• 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.
    • 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.
    • The chlamydial deubiquitinase Cdu1 supports recruitment of Golgi vesicles to the inclusion.

      Auer, Daniela; Hügelschäffer, Sophie D; Fischer, Annette B; Rudel, Thomas; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Wiley, 2019-11-01)
      Chlamydia trachomatis is the main cause of sexually transmitted diseases worldwide. As obligate intracellular bacteria Chlamydia replicate in a membrane bound vacuole called inclusion and acquire nutrients for growth and replication from their host cells. However, like all intracellular bacteria, Chlamydia have to prevent eradication by the host's cell autonomous system. The chlamydial deubiquitinase Cdu1 is secreted into the inclusion membrane, facing the host cell cytosol where it deubiquitinates cellular proteins. Here we show that inactivation of Cdu1 causes a growth defect of C. trachomatis in primary cells. Moreover, ubiquitin and several autophagy receptors are recruited to the inclusion membrane of Cdu1-deficient Chlamydia. Interestingly, the growth defect of cdu1 mutants is not rescued when autophagy is prevented. We find reduced recruitment of Golgi vesicles to the inclusion of Cdu1 mutants indicating that vesicular trafficking is altered in bacteria without active deubiquitinase (DUB). Our work elucidates an important role of Cdu1 in the functional preservation of the chlamydial inclusion surface.
    • Competitive exclusion is a major bioprotective mechanism of lactobacilli against fungal spoilage in fermented milk products.

      Siedler, Solvej; Rau, Martin Holm; Bidstrup, Susanne; Vento, Justin M; Aunsbjerg, Stina Dissing; Bosma, Elleke F; McNair, Laura M; Beisel, Chase L; Neves, Ana Rute; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (American Society of Microbiology, 2020-01-31)
      A prominent feature of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) is their ability to inhibit growth of spoilage organisms in food, but hitherto research efforts to establish the mechanisms underlying bioactivity focused on the production of antimicrobial compounds by LAB. We show in this study, that competitive exclusion, i.e, competition for a limited resource by different organisms, is a major mechanism of fungal growth inhibition by lactobacilli in fermented dairy products. The depletion of the essential trace element manganese by two Lactobacillus species was uncovered as the main mechanism for growth inhibition of dairy spoilage yeast and molds. A manganese transporter (MntH1), representing one of the highest expressed gene products in both lactobacilli, facilitates the exhaustive manganese scavenging. Expression of the mntH1 gene was found to be strain-dependent, affected by species co-culturing and growth phase. Further, deletion of the mntH1 gene in one of the strains resulted in loss of bioactivity, proving this gene to be important for manganese depletion. The presence of a mntH gene displayed a distinct phylogenetic pattern within the Lactobacillus genus. Moreover, assaying the bioprotective ability in fermented milk of selected lactobacilli from ten major phylogenetic groups identified a correlation between the presence of mntH and bioprotective activity. Thus, manganese scavenging emerges as a common trait within the Lactobacillus genus, but differences in expression result in some strains showing more bioprotective effect than others.In summary, competitive exclusion through ion depletion is herein reported a novel mechanism in LAB to delay growth of spoilage contaminants in dairy products.IMPORTANCE In societies that have food choices, conscious consumers demand natural solutions to keep their food healthy and fresh during storage, simultaneously reducing food waste. The use of "good bacteria" to protect food against spoilage organisms has a long successful history, even though the molecular mechanisms are not fully understood. In this study, we show that depletion of free manganese is a major bioprotective mechanism of lactobacilli in dairy products. High manganese uptake and intracellular storage provides a link to the distinct non-enzymatic manganese catalyzed oxidative stress defense mechanism, previously described for certain lactobacilli. The evaluation of representative Lactobacillus species in our study identifies multiple relevant species groups for fungal growth inhibition via manganese depletion. Hence, through the natural mechanism of nutrient depletion, the use of dedicated bioprotective lactobacilli constitutes an attractive alternative to artificial preservation.
    • Complete Genome Sequencing Leptospira interrogans Isolates from Malaysia Reveals Massive Genome Rearrangement but High Conservation of Virulence-Associated Genes

      Ramli, Siti Roszilawati; Bunk, Boyke; Spröer, Cathrin; Geffers, Robert; Jarek, Michael; Bhuju, Sabin; Goris, Marga; Mustakim, Sahlawati; Pessler, Frank; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (PLOS, 2021-09-15)
      The ability of Leptospirae to persist in environments and animal hosts but to cause clinically highly variable disease in humans has made leptospirosis the most common zoonotic disease. Considering the paucity of data on variation in complete genomes of human pathogenic Leptospirae, we have used a combination of Single Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) and Illumina sequencing to obtain complete genome sequences of six human clinical L. interrogans isolates from Malaysia. All six contained the larger (4.28-4.56 Mb) and smaller (0.34-0.395 Mb) chromosome typical of human pathogenic Leptospirae and 0-7 plasmids. Only 24% of the plasmid sequences could be matched to databases. We identified a chromosomal core genome of 3318 coding sequences and strain-specific accessory genomes of 49-179 coding sequences. These sequences enabled detailed genomic strain typing (Genome BLAST Distance Phylogeny, DNA-DNA hybridization, and multi locus sequence typing) and phylogenetic classification (whole-genome SNP genotyping). Even though there was some shared synteny and collinearity across the six genomes, there was evidence of major genome rearrangement, likely driven by horizontal gene transfer and homologous recombination. Mobile genetic elements were identified in all strains in highly varying numbers, including in the rfb locus, which defines serogroups and contributes to immune escape and pathogenesis. On the other hand, there was high conservation of virulence-associated genes including those relating to sialic acid, alginate, and lipid A biosynthesis. These findings suggest (i) that the antigenic variation, adaption to various host environments, and broad spectrum of virulence of L. interrogans are in part due to a high degree of genomic plasticity and (ii) that human pathogenic strains maintain a core set of genes required for virulence.
    • Concatemeric Broccoli reduces mRNA stability and induces aggregates.

      Rink, Marco R; Baptista, Marisa A P; Flomm, Felix J; Hennig, Thomas; Whisnant, Adam W; Wolf, Natalia; Seibel, Jürgen; Dölken, Lars; Bosse, Jens B; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (PLOS, 2021-08-04)
      Fluorogenic aptamers are an alternative to established methodology for real-time imaging of RNA transport and dynamics. We developed Broccoli-aptamer concatemers ranging from 4 to 128 substrate-binding site repeats and characterized their behavior fused to an mCherry-coding mRNA in transient transfection, stable expression, and in recombinant cytomegalovirus infection. Concatemerization of substrate-binding sites increased Broccoli fluorescence up to a concatemer length of 16 copies, upon which fluorescence did not increase and mCherry signals declined. This was due to the combined effects of RNA aptamer aggregation and reduced RNA stability. Unfortunately, both cellular and cytomegalovirus genomes were unable to maintain and express high Broccoli concatemer copy numbers, possibly due to recombination events. Interestingly, negative effects of Broccoli concatemers could be partially rescued by introducing linker sequences in between Broccoli repeats warranting further studies. Finally, we show that even though substrate-bound Broccoli is easily photobleached, it can still be utilized in live-cell imaging by adapting a time-lapse imaging protocol.
    • Concentration and composition dependent aggregation of Pluronic- and Poly-(2-oxazolin)-Efavirenz formulations in biorelevant media.

      Endres, Sebastian; Karaev, Emil; Hanio, Simon; Schlauersbach, Jonas; Kraft, Christian; Rasmussen, Tim; Luxenhofer, Robert; Böttcher, Bettina; Meinel, Lorenz; Pöppler, Ann-Christin; et al. (Elsevier, 2021-08-10)
      Many drugs and drug candidates are poorly water-soluble. Intestinal fluids play an important role in their solubilization. However, the interactions of intestinal fluids with polymer excipients, drugs and their formulations are not fully understood. Here, diffusion ordered spectroscopy (DOSY) and nuclear Overhauser effect spectroscopy (NOESY), complemented by cryo-TEM were employed to address this. Efavirenz (EFV) as model drug, the triblock copolymers Pluronic® F-127 (PF127) and poly(2-oxazoline) based pMeOx-b-pPrOzi-b-pMeOx (pOx/pOzi) and their respective formulations were studied in simulated fed-state intestinal fluid (FeSSIF). For the individual polymers, the bile interfering nature of PF127 was confirmed and pure pOx/pOzi was newly classified as non-interfering. A different and more complex behaviour was however observed if EFV was involved. PF127/EFV formulations in FeSSIF showed concentration dependent aggregation with separate colloids at low formulation concentrations, a merging of individual particles at the solubility limit of EFV in FeSSIF and joint aggregates above this concentration. In the case of pOx/pOzi/EFV formulations, coincident diffusion coefficients for pOx/pOzi, lipids and EFV indicate joint aggregates across the studied concentration range. This demonstrates that separate evaluation of polymers and drugs in biorelevant media is not sufficient and their mixtures need to be studied to learn about concentration and composition dependent behaviour.
    • Conditional Hfq Association with Small Noncoding RNAs in Pseudomonas aeruginosa Revealed through Comparative UV Cross-Linking Immunoprecipitation Followed by High-Throughput Sequencing.

      Chihara, Kotaro; Bischler, Thorsten; Barquist, Lars; Monzon, Vivian A; Noda, Naohiro; Vogel, Jörg; Tsuneda, Satoshi (2019-12-03)
      Bacterial small noncoding RNAs (sRNAs) play posttranscriptional regulatory roles in cellular responses to changing environmental cues and in adaptation to harsh conditions. Generally, the RNA-binding protein Hfq helps sRNAs associate with target mRNAs to modulate their translation and to modify global RNA pools depending on physiological state. Here, a combination of in vivo UV cross-linking immunoprecipitation followed by high-throughput sequencing (CLIP-seq) and total RNA-seq showed that Hfq interacts with different regions of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa transcriptome under planktonic versus biofilm conditions. In the present approach, P. aeruginosa Hfq preferentially interacted with repeats of the AAN triplet motif at mRNA 5' untranslated regions (UTRs) and sRNAs and U-rich sequences at rho-independent terminators. Further transcriptome analysis suggested that the association of sRNAs with Hfq is primarily a function of their expression levels, strongly supporting the notion that the pool of Hfq-associated RNAs is equilibrated by RNA concentration-driven cycling on and off Hfq. Overall, our combinatorial CLIP-seq and total RNA-seq approach highlights conditional sRNA associations with Hfq as a novel aspect of posttranscriptional regulation in P. aeruginosaIMPORTANCE The Gram-negative bacterium P. aeruginosa is ubiquitously distributed in diverse environments and can cause severe biofilm-related infections in at-risk individuals. Although the presence of a large number of putative sRNAs and widely conserved RNA chaperones in this bacterium implies the importance of posttranscriptional regulatory networks for environmental fluctuations, limited information is available regarding the global role of RNA chaperones such as Hfq in the P. aeruginosa transcriptome, especially under different environmental conditions. Here, we characterize Hfq-dependent differences in gene expression and biological processes in two physiological states: the planktonic and biofilm forms. A combinatorial comparative CLIP-seq and total RNA-seq approach uncovered condition-dependent association of RNAs with Hfq in vivo and expands the potential direct regulatory targets of Hfq in the P. aeruginosa transcriptome.
    • The conserved 3' UTR-derived small RNA NarS mediates mRNA crossregulation during nitrate respiration.

      Wang, Chuan; Chao, Yanjie; Matera, Gianluca; Gao, Qian; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Oxford Academic, 2019-12-21)
      Small noncoding RNAs (sRNAs) from mRNA 3' UTRs seem to present a previously unrecognized layer of bacterial post-transcriptional control whereby mRNAs influence each other's expression, independently of transcriptional control. Studies in Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica showed that such sRNAs are natural products of RNase E-mediated mRNA decay and associate with major RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) such as Hfq and ProQ. If so, there must be additional sRNAs from mRNAs that accumulate only under specific physiological conditions. We test this prediction by characterizing candidate NarS that represents the 3' UTR of nitrate transporter NarK whose gene is silent during standard aerobic growth. We find that NarS acts by Hfq-dependent base pairing to repress the synthesis of the nitrite transporter, NirC, resulting in mRNA cross-regulation of nitrate and nitrite transporter genes. Interestingly, the NarS-mediated repression selectively targets the nirC cistron of the long nirBDC-cysG operon, an observation that we rationalize as a mechanism to protect the bacterial cytoplasm from excessive nitrite toxicity during anaerobic respiration with abundant nitrate. Our successful functional assignment of a 3' UTR sRNA from a non-standard growth condition supports the notion that mRNA crossregulation is more pervasive than currently appreciated.
    • CRISPR RNA-Dependent Binding and Cleavage of Endogenous RNAs by the Campylobacter jejuni Cas9.

      Dugar, Gaurav; Leenay, Ryan T; Eisenbart, Sara K; Bischler, Thorsten; Aul, Belinda U; Beisel, Chase L; Sharma, Cynthia M; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier/ Cel Press, 2018-03-01)
      Cas9 nucleases naturally utilize CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs) to silence foreign double-stranded DNA. While recent work has shown that some Cas9 nucleases can also target RNA, RNA recognition has required nuclease modifications or accessory factors. Here, we show that the Campylobacter jejuni Cas9 (CjCas9) can bind and cleave complementary endogenous mRNAs in a crRNA-dependent manner. Approximately 100 transcripts co-immunoprecipitated with CjCas9 and generally can be subdivided through their base-pairing potential to the four crRNAs. A subset of these RNAs was cleaved around or within the predicted binding site. Mutational analyses revealed that RNA binding was crRNA and tracrRNA dependent and that target RNA cleavage required the CjCas9 HNH domain. We further observed that RNA cleavage was PAM independent, improved with greater complementarity between the crRNA and the RNA target, and was programmable in vitro. These findings suggest that C. jejuni Cas9 is a promiscuous nuclease that can coordinately target both DNA and RNA.
    • 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.
    • CRISPR-Cas Systems and the Paradox of Self-Targeting Spacers.

      Wimmer, Franziska; Beisel, Chase L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Frontiers, 2019-01-01)
      CRISPR-Cas immune systems in bacteria and archaea record prior infections as spacers within each system's CRISPR arrays. Spacers are normally derived from invasive genetic material and direct the immune system to complementary targets as part of future infections. However, not all spacers appear to be derived from foreign genetic material and instead can originate from the host genome. Their presence poses a paradox, as self-targeting spacers would be expected to induce an autoimmune response and cell death. In this review, we discuss the known frequency of self-targeting spacers in natural CRISPR-Cas systems, how these spacers can be incorporated into CRISPR arrays, and how the host can evade lethal attack. We also discuss how self-targeting spacers can become the basis for alternative functions performed by CRISPR-Cas systems that extend beyond adaptive immunity. Overall, the acquisition of genome-targeting spacers poses a substantial risk but can aid in the host's evolution and potentially lead to or support new functionalities.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • CRP-cAMP mediates silencing of Salmonella virulence at the post-transcriptional level.

      El Mouali, Youssef; Gaviria-Cantin, Tania; Sánchez-Romero, María Antonia; Gibert, Marta; Westermann, Alexander J; Vogel, Jörg; Balsalobre, Carlos; HIRI, Helmoltz-Institut für RNA-basierteInfektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-01-01)
      Invasion of epithelial cells by Salmonella enterica requires expression of genes located in the pathogenicity island I (SPI-1). The expression of SPI-1 genes is very tightly regulated and activated only under specific conditions. Most studies have focused on the regulatory pathways that induce SPI-1 expression. Here, we describe a new regulatory circuit involving CRP-cAMP, a widely established metabolic regulator, in silencing of SPI-1 genes under non-permissive conditions. In CRP-cAMP-deficient strains we detected a strong upregulation of SPI-1 genes in the mid-logarithmic growth phase. Genetic analyses revealed that CRP-cAMP modulates the level of HilD, the master regulator of Salmonella invasion. This regulation occurs at the post-transcriptional level and requires the presence of a newly identified regulatory motif within the hilD 3'UTR. We further demonstrate that in Salmonella the Hfq-dependent sRNA Spot 42 is under the transcriptional repression of CRP-cAMP and, when this transcriptional repression is relieved, Spot 42 exerts a positive effect on hilD expression. In vivo and in vitro assays indicate that Spot 42 targets, through its unstructured region III, the 3'UTR of the hilD transcript. Together, our results highlight the biological relevance of the hilD 3'UTR as a hub for post-transcriptional control of Salmonella invasion gene expression.
    • A decade of advances in transposon-insertion sequencing.

      Cain, Amy K; Barquist, Lars; Goodman, Andrew L; Paulsen, Ian T; Parkhill, Julian; van Opijnen, Tim; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Springer Nature, 2020-06-12)
      It has been 10 years since the introduction of modern transposon-insertion sequencing (TIS) methods, which combine genome-wide transposon mutagenesis with high-throughput sequencing to estimate the fitness contribution or essentiality of each genetic component in a bacterial genome. Four TIS variations were published in 2009: transposon sequencing (Tn-Seq), transposon-directed insertion site sequencing (TraDIS), insertion sequencing (INSeq) and high-throughput insertion tracking by deep sequencing (HITS). TIS has since become an important tool for molecular microbiologists, being one of the few genome-wide techniques that directly links phenotype to genotype and ultimately can assign gene function. In this Review, we discuss the recent applications of TIS to answer overarching biological questions. We explore emerging and multidisciplinary methods that build on TIS, with an eye towards future applications.
    • A detailed cell-free transcription-translation-based assay to decipher CRISPR protospacer-adjacent motifs.

      Maxwell, Colin S; Jacobsen, Thomas; Marshall, Ryan; Noireaux, Vincent; Beisel, Chase L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier, 2018-02-24)
      The RNA-guided nucleases derived from the CRISPR-Cas systems in bacteria and archaea have found numerous applications in biotechnology, including genome editing, imaging, and gene regulation. However, the discovery of novel Cas nucleases has outpaced their characterization and subsequent exploitation. A key step in characterizing Cas nucleases is determining which protospacer-adjacent motif (PAM) sequences they recognize. Here, we report advances to an in vitro method based on an E. coli cell-free transcription-translation system (TXTL) to rapidly elucidate PAMs recognized by Cas nucleases. The method obviates the need for cloning Cas nucleases or gRNAs, does not require the purification of protein or RNA, and can be performed in less than a day. To advance our previously published method, we incorporated an internal GFP cleavage control to assess the extent of library cleavage as well as Sanger sequencing of the cleaved library to assess PAM depletion prior to next-generation sequencing. We also detail the methods needed to construct all relevant DNA constructs, and how to troubleshoot the assay. We finally demonstrate the technique by determining PAM sequences recognized by the Neisseria meningitidis Cas9, revealing subtle sequence requirements of this highly specific PAM. The overall method offers a rapid means to identify PAMs recognized by diverse CRISPR nucleases, with the potential to greatly accelerate our ability to characterize and harness novel CRISPR nucleases across their many uses.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.