• Thermodynamic control of -1 programmed ribosomal frameshifting.

      Bock, Lars V; Caliskan, Neva; Korniy, Natalia; Peske, Frank; Rodnina, Marina V; Grubmüller, Helmut; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Nature Research, 2019-10-10)
      mRNA contexts containing a 'slippery' sequence and a downstream secondary structure element stall the progression of the ribosome along the mRNA and induce its movement into the -1 reading frame. In this study we build a thermodynamic model based on Bayesian statistics to explain how -1 programmed ribosome frameshifting can work. As training sets for the model, we measured frameshifting efficiencies on 64 dnaX mRNA sequence variants in vitro and also used 21 published in vivo efficiencies. With the obtained free-energy difference between mRNA-tRNA base pairs in the 0 and -1 frames, the frameshifting efficiency of a given sequence can be reproduced and predicted from the tRNA-mRNA base pairing in the two frames. Our results further explain how modifications in the tRNA anticodon modulate frameshifting and show how the ribosome tunes the strength of the base-pair interactions.
    • Modular one-pot assembly of CRISPR arrays enables library generation and reveals factors influencing crRNA biogenesis.

      Liao, Chunyu; Ttofali, Fani; Slotkowski, Rebecca A; Denny, Steven R; Cecil, Taylor D; Leenay, Ryan T; Keung, Albert J; Beisel, Chase L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Springer-Nature, 2019-07-03)
      CRISPR-Cas systems inherently multiplex through CRISPR arrays—whether to defend against different invaders or mediate multi-target editing, regulation, imaging, or sensing. However, arrays remain difficult to generate due to their reoccurring repeat sequences. Here, we report a modular, one-pot scheme called CRATES to construct CRISPR arrays and array libraries. CRATES allows assembly of repeat-spacer subunits using defined assembly junctions within the trimmed portion of spacers. Using CRATES, we construct arrays for the single-effector nucleases Cas9, Cas12a, and Cas13a that mediated multiplexed DNA/RNA cleavage and gene regulation in cell-free systems, bacteria, and yeast. CRATES further allows the one-pot construction of array libraries and composite arrays utilized by multiple Cas nucleases. Finally, array characterization reveals processing of extraneous CRISPR RNAs from Cas12a terminal repeats and sequence- and context-dependent loss of RNA-directed nuclease activity via global RNA structure formation. CRATES thus can facilitate diverse multiplexing applications and help identify factors impacting crRNA biogenesis.
    • Barriers to genome editing with CRISPR in bacteria.

      Vento, Justin M; Crook, Nathan; Beisel, Chase L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Springer, 2019-06-05)
      Genome editing is essential for probing genotype-phenotype relationships and for enhancing chemical production and phenotypic robustness in industrial bacteria. Currently, the most popular tools for genome editing couple recombineering with DNA cleavage by the CRISPR nuclease Cas9 from Streptococcus pyogenes. Although successful in some model strains, CRISPR-based genome editing has been slow to extend to the multitude of industrially relevant bacteria. In this review, we analyze existing barriers to implementing CRISPR-based editing across diverse bacterial species. We first compare the efficacy of current CRISPR-based editing strategies. Next, we discuss alternatives when the S. pyogenes Cas9 does not yield colonies. Finally, we describe different ways bacteria can evade editing and how elucidating these failure modes can improve CRISPR-based genome editing across strains. Together, this review highlights existing obstacles to CRISPR-based editing in bacteria and offers guidelines to help achieve and enhance editing in a wider range of bacterial species, including non-model strains.
    • An enhanced assay to characterize anti-CRISPR proteins using a cell-free transcription-translation system.

      Wandera, Katharina G; Collins, Scott P; Wimmer, Franziska; Marshall, Ryan; Noireaux, Vincent; Beisel, Chase L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier, 2019-05-21)
      The characterization of CRISPR-Cas immune systems in bacteria was quickly followed by the discovery of anti-CRISPR proteins (Acrs) in bacteriophages. These proteins block different steps of CRISPR-based immunity and, as some inhibit Cas nucleases, can offer tight control over CRISPR technologies. While Acrs have been identified against a few CRISPR-Cas systems, likely many more await discovery and application. Here, we report a rapid and scalable method for characterizing putative Acrs against Cas nucleases using an E. coli-derived cell-free transcription-translation system. Using known Acrs against type II Cas9 nucleases as models, we demonstrate how the method can be used to measure the inhibitory activity of individual Acrs in under two days. We also show how the method can overcome non-specific inhibition of gene expression observed for some Acrs. In total, the method should accelerate the interrogation and application of Acrs as CRISPR-Cas inhibitors.
    • Transcriptional noise and exaptation as sources for bacterial sRNAs.

      Jose, Bethany R; Gardner, Paul P; Barquist, Lars; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Portland Press, 2019-04-30)
      Understanding how new genes originate and integrate into cellular networks is key to understanding evolution. Bacteria present unique opportunities for both the natural history and experimental study of gene origins, due to their large effective population sizes, rapid generation times, and ease of genetic manipulation. Bacterial small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs), in particular, many of which operate through a simple antisense regulatory logic, may serve as tractable models for exploring processes of gene origin and adaptation. Understanding how and on what timescales these regulatory molecules arise has important implications for understanding the evolution of bacterial regulatory networks, in particular, for the design of comparative studies of sRNA function. Here, we introduce relevant concepts from evolutionary biology and review recent work that has begun to shed light on the timescales and processes through which non-functional transcriptional noise is co-opted to provide regulatory functions. We explore possible scenarios for sRNA origin, focusing on the co-option, or exaptation, of existing genomic structures which may provide protected spaces for sRNA evolution.
    • Distinct timescales of RNA regulators enable the construction of a genetic pulse generator.

      Westbrook, Alexandra; Tang, Xun; Marshall, Ryan; Maxwell, Colin S; Chappell, James; Agrawal, Deepak K; Dunlop, Mary J; Noireaux, Vincent; Beisel, Chase L; Lucks, Julius; et al. (Wiley-Blackwell, 2019-01-13)
      To build complex genetic networks with predictable behaviours, synthetic biologists use libraries of modular parts that can be characterized in isolation and assembled together to create programmable higher-order functions. Characterization experiments and computational models for gene regulatory parts operating in isolation are routinely employed to predict the dynamics of interconnected parts and guide the construction of new synthetic devices. Here, we individually characterize two modes of RNA-based transcriptional regulation, using small transcription activating RNAs (STARs) and CRISPR interference (CRISPRi), and show how their distinct regulatory timescales can be used to engineer a composed feedforward loop that creates a pulse of gene expression. We use a cell-free transcription-translation system (TXTL) to rapidly characterize the system, and we apply Bayesian inference to extract kinetic parameters for an ODE-based mechanistic model. We then demonstrate in simulation and verify with TXTL experiments that the simultaneous regulation of a single gene target with STARs and CRISPRi leads to a pulse of gene expression. Our results suggest the modularity of the two regulators in an integrated genetic circuit, and we anticipate that construction and modelling frameworks that can leverage this modularity will become increasingly important as synthetic circuits increase in complexity. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    • The Major RNA-Binding Protein ProQ Impacts Virulence Gene Expression in Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium.

      Westermann, Alexander J; Venturini, Elisa; Sellin, Mikael E; Förstner, Konrad U; Hardt, Wolf-Dietrich; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Amercan Society of Microbiology, 2019-01-02)
      FinO domain proteins such as ProQ of the model pathogen
    • Rapid transcriptional responses to serum exposure are associated with sensitivity and resistance to antibody-mediated complement killing in invasive Typhimurium ST313.

      Ondari, Edna M; Klemm, Elizabeth J; Msefula, Chisomo L; El Ghany, Moataz Abd; Heath, Jennifer N; Pickard, Derek J; Barquist, Lars; Dougan, Gordon; Kingsley, Robert A; MacLennan, Calman A; et al. (F1000Research, 2019-01-01)
      Background: Salmonella Typhimurium ST313 exhibits signatures of adaptation to invasive human infection, including higher resistance to humoral immune responses than gastrointestinal isolates. Full resistance to antibody-mediated complement killing (serum resistance) among nontyphoidal Salmonellae is uncommon, but selection of highly resistant strains could compromise vaccine-induced antibody immunity. Here, we address the hypothesis that serum resistance is due to a distinct genotype or transcriptome response in S. Typhimurium ST313. Methods: Six S. Typhimurium ST313 bloodstream isolates, three of which were antibody resistant, were studied. Genomic content (single nucleotide polymorphisms and larger chromosomal modifications) of the strains was determined by Illumina and PACBIO sequencing, and functionally characterized using RNA-seq, transposon directed insertion site sequencing (TraDIS), targeted gene deletion and transfer of selected point mutations in an attempt to identify features associated with serum resistance.   Results: Sequence polymorphisms in genes from strains with atypical serum susceptibility when transferred from strains that were highly resistant or susceptible to a strain that exhibited intermediate susceptibility did not significantly alter serum killing phenotype. No large chromosomal modifications typified serum resistance or susceptibility. Genes required for resistance to serum identified by TraDIS and RNA-seq included those involved in exopolysaccharide synthesis, iron scavenging and metabolism. Most of the down-regulated genes were associated with membrane proteins. Resistant and susceptible strains had distinct transcriptional responses to serum, particularly related to genes responsible for polysaccharide biosynthesis. There was higher upregulation of wca locus genes, involved in the biosynthesis of colanic acid exopolysaccharide, in susceptible strains and increased expression of fepE, a regulator of very long-chain lipopolysaccharide in resistant strains. Conclusion: Clinical isolates of S. Typhimurium ST313 exhibit distinct antibody susceptibility phenotypes that may be associated with changes in gene expression on exposure to serum.
    • scSLAM-seq reveals core features of transcription dynamics in single cells.

      Erhard, Florian; Baptista, Marisa A P; Krammer, Tobias; Hennig, Thomas; Lange, Marius; Arampatzi, Panagiota; Jürges, Christopher S; Theis, Fabian J; Saliba, Antoine-Emmanuel; Dölken, Lars; et al. (Springer-Nature, 2019-01-01)
      Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) has highlighted the important role of intercellular heterogeneity in phenotype variability in both health and disease1. However, current scRNA-seq approaches provide only a snapshot of gene expression and convey little information on the true temporal dynamics and stochastic nature of transcription. A further key limitation of scRNA-seq analysis is that the RNA profile of each individual cell can be analysed only once. Here we introduce single-cell, thiol-(SH)-linked alkylation of RNA for metabolic labelling sequencing (scSLAM-seq), which integrates metabolic RNA labelling2, biochemical nucleoside conversion3 and scRNA-seq to record transcriptional activity directly by differentiating between new and old RNA for thousands of genes per single cell. We use scSLAM-seq to study the onset of infection with lytic cytomegalovirus in single mouse fibroblasts. The cell-cycle state and dose of infection deduced from old RNA enable dose-response analysis based on new RNA. scSLAM-seq thereby both visualizes and explains differences in transcriptional activity at the single-cell level. Furthermore, it depicts 'on-off' switches and transcriptional burst kinetics in host gene expression with extensive gene-specific differences that correlate with promoter-intrinsic features (TBP-TATA-box interactions and DNA methylation). Thus, gene-specific, and not cell-specific, features explain the heterogeneity in transcriptomes between individual cells and the transcriptional response to perturbations.
    • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Brain Endothelial Cells as a Cellular Model to Study Infection.

      Martins Gomes, Sara F; Westermann, Alexander J; Sauerwein, Till; Hertlein, Tobias; Förstner, Konrad U; Ohlsen, Knut; Metzger, Marco; Shusta, Eric V; Kim, Brandon J; Appelt-Menzel, Antje; et al. (Frontiers, 2019-01-01)
      Meningococcal meningitis is a severe central nervous system infection that occurs when Neisseria meningitidis (Nm) penetrates brain endothelial cells (BECs) of the meningeal blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier. As a human-specific pathogen, in vivo models are greatly limited and pose a significant challenge. In vitro cell models have been developed, however, most lack critical BEC phenotypes limiting their usefulness. Human BECs generated from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) retain BEC properties and offer the prospect of modeling the human-specific Nm interaction with BECs. Here, we exploit iPSC-BECs as a novel cellular model to study Nm host-pathogen interactions, and provide an overview of host responses to Nm infection. Using iPSC-BECs, we first confirmed that multiple Nm strains and mutants follow similar phenotypes to previously described models. The recruitment of the recently published pilus adhesin receptor CD147 underneath meningococcal microcolonies could be verified in iPSC-BECs. Nm was also observed to significantly increase the expression of pro-inflammatory and neutrophil-specific chemokines IL6, CXCL1, CXCL2, CXCL8, and CCL20, and the secretion of IFN-γ and RANTES. For the first time, we directly observe that Nm disrupts the three tight junction proteins ZO-1, Occludin, and Claudin-5, which become frayed and/or discontinuous in BECs upon Nm challenge. In accordance with tight junction loss, a sharp loss in trans-endothelial electrical resistance, and an increase in sodium fluorescein permeability and in bacterial transmigration, was observed. Finally, we established RNA-Seq of sorted, infected iPSC-BECs, providing expression data of Nm-responsive host genes. Altogether, this model provides novel insights into Nm pathogenesis, including an impact of Nm on barrier properties and tight junction complexes, and suggests that the paracellular route may contribute to Nm traversal of BECs.
    • Salmonella persisters undermine host immune defenses during antibiotic treatment.

      Stapels, Daphne A C; Hill, Peter W S; Westermann, Alexander J; Fisher, Robert A; Thurston, Teresa L; Saliba, Antoine-Emmanuel; Blommestein, Isabelle; Vogel, Jörg; Helaine, Sophie; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2018-12-07)
      Many bacterial infections are hard to treat and tend to relapse, possibly due to the presence of antibiotic-tolerant persisters. In vitro, persister cells appear to be dormant. After uptake of Salmonella species by macrophages, nongrowing persisters also occur, but their physiological state is poorly understood. In this work, we show that Salmonella persisters arising during macrophage infection maintain a metabolically active state. Persisters reprogram macrophages by means of effectors secreted by the Salmonella pathogenicity island 2 type 3 secretion system. These effectors dampened proinflammatory innate immune responses and induced anti-inflammatory macrophage polarization. Such reprogramming allowed nongrowing Salmonella cells to survive for extended periods in their host. Persisters undermining host immune defenses might confer an advantage to the pathogen during relapse once antibiotic pressure is relieved.
    • Functional analysis of Salmonella Typhi adaptation to survival in water.

      Kingsley, Robert A; Langridge, Gemma; Smith, Sarah E; Makendi, Carine; Fookes, Maria; Wileman, Tom M; El Ghany, Moataz Abd; Keith Turner, A; Dyson, Zoe A; Sridhar, Sushmita; et al. (Wiley-Blackwell, 2018-11-18)
      Contaminated water is a major risk factor associated with the transmission of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi (S. Typhi), the aetiological agent of human typhoid. However, little is known about how this pathogen adapts to living in the aqueous environment. We used transcriptome analysis (RNA-seq) and transposon mutagenesis (TraDIS) to characterize these adaptive changes and identify multiple genes that contribute to survival. Over half of the genes in the S. Typhi genome altered expression level within the first 24 h following transfer from broth culture to water, although relatively few did so in the first 30 min. Genes linked to central metabolism, stress associated with arrested proton motive force and respiratory chain factors changed expression levels. Additionally, motility and chemotaxis genes increased expression, consistent with a scavenging lifestyle. The viaB-associated gene tviC encoding a glcNAc epimerase that is required for Vi polysaccharide biosynthesis was, along with several other genes, shown to contribute to survival in water. Thus, we define regulatory adaptation operating in S. Typhi that facilitates survival in water.
    • Long Noncoding RNA SSR42 Controls Staphylococcus aureus Alpha-Toxin Transcription in Response to Environmental Stimuli.

      Horn, Jessica; Klepsch, Maximilian; Manger, Michelle; Wolz, Christiane; Rudel, Thomas; Fraunholz, Martin; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-11-15)
      Staphylococcus aureus is a human pathogen causing a variety of diseases by versatile expression of a large set of virulence factors that most prominently features the cytotoxic and hemolytic pore-forming alpha-toxin. Expression of alpha-toxin is regulated by an intricate network of transcription factors. These include two-component systems sensing quorum and environmental signals as well as regulators reacting to the nutritional status of the pathogen. We previously identified the repressor of surface proteins (Rsp) as a virulence regulator. Acute cytotoxicity and hemolysis are strongly decreased in rsp mutants, which are characterized by decreased transcription of toxin genes as well as loss of transcription of a 1,232- nucleotide (nt)-long noncoding RNA (ncRNA), SSR42. Here, we show that SSR42 is the effector of Rsp in transcription regulation of the alpha-toxin gene, hla. SSR42 transcription is enhanced after exposure of S. aureus to subinhibitory concentrations of oxacillin which thus leads to an SSR42-dependent increase in hemolysis. Aside from Rsp, SSR42 transcription is under the control of additional global regulators, such as CodY, AgrA, CcpE, and B, but is positioned upstream of the two-component system SaeRS in the regulatory cascade leading to alpha-toxin production. Thus, alpha-toxin expression depends on two long ncRNAs, SSR42 and RNAIII, which control production of the cytolytic toxin on the transcriptional and translational levels, respectively, with SSR42 as an important regulator of SaeRS-dependent S. aureus toxin production in response to environmental and metabolic signals. IMPORTANCE Staphylococcus aureus is a major cause of life-threatening infections. The bacterium expresses alpha-toxin, a hemolysin and cytotoxin responsible for many of the pathologies of S. aureus. Alpha-toxin production is enhanced by subinhibitory concentrations of antibiotics. Here, we show that this process is dependent on the long noncoding RNA, SSR42. Further, SSR42 itself is regulated by several global regulators, thereby integrating environmental and nutritional signals that modulate hemolysis of the pathogen.
    • Stress-induced host membrane remodeling protects from infection by non-motile bacterial pathogens.

      Tawk, Caroline; Nigro, Giulia; Rodrigues Lopes, Ines; Aguilar, Carmen; Lisowski, Clivia; Mano, Miguel; Sansonetti, Philippe; Vogel, Jörg; Eulalio, Ana; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-11-02)
      While mucosal inflammation is a major source of stress during enteropathogen infection, it remains to be fully elucidated how the host benefits from this environment to clear the pathogen. Here, we show that host stress induced by different stimuli mimicking inflammatory conditions strongly reduces the binding of Shigella flexneri to epithelial cells. Mechanistically, stress activates acid sphingomyelinase leading to host membrane remodeling. Consequently, knockdown or pharmacological inhibition of the acid sphingomyelinase blunts the stress-dependent inhibition of Shigella binding to host cells. Interestingly, stress caused by intracellular Shigella replication also results in remodeling of the host cell membrane, in vitro and in vivo, which precludes re-infection by this and other non-motile pathogens. In contrast, Salmonella Typhimurium overcomes the shortage of permissive entry sites by gathering effectively at the remaining platforms through its flagellar motility. Overall, our findings reveal host membrane remodeling as a novel stress-responsive cell-autonomous defense mechanism that protects epithelial cells from infection by non-motile bacterial pathogens.
    • A global genomic approach uncovers novel components for twitching motility-mediated biofilm expansion in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

      Nolan, Laura M; Whitchurch, Cynthia B; Barquist, Lars; Katrib, Marilyn; Boinett, Christine J; Mayho, Matthew; Goulding, David; Charles, Ian G; Filloux, Alain; Parkhill, Julian; et al. (Microbiology Society, 2018-11-01)
      Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an extremely successful pathogen able to cause both acute and chronic infections in a range of hosts, utilizing a diverse arsenal of cell-associated and secreted virulence factors. A major cell-associated virulence factor, the Type IV pilus (T4P), is required for epithelial cell adherence and mediates a form of surface translocation termed twitching motility, which is necessary to establish a mature biofilm and actively expand these biofilms. P. aeruginosa twitching motility-mediated biofilm expansion is a coordinated, multicellular behaviour, allowing cells to rapidly colonize surfaces, including implanted medical devices. Although at least 44 proteins are known to be involved in the biogenesis, assembly and regulation of the T4P, with additional regulatory components and pathways implicated, it is unclear how these components and pathways interact to control these processes. In the current study, we used a global genomics-based random-mutagenesis technique, transposon directed insertion-site sequencing (TraDIS), coupled with a physical segregation approach, to identify all genes implicated in twitching motility-mediated biofilm expansion in P. aeruginosa. Our approach allowed identification of both known and novel genes, providing new insight into the complex molecular network that regulates this process in P. aeruginosa. Additionally, our data suggest that the flagellum-associated gene products have a differential effect on twitching motility, based on whether components are intra- or extracellular. Overall the success of our TraDIS approach supports the use of this global genomic technique for investigating virulence genes in bacterial pathogens.
    • The Francisella novicida Cas12a is sensitive to the structure downstream of the terminal repeat in CRISPR arrays.

      Liao, Chunyu; Slotkowski, Rebecca A; Achmedov, Tatjana; Beisel, Chase L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-10-12)
      The Class 2 Type V-A CRISPR effector protein Cas12a/Cpf1 has gained widespread attention in part because of the ease in achieving multiplexed genome editing, gene regulation, and DNA detection. Multiplexing derives from the ability of Cas12a alone to generate multiple guide RNAs from a transcribed CRISPR array encoding alternating conserved repeats and targeting spacers. While array design has focused on how to optimize guide-RNA sequences, little attention has been paid to sequences outside of the CRISPR array. Here, we show that a structured hairpin located immediately downstream of the 3' repeat interferes with utilization of the adjacent encoded guide RNA by Francisella novicida (Fn)Cas12a. We first observed that a synthetic Rho-independent terminator immediately downstream of an array impaired DNA cleavage based on plasmid clearance in E. coli and DNA cleavage in a cell-free transcription-translation (TXTL) system. TXTL-based cleavage assays further revealed that inhibition was associated with incomplete processing of the transcribed CRISPR array and could be attributed to the stable hairpin formed by the terminator. We also found that the inhibitory effect partially extended to upstream spacers in a multi-spacer array. Finally, we found that removing the terminal repeat from the array increased the inhibitory effect, while replacing this repeat with an unprocessable terminal repeat from a native FnCas12a array restored cleavage activity directed by the adjacent encoded guide RNA. Our study thus revealed that sequences surrounding a CRISPR array can interfere with the function of a CRISPR nuclease, with implications for the design and evolution of CRISPR arrays.
    • RNA-binding proteins in bacteria.

      Holmqvist, Erik; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Springer Nature, 2018-10-01)
      RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) are central to most if not all cellular processes, dictating the fate of virtually all RNA molecules in the cell. Starting with pioneering work on ribosomal proteins, studies of bacterial RBPs have paved the way for molecular studies of RNA-protein interactions. Work over the years has identified major RBPs that act on cellular transcripts at the various stages of bacterial gene expression and that enable their integration into post-transcriptional networks that also comprise small non-coding RNAs. Bacterial RBP research has now entered a new era in which RNA sequencing-based methods permit mapping of RBP activity in a truly global manner in vivo. Moreover, the soaring interest in understudied members of host-associated microbiota and environmental communities is likely to unveil new RBPs and to greatly expand our knowledge of RNA-protein interactions in bacteria.
    • ANNOgesic: a Swiss army knife for the RNA-seq based annotation of bacterial/archaeal genomes.

      Yu, Sung-Huan; Vogel, Jörg; Förstner, Konrad U; HIRI, Helmoltz-Institut für RNA-basierteInfektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-09-01)
      To understand the gene regulation of an organism of interest, a comprehensive genome annotation is essential. While some features, such as coding sequences, can be computationally predicted with high accuracy based purely on the genomic sequence, others, such as promoter elements or noncoding RNAs, are harder to detect. RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) has proven to be an efficient method to identify these genomic features and to improve genome annotations. However, processing and integrating RNA-seq data in order to generate high-resolution annotations is challenging, time consuming, and requires numerous steps. We have constructed a powerful and modular tool called ANNOgesic that provides the required analyses and simplifies RNA-seq-based bacterial and archaeal genome annotation. It can integrate data from conventional RNA-seq and differential RNA-seq and predicts and annotates numerous features, including small noncoding RNAs, with high precision. The software is available under an open source license (ISCL) at https://pypi.org/project/ANNOgesic/.
    • Small synthetic molecule-stabilized RNA pseudoknot as an activator for -1 ribosomal frameshifting.

      Matsumoto, Saki; Caliskan, Neva; Rodnina, Marina V; Murata, Asako; Nakatani, Kazuhiko; HIRI, Helmoltz-Institut für RNA-basierteInfektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-08-02)
      Programmed -1 ribosomal frameshifting (-1PRF) is a recoding mechanism to make alternative proteins from a single mRNA transcript. -1PRF is stimulated by cis-acting signals in mRNA, a seven-nucleotide slippery sequence and a downstream secondary structure element, which is often a pseudoknot. In this study we engineered the frameshifting pseudoknot from the mouse mammary tumor virus to respond to a rationally designed small molecule naphthyridine carbamate tetramer (NCTn). We demonstrate that NCTn can stabilize the pseudoknot structure in mRNA and activate -1PRF both in vitro and in human cells. The results illustrate how NCTn-inducible -1PRF may serve as an important component of the synthetic biology toolbox for the precise control of gene expression using small synthetic molecules.
    • The CRISPR/Cas system in Neisseria meningitidis affects bacterial adhesion to human nasopharyngeal epithelial cells.

      Heidrich, Nadja; Hagmann, Antony; Bauriedl, Saskia; Vogel, Jörg; Schoen, Christoph; HIRI, Helmoltz-Institut für RNA-basierteInfektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-07-30)
      Neisseria meningitidis, a commensal β-proteobacterium of the human nasopharynx, constitutes a worldwide leading cause of sepsis and epidemic meningitis. A recent genome-wide association study suggested an association of its type II-C CRISPR/Cas system with carriage and thus less invasive lineages. Here, we show that knock-out strains lacking the Cas9 protein are impaired in the adhesion to human nasopharyngeal cells which constitutes a central step in the pathogenesis of invasive meningococcal disease. Transcriptome sequencing data further suggest that meningococcal Cas9 does not affect the expression of surface adhesins but rather exerts its effect on cell adhesion in an indirect manner. Consequently, we speculate that the meningococcal CRISPR/Cas system exerts novel functions beyond its established role in defence against foreign DNA.