• Letter by Cochain et al Regarding Article, "Transcriptome Analysis Reveals Nonfoamy Rather Than Foamy Plaque Macrophages Are Proinflammatory in Atherosclerotic Murine Models".

      Cochain, Clément; Saliba, Antoine-Emmanuel; Zernecke, Alma; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany.
    • Leveraging bile solubilization of poorly water-soluble drugs by rational polymer selection.

      Schlauersbach, Jonas; Hanio, Simon; Lenz, Bettina; Vemulapalli, Sahithya P B; Griesinger, Christian; Pöppler, Ann-Christin; Harlacher, Cornelius; Galli, Bruno; Meinel, Lorenz; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier, 2020-12-15)
      Poorly water-soluble drugs frequently solubilize into bile colloids and this natural mechanism is key for efficient bioavailability. We tested the impact of pharmaceutical polymers on this solubilization interplay using proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, dynamic light scattering, and by assessing the flux across model membranes. Eudragit E, Soluplus, and a therapeutically used model polymer, Colesevelam, impacted the bile-colloidal geometry and molecular interaction. These polymer-induced changes reduced the flux of poorly water-soluble and bile interacting drugs (Perphenazine, Imatinib) but did not impact the flux of bile non-interacting Metoprolol. Non-bile interacting polymers (Kollidon VA 64, HPMC-AS) neither impacted the flux of colloid-interacting nor colloid-non-interacting drugs. These insights into the drug substance/polymer/bile colloid interplay potentially point towards a practical optimization parameter steering formulations to efficient bile-solubilization by rational polymer selection.
    • 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.
    • Longitudinal Multi-omics Analyses Identify Responses of Megakaryocytes, Erythroid Cells, and Plasmablasts as Hallmarks of Severe COVID-19.

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

      Wheeler, Nicole E; Gardner, Paul P; Barquist, Lars; HIRI, Helmoltz-Institut für RNA-basierteInfektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-01-01)
      Emerging pathogens are a major threat to public health, however understanding how pathogens adapt to new niches remains a challenge. New methods are urgently required to provide functional insights into pathogens from the massive genomic data sets now being generated from routine pathogen surveillance for epidemiological purposes. Here, we measure the burden of atypical mutations in protein coding genes across independently evolved Salmonella enterica lineages, and use these as input to train a random forest classifier to identify strains associated with extraintestinal disease. Members of the species fall along a continuum, from pathovars which cause gastrointestinal infection and low mortality, associated with a broad host-range, to those that cause invasive infection and high mortality, associated with a narrowed host range. Our random forest classifier learned to perfectly discriminate long-established gastrointestinal and invasive serovars of Salmonella. Additionally, it was able to discriminate recently emerged Salmonella Enteritidis and Typhimurium lineages associated with invasive disease in immunocompromised populations in sub-Saharan Africa, and within-host adaptation to invasive infection. We dissect the architecture of the model to identify the genes that were most informative of phenotype, revealing a common theme of degradation of metabolic pathways in extraintestinal lineages. This approach accurately identifies patterns of gene degradation and diversifying selection specific to invasive serovars that have been captured by more labour-intensive investigations, but can be readily scaled to larger analyses.
    • 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
    • MAPS integrates regulation of actin-targeting effector SteC into the virulence control network of Salmonella small RNA PinT.

      Correia Santos, Sara; Bischler, Thorsten; Westermann, Alexander J; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier (Cell Press), 2021-02-02)
      A full understanding of the contribution of small RNAs (sRNAs) to bacterial virulence demands knowledge of their target suites under infection-relevant conditions. Here, we take an integrative approach to capturing targets of the Hfq-associated sRNA PinT, a known post-transcriptional timer of the two major virulence programs of Salmonella enterica. Using MS2 affinity purification and RNA sequencing (MAPS), we identify PinT ligands in bacteria under in vitro conditions mimicking specific stages of the infection cycle and in bacteria growing inside macrophages. This reveals PinT-mediated translational inhibition of the secreted effector kinase SteC, which had gone unnoticed in previous target searches. Using genetic, biochemical, and microscopic assays, we provide evidence for PinT-mediated repression of steC mRNA, eventually delaying actin rearrangements in infected host cells. Our findings support the role of PinT as a central post-transcriptional regulator in Salmonella virulence and illustrate the need for complementary methods to reveal the full target suites of sRNAs.
    • Mechanism and consequences of herpes simplex virus 1-mediated regulation of host mRNA alternative polyadenylation.

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

      Simon, L. M.; Karg, S.; Westermann, A. J.; Engel, M.; Elbehery, A. H.A.; Hense, B.; Heinig, M.; Deng, L.; Theis, F. J.; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Oxford University Press, 2018-06-01)
      Background: With the advent of the age of big data in bioinformatics, large volumes of data and high-performance computing power enable researchers to perform re-analyses of publicly available datasets at an unprecedented scale. Ever more studies imply the microbiome in both normal human physiology and a wide range of diseases. RNA sequencing technology (RNA-seq) is commonly used to infer global eukaryotic gene expression patterns under defined conditions, including human disease-related contexts; however, its generic nature also enables the detection of microbial and viral transcripts. Findings: We developed a bioinformatic pipeline to screen existing human RNA-seq datasets for the presence of microbial and viral reads by re-inspecting the non-human-mapping read fraction. We validated this approach by recapitulating outcomes from six independent, controlled infection experiments of cell line models and compared them with an alternative metatranscriptomic mapping strategy. We then applied the pipeline to close to 150 terabytes of publicly available raw RNA-seq data from  more than 17,000 samples from more than 400 studies relevant to human disease using state-of-the-art high-performance computing systems. The resulting data from this large-scale re-analysis are made available in the presented MetaMap resource. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that common human RNA-seq data, including those archived in public repositories, might contain valuable information to correlate microbial and viral detection patterns with diverse diseases. The presented MetaMap database thus provides a rich resource for hypothesis generation toward the role of the microbiome in human disease. Additionally, codes to process new datasets and perform statistical analyses are made available.
    • Methods for characterizing, applying, and teaching CRISPR-Cas systems.

      Beisel, Chase L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier, 2020-01-16)
      New drugs are desperately needed to combat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections. Here, we report screening commercial kinase inhibitors for antibacterial activity and found the anticancer drug sorafenib as major hit that effec-tively kills MRSA strains. Varying the key structural features led to the identification of a potent analogue, PK150, that showed antibacterial activity against several pathogenic strains at submicromolar concentrations. Furthermore, this antibiotic eliminated challenging persisters as well as established biofilms. PK150 holds promising therapeutic potential as it did not induce in vitro resistance, and shows oral bioavailability and in vivo efficacy. Analysis of the mode of action using chemical proteomics revealed several targets, which included interference with menaquinone biosynthesis by inhibiting demethylmenaquinone methyltrans-ferase and the stimulation of protein secretion by altering the activity of signal peptidase IB. Reduced endogenous menaquinone levels along with enhanced levels of extracellular proteins of PK150-treated bacteria support this target hypothesis. The associ-ated antibiotic effects, especially the lack of resistance development, probably stem from the compound’s polypharmacology.
    • The minimal meningococcal ProQ protein has an intrinsic capacity for structure-based global RNA recognition.

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

      Smirnov, Alexandre; Wang, Chuan; Drewry, Lisa L; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmoltz-Institut für RNA-basierteInfektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2017-04-13)
      Research into post-transcriptional control of mRNAs by small noncoding RNAs (sRNAs) in the model bacteria Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica has mainly focused on sRNAs that associate with the RNA chaperone Hfq. However, the recent discovery of the protein ProQ as a common binding partner that stabilizes a distinct large class of structured sRNAs suggests that additional RNA regulons exist in these organisms. The cellular functions and molecular mechanisms of these new ProQ-dependent sRNAs are largely unknown. Here, we report in Salmonella Typhimurium the mode-of-action of RaiZ, a ProQ-dependent sRNA that is made from the 30 end of the mRNA encoding ribosome-inactivating protein RaiA. We show that RaiZ is a base-pairing sRNA that represses in trans the mRNA of histone-like protein HU-a. RaiZ forms an RNA duplex with the ribosome-binding site of hupA mRNA, facilitated by ProQ, to prevent 30S ribosome loading and protein synthesis of HU-a. Similarities and differences between ProQ- and Hfqmediated regulation will be discussed.
    • Morphological, genomic and transcriptomic responses of Klebsiella pneumoniae to the last-line antibiotic colistin.

      Cain, Amy K; Boinett, Christine J; Barquist, Lars; Dordel, Janina; Fookes, Maria; Mayho, Matthew; Ellington, Matthew J; Goulding, David; Pickard, Derek; Wick, Ryan R; et al. (2018-06-29)
      Colistin remains one of the few antibiotics effective against multi-drug resistant (MDR) hospital pathogens, such as Klebsiella pneumoniae. Yet resistance to this last-line drug is rapidly increasing. Characterized mechanisms of col
    • 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.
    • New RNA-seq approaches for the study of bacterial pathogens.

      Saliba, Antoine-Emmanuel; C Santos, Sara; Vogel, Jörg; Helmoltz-Institut für RNA-basierteInfektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2017-01-01)
      Understanding how bacteria cause disease requires knowledge of which genes are expressed and how they are regulated during infection. While RNA-seq is now a routine method for gene expression analysis in bacterial pathogens, the past years have also witnessed a surge of novel RNA-seq based approaches going beyond standard mRNA profiling. These include variations of the technique to capture post-transcriptional networks controlled by small RNAs and to discover associated RNA-binding proteins in the pathogen itself. Dual RNA-seq analyzing pathogen and host simultaneously has revealed roles of noncoding RNAs during infection and enabled the correlation of bacterial gene activity with specific host responses. Single-cell RNA-seq studies have addressed how heterogeneity among individual host cells may determine infection outcomes.
    • Nuclear lncRNA stabilization in the host response to bacterial infection.

      Munschauer, Mathias; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-07-02)
      Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) play important roles in many cellular pathways, but their contribution to the defense of eukaryotic cells against pathogens remains poorly understood. A new study from Imamura et al in The EMBO Journal reports that Salmonella infection in human cells impacts nuclear RNA decay, which in turn drives the accumulation of otherwise unstable nuclear lncRNAs, some of which may have protective effects against this common bacterial pathogen. These unexpected findings demand more efforts to fully decrypt the molecular functions of lncRNAs in innate and adaptive immunity.
    • Opposing Wnt signals regulate cervical squamocolumnar homeostasis and emergence of metaplasia.

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

      Barquist, Lars; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (ASM, 2020-06-02)
      Small RNAs (sRNAs) have been discovered in every bacterium examined and have been shown to play important roles in the regulation of a diverse range of behaviors, from metabolism to infection. However, despite a wide range of available techniques for discovering and validating sRNA regulatory interactions, only a minority of these molecules have been well characterized. In part, this is due to the nature of posttranscriptional regulation: the activity of an sRNA depends on the state of the transcriptome as a whole, so characterization is best carried out under the conditions in which it is naturally active. In this issue of mSystems, Arrieta-Ortiz and colleagues (M. L. Arrieta-Ortiz, C. Hafemeister, B. Shuster, N. S. Baliga, et al., mSystems 5:e00057-20, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1128/mSystems.00057-20) present a network inference approach based on estimating sRNA activity across transcriptomic compendia. This shows promise not only for identifying new sRNA regulatory interactions but also for pinpointing the conditions in which these interactions occur, providing a new avenue toward functional characterization of sRNAs.
    • 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.