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Journal: Genes


The 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway is responsible for the biosynthesis of many crucial secondary metabolites, such as carotenoids, monoterpenes, plastoquinone, and tocopherols. In this study, we isolated and identified 10 MEP pathway genes in the important aromatic plant sweet osmanthus (Osmanthus fragrans). Multiple sequence alignments revealed that 10 MEP pathway genes shared high identities with other reported proteins. The genes showed distinctive expression profiles in various tissues, or at different flower stages and diel time points. The qRT-PCR results demonstrated that these genes were highly expressed in inflorescences, which suggested a tissue-specific transcript pattern. Our results also showed that OfDXS1, OfDXS2, and OfHDR1 had a clear diurnal oscillation pattern. The isolation and expression analysis provides a strong foundation for further research on the MEP pathway involved in gene function and molecular evolution, and improves our understanding of the molecular mechanism underlying this pathway in plants.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Transcription, Molecular biology, Metabolism, Osmanthus fragrans, Osmanthus


Mitochondrial RNAs in the acellular slime mold Physarum polycephalum contain nucleotides that are not encoded in the mitochondrial genes from which they are transcribed. These site-specific changes are quite extensive, comprising ~4% of the residues within mRNAs and ~2% of rRNAs and tRNAs. These “extra” nucleotides are added co-transcriptionally, but the means by which this is accomplished have not been elucidated. The cox1 mRNA also contains four sites of C to U changes, which occur post-transcriptionally, most likely via targeted deamination. The currently available in vitro systems for studying P. polycephalum editing are limited in that the template is the entire ~63,000 bp mitochondrial genome. This presents a significant challenge when trying to define the signals that specify editing sites. In an attempt to overcome this issue, a method for introducing DNA into isolated P. polycephalum mitochondria via electroporation has been developed. Exogenous DNA is expressed, but the transcripts synthesized from these templates are not edited under the conditions tested. However, transcripts derived from the mitochondrial genome are accurately edited after electroporation, indicating that the editing machinery is still functional. These findings suggest that this method may ultimately provide a feasible approach to elucidating editing signals.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Bacteria, RNA, Messenger RNA, Physarum polycephalum


High throughput sequencing (HTS) has been used for a number of years in the field of paleogenomics to facilitate the recovery of small DNA fragments from ancient specimens. Recently, these techniques have also been applied in forensics, where they have been used for the recovery of mitochondrial DNA sequences from samples where traditional PCR-based assays fail because of the very short length of endogenous DNA molecules. Here, we describe the biological sexing of a ~4000-year-old Egyptian mummy using shotgun sequencing and two established methods of biological sex determination (RXand RY), by way of mitochondrial genome analysis as a means of sequence data authentication. This particular case of historical interest increases the potential utility of HTS techniques for forensic purposes by demonstrating that data from the more discriminatory nuclear genome can be recovered from the most damaged specimens, even in cases where mitochondrial DNA cannot be recovered with current PCR-based forensic technologies. Although additional work remains to be done before nuclear DNA recovered via these methods can be used routinely in operational casework for individual identification purposes, these results indicate substantial promise for the retrieval of probative individually identifying DNA data from the most limited and degraded forensic specimens.

Concepts: DNA, Molecular biology, Biology, Mitochondrion, Mitochondrial DNA, DNA sequencing, Sequence, Nuclear DNA


The beluga whale is a cetacean that inhabits arctic and subarctic regions, and is the only living member of the genus Delphinapterus. The genome of the beluga whale was determined using DNA sequencing approaches that employed both microfluidic partitioning library and non-partitioned library construction. The former allowed for the construction of a highly contiguous assembly with a scaffold N50 length of over 19 Mbp and total reconstruction of 2.32 Gbp. To aid our understanding of the functional elements, transcriptome data was also derived from brain, duodenum, heart, lung, spleen, and liver tissue. Assembled sequence and all of the underlying sequence data are available at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) under the Bioproject accession number PRJNA360851A.

Concepts: Liver, Sequence, Megafauna, Narwhal, Cook Inlet, Beluga whale, Pour la suite du monde, Monodontidae


One hundred and seventy-three years ago, the last two Great Auks, Pinguinusimpennis, ever reliably seen were killed. Their internal organs can be found in the collections of the Natural History Museum of Denmark, but the location of their skins has remained a mystery. In 1999, Great Auk expert Errol Fuller proposed a list of five potential candidate skins in museums around the world. Here we take a palaeogenomic approach to test which-if any-of Fuller’s candidate skins likely belong to either of the two birds. Using mitochondrial genomes from the five candidate birds (housed in museums in Bremen, Brussels, Kiel, Los Angeles, and Oldenburg) and the organs of the last two known individuals, we partially solve the mystery that has been on Great Auk scholars' minds for generations and make new suggestions as to the whereabouts of the still-missing skin from these two birds.

Concepts: Cell, Organelle, Bird, Skin, Penguin, Museum, Auk, Great Auk


Human activities significantly affect all ecosystems on the planet, including the assemblages that comprise our own microbiota. Over the last five million years, various evolutionary and ecological drivers have altered the composition of the human microbiota, including the use of fire, the invention of agriculture, and the increasing availability of processed foods after the Industrial Revolution. However, no factor has had a faster or more direct effect than antimicrobial agents. Biocides, disinfectants and antibiotics select for individual cells that carry resistance genes, immediately reducing both overall microbial diversity and within-species genetic diversity. Treated individuals may never recover their original diversity, and repeated treatments lead to a series of genetic bottlenecks. The sequential introduction of diverse antimicrobial agents has selected for increasingly complex DNA elements that carry multiple resistance genes, and has fostered their spread through the human microbiota. Practices that interfere with microbial colonization, such as sanitation, Caesarian births and bottle-feeding, exacerbate the effects of antimicrobials, generating species-poor and less resilient microbial assemblages in the developed world. More and more evidence is accumulating that these perturbations to our internal ecosystems lie at the heart of many diseases whose frequency has shown a dramatic increase over the last half century.

Concepts: Archaea, Bacteria, Biodiversity, Evolution, Organism, Species, Ecology, Antimicrobial


The metal-specific CzcRS two-component system in Pseudomonas aeruginosa is involved in the repression of the OprD porin, causing in turn carbapenem antibiotic resistance in the presence of high zinc concentration. It has also been shown that CzcR is able to directly regulate the expression of multiple genes including virulence factors. CzcR is therefore an important regulator connecting (i) metal response, (ii) pathogenicity and (iii) antibiotic resistance in P. aeruginosa. Recent data have suggested that other regulators could negatively control oprD expression in the presence of zinc. Here we show that the RNA chaperone Hfq is a key factor acting independently of CzcR for the repression of oprD upon Zn treatment. Additionally, we found that an Hfq-dependent mechanism is necessary for the localization of CzcR to the oprD promoter, mediating oprD transcriptional repression. Furthermore, in the presence of Cu, CopR, the transcriptional regulator of the CopRS two-component system also requires Hfq for oprD repression. Altogether, these results suggest important roles for this RNA chaperone in the context of environment-sensing and antibiotic resistance in P. aeruginosa.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Bacteria, Antibiotic resistance, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, RNA polymerase, Pseudomonas


In order to characterize the female or male transcriptome of the Pacific abalone and further increase genomic resources, we sequenced the mRNA of full-length complementary DNA (cDNA) libraries derived from pooled tissues of female and male Haliotis discus hannai by employing the Iso-Seq protocol of the PacBio RSII platform. We successfully assembled whole full-length cDNA sequences and constructed a transcriptome database that included isoform information. After clustering, a total of 15,110 and 12,145 genes that coded for proteins were identified in female and male abalones, respectively. A total of 13,057 putative orthologs were retained from each transcriptome in abalones. Overall Gene Ontology terms and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathways analyzed in each database showed a similar composition between sexes. In addition, a total of 519 and 391 isoforms were genome-widely identified with at least two isoforms from female and male transcriptome databases. We found that the number of isoforms and their alternatively spliced patterns are variable and sex-dependent. This information represents the first significant contribution to sex-preferential genomic resources of the Pacific abalone. The availability of whole female and male transcriptome database and their isoform information will be useful to improve our understanding of molecular responses and also for the analysis of population dynamics in the Pacific abalone.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Transcription, Molecular biology, RNA, RNA splicing


Ancient DNA (aDNA) has the ability to inform the evolutionary history of both extant and extinct taxa; however, the use of aDNA in the study of avian evolution is lacking in comparison to other vertebrates, despite birds being one of the most species-rich vertebrate classes. Here, we review the field of “avian ancient DNA” by summarising the past three decades of literature on this topic. Most studies over this time have used avian aDNA to reconstruct phylogenetic relationships and clarify taxonomy based on the sequencing of a few mitochondrial loci, but recent studies are moving toward using a comparative genomics approach to address developmental and functional questions. Applying aDNA analysis with more practical outcomes in mind (such as managing conservation) is another increasingly popular trend among studies that utilise avian aDNA, but the majority of these have yet to influence management policy. We find that while there have been advances in extracting aDNA from a variety of avian substrates including eggshell, feathers, and coprolites, there is a bias in the temporal focus; the majority of the ca. 150 studies reviewed here obtained aDNA from late Holocene (100-1000 yBP) material, with few studies investigating Pleistocene-aged material. In addition, we identify and discuss several other issues within the field that require future attention. With more than one quarter of Holocene bird extinctions occurring in the last several hundred years, it is more important than ever to understand the mechanisms driving the evolution and extinction of bird species through the use of aDNA.

Concepts: DNA, Conservation biology, Evolution, Bird, Evolutionary biology, Phylogenetic tree, Extinction, Dinosaur


The northern sea otter inhabits coastal waters of the northern Pacific Ocean and is the largest member of the Mustelidae family. DNA sequencing methods that utilize microfluidic partitioned and non-partitioned library construction were used to establish the sea otter genome. The final assembly provided 2.426 Gbp of highly contiguous assembled genomic sequences with a scaffold N50 length of over 38 Mbp. We generated transcriptome data derived from a lymphoma to aid in the determination of functional elements. The assembled genome sequence and underlying sequence data are available at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) under the BioProject accession number PRJNA388419.

Concepts: DNA, Human Genome Project, Genome, Sequence, Pacific Ocean, Mustelidae, Sea otter, Otter