extant organisms.
Double-strand breaks (DSBs) occur frequently during cell growth. Due to the presence of repeated sequences in the genome, repair of a single DSB can result in gene conversion, translocation, deletion or tandem duplication depending on the mechanism and the sequence chosen as partner for the recombinational repair. Here, we study how yeast cells repair a single, inducible DSB when there are several potential donors to choose from, in the same chromosome and elsewhere in the genome. We systematically investigate the parameters that affect the choice of mechanism, as well as its genetic regulation. Our results indicate that intrachromosomal homologous sequences are always preferred as donors for repair. We demonstrate the occurrence of a novel tri-partite repair product that combines ectopic gene conversion and deletion. In addition, we show that increasing the distance between two repeated sequences enhances the dependence on Rad51 for colony formation after DSB repair. This is due to a role of Rad51 in the recovery from the checkpoint signal induced by the DSB. We suggest a model for the competition between the different homologous recombination pathways. Our model explains how different repair mechanisms are able to compensate for each other during DSB repair.
The Target Of Rapamycin (TOR) kinase belongs to the highly conserved eukaryotic family of phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase-related kinases (PIKKs). TOR proteins are found at the core of two distinct evolutionarily conserved complexes, TORC1 and TORC2. Disruption of TORC1 or TORC2 results in characteristically dissimilar phenotypes. TORC1 is a major cell growth regulator, while the cellular roles of TORC2 are not well understood. In the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Tor1 is a component of the TORC2 complex, which is particularly required during starvation and various stress conditions. Our genome-wide gene expression analysis of Deltator1 mutants indicates an extensive similarity with chromatin structure mutants. Consistently, TORC2 regulates several chromatin-mediated functions, including gene silencing, telomere length maintenance, and tolerance to DNA damage. These novel cellular roles of TORC2 are rapamycin insensitive. Cells lacking Tor1 are highly sensitive to the DNA-damaging drugs hydroxyurea (HU) and methyl methanesulfonate, similar to mutants of the checkpoint kinase Rad3 (ATR). Unlike Rad3, Tor1 is not required for the cell cycle arrest in the presence of damaged DNA. Instead, Tor1 becomes essential for dephosphorylation and reactivation of the cyclin-dependent kinase Cdc2, thus allowing reentry into mitosis following recovery from DNA replication arrest. Taken together, our data highlight critical roles for TORC2 in chromatin metabolism and in promoting mitotic entry, most notably after recovery from DNA-damaging conditions. These data place TOR proteins in line with other PIKK members, such as ATM and ATR, as guardians of genome stability.
Variegated expression of genes contributes to phenotypic variation within populations of genetically identical cells. Such variation plays a role in development and host pathogen interaction and can be important in adaptation to harsh environments. The expression state of genes placed near telomeres shows a variegated pattern of inheritance due to heterochromatin formation, a phenomenon that is called telomere position effect (TPE). We show that in budding yeast, TPE is controlled by the a1/alpha2 developmental repressor, which dictates developmental decisions in response to environmental changes. Two a1/alpha2 repressed genes, STE5, a MAPK scaffold and HOG1, a stress-activated MAPK, are the targets of this heterochromatin regulation pathway. We provide new evidence that link MAPK signaling and heterochromatin formation in yeast. Our results show that the same components that regulate gene expression states in euchromatic regions regulate heterochromatic expression states and that stress can play a part in turning on or off genes placed in heterochromatic regions.
The recent availability of protein-protein interaction networks for several species makes it possible to study protein complexes in an evolutionary context. In this article, we present a novel network-based framework for reconstructing the evolutionary history of protein complexes. Our analysis is based on generalizing evolutionary measures for single proteins to the level of whole subnetworks, comprehensively considering a broad set of computationally derived complexes and accounting for both sequence and interaction changes. Specifically, we compute sets of orthologous complexes across species, and use these to derive evolutionary rate and age measures for protein complexes. We observe significant correlations between the evolutionary properties of a complex and those of its member proteins, suggesting that protein complexes form early in evolution and evolve as coherent units. Additionally, our approach enables us to directly quantify the extent to which gene duplication has played a role in the evolution of complexes. We find that about one quarter of the sets of orthologous complexes have originated from evolutionary cores of homodimers that underwent duplication and divergence, testifying to the important role of gene duplication in protein complex evolution.
Telomeres are structures composed of repetitive DNA and proteins that protect the chromosomal ends in eukaryotic cells from fusion or degradation, thus contributing to genomic stability. Although telomere length varies between species, in all organisms studied telomere length appears to be controlled by a dynamic equilibrium between elongating mechanisms (mainly addition of repeats by the enzyme telomerase) and nucleases that shorten the telomeric sequences. Two previous studies have analyzed a collection of yeast deletion strains (deleted for nonessential genes) and found over 270 genes that affect telomere length (Telomere Length Maintenance or TLM genes). Here we complete the list of TLM by analyzing a collection of strains carrying hypomorphic alleles of most essential genes (DAmP collection). We identify 87 essential genes that affect telomere length in yeast. These genes interact with the nonessential TLM genes in a significant manner, and provide new insights on the mechanisms involved in telomere length maintenance. The newly identified genes span a variety of cellular processes, including protein degradation, pre-mRNA splicing and DNA replication.
Natural habitats of some microorganisms may fluctuate erratically, whereas others, which are more predictable, offer the opportunity to prepare in advance for the next environmental change. In analogy to classical Pavlovian conditioning, microorganisms may have evolved to anticipate environmental stimuli by adapting to their temporal order of appearance. Here we present evidence for environmental change anticipation in two model microorganisms, Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We show that anticipation is an adaptive trait, because pre-exposure to the stimulus that typically appears early in the ecology improves the organisms fitness when encountered with a second stimulus. Additionally, we observe loss of the conditioned response in E. coli strains that were repeatedly exposed in a laboratory evolution experiment only to the first stimulus. Focusing on the molecular level reveals that the natural temporal order of stimuli is embedded in the wiring of the regulatory network-early stimuli pre-induce genes that would be needed for later ones, yet later stimuli only induce genes needed to cope with them. Our work indicates that environmental anticipation is an adaptive trait that was repeatedly selected for during evolution and thus may be ubiquitous in biology.
Mutations in the ELG1 gene of yeast lead to genomic instability, manifested in high levels of genetic recombination, chromosome loss, and gross chromosomal rearrangements. Elg1 shows similarity to the large subunit of the Replication Factor C clamp loader, and forms a RFC-like (RLC) complex in conjunction with the 4 small RFC subunits. Two additional RLCs exist in yeast: in one of them the large subunit is Ctf18, and in the other, Rad24. Ctf18 has been characterized as the RLC that functions in sister chromatid cohesion. Here we present evidence that the Elg1 RLC (but not Rad24) also plays an important role in this process. A genetic screen identified the cohesin subunit Mcd1/Scc1 and its loader Scc2 as suppressors of the synthetic lethality between elg1 and ctf4. We describe genetic interactions between ELG1 and genes encoding cohesin subunits and their accessory proteins. We also show that defects in Elg1 lead to higher precocious sister chromatid separation, and that Ctf18 and Elg1 affect cohesion via a joint pathway. Finally, we localize both Ctf18 and Elg1 to chromatin and show that Elg1 plays a role in the recruitment of Ctf18. Our results suggest that Elg1, Ctf4, and Ctf18 may coordinate the relative movement of the replication fork with respect to the cohesin ring.
The introduction of measures such as evolutionary rate and propensity for gene loss have significantly advanced our knowledge of the evolutionary history and selection forces acting upon individual genes and cellular processes.
Previous studies have shown that the distribution of genes in prokaryotes and eukaryotic genomes is not random. Using the thousands of cellular functions that appear in the Gene Ontology (GO) project, we exhaustively studied the relation between functionality and genomic localization of genes across 16 organisms with rich GO ontologies (one prokaryote and 15 eukaryotes). Overall, we found that the genomic distribution of cellular functions tends to be more similar in organisms that have higher evolutionary proximity. At the primary level, which measures localization of functionally related genes, the prokaryote Escherichia coli exhibits the highest level of organization, as one would expect given its operon-based genomic organization. However, examining a higher level of genomic organization by analyzing the co-localization of pairs of different functional gene groups, we surprisingly find that the eukaryote yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is markedly more organized than E. coli. A network-based analysis further supports this notion and suggests that the eukaryotic genomic architecture is more organized than previously thought. See online Supplementary Material at (www.liebertonline.com).
During evolution selection forces such as changing environments shape the architecture of genomes. The distribution of genes along chromosomes and the length of intragenic regions are basic genomic features known to play a major role in the regulation of gene transcription and translation.
To study the dynamics of interpolar microtubules (iMTs) in Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells, we photobleached a considerable portion of the middle region of anaphase spindles in cells expressing tubulin-green fluorescent protein (GFP) and followed fluorescence recovery at the iMT plus-ends. We found that during anaphase, iMTs show phases of fast growth and shrinkage that are restricted to the iMT plus-ends. Our data indicate that iMT plus-end dynamics are regulated during mitosis, as fluorescence recovery was faster in intermediate anaphase (30 s) compared with long (100 s) and pre-anaphase (80 s) spindles. We also observed that deletion of Cin8, a microtubule-crosslinking kinesin-5 motor protein, reduced the recovery rate in anaphase spindles, indicating that Cin8 contributes to the destabilization of iMT plus-ends. Finally, we show that in cells lacking the midzone organizing protein Ase1, iMTs are highly dynamic and are exchangeable throughout most of their length, indicating that midzone organization is essential for restricting iMT dynamics.
Genome-scale screening studies are gradually accumulating a wealth of data on the putative involvement of hundreds of genes/proteins in various cellular responses or functions. A fundamental challenge is to chart out the protein pathways that underlie these systems. Previous approaches to the problem have either employed a local optimization criterion, aiming to infer each pathway independently, or a global criterion, searching for the overall most parsimonious subnetwork. Here, we study the trade-off between the two approaches and present a new intermediary scheme that provides explicit control over it. We demonstrate its utility in the analysis of the apoptosis network in humans, and the telomere length maintenance (TLM) system in yeast. Our results show that in the majority of real-life cases, the intermediary approach provides the most plausible solutions. We use a new set of perturbation experiments measuring the role of essential genes in telomere length regulation to further study the TLM network. Surprisingly, we find that the proteasome plays an important role in telomere length regulation through its associations with transcription and DNA repair circuits.
Aneuploidy, an abnormal number of chromosomes, is a widespread phenomenon found in unicellulars such as yeast, as well as in plants and in mammalians, especially in cancer. Aneuploidy is a genome-scale aberration that imposes a severe burden on the cell, yet under stressful conditions specific aneuploidies confer a selective advantage. This dual nature of aneuploidy raises the question of whether it can serve as a stable and sustainable evolutionary adaptation. To clarify this, we conducted a set of laboratory evolution experiments in yeast and followed the long-term dynamics of aneuploidy under diverse conditions. Here we show that chromosomal duplications are first acquired as a crude solution to stress, yet only as transient solutions that are eliminated and replaced by more efficient solutions obtained at the individual gene level. These transient dynamics of aneuploidy were repeatedly observed in our laboratory evolution experiments; chromosomal duplications gained under stress were eliminated not only when the stress was relieved, but even if it persisted. Furthermore, when stress was applied gradually rather than abruptly, alternative solutions appear to have emerged, but not aneuploidy. Our findings indicate that chromosomal duplication is a first evolutionary line of defense, that retains survivability under strong and abrupt selective pressures, yet it merely serves as a "quick fix," whereas more refined and sustainable solutions take over. Thus, in the perspective of genome evolution trajectory, aneuploidy is a useful yet short-lived intermediate that facilitates further adaptation.
Holliday junctions can be formed during homology-dependent repair of DNA double-strand breaks, and their resolution is essential for chromosome segregation and generation of crossover products. The Mus81-Mms4 and Yen1 nucleases are required for mitotic crossovers between chromosome homologs in Saccharomyces cerevisiae; however, crossovers between dispersed repeats are still detected in their absence. Here we show that the Rad1-Rad10 nuclease promotes formation of crossover and noncrossover recombinants between ectopic sequences. Crossover products were not recovered from the mus81? rad1? yen1? triple mutant, indicating that all three nucleases participate in processing recombination intermediates that form between dispersed repeats. We suggest a new mechanism for crossovers that involves Rad1-Rad10 clipping and resolution of a single Holliday junction-containing intermediate by Mus81-Mms4 or Yen1 cleavage or by replication. Consistent with the model, we show accumulation of Rad1-dependent joint molecules in the mus81? yen1? mutant.
PCNA (proliferating cell nuclear antigen) is a sliding clamp that plays important roles during DNA replication and repair. In yeast, PCNA can be modified by either mono- or poly-ubiquitin or by addition of SUMO moieties. These different modifications direct the activity of PCNA toward alternative DNA transactions. In mammals, PCNA ubiquitination was reported, and it seems to have similar effects to those observed in yeast. However, for a long time, no SUMOylation of PCNA could be detected. Two recent papers report the detection of SUMOylated PCNA in mammalian cells. Here, we summarize similarities and differences between the various biological systems and present the current view of the way by which PCNA modification can affect DNA replication and repair pathways.
Telomeres are nucleoprotein structures that protect the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes and play important roles in ensuring the genomes integrity. Telomere length is maintained by complex mechanisms that ensure length homeostasis. Recent work has linked telomere length maintenance to the Tor protein kinases, which are central regulators of cellular growth. Here we summarize these results, which suggest a link between nutrient availability, telomere length maintenance and chronological lifespan.
An extensive repertoire of modifications is known to underlie the versatile coding, structural and catalytic functions of RNA, but it remains largely uncharted territory. Although biochemical studies indicate that N(6)-methyladenosine (m(6)A) is the most prevalent internal modification in messenger RNA, an in-depth study of its distribution and functions has been impeded by a lack of robust analytical methods. Here we present the human and mouse m(6)A modification landscape in a transcriptome-wide manner, using a novel approach, m(6)A-seq, based on antibody-mediated capture and massively parallel sequencing. We identify over 12,000 m(6)A sites characterized by a typical consensus in the transcripts of more than 7,000 human genes. Sites preferentially appear in two distinct landmarks--around stop codons and within long internal exons--and are highly conserved between human and mouse. Although most sites are well preserved across normal and cancerous tissues and in response to various stimuli, a subset of stimulus-dependent, dynamically modulated sites is identified. Silencing the m(6)A methyltransferase significantly affects gene expression and alternative splicing patterns, resulting in modulation of the p53 (also known as TP53) signalling pathway and apoptosis. Our findings therefore suggest that RNA decoration by m(6)A has a fundamental role in regulation of gene expression.
The bakers yeast mutation collections are extensively used genetic resources that are the basis for many genome-wide screens and new technologies. Anecdotal evidence has previously pointed to the putative existence of a neighboring gene effect (NGE) in these collections. NGE occurs when the phenotype of a strain carrying a particular perturbed gene is due to the lack of proper function of its adjacent gene. Here we performed a large-scale study of NGEs, presenting a network-based algorithm for detecting NGEs and validating software predictions using complementation experiments. We applied our approach to four datasets uncovering a similar magnitude of NGE in each (7-15%). These results have important consequences for systems biology, as the mutation collections are extensively used in almost every aspect of the field, from genetic network analysis to functional gene annotation.
Elucidating signaling pathways is a fundamental step in understanding cellular processes and developing new therapeutic strategies. Here we introduce a method for the large-scale elucidation of signaling pathways involved in cellular response to drugs. Combining drug targets, drug response expression profiles, and the human physical interaction network, we infer 99 human drug response pathways and study their properties. Based on the newly inferred pathways, we develop a pathway-based drug-drug similarity measure and compare it to two common, gold standard drug-drug similarity measures. Remarkably, our measure provides better correspondence to these gold standards than similarity measures that are based on associations between drugs and known pathways, or on drug-specific gene expression profiles. It further improves the prediction of drug side effects and indications, elucidating specific response pathways that may be associated with these drug properties. Supplementary Material for this article is available at www.liebertonline.com/cmb.
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