Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Cell


Induction of broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) is a primary goal of HIV vaccine development. VRC01-class bnAbs are important vaccine leads because their precursor B cells targeted by an engineered priming immunogen are relatively common among humans. This priming immunogen has demonstrated the ability to initiate a bnAb response in animal models, but recall and maturation toward bnAb development has not been shown. Here, we report the development of boosting immunogens designed to guide the genetic and functional maturation of previously primed VRC01-class precursors. Boosting a transgenic mouse model expressing germline VRC01 heavy chains produced broad neutralization of near-native isolates (N276A) and weak neutralization of fully native HIV. Functional and genetic characteristics indicate that the boosted mAbs are consistent with partially mature VRC01-class antibodies and place them on a maturation trajectory that leads toward mature VRC01-class bnAbs. The results show how reductionist sequential immunization can guide maturation of HIV bnAb responses.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Genetics, Gene expression, Bacteria, Developmental biology, Vaccine, Antigen


Whereas domestication of livestock, pets, and crops is well documented, it is still unclear to what extent microbes associated with the production of food have also undergone human selection and where the plethora of industrial strains originates from. Here, we present the genomes and phenomes of 157 industrial Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeasts. Our analyses reveal that today’s industrial yeasts can be divided into five sublineages that are genetically and phenotypically separated from wild strains and originate from only a few ancestors through complex patterns of domestication and local divergence. Large-scale phenotyping and genome analysis further show strong industry-specific selection for stress tolerance, sugar utilization, and flavor production, while the sexual cycle and other phenotypes related to survival in nature show decay, particularly in beer yeasts. Together, these results shed light on the origins, evolutionary history, and phenotypic diversity of industrial yeasts and provide a resource for further selection of superior strains. PAPERCLIP.

Concepts: Gene, Natural selection, Evolution, Genome, Fungus, Phenotype, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Brewing


The bacteria Yersinia pestis is the etiological agent of plague and has caused human pandemics with millions of deaths in historic times. How and when it originated remains contentious. Here, we report the oldest direct evidence of Yersinia pestis identified by ancient DNA in human teeth from Asia and Europe dating from 2,800 to 5,000 years ago. By sequencing the genomes, we find that these ancient plague strains are basal to all known Yersinia pestis. We find the origins of the Yersinia pestis lineage to be at least two times older than previous estimates. We also identify a temporal sequence of genetic changes that lead to increased virulence and the emergence of the bubonic plague. Our results show that plague infection was endemic in the human populations of Eurasia at least 3,000 years before any historical recordings of pandemics.

Concepts: Bacteria, Europe, Yersinia pestis, Bubonic plague, Black Death, Plague, World population, Third Pandemic


APS1/APECED patients are defined by defects in the autoimmune regulator (AIRE) that mediates central T cell tolerance to many self-antigens. AIRE deficiency also affects B cell tolerance, but this is incompletely understood. Here we show that most APS1/APECED patients displayed B cell autoreactivity toward unique sets of approximately 100 self-proteins. Thereby, autoantibodies from 81 patients collectively detected many thousands of human proteins. The loss of B cell tolerance seemingly occurred during antibody affinity maturation, an obligatorily T cell-dependent step. Consistent with this, many APS1/APECED patients harbored extremely high-affinity, neutralizing autoantibodies, particularly against specific cytokines. Such antibodies were biologically active in vitro and in vivo, and those neutralizing type I interferons (IFNs) showed a striking inverse correlation with type I diabetes, not shown by other anti-cytokine antibodies. Thus, naturally occurring human autoantibodies may actively limit disease and be of therapeutic utility.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Protein, Cytokine, Diabetes mellitus type 1, Immunology, Interferon, Somatic hypermutation


Thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue (BAT) is fundamental to energy balance and is also relevant for humans. Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) regulate adipogenesis, and, here, we describe a role for BMP8B in the direct regulation of thermogenesis. BMP8B is induced by nutritional and thermogenic factors in mature BAT, increasing the response to noradrenaline through enhanced p38MAPK/CREB signaling and increased lipase activity. Bmp8b(-/-) mice exhibit impaired thermogenesis and reduced metabolic rate, causing weight gain despite hypophagia. BMP8B is also expressed in the hypothalamus, and Bmp8b(-/-) mice display altered neuropeptide levels and reduced phosphorylation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), indicating an anorexigenic state. Central BMP8B treatment increased sympathetic activation of BAT, dependent on the status of AMPK in key hypothalamic nuclei. Our results indicate that BMP8B is a thermogenic protein that regulates energy balance in partnership with hypothalamic AMPK. BMP8B may offer a mechanism to specifically increase energy dissipation by BAT.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Leptin, Brown adipose tissue, Bone morphogenetic protein, Adiponectin


The association of histone modification changes with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has not been systematically examined. We conducted a histone acetylome-wide association study (HAWAS) by performing H3K27ac chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) on 257 postmortem samples from ASD and matched control brains. Despite etiological heterogeneity, ≥68% of syndromic and idiopathic ASD cases shared a common acetylome signature at >5,000 cis-regulatory elements in prefrontal and temporal cortex. Similarly, multiple genes associated with rare genetic mutations in ASD showed common “epimutations.” Acetylome aberrations in ASD were not attributable to genetic differentiation at cis-SNPs and highlighted genes involved in synaptic transmission, ion transport, epilepsy, behavioral abnormality, chemokinesis, histone deacetylation, and immunity. By correlating histone acetylation with genotype, we discovered >2,000 histone acetylation quantitative trait loci (haQTLs) in human brain regions, including four candidate causal variants for psychiatric diseases. Due to the relative stability of histone modifications postmortem, we anticipate that the HAWAS approach will be applicable to multiple diseases.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Brain, Histone, DNA repair, Cerebral cortex, Acetylation


Large numbers of inbred laboratory rat strains have been developed for a range of complex disease phenotypes. To gain insights into the evolutionary pressures underlying selection for these phenotypes, we sequenced the genomes of 27 rat strains, including 11 models of hypertension, diabetes, and insulin resistance, along with their respective control strains. Altogether, we identified more than 13 million single-nucleotide variants, indels, and structural variants across these rat strains. Analysis of strain-specific selective sweeps and gene clusters implicated genes and pathways involved in cation transport, angiotensin production, and regulators of oxidative stress in the development of cardiovascular disease phenotypes in rats. Many of the rat loci that we identified overlap with previously mapped loci for related traits in humans, indicating the presence of shared pathways underlying these phenotypes in rats and humans. These data represent a step change in resources available for evolutionary analysis of complex traits in disease models. PAPERCLIP:

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Natural selection, Evolution, Molecular biology, Rat, Selection


The 2013-2016 outbreak of Ebola virus (EBOV) in West Africa was the largest recorded. It began following the cross-species transmission of EBOV from an animal reservoir, most likely bats, into humans, with phylogenetic analysis revealing the co-circulation of several viral lineages. We hypothesized that this prolonged human circulation led to genomic changes that increased viral transmissibility in humans. We generated a synthetic glycoprotein (GP) construct based on the earliest reported isolate and introduced amino acid substitutions that defined viral lineages. Mutant GPs were used to generate a panel of pseudoviruses, which were used to infect different human and bat cell lines. These data revealed that specific amino acid substitutions in the EBOV GP have increased tropism for human cells, while reducing tropism for bat cells. Such increased infectivity may have enhanced the ability of EBOV to transmit among humans and contributed to the wide geographic distribution of some viral lineages.

Concepts: Protein, Gene, Genetics, Human, Amino acid, Africa, Mammal, Primate


Deep sequencing now provides detailed snapshots of ribosome occupancy on mRNAs. We leverage these data to parameterize a computational model of translation, keeping track of every ribosome, tRNA, and mRNA molecule in a yeast cell. We determine the parameter regimes in which fast initiation or high codon bias in a transgene increases protein yield and infer the initiation rates of endogenous Saccharomyces cerevisiae genes, which vary by several orders of magnitude and correlate with 5' mRNA folding energies. Our model recapitulates the previously reported 5'-to-3' ramp of decreasing ribosome densities, although our analysis shows that this ramp is caused by rapid initiation of short genes rather than slow codons at the start of transcripts. We conclude that protein production in healthy yeast cells is typically limited by the availability of free ribosomes, whereas protein production under periods of stress can sometimes be rescued by reducing initiation or elongation rates.

Concepts: Protein, Cell nucleus, RNA, Ribosome, Yeast, Messenger RNA, Protein biosynthesis, Genetic code


Interspecies blastocyst complementation enables organ-specific enrichment of xenogenic pluripotent stem cell (PSC) derivatives. Here, we establish a versatile blastocyst complementation platform based on CRISPR-Cas9-mediated zygote genome editing and show enrichment of rat PSC-derivatives in several tissues of gene-edited organogenesis-disabled mice. Besides gaining insights into species evolution, embryogenesis, and human disease, interspecies blastocyst complementation might allow human organ generation in animals whose organ size, anatomy, and physiology are closer to humans. To date, however, whether human PSCs (hPSCs) can contribute to chimera formation in non-rodent species remains unknown. We systematically evaluate the chimeric competency of several types of hPSCs using a more diversified clade of mammals, the ungulates. We find that naïve hPSCs robustly engraft in both pig and cattle pre-implantation blastocysts but show limited contribution to post-implantation pig embryos. Instead, an intermediate hPSC type exhibits higher degree of chimerism and is able to generate differentiated progenies in post-implantation pig embryos.

Concepts: Cell, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Mammal, Human anatomy, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Pluripotency, Inner cell mass