• The SARS-CoV-2 RNA-protein interactome in infected human cells.

      Schmidt, Nora; Lareau, Caleb A; Keshishian, Hasmik; Ganskih, Sabina; Schneider, Cornelius; Hennig, Thomas; Melanson, Randy; Werner, Simone; Wei, Yuanjie; Zimmer, Matthias; et al. (Nature research, 2020-12-21)
      Characterizing the interactions that SARS-CoV-2 viral RNAs make with host cell proteins during infection can improve our understanding of viral RNA functions and the host innate immune response. Using RNA antisense purification and mass spectrometry, we identified up to 104 human proteins that directly and specifically bind to SARS-CoV-2 RNAs in infected human cells. We integrated the SARS-CoV-2 RNA interactome with changes in proteome abundance induced by viral infection and linked interactome proteins to cellular pathways relevant to SARS-CoV-2 infections. We demonstrated by genetic perturbation that cellular nucleic acid-binding protein (CNBP) and La-related protein 1 (LARP1), two of the most strongly enriched viral RNA binders, restrict SARS-CoV-2 replication in infected cells and provide a global map of their direct RNA contact sites. Pharmacological inhibition of three other RNA interactome members, PPIA, ATP1A1, and the ARP2/3 complex, reduced viral replication in two human cell lines. The identification of host dependency factors and defence strategies as presented in this work will improve the design of targeted therapeutics against SARS-CoV-2.
    • Single-Nucleotide RNA Maps for the Two Major Nosocomial Pathogens and .

      Michaux, Charlotte; Hansen, Elisabeth E; Jenniches, Laura; Gerovac, Milan; Barquist, Lars; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Frontiers, 2020-11-25)
      Enterococcus faecalis and faecium are two major representative clinical strains of the Enterococcus genus and are sadly notorious to be part of the top agents responsible for nosocomial infections. Despite their critical implication in worldwide public healthcare, essential and available resources such as deep transcriptome annotations remain poor, which also limits our understanding of post-transcriptional control small regulatory RNA (sRNA) functions in these bacteria. Here, using the dRNA-seq technique in combination with ANNOgesic analysis, we successfully mapped and annotated transcription start sites (TSS) of both E. faecalis V583 and E. faecium AUS0004 at single nucleotide resolution. Analyzing bacteria in late exponential phase, we capture ~40% (E. faecalis) and 43% (E. faecium) of the annotated protein-coding genes, determine 5' and 3' UTR (untranslated region) length, and detect instances of leaderless mRNAs. The transcriptome maps revealed sRNA candidates in both bacteria, some found in previous studies and new ones. Expression of candidate sRNAs is being confirmed under biologically relevant environmental conditions. This comprehensive global TSS mapping atlas provides a valuable resource for RNA biology and gene expression analysis in the Enterococci. It can be accessed online at www.helmholtz-hiri.de/en/datasets/enterococcus through an instance of the genomic viewer JBrowse.
    • Triple RNA-Seq Reveals Synergy in a Human Virus-Fungus Co-infection Model.

      Seelbinder, Bastian; Wallstabe, Julia; Marischen, Lothar; Weiss, Esther; Wurster, Sebastian; Page, Lukas; Löffler, Claudia; Bussemer, Lydia; Schmitt, Anna-Lena; Wolf, Thomas; et al. (Elsevier (Cell Press), 2020-11-17)
      High-throughput RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) is routinely applied to study diverse biological processes; however, when performed separately on interacting organisms, systemic noise intrinsic to RNA extraction, library preparation, and sequencing hampers the identification of cross-species interaction nodes. Here, we develop triple RNA-seq to simultaneously detect transcriptomes of monocyte-derived dendritic cells (moDCs) infected with the frequently co-occurring pulmonary pathogens Aspergillus fumigatus and human cytomegalovirus (CMV). Comparing expression patterns after co-infection with those after single infections, our data reveal synergistic effects and mutual interferences between host responses to the two pathogens. For example, CMV attenuates the fungus-mediated activation of pro-inflammatory cytokines through NF-κB (nuclear factor κB) and NFAT (nuclear factor of activated T cells) cascades, while A. fumigatus impairs viral clearance by counteracting viral nucleic acid-induced activation of type I interferon signaling. Together, the analytical power of triple RNA-seq proposes molecular hubs in the differential moDC response to fungal/viral single infection or co-infection that contribute to our understanding of the etiology and, potentially, clearance of post-transplant infections.
    • Dissecting Herpes Simplex Virus 1-Induced Host Shutoff at the RNA Level.

      Friedel, Caroline C; Whisnant, Adam W; Djakovic, Lara; Rutkowski, Andrzej J; Friedl, Marie-Sophie; Kluge, Michael; Williamson, James C; Sai, Somesh; Vidal, Ramon Oliveira; Sauer, Sascha; et al. (American Society for Microbilogy (ASM), 2020-11-04)
      Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) induces a profound host shut-off during lytic infection. The virion host shut-off (vhs) protein plays a key role in this process by efficiently cleaving host and viral mRNAs. Furthermore, the onset of viral DNA replication is accompanied by a rapid decline in host transcriptional activity. To dissect relative contributions of both mechanisms and elucidate gene-specific host transcriptional responses throughout the first 8h of lytic HSV-1 infection, we employed RNA-seq of total, newly transcribed (4sU-labelled) and chromatin-associated RNA in wild-type (WT) and Δvhs infection of primary human fibroblasts. Following virus entry, vhs activity rapidly plateaued at an elimination rate of around 30% of cellular mRNAs per hour until 8h p.i. In parallel, host transcriptional activity dropped to 10-20%. While the combined effects of both phenomena dominated infection-induced changes in total RNA, extensive gene-specific transcriptional regulation was observable in chromatin-associated RNA and was surprisingly concordant between WT and Δvhs infection. Both induced strong transcriptional up-regulation of a small subset of genes that were poorly expressed prior to infection but already primed by H3K4me3 histone marks at their promoters. Most interestingly, analysis of chromatin-associated RNA revealed vhs-nuclease-activity-dependent transcriptional down-regulation of at least 150 cellular genes, in particular of many integrin adhesome and extracellular matrix components. This was accompanied by a vhs-dependent reduction in protein levels by 8h p.i. for many of these genes. In summary, our study provides a comprehensive picture of the molecular mechanisms that govern cellular RNA metabolism during the first 8h of lytic HSV-1 infection.IMPORTANCE The HSV-1 virion host shut-off (vhs) protein efficiently cleaves both host and viral mRNAs in a translation-dependent manner. In this study, we model and quantify changes in vhs activity as well as virus-induced global loss of host transcriptional activity during productive HSV-1 infection. In general, HSV-1-induced alterations in total RNA levels were dominated by these two global effects. In contrast, chromatin-associated RNA depicted gene-specific transcriptional changes. This revealed highly concordant transcriptional changes in WT and Δvhs infection, confirmed DUX4 as a key transcriptional regulator in HSV-1 infection and depicted vhs-dependent, transcriptional down-regulation of the integrin adhesome and extracellular matrix components. The latter explained seemingly gene-specific effects previously attributed to vhs-mediated mRNA degradation and resulted in a concordant loss in protein levels by 8h p.i. for many of the respective genes.
    • Introducing differential RNA-seq mapping to track the early infection phase for phage ɸKZ.

      Wicke, Laura; Ponath, Falk; Coppens, Lucas; Gerovac, Milan; Lavigne, Rob; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Taylor & Francis, 2020-10-25)
      As part of the ongoing renaissance of phage biology, more phage genomes are becoming available through DNA sequencing. However, our understanding of the transcriptome architecture that allows these genomes to be expressed during host infection is generally poor. Transcription start sites (TSSs) and operons have been mapped for very few phages, and an annotated global RNA map of a phage - alone or together with its infected host - is not available at all. Here, we applied differential RNA-seq (dRNA-seq) to study the early, host takeover phase of infection by assessing the transcriptome structure of Pseudomonas aeruginosa jumbo phage ɸKZ, a model phage for viral genetics and structural research. This map substantially expands the number of early expressed viral genes, defining TSSs that are active ten minutes after ɸKZ infection. Simultaneously, we record gene expression changes in the host transcriptome during this critical metabolism conversion. In addition to previously reported upregulation of genes associated with amino acid metabolism, we observe strong activation of genes with functions in biofilm formation (cdrAB) and iron storage (bfrB), as well as an activation of the antitoxin ParD. Conversely, ɸKZ infection rapidly down-regulates complexes IV and V of oxidative phosphorylation (atpCDGHF and cyoABCDE). Taken together, our data provide new insights into the transcriptional organization and infection process of the giant bacteriophage ɸKZ and adds a framework for the genome-wide transcriptomic analysis of phage-host interactions.
    • Murine cytomegaloviruses m139 targets DDX3 to curtail interferon production and promote viral replication.

      Puhach, Olha; Ostermann, Eleonore; Krisp, Christoph; Frascaroli, Giada; Schlüter, Hartmut; Brinkmann, Melanie M; Brune, Wolfram; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (PLOS, 2020-10-08)
      Cytomegaloviruses (CMV) infect many different cell types and tissues in their respective hosts. Monocytes and macrophages play an important role in CMV dissemination from the site of infection to target organs. Moreover, macrophages are specialized in pathogen sensing and respond to infection by secreting cytokines and interferons. In murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV), a model for human cytomegalovirus, several genes required for efficient replication in macrophages have been identified, but their specific functions remain poorly understood. Here we show that MCMV m139, a gene of the conserved US22 gene family, encodes a protein that interacts with the DEAD box helicase DDX3, a protein involved in pathogen sensing and interferon (IFN) induction, and the E3 ubiquitin ligase UBR5. DDX3 and UBR5 also participate in the transcription, processing, and translation of a subset of cellular mRNAs. We show that m139 inhibits DDX3-mediated IFN-α and IFN-β induction and is necessary for efficient viral replication in bone-marrow derived macrophages. In vivo, m139 is crucial for viral dissemination to local lymph nodes and to the salivary glands. An m139-deficient MCMV also replicated to lower titers in SVEC4-10 endothelial cells. This replication defect was not accompanied by increased IFN-β transcription, but was rescued by knockout of either DDX3 or UBR5. Moreover, m139 co-localized with DDX3 and UBR5 in viral replication compartments in the cell nucleus. These results suggest that m139 inhibits DDX3-mediated IFN production in macrophages and antagonizes DDX3 and UBR5-dependent functions related to RNA metabolism in endothelial cells.
    • An RNA-centric view on gut Bacteroidetes.

      Ryan, Daniel; Prezza, Gianluca; Westermann, Alexander J; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Walter de Gruyter, 2020-09-24)
      Bacteria employ noncoding RNAs to maintain cellular physiology, adapt global gene expression to fluctuating environments, sense nutrients, coordinate their interaction with companion microbes and host cells, and protect themselves against bacteriophages. While bacterial RNA research has made fundamental contributions to biomedicine and biotechnology, the bulk of our knowledge of RNA biology stems from the study of a handful of aerobic model species. In comparison, RNA research is lagging in many medically relevant obligate anaerobic species, in particular the numerous commensal bacteria comprising our gut microbiota. This review presents a guide to RNA-based regulatory mechanisms in the phylum Bacteroidetes, focusing on the most abundant bacterial genus in the human gut, Bacteroides spp. This includes recent case reports on riboswitches, an mRNA leader, cis- and trans-encoded small RNAs (sRNAs) in Bacteroides spp., and a survey of CRISPR-Cas systems across Bacteroidetes. Recent work from our laboratory now suggests the existence of hundreds of noncoding RNA candidates in Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, the emerging model organism for functional microbiota research. Based on these collective observations, we predict mechanistic and functional commonalities and differences between Bacteroides sRNAs and those of other model bacteria, and outline open questions and tools needed to boost Bacteroidetes RNA research.
    • Amidochelocardin Overcomes Resistance Mechanisms Exerted on Tetracyclines and Natural Chelocardin.

      Hennessen, Fabienne; Miethke, Marcus; Zaburannyi, Nestor; Loose, Maria; Lukežič, Tadeja; Bernecker, Steffen; Hüttel, Stephan; Jansen, Rolf; Schmiedel, Judith; Fritzenwanker, Moritz; et al. (MDPI, 2020-09-18)
      The reassessment of known but neglected natural compounds is a vital strategy for providing novel lead structures urgently needed to overcome antimicrobial resistance. Scaffolds with resistance-breaking properties represent the most promising candidates for a successful translation into future therapeutics. Our study focuses on chelocardin, a member of the atypical tetracyclines, and its bioengineered derivative amidochelocardin, both showing broad-spectrum antibacterial activity within the ESKAPE (Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter species) panel. Further lead development of chelocardins requires extensive biological and chemical profiling to achieve favorable pharmaceutical properties and efficacy. This study shows that both molecules possess resistance-breaking properties enabling the escape from most common tetracycline resistance mechanisms. Further, we show that these compounds are potent candidates for treatment of urinary tract infections due to their in vitro activity against a large panel of multidrug-resistant uropathogenic clinical isolates. In addition, the mechanism of resistance to natural chelocardin was identified as relying on efflux processes, both in the chelocardin producer Amycolatopsis sulphurea and in the pathogen Klebsiella pneumoniae. Resistance development in Klebsiella led primarily to mutations in ramR, causing increased expression of the acrAB-tolC efflux pump. Most importantly, amidochelocardin overcomes this resistance mechanism, revealing not only the improved activity profile but also superior resistance-breaking properties of this novel antibacterial compound.
    • LifeTime and improving European healthcare through cell-based interceptive medicine.

      Rajewsky, Nikolaus; Almouzni, Geneviève; Gorski, Stanislaw A; Aerts, Stein; Amit, Ido; Bertero, Michela G; Bock, Christoph; Bredenoord, Annelien L; Cavalli, Giacomo; Chiocca, Susanna; et al. (Nature publishing group(NPG), 2020-09-07)
      LifeTime aims to track, understand and target human cells during the onset and progression of complex diseases and their response to therapy at single-cell resolution. This mission will be implemented through the development and integration of single-cell multi-omics and imaging, artificial intelligence and patient-derived experimental disease models during progression from health to disease. Analysis of such large molecular and clinical datasets will discover molecular mechanisms, create predictive computational models of disease progression, and reveal new drug targets and therapies. Timely detection and interception of disease embedded in an ethical and patient-centered vision will be achieved through interactions across academia, hospitals, patient-associations, health data management systems and industry. Applying this strategy to key medical challenges in cancer, neurological, infectious, chronic inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases at the single-cell level will usher in cell-based interceptive medicine in Europe over the next decade.
    • Your Base Editor Might Be Flirting with Single (Stranded) DNA: Faithful On-Target CRISPR Base Editing without Promiscuous Deamination.

      Collins, Scott P; Beisel, Chase L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier, 2020-09-03)
      Jin et al. (2020) engineered new variants of CRISPR base editors that make precise genomic edits in rice protoplasts while minimizing untargeted mutagenesis.
    • Identification of a Novel LysR-Type Transcriptional Regulator in Staphylococcus aureus That Is Crucial for Secondary Tissue Colonization during Metastatic Bloodstream Infection.

      Groma, Michaela; Horst, Sarah A; Das, Sudip; Huettel, Bruno; Klepsch, Maximilian; Rudel, Thomas; Medina, Eva; Fraunholz, Martin; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (ASM, 2020-08-25)
      Staphylococcus aureus is a common cause of bacteremia that can lead to severe complications once the bacteria exit the bloodstream and establish infection in secondary organs. Despite its clinical relevance, little is known about the bacterial factors facilitating the development of these metastatic infections. Here, we used an S. aureus transposon mutant library coupled to transposon insertion sequencing (Tn-Seq) to identify genes that are critical for efficient bacterial colonization of secondary organs in a murine model of metastatic bloodstream infection. Our transposon screen identified a LysR-type transcriptional regulator (LTTR), which was required for efficient colonization of secondary organs such as the kidneys in infected mice. The critical role of LTTR in secondary organ colonization was confirmed using an isogenic mutant deficient in the expression of LTTR. To identify the set of genes controlled by LTTR, we used an S. aureus strain carrying the LTTR gene in an inducible expression plasmid. Gene expression analysis upon induction of LTTR showed increased transcription of genes involved in branched-chain amino acid biosynthesis, a methionine sulfoxide reductase, and a copper transporter as well as decreased transcription of genes coding for urease and components of pyrimidine nucleotides. Furthermore, we show that transcription of LTTR is repressed by glucose, is induced under microaerobic conditions, and required trace amounts of copper ions. Our data thus pinpoints LTTR as an important element that enables a rapid adaptation of S. aureus to the changing host microenvironment.IMPORTANCEStaphylococcus aureus is an important pathogen that can disseminate via the bloodstream and establish metastatic infections in distant organs. To achieve a better understanding of the bacterial factors facilitating the development of these metastatic infections, we used in this study a Staphylococcus aureus transposon mutant library in a murine model of intravenous infection, where bacteria first colonize the liver as the primary infection site and subsequently progress to secondary sites such as the kidney and bones. We identified a novel LysR-type transcriptional regulator (LTTR), which was specifically required by S. aureus for efficient colonization of secondary organs. We also determined the transcriptional activation as well as the regulon of LTTR, which suggests that this regulator is involved in the metabolic adaptation of S. aureus to the host microenvironment found in secondary infection sites.
    • Grad-seq shines light on unrecognized RNA and protein complexes in the model bacterium Escherichia coli.

      Hör, Jens; Di Giorgio, Silvia; Gerovac, Milan; Venturini, Elisa; Förstner, Konrad U; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Oxford University Press, 2020-08-19)
      Stable protein complexes, including those formed with RNA, are major building blocks of every living cell. Escherichia coli has been the leading bacterial organism with respect to global protein-protein networks. Yet, there has been no global census of RNA/protein complexes in this model species of microbiology. Here, we performed Grad-seq to establish an RNA/protein complexome, reconstructing sedimentation profiles in a glycerol gradient for ∼85% of all E. coli transcripts and ∼49% of the proteins. These include the majority of small noncoding RNAs (sRNAs) detectable in this bacterium as well as the general sRNA-binding proteins, CsrA, Hfq and ProQ. In presenting use cases for utilization of these RNA and protein maps, we show that a stable association of RyeG with 30S ribosomes gives this seemingly noncoding RNA of prophage origin away as an mRNA of a toxic small protein. Similarly, we show that the broadly conserved uncharacterized protein YggL is a 50S subunit factor in assembled 70S ribosomes. Overall, this study crucially extends our knowledge about the cellular interactome of the primary model bacterium E. coli through providing global RNA/protein complexome information and should facilitate functional discovery in this and related species.
    • Single-cell RNA-sequencing reports growth-condition-specific global transcriptomes of individual bacteria.

      Imdahl, Fabian; Vafadarnejad, Ehsan; Homberger, Christina; Saliba, Antoine-Emmanuel; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Nature research, 2020-08-17)
      Bacteria respond to changes in their environment with specific transcriptional programmes, but even within genetically identical populations these programmes are not homogenously expressed1. Such transcriptional heterogeneity between individual bacteria allows genetically clonal communities to develop a complex array of phenotypes1, examples of which include persisters that resist antibiotic treatment and metabolically specialized cells that emerge under nutrient-limiting conditions2. Fluorescent reporter constructs have played a pivotal role in deciphering heterogeneous gene expression within bacterial populations3 but have been limited to recording the activity of single genes in a few genetically tractable model species, whereas the vast majority of bacteria remain difficult to engineer and/or even to cultivate. Single-cell transcriptomics is revolutionizing the analysis of phenotypic cell-to-cell variation in eukaryotes, but technical hurdles have prevented its robust application to prokaryotes. Here, using an improved poly(A)-independent single-cell RNA-sequencing protocol, we report the faithful capture of growth-dependent gene expression patterns in individual Salmonella and Pseudomonas bacteria across all RNA classes and genomic regions. These transcriptomes provide important reference points for single-cell RNA-sequencing of other bacterial species, mixed microbial communities and host-pathogen interactions.
    • Severe COVID-19 Is Marked by a Dysregulated Myeloid Cell Compartment.

      Schulte-Schrepping, Jonas; Reusch, Nico; Paclik, Daniela; Baßler, Kevin; Schlickeiser, Stephan; Zhang, Bowen; Krämer, Benjamin; Krammer, Tobias; Brumhard, Sophia; Bonaguro, Lorenzo; et al. (Elsevier /Cell Press), 2020-08-05)
      Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a mild to moderate respiratory tract infection, however, a subset of patients progress to severe disease and respiratory failure. The mechanism of protective immunity in mild forms and the pathogenesis of severe COVID-19 associated with increased neutrophil counts and dysregulated immune responses remain unclear. In a dual-center, two-cohort study, we combined single-cell RNA-sequencing and single-cell proteomics of whole-blood and peripheral-blood mononuclear cells to determine changes in immune cell composition and activation in mild versus severe COVID-19 (242 samples from 109 individuals) over time. HLA-DRhiCD11chi inflammatory monocytes with an interferon-stimulated gene signature were elevated in mild COVID-19. Severe COVID-19 was marked by occurrence of neutrophil precursors, as evidence of emergency myelopoiesis, dysfunctional mature neutrophils, and HLA-DRlo monocytes. Our study provides detailed insights into the systemic immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection and reveals profound alterations in the myeloid cell compartment associated with severe COVID-19.
    • Reprogramming of host glutamine metabolism during Chlamydia trachomatis infection and its key role in peptidoglycan synthesis.

      Rajeeve, Karthika; Vollmuth, Nadine; Janaki-Raman, Sudha; Wulff, Thomas F; Baluapuri, Apoorva; Dejure, Francesca R; Huber, Claudia; Fink, Julian; Schmalhofer, Maximilian; Schmitz, Werner; et al. (Nature publishing group (NPG), 2020-08-03)
      Obligate intracellular bacteria such as Chlamydia trachomatis undergo a complex developmental cycle between infectious, non-replicative elementary-body and non-infectious, replicative reticulate-body forms. Elementary bodies transform to reticulate bodies shortly after entering a host cell, a crucial process in infection, initiating chlamydial replication. As Chlamydia fail to replicate outside the host cell, it is unknown how the replicative part of the developmental cycle is initiated. Here we show, using a cell-free approach in axenic media, that the uptake of glutamine by the bacteria is crucial for peptidoglycan synthesis, which has a role in Chlamydia replication. The increased requirement for glutamine in infected cells is satisfied by reprogramming the glutamine metabolism in a c-Myc-dependent manner. Glutamine is effectively taken up by the glutamine transporter SLC1A5 and metabolized via glutaminase. Interference with this metabolic reprogramming limits the growth of Chlamydia. Intriguingly, Chlamydia failed to produce progeny in SLC1A5-knockout organoids and mice. Thus, we report on the central role of glutamine for the development of an obligate intracellular pathogenic bacterium and the reprogramming of host glutamine metabolism, which may provide a basis for innovative anti-infection strategies.
    • A positive, growth-based PAM screen identifies noncanonical motifs recognized by the S. pyogenes Cas9.

      Collias, D; Leenay, R T; Slotkowski, R A; Zuo, Z; Collins, S P; McGirr, B A; Liu, J; Beisel, C L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (AAAS, 2020-07-15)
      CRISPR technologies have overwhelmingly relied on the Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 (SpyCas9), with its consensus NGG and less preferred NAG and NGA protospacer-adjacent motifs (PAMs). Here, we report that SpyCas9 also recognizes sequences within an N(A/C/T)GG motif. These sequences were identified on the basis of preferential enrichment in a growth-based screen in Escherichia coli. DNA binding, cleavage, and editing assays in bacteria and human cells validated recognition, with activities paralleling those for NAG(A/C/T) PAMs and dependent on the first two PAM positions. Molecular-dynamics simulations and plasmid-clearance assays with mismatch-intolerant variants supported induced-fit recognition of an extended PAM by SpyCas9 rather than recognition of NGG with a bulged R-loop. Last, the editing location for SpyCas9-derived base editors could be shifted by one nucleotide by selecting between (C/T)GG and adjacent N(C/T)GG PAMs. SpyCas9 and its enhanced variants thus recognize a larger repertoire of PAMs, with implications for precise editing, off-target predictions, and CRISPR-based immunity.
    • Growth-uncoupled isoprenoid synthesis in Rhodobacter sphaeroides.

      Orsi, Enrico; Mougiakos, Ioannis; Post, Wilbert; Beekwilder, Jules; Dompè, Marco; Eggink, Gerrit; van der Oost, John; Kengen, Servé W M; Weusthuis, Ruud A; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (BMC, 2020-07-13)
      Microbial cell factories are usually engineered and employed for cultivations that combine product synthesis with growth. Such a strategy inevitably invests part of the substrate pool towards the generation of biomass and cellular maintenance. Hence, engineering strains for the formation of a specific product under non-growth conditions would allow to reach higher product yields. In this respect, isoprenoid biosynthesis represents an extensively studied example of growth-coupled synthesis with rather unexplored potential for growth-independent production. Rhodobacter sphaeroides is a model bacterium for isoprenoid biosynthesis, either via the native 2-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway or the heterologous mevalonate (MVA) pathway, and for poly-β-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) biosynthesis.
    • Seropositivity for pathogens associated with chronic infections is a risk factor for all-cause mortality in the elderly: findings from the Memory and Morbidity in Augsburg Elderly (MEMO) Study.

      Zeeb, Marius; Kerrinnes, Tobias; Cicin-Sain, Luka; Guzman, Carlos A; Puppe, Wolfram; Schulz, Thomas F; Peters, Annette; Berger, Klaus; Castell, Stefanie; Karch, André; et al. (Springer, 2020-07-09)
      Immunostimulation by chronic infection has been linked to an increased risk for different non-communicable diseases, which in turn are leading causes of death in high- and middle-income countries. Thus, we investigated if a positive serostatus for pathogens responsible for common chronic infections is individually or synergistically related to reduced overall survival in community dwelling elderly. We used data of 365 individuals from the German MEMO (Memory and Morbidity in Augsburg Elderly) cohort study with a median age of 73 years at baseline and a median follow-up of 14 years. We examined the effect of a positive serostatus at baseline for selected pathogens associated with chronic infections (Helicobacter pylori, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, Toxoplasma gondii, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, herpes simplex virus 1/2, and human herpesvirus 6) on all-cause mortality with multivariable parametric survival models. We found a reduced survival time in individuals with a positive serostatus for Helicobacter pylori (accelerated failure time (AFT) - 15.92, 95% CI - 29.96; - 1.88), cytomegalovirus (AFT - 22.81, 95% CI - 36.41; - 9.22) and Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (AFT - 25.25, 95% CI - 43.40; - 7.10), after adjusting for potential confounders. The number of infectious agents an individual was seropositive for had a linear effect on all-cause mortality (AFT per additional infection - 12.42 95% CI - 18.55; - 6.30). Our results suggest an effect of seropositivity for Helicobacter pylori, cytomegalovirus, and Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato on all-cause mortality in older community dwelling individuals. Further research with larger cohorts and additional biomarkers is required, to assess mediators and molecular pathways of this effect.
    • Global discovery of bacterial RNA-binding proteins by RNase-sensitive gradient profiles reports a new FinO domain protein.

      Gerovac, Milan; El Mouali, Youssef; Kuper, Jochen; Kisker, Caroline; Barquist, Lars; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Cold Spring Habor Laboratory Press and RNA Society, 2020-07-09)
      RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) play important roles in bacterial gene expression and physiology but their true number and functional scope remain little understood even in model microbes. To advance global RBP discovery in bacteria, we here establish glycerol gradient sedimentation with RNase treatment and mass spectrometry (GradR). Applied to Salmonella enterica, GradR confirms many known RBPs such as CsrA, Hfq, and ProQ by their RNase-sensitive sedimentation profiles, and discovers the FopA protein as a new member of the emerging family of FinO/ProQ-like RBPs. FopA, encoded on resistance plasmid pCol1B9, primarily targets a small RNA associated with plasmid replication. The target suite of FopA dramatically differs from the related global RBP ProQ, revealing context-dependent selective RNA recognition by FinO-domain RBPs. Numerous other unexpected RNase-induced changes in gradient profiles suggest that cellular RNA helps to organize macromolecular complexes in bacteria. By enabling poly(A)-independent generic RBP discovery, GradR provides an important element in the quest to build a comprehensive catalog of microbial RBPs.
    • Dual RNA-seq of Orientia tsutsugamushi informs on host-pathogen interactions for this neglected intracellular human pathogen.

      Mika-Gospodorz, Bozena; Giengkam, Suparat; Westermann, Alexander J; Wongsantichon, Jantana; Kion-Crosby, Willow; Chuenklin, Suthida; Wang, Loo Chien; Sunyakumthorn, Piyanate; Sobota, Radoslaw M; Subbian, Selvakumar; et al. (Nature Publishing Group, 2020-07-03)
      Studying emerging or neglected pathogens is often challenging due to insufficient information and absence of genetic tools. Dual RNA-seq provides insights into host-pathogen interactions, and is particularly informative for intracellular organisms. Here we apply dual RNA-seq to Orientia tsutsugamushi (Ot), an obligate intracellular bacterium that causes the vector-borne human disease scrub typhus. Half the Ot genome is composed of repetitive DNA, and there is minimal collinearity in gene order between strains. Integrating RNA-seq, comparative genomics, proteomics, and machine learning to study the transcriptional architecture of Ot, we find evidence for wide-spread post-transcriptional antisense regulation. Comparing the host response to two clinical isolates, we identify distinct immune response networks for each strain, leading to predictions of relative virulence that are validated in a mouse infection model. Thus, dual RNA-seq can provide insight into the biology and host-pathogen interactions of a poorly characterized and genetically intractable organism such as Ot.