• Transcriptional noise and exaptation as sources for bacterial sRNAs.

      Jose, Bethany R; Gardner, Paul P; Barquist, Lars; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Portland Press, 2019-04-30)
      Understanding how new genes originate and integrate into cellular networks is key to understanding evolution. Bacteria present unique opportunities for both the natural history and experimental study of gene origins, due to their large effective population sizes, rapid generation times, and ease of genetic manipulation. Bacterial small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs), in particular, many of which operate through a simple antisense regulatory logic, may serve as tractable models for exploring processes of gene origin and adaptation. Understanding how and on what timescales these regulatory molecules arise has important implications for understanding the evolution of bacterial regulatory networks, in particular, for the design of comparative studies of sRNA function. Here, we introduce relevant concepts from evolutionary biology and review recent work that has begun to shed light on the timescales and processes through which non-functional transcriptional noise is co-opted to provide regulatory functions. We explore possible scenarios for sRNA origin, focusing on the co-option, or exaptation, of existing genomic structures which may provide protected spaces for sRNA evolution.
    • Transcriptome profiling and protease inhibition experiments identify proteases that activate H3N2 influenza A and influenza B viruses in murine airways.

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

      Jacobsen, Thomas; Yi, Gloria; Al Asafen, Hadel; Jermusyk, Ashley A; Beisel, Chase L; Reeves, Gregory T; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (PLOS, 2020-04-30)
      Advancements in the field of synthetic biology have been possible due to the development of genetic tools that are able to regulate gene expression. However, the current toolbox of gene regulatory tools for eukaryotic systems have been outpaced by those developed for simple, single-celled systems. Here, we engineered a set of gene regulatory tools by combining self-cleaving ribozymes with various upstream competing sequences that were designed to disrupt ribozyme self-cleavage. As a proof-of-concept, we were able to modulate GFP expression in mammalian cells, and then showed the feasibility of these tools in Drosophila embryos. For each system, the fold-reduction of gene expression was influenced by the location of the self-cleaving ribozyme/upstream competing sequence (i.e. 5' vs. 3' untranslated region) and the competing sequence used. Together, this work provides a set of genetic tools that can be used to tune gene expression across various eukaryotic systems.
    • The World of Stable Ribonucleoproteins and Its Mapping With Grad-Seq and Related Approaches.

      Gerovac, Milan; Vogel, Jörg; Smirnov, Alexandre; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Frontiers, 2021-04-07)
      Macromolecular complexes of proteins and RNAs are essential building blocks of cells. These stable supramolecular particles can be viewed as minimal biochemical units whose structural organization, i.e., the way the RNA and the protein interact with each other, is directly linked to their biological function. Whether those are dynamic regulatory ribonucleoproteins (RNPs) or integrated molecular machines involved in gene expression, the comprehensive knowledge of these units is critical to our understanding of key molecular mechanisms and cell physiology phenomena. Such is the goal of diverse complexomic approaches and in particular of the recently developed gradient profiling by sequencing (Grad-seq). By separating cellular protein and RNA complexes on a density gradient and quantifying their distributions genome-wide by mass spectrometry and deep sequencing, Grad-seq charts global landscapes of native macromolecular assemblies. In this review, we propose a function-based ontology of stable RNPs and discuss how Grad-seq and related approaches transformed our perspective of bacterial and eukaryotic ribonucleoproteins by guiding the discovery of new RNA-binding proteins and unusual classes of noncoding RNAs. We highlight some methodological aspects and developments that permit to further boost the power of this technique and to look for exciting new biology in understudied and challenging biological models.
    • 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.
    • The Zinc Finger Antiviral Protein ZAP Restricts Human Cytomegalovirus and Selectively Binds and Destabilizes Viral / Transcripts.

      Gonzalez-Perez, Ana Cristina; Stempel, Markus; Wyler, Emanuel; Urban, Christian; Piras, Antonio; Hennig, Thomas; Ganskih, Sabina; Wei, Yuanjie; Heim, Albert; Landthaler, Markus; et al. (ASM, 2021-05-04)
      Interferon-stimulated gene products (ISGs) play a crucial role in early infection control. The ISG zinc finger CCCH-type antiviral protein 1 (ZAP/ZC3HAV1) antagonizes several RNA viruses by binding to CG-rich RNA sequences, whereas its effect on DNA viruses is less well understood. Here, we decipher the role of ZAP in the context of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection, a β-herpesvirus that is associated with high morbidity in immunosuppressed individuals and newborns. We show that expression of the two major isoforms of ZAP, ZAP-S and ZAP-L, is induced during HCMV infection and that both negatively affect HCMV replication. Transcriptome and proteome analyses demonstrated that the expression of ZAP results in reduced viral mRNA and protein levels and decelerates the progression of HCMV infection. Metabolic RNA labeling combined with high-throughput sequencing (SLAM-seq) revealed that most of the gene expression changes late in infection result from the general attenuation of HCMV. Furthermore, at early stages of infection, ZAP restricts HCMV by destabilizing a distinct subset of viral mRNAs, particularly those from the previously uncharacterized UL4-UL6 HCMV gene locus. Through enhanced cross-linking immunoprecipitation and sequencing analysis (eCLIP-seq), we identified the transcripts expressed from this HCMV locus as the direct targets of ZAP. Moreover, our data show that ZAP preferentially recognizes not only CG, but also other cytosine-rich sequences, thereby expanding its target specificity. In summary, this report is the first to reveal direct targets of ZAP during HCMV infection, which strongly indicates that transcripts from the UL4-UL6 locus may play an important role for HCMV replication.IMPORTANCE Viral infections have a large impact on society, leading to major human and economic losses and even global instability. So far, many viral infections, including human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection, are treated with a small repertoire of drugs, often accompanied by the occurrence of resistant mutants. There is no licensed HCMV vaccine in sight to protect those most at risk, particularly immunocompromised individuals or pregnant women who might otherwise transmit the virus to the fetus. Thus, the identification of novel intervention strategies is urgently required. In this study, we show that ZAP decelerates the viral gene expression cascade, presumably by selectively handpicking a distinct set of viral transcripts for degradation. Our study illustrates the potent role of ZAP as an HCMV restriction factor and sheds light on a possible role for UL4 and/or UL5 early during infection, paving a new avenue for the exploration of potential targets for novel therapies.