Recent Submissions

  • Longitudinal Multi-omics Analyses Identify Responses of Megakaryocytes, Erythroid Cells, and Plasmablasts as Hallmarks of Severe COVID-19.

    Bernardes, Joana P; Mishra, Neha; Tran, Florian; Bahmer, Thomas; Best, Lena; Blase, Johanna I; Bordoni, Dora; Franzenburg, Jeanette; Geisen, Ulf; Josephs-Spaulding, Jonathan; et al. (Elsevier (Cell Press), 2020-11-26)
    Temporal resolution of cellular features associated with a severe COVID-19 disease trajectory is needed for understanding skewed immune responses and defining predictors of outcome. Here, we performed a longitudinal multi-omics study using a two-center cohort of 14 patients. We analyzed the bulk transcriptome, bulk DNA methylome, and single-cell transcriptome (>358,000 cells, including BCR profiles) of peripheral blood samples harvested from up to 5 time points. Validation was performed in two independent cohorts of COVID-19 patients. Severe COVID-19 was characterized by an increase of proliferating, metabolically hyperactive plasmablasts. Coinciding with critical illness, we also identified an expansion of interferon-activated circulating megakaryocytes and increased erythropoiesis with features of hypoxic signaling. Megakaryocyte- and erythroid-cell-derived co-expression modules were predictive of fatal disease outcome. The study demonstrates broad cellular effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection beyond adaptive immune cells and provides an entry point toward developing biomarkers and targeted treatments of patients with COVID-19.
  • Mechanism and consequences of herpes simplex virus 1-mediated regulation of host mRNA alternative polyadenylation.

    Wang, Xiuye; Liu, Liang; Whisnant, Adam W; Hennig, Thomas; Djakovic, Lara; Haque, Nabila; Bach, Cindy; Sandri-Goldin, Rozanne M; Erhard, Florian; Friedel, Caroline C; et al. (PLOS, 2021-03-08)
    Eukaryotic gene expression is extensively regulated by cellular stress and pathogen infections. We have previously shown that herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and several cellular stresses cause widespread disruption of transcription termination (DoTT) of RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) in host genes and that the viral immediate early factor ICP27 plays an important role in HSV-1-induced DoTT. Here, we show that HSV-1 infection also leads to widespread changes in alternative polyadenylation (APA) of host mRNAs. In the majority of cases, polyadenylation shifts to upstream poly(A) sites (PAS), including many intronic PAS. Mechanistically, ICP27 contributes to HSV-1-mediated APA regulation. HSV-1- and ICP27-induced activation of intronic PAS is sequence-dependent and does not involve general inhibition of U1 snRNP. HSV1-induced intronic polyadenylation is accompanied by early termination of RNAPII. HSV-1-induced mRNAs polyadenylated at intronic PAS (IPA) are exported into the cytoplasm while APA isoforms with extended 3' UTRs are sequestered in the nuclei, both preventing the expression of the full-length gene products. Finally we provide evidence that HSV-induced IPA isoforms are translated. Together with other recent studies, our results suggest that viral infection and cellular stresses induce a multi-faceted host response that includes DoTT and changes in APA profiles.
  • A high-resolution transcriptome map identifies small RNA regulation of metabolism in the gut microbe Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron.

    Ryan, Daniel; Jenniches, Laura; Reichardt, Sarah; Barquist, Lars; Westermann, Alexander J; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (NPG, 2020-07-16)
    Bacteria of the genus Bacteroides are common members of the human intestinal microbiota and important degraders of polysaccharides in the gut. Among them, the species Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron has emerged as the model organism for functional microbiota research. Here, we use differential RNA sequencing (dRNA-seq) to generate a single-nucleotide resolution transcriptome map of B. thetaiotaomicron grown under defined laboratory conditions. An online browser, called 'Theta-Base' ( ), is launched to interrogate the obtained gene expression data and annotations of ~4500 transcription start sites, untranslated regions, operon structures, and 269 noncoding RNA elements. Among the latter is GibS, a conserved, 145 nt-long small RNA that is highly expressed in the presence of N-acetyl-D-glucosamine as sole carbon source. We use computational predictions and experimental data to determine the secondary structure of GibS and identify its target genes. Our results indicate that sensing of N-acetyl-D-glucosamine induces GibS expression, which in turn modifies the transcript levels of metabolic enzymes.
  • The minimal meningococcal ProQ protein has an intrinsic capacity for structure-based global RNA recognition.

    Bauriedl, Saskia; Gerovac, Milan; Heidrich, Nadja; Bischler, Thorsten; Barquist, Lars; Vogel, Jörg; Schoen, Christoph; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Nature Research, 2020-06-04)
    FinO-domain proteins are a widespread family of bacterial RNA-binding proteins with regulatory functions. Their target spectrum ranges from a single RNA pair, in the case of plasmid-encoded FinO, to global RNA regulons, as with enterobacterial ProQ. To assess whether the FinO domain itself is intrinsically selective or promiscuous, we determine in vivo targets of Neisseria meningitidis, which consists of solely a FinO domain. UV-CLIP-seq identifies associations with 16 small non-coding sRNAs and 166 mRNAs. Meningococcal ProQ predominantly binds to highly structured regions and generally acts to stabilize its RNA targets. Loss of ProQ alters transcript levels of >250 genes, demonstrating that this minimal ProQ protein impacts gene expression globally. Phenotypic analyses indicate that ProQ promotes oxidative stress resistance and DNA damage repair. We conclude that FinO domain proteins recognize some abundant type of RNA shape and evolve RNA binding selectivity through acquisition of additional regions that constrain target recognition.
  • Integrative functional genomics decodes herpes simplex virus 1.

    Whisnant, Adam W; Jürges, Christopher S; Hennig, Thomas; Wyler, Emanuel; Prusty, Bhupesh; Rutkowski, Andrzej J; L'hernault, Anne; Djakovic, Lara; Göbel, Margarete; Döring, Kristina; et al. (NPG, 2020-04-27)
    The predicted 80 open reading frames (ORFs) of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) have been intensively studied for decades. Here, we unravel the complete viral transcriptome and translatome during lytic infection with base-pair resolution by computational integration of multi-omics data. We identify a total of 201 transcripts and 284 ORFs including all known and 46 novel large ORFs. This includes a so far unknown ORF in the locus deleted in the FDA-approved oncolytic virus Imlygic. Multiple transcript isoforms expressed from individual gene loci explain translation of the vast majority of ORFs as well as N-terminal extensions (NTEs) and truncations. We show that NTEs with non-canonical start codons govern the subcellular protein localization and packaging of key viral regulators and structural proteins. We extend the current nomenclature to include all viral gene products and provide a genome browser that visualizes all the obtained data from whole genome to single-nucleotide resolution.
  • Characterization of the all-E. coli transcription-translation system myTXTL by mass spectrometry.

    Garenne, David; Beisel, Chase L; Noireaux, Vincent; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Wiley, 2019-05-14)
    Rationale: Cell-free transcription-translation (TXTL) is becoming a popular technology to prototype and engineer biological systems outside living organisms. TXTL relies commonly on a cytoplasmic extract that provides the molecular components necessary to recapitulate gene expression in vitro, where most of the available systems are derived from E. coli. The proteinic and enzymatic composition of lysates, however, is typically unknown. In this work, we analyzed by mass spectrometry the molecular constituents of the all-E. coli TXTL platform myTXTL prepared from the E. coli strain BL21 Rosetta2. Methods: Standard TXTL reactions were assembled and executed for 10-12 hours at 29°C. In addition to a no-DNA control, four DNA programs were executed in separate reactions to synthesize the reporter protein deGFP as well as the phages MS2, phix174 and T7. The reactions were treated according to standard procedures (trypsin treatment, cleaning) before performing liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS). Data analysis was performed using Sequest and protein identification using Scaffold. Results: A total of 500-800 proteins were identified by LC/MS in the blank reactions. We organized the most abundant protein sets into several categories pertaining, in particular, to transcription, translation and ATP regeneration. The synthesis of deGFP was easily measured. The major structural proteins that compose the three phages MS2, phix174 and T7 were also identified. Conclusions: Mass spectrometry is a practical tool to characterize biochemical solutions as complex as a cell-free TXTL reaction and to determine the presence of synthesized proteins. The data presented demonstrate that the composition of TXTL based on lysates can be used to validate some underlying molecular mechanisms implicated in cell-free protein synthesis. The composition of the lysate shows significant differences with respect to similar studies on other E. coli strains.
  • Time-Resolved scRNA-Seq Tracks the Adaptation of a Sensitive MCL Cell Line to Ibrutinib Treatment.

    Fuhr, Viktoria; Vafadarnejad, Ehsan; Dietrich, Oliver; Arampatzi, Panagiota; Riedel, Angela; Saliba, Antoine-Emmanuel; Rosenwald, Andreas; Rauert-Wunderlich, Hilka; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (MDPI, 2021-02-25)
    Since the approval of ibrutinib for relapsed/refractory mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), the treatment of this rare mature B-cell neoplasm has taken a great leap forward. Despite promising efficacy of the Bruton tyrosine kinase inhibitor, resistance arises inevitably and the underlying mechanisms remain to be elucidated. Here, we aimed to decipher the response of a sensitive MCL cell line treated with ibrutinib using time-resolved single-cell RNA sequencing. The analysis uncovered five subpopulations and their individual responses to the treatment. The effects on the B cell receptor pathway, cell cycle, surface antigen expression, and metabolism were revealed by the computational analysis and were validated by molecular biological methods. The observed upregulation of B cell receptor signaling, crosstalk with the microenvironment, upregulation of CD52, and metabolic reprogramming towards dependence on oxidative phosphorylation favor resistance to ibrutinib treatment. Targeting these cellular responses provide new therapy options in MCL.
  • Characterization of Cas12a nucleases reveals diverse PAM profiles between closely-related orthologs.

    Jacobsen, Thomas; Ttofali, Fani; Liao, Chunyu; Manchalu, Srinivas; Gray, Benjamin N; Beisel, Chase L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2020-07-27)
    CRISPR-Cas systems comprise diverse adaptive immune systems in prokaryotes whose RNA-directed nucleases have been co-opted for various technologies. Recent efforts have focused on expanding the number of known CRISPR-Cas subtypes to identify nucleases with novel properties. However, the functional diversity of nucleases within each subtype remains poorly explored. Here, we used cell-free transcription-translation systems and human cells to characterize six Cas12a single-effector nucleases from the V-A subtype, including nucleases sharing high sequence identity. While these nucleases readily utilized each other's guide RNAs, they exhibited distinct PAM profiles and apparent targeting activities that did not track based on phylogeny. In particular, two Cas12a nucleases encoded by Prevotella ihumii (PiCas12a) and Prevotella disiens (PdCas12a) shared over 95% amino-acid identity yet recognized distinct PAM profiles, with PiCas12a but not PdCas12a accommodating multiple G's in PAM positions -2 through -4 and T in position -1. Mutational analyses transitioning PiCas12a to PdCas12a resulted in PAM profiles distinct from either nuclease, allowing more flexible editing in human cells. Cas12a nucleases therefore can exhibit widely varying properties between otherwise related orthologs, suggesting selective pressure to diversify PAM recognition and supporting expansion of the CRISPR toolbox through ortholog mining and PAM engineering.
  • Biodistribution and serologic response in SARS-CoV-2 induced ARDS: A cohort study.

    Schlesinger, Tobias; Weißbrich, Benedikt; Wedekink, Florian; Notz, Quirin; Herrmann, Johannes; Krone, Manuel; Sitter, Magdalena; Schmid, Benedikt; Kredel, Markus; Stumpner, Jan; et al. (PLOS, 2020-11-24)
    Background: The viral load and tissue distribution of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) remain important questions. The current study investigated SARS-CoV-2 viral load, biodistribution and anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody formation in patients suffering from severe corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19) induced acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Methods: This is a retrospective single-center study in 23 patients with COVID-19-induced ARDS. Data were collected within routine intensive care. SARS-CoV-2 viral load was assessed via reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR). Overall, 478 virology samples were taken. Anti-SARS-CoV-2-Spike-receptor binding domain (RBD) antibody detection of blood samples was performed with an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Results: Most patients (91%) suffered from severe ARDS during ICU treatment with a 30-day mortality of 30%. None of the patients received antiviral treatment. Tracheal aspirates tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in 100% of the cases, oropharyngeal swabs only in 77%. Blood samples were positive in 26% of the patients. No difference of viral load was found in tracheal or blood samples with regard to 30-day survival or disease severity. SARS-CoV-2 was never found in dialysate. Serologic testing revealed significantly lower concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing IgM and IgA antibodies in survivors compared to non-survivors (p = 0.009). Conclusions: COVID-19 induced ARDS is accompanied by a high viral load of SARS-CoV-2 in tracheal aspirates, which remained detectable in the majority throughout intensive care treatment. Remarkably, SARS-CoV-2 RNA was never detected in dialysate even in patients with RNAemia. Viral load or the buildup of neutralizing antibodies was not associated with 30-day survival or disease severity.
  • Sequence-independent RNA sensing and DNA targeting by a split domain CRISPR-Cas12a gRNA switch.

    Collins, Scott P; Rostain, William; Liao, Chunyu; Beisel, Chase L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Oxgord Uiversity Press, 2021-02-22)
    CRISPR technologies increasingly require spatiotemporal and dosage control of nuclease activity. One promising strategy involves linking nuclease activity to a cell's transcriptional state by engineering guide RNAs (gRNAs) to function only after complexing with a 'trigger' RNA. However, standard gRNA switch designs do not allow independent selection of trigger and guide sequences, limiting gRNA switch application. Here, we demonstrate the modular design of Cas12a gRNA switches that decouples selection of these sequences. The 5' end of the Cas12a gRNA is fused to two distinct and non-overlapping domains: one base pairs with the gRNA repeat, blocking formation of a hairpin required for Cas12a recognition; the other hybridizes to the RNA trigger, stimulating refolding of the gRNA repeat and subsequent gRNA-dependent Cas12a activity. Using a cell-free transcription-translation system and Escherichia coli, we show that designed gRNA switches can respond to different triggers and target different DNA sequences. Modulating the length and composition of the sensory domain altered gRNA switch performance. Finally, gRNA switches could be designed to sense endogenous RNAs expressed only under specific growth conditions, rendering Cas12a targeting activity dependent on cellular metabolism and stress. Our design framework thus further enables tethering of CRISPR activities to cellular states.
  • Cross-species RNA-seq for deciphering host-microbe interactions.

    Westermann, Alexander J; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Nature research, 2021-02-17)
    The human body is constantly exposed to microorganisms, which entails manifold interactions between human cells and diverse commensal or pathogenic bacteria. The cellular states of the interacting cells are decisive for the outcome of these encounters such as whether bacterial virulence programmes and host defence or tolerance mechanisms are induced. This Review summarizes how next-generation RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) has become a primary technology to study host-microbe interactions with high resolution, improving our understanding of the physiological consequences and the mechanisms at play. We illustrate how the discriminatory power and sensitivity of RNA-seq helps to dissect increasingly complex cellular interactions in time and space down to the single-cell level. We also outline how future transcriptomics may answer currently open questions in host-microbe interactions and inform treatment schemes for microbial disorders.
  • Drug-Induced Dynamics of Bile Colloids.

    Hanio, Simon; Schlauersbach, Jonas; Lenz, Bettina; Spiegel, Franziska; Böckmann, Rainer A; Schweins, Ralf; Nischang, Ivo; Schubert, Ulrich S; Endres, Sebastian; Pöppler, Ann-Christin; et al. (American Society for Chemistry (ACS), 2021-02-15)
    Bile colloids containing taurocholate and lecithin are essential for the solubilization of hydrophobic molecules including poorly water-soluble drugs such as Perphenazine. We detail the impact of Perphenazine concentrations on taurocholate/lecithin colloids using analytical ultracentrifugation, dynamic light scattering, small-angle neutron scattering, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations, and isothermal titration calorimetry. Perphenazine impacted colloidal molecular arrangement, structure, and binding thermodynamics in a concentration-dependent manner. At low concentration, Perphenazine was integrated into stable and large taurocholate/lecithin colloids and close to lecithin. Integration of Perphenazine into these colloids was exothermic. At higher Perphenazine concentration, the taurocholate/lecithin colloids had an approximately 5-fold reduction in apparent hydrodynamic size, heat release was less exothermic upon drug integration into the colloids, and Perphenazine interacted with both lecithin and taurocholate. In addition, Perphenazine induced a morphological transition from vesicles to wormlike micelles as indicated by neutron scattering. Despite these surprising colloidal dynamics, these natural colloids successfully ensured stable relative amounts of free Perphenazine throughout the entire drug concentration range tested here. Future studies are required to further detail these findings both on a molecular structural basis and in terms of in vivo relevance.
  • MAPS integrates regulation of actin-targeting effector SteC into the virulence control network of Salmonella small RNA PinT.

    Correia Santos, Sara; Bischler, Thorsten; Westermann, Alexander J; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier (Cell Press), 2021-02-02)
    A full understanding of the contribution of small RNAs (sRNAs) to bacterial virulence demands knowledge of their target suites under infection-relevant conditions. Here, we take an integrative approach to capturing targets of the Hfq-associated sRNA PinT, a known post-transcriptional timer of the two major virulence programs of Salmonella enterica. Using MS2 affinity purification and RNA sequencing (MAPS), we identify PinT ligands in bacteria under in vitro conditions mimicking specific stages of the infection cycle and in bacteria growing inside macrophages. This reveals PinT-mediated translational inhibition of the secreted effector kinase SteC, which had gone unnoticed in previous target searches. Using genetic, biochemical, and microscopic assays, we provide evidence for PinT-mediated repression of steC mRNA, eventually delaying actin rearrangements in infected host cells. Our findings support the role of PinT as a central post-transcriptional regulator in Salmonella virulence and illustrate the need for complementary methods to reveal the full target suites of sRNAs.
  • How Insertion of a Single Tryptophan in the N-Terminus of a Cecropin A-Melittin Hybrid Peptide Changes Its Antimicrobial and Biophysical Profile.

    Ferreira, Ana Rita; Teixeira, Cátia; Sousa, Carla F; Bessa, Lucinda J; Gomes, Paula; Gameiro, Paula; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (MDPI, 2021-01-12)
    n the era of antibiotic resistance, there is an urgent need for efficient antibiotic therapies to fight bacterial infections. Cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMP) are promising lead compounds given their membrane-targeted mechanism of action, and high affinity towards the anionic composition of bacterial membranes. We present a new CAMP, W-BP100, derived from the highly active BP100, holding an additional tryptophan at the N-terminus. W-BP100 showed a broader antibacterial activity, demonstrating a potent activity against Gram-positive strains. Revealing a high partition constant towards anionic over zwitterionic large unilamellar vesicles and inducing membrane saturation at a high peptide/lipid ratio, W-BP100 has a preferential location for hydrophobic environments. Contrary to BP100, almost no aggregation of anionic vesicles is observed around saturation conditions and at higher concentrations no aggregation is observed. With these results, it is possible to state that with the incorporation of a single tryptophan to the N-terminus, a highly active peptide was obtained due to the π-electron system of tryptophan, resulting in negatively charged clouds, that participate in cation-π interactions with lysine residues. Furthermore, we propose that W-BP100 action can be achieved by electrostatic interactions followed by peptide translocation.
  • A Grad-seq View of RNA and Protein Complexes in Pseudomonas aeruginosa under Standard and Bacteriophage Predation Conditions.

    Gerovac, Milan; Wicke, Laura; Chihara, Kotaro; Schneider, Cornelius; Lavigne, Rob; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (American Society for Microbiology (ASM), 2021-02-09)
    The Gram-negative rod-shaped bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa is not only a major cause of nosocomial infections but also serves as a model species of bacterial RNA biology. While its transcriptome architecture and posttranscriptional regulation through the RNA-binding proteins Hfq, RsmA, and RsmN have been studied in detail, global information about stable RNA-protein complexes in this human pathogen is currently lacking. Here, we implement gradient profiling by sequencing (Grad-seq) in exponentially growing P. aeruginosa cells to comprehensively predict RNA and protein complexes, based on glycerol gradient sedimentation profiles of >73% of all transcripts and ∼40% of all proteins. As to benchmarking, our global profiles readily reported complexes of stable RNAs of P. aeruginosa, including 6S RNA with RNA polymerase and associated product RNAs (pRNAs). We observe specific clusters of noncoding RNAs, which correlate with Hfq and RsmA/N, and provide a first hint that P. aeruginosa expresses a ProQ-like FinO domain-containing RNA-binding protein. To understand how biological stress may perturb cellular RNA/protein complexes, we performed Grad-seq after infection by the bacteriophage ΦKZ. This model phage, which has a well-defined transcription profile during host takeover, displayed efficient translational utilization of phage mRNAs and tRNAs, as evident from their increased cosedimentation with ribosomal subunits. Additionally, Grad-seq experimentally determines previously overlooked phage-encoded noncoding RNAs. Taken together, the Pseudomonas protein and RNA complex data provided here will pave the way to a better understanding of RNA-protein interactions during viral predation of the bacterial cell.IMPORTANCE Stable complexes by cellular proteins and RNA molecules lie at the heart of gene regulation and physiology in any bacterium of interest. It is therefore crucial to globally determine these complexes in order to identify and characterize new molecular players and regulation mechanisms. Pseudomonads harbor some of the largest genomes known in bacteria, encoding ∼5,500 different proteins. Here, we provide a first glimpse on which proteins and cellular transcripts form stable complexes in the human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa We additionally performed this analysis with bacteria subjected to the important and frequently encountered biological stress of a bacteriophage infection. We identified several molecules with established roles in a variety of cellular pathways, which were affected by the phage and can now be explored for their role during phage infection. Most importantly, we observed strong colocalization of phage transcripts and host ribosomes, indicating the existence of specialized translation mechanisms during phage infection. All data are publicly available in an interactive and easy to use browser.
  • Transcriptome profiling and protease inhibition experiments identify proteases that activate H3N2 influenza A and influenza B viruses in murine airways.

    Harbig, Anne; Mernberger, Marco; Bittel, Linda; Pleschka, Stephan; Schughart, Klaus; Steinmetzer, Torsten; Stiewe, Thorsten; Nist, Andrea; Böttcher-Friebertshäuser, Eva; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier, 2020-04-17)
    Cleavage of influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) by host proteases is essential for virus infectivity. HA of most influenza A and B (IAV/IBV) viruses is cleaved at a monobasic motif by trypsin-like proteases. Previous studies have reported that transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2) is essential for activation of H7N9 and H1N1pdm IAV in mice but that H3N2 IAV and IBV activation is independent of TMPRSS2 and carried out by as-yet-undetermined protease(s). Here, to identify additional H3 IAV- and IBV-activating proteases, we used RNA-Seq to investigate the protease repertoire of murine lower airway tissues, primary type II alveolar epithelial cells (AECIIs), and the mouse lung cell line MLE-15. Among 13 candidates identified, TMPRSS4, TMPRSS13, hepsin, and prostasin activated H3 and IBV HA in vitro IBV activation and replication was reduced in AECIIs from Tmprss2/Tmprss4-deficient mice compared with WT or Tmprss2-deficient mice, indicating that murine TMPRSS4 is involved in IBV activation. Multicycle replication of H3N2 IAV and IBV in AECIIs of Tmprss2/Tmprss4-deficient mice varied in sensitivity to protease inhibitors, indicating that different, but overlapping, sets of murine proteases facilitate H3 and IBV HA cleavages. Interestingly, human hepsin and prostasin orthologs did not activate H3, but they did activate IBV HA in vitro Our results indicate that TMPRSS4 is an IBV-activating protease in murine AECIIs and suggest that TMPRSS13, hepsin, and prostasin cleave H3 and IBV HA in mice. They further show that hepsin and prostasin orthologs might contribute to the differences observed in TMPRSS2-independent activation of H3 in murine and human airways.
  • Opposing Wnt signals regulate cervical squamocolumnar homeostasis and emergence of metaplasia.

    Chumduri, Cindrilla; Gurumurthy, Rajendra Kumar; Berger, Hilmar; Dietrich, Oliver; Kumar, Naveen; Koster, Stefanie; Brinkmann, Volker; Hoffmann, Kirstin; Drabkina, Marina; Arampatzi, Panagiota; et al. (Nature research, 2021-01-18)
    The transition zones of the squamous and columnar epithelia constitute hotspots for the emergence of cancer, often preceded by metaplasia, in which one epithelial type is replaced by another. It remains unclear how the epithelial spatial organization is maintained and how the transition zone niche is remodelled during metaplasia. Here we used single-cell RNA sequencing to characterize epithelial subpopulations and the underlying stromal compartment of endo- and ectocervix, encompassing the transition zone. Mouse lineage tracing, organoid culture and single-molecule RNA in situ hybridizations revealed that the two epithelia derive from separate cervix-resident lineage-specific stem cell populations regulated by opposing Wnt signals from the stroma. Using a mouse model of cervical metaplasia, we further show that the endocervical stroma undergoes remodelling and increases expression of the Wnt inhibitor Dickkopf-2 (DKK2), promoting the outgrowth of ectocervical stem cells. Our data indicate that homeostasis at the transition zone results from divergent stromal signals, driving the differential proliferation of resident epithelial lineages.
  • CRISPR technologies and the search for the PAM-free nuclease.

    Collias, Daphne; Beisel, Chase L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Nature Pulishing Group, 2021-01-22)
    The ever-expanding set of CRISPR technologies and their programmable RNA-guided nucleases exhibit remarkable flexibility in DNA targeting. However, this flexibility comes with an ever-present constraint: the requirement for a protospacer adjacent motif (PAM) flanking each target. While PAMs play an essential role in self/nonself discrimination by CRISPR-Cas immune systems, this constraint has launched a far-reaching expedition for nucleases with relaxed PAM requirements. Here, we review ongoing efforts toward realizing PAM-free nucleases through natural ortholog mining and protein engineering. We also address potential consequences of fully eliminating PAM recognition and instead propose an alternative nuclease repertoire covering all possible PAM sequences.
  • A genome-wide transcriptomic analysis of embryos fathered by obese males in a murine model of diet-induced obesity.

    Bernhardt, Laura; Dittrich, Marcus; El-Merahbi, Rabih; Saliba, Antoine-Emmanuel; Müller, Tobias; Sumara, Grzegorz; Vogel, Jörg; Nichols-Burns, Stefanie; Mitchell, Megan; Haaf, Thomas; et al. (Nature Pulishing Group, 2021-01-21)
    Paternal obesity is known to have a negative impact on the male's reproductive health as well as the health of his offspring. Although epigenetic mechanisms have been implicated in the non-genetic transmission of acquired traits, the effect of paternal obesity on gene expression in the preimplantation embryo has not been fully studied. To this end, we investigated whether paternal obesity is associated with gene expression changes in eight-cell stage embryos fathered by males on a high-fat diet. We used single embryo RNA-seq to compare the gene expression profile of embryos generated by males on a high fat (HFD) versus control (CD) diet. This analysis revealed significant upregulation of the Samd4b and Gata6 gene in embryos in response to a paternal HFD. Furthermore, we could show a significant increase in expression of both Gata6 and Samd4b during differentiation of stromal vascular cells into mature adipocytes. These findings suggest that paternal obesity may induce changes in the male germ cells which are associated with the gene expression changes in the resulting preimplantation embryos.
  • Frugal Innovation for Point-of-Care Diagnostics Controlling Outbreaks and Epidemics.

    Miesler, Tobias; Wimschneider, Christine; Brem, Alexander; Meinel, Lorenz; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (American Chemical Society (ACS), 2020-04-13)
    Today epidemics of infectious diseases occur more often and spread both faster and further due to globalization and changes in our lifestyle. One way to meet these biological threats are so-called "Frugal Innovations", which focus on the development of affordable, rapid, and easy-to-use diagnostics with widespread use. In this context, point-of-care-tests (POCTs), performed at the patient's bedside, reduce extensive waiting times and unnecessary treatments and enable effective containment measures. This Perspective covers advances in POCT diagnostics on the basis of frugal innovation characteristics that will enable a faster, less expensive, and more convenient reaction to upcoming epidemics. Established POCT systems on the health care market, as well as currently evolving technological advancements in that sector are discussed. Progress in POCT technology and insights on how to most effectively use them allows the handling of more patients in a shorter time frame and consequently improves clinical outcomes at lower cost.

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