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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


Pneumonia is the leading cause of death amongst infectious diseases. Streptococcus pneumoniae is responsible for about 25% of pneumonia cases worldwide, and it is a major cause of childhood mortality. We carried out a whole exome sequencing (WES) study in eight patients with complicated cases of pneumococcal pneumonia (empyema). An initial assessment of statistical association of WES variation with pneumonia was carried out using data from the 1000 Genomes Project (1000G) for the Iberian Peninsula (IBS) as reference controls. Pseudo-replication statistical analyses were carried out using different European control groups. Association tests pointed to single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs201967957 (gene MEIS1; chromosome 2; p-valueIBS = 3.71 × 10-13) and rs576099063 (gene TSPAN15; chromosome 10; p-valueIBS = 2.36 × 10-8) as the best candidate variants associated to pneumococcal pneumonia. A burden gene test of pathogenicity signaled four genes, namely, OR9G9, MUC6, MUC3A and APOB, which carry significantly increased pathogenic variation when compared to controls. By analyzing various transcriptomic data repositories, we found strong supportive evidence for the role of MEIS1, TSPAN15 and APOBR (encoding the receptor of the APOB protein) in pneumonia in mouse and human models. Furthermore, the association of the olfactory receptor gene OR9G9 has recently been related to some viral infectious diseases, while the role of mucin genes (MUC6 and MUC3A), encoding mucin glycoproteins, are well-known factors related to chronic obstructive airway disease. WES emerges as a promising technique to disentangle the genetic basis of host genome susceptibility to infectious respiratory diseases.


Environmental abiotic stresses are limiting factors for less tolerant organisms, including soil plants. Abiotic stress tolerance-associated genes from prokaryotic organisms are supposed to have a bright prospect for transgenic application. The drought-adapted cyanobacterium Nostoc flagelliforme is arising as a valuable prokaryotic biotic resource for gene excavation. In this study, we evaluated the salt-tolerant function and application potential of a candidate gene drnf1 from N. flagelliforme, which contains a P-loop NTPase (nucleoside-triphosphatase) domain, through heterologous expression in two model organisms Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 and Arabidopsis thaliana. It was found that DRNF1 could confer significant salt tolerance in both transgenic organisms. In salt-stressed transgenic Synechocystis, DRNF1 could enhance the respiration rate; slow-down the accumulation of exopolysaccharides; up-regulate the expression of salt tolerance-related genes at a higher level, such as those related to glucosylglycerol synthesis, Na⁺/H⁺ antiport, and sugar metabolism; and maintain a better K⁺/Na⁺ homeostasis, as compared to the wild-type strain. These results imply that DRNF1 could facilitate salt tolerance by affecting the respiration metabolism and indirectly regulating the expression of important salt-tolerant genes. Arabidopsis was employed to evaluate the salt tolerance-conferring potential of DRNF1 in plants. The results show that it could enhance the seed germination and shoot growth of transgenic plants under saline conditions. In general, a novel prokaryotic salt-tolerant gene from N. flagelliforme was identified and characterized in this study, enriching the candidate gene pool for genetic engineering in plants.


Rediscovering species once thought to be extinct or on the edge of extinction is rare. Red wolves have been extinct along the American Gulf Coast since 1980, with their last populations found in coastal Louisiana and Texas. We report the rediscovery of red wolf ghost alleles in a canid population on Galveston Island, Texas. We analyzed over 7000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 60 canid representatives from all legally recognized North American Canis species and two phenotypically ambiguous canids from Galveston Island. We found notably high Bayesian cluster assignments of the Galveston canids to captive red wolves with extensive sharing of red wolf private alleles. Today, the only known extant wild red wolves persist in a reintroduced population in North Carolina, which is dwindling amongst political and taxonomic controversy. Our rediscovery of red wolf ancestry after almost 40 years introduces both positive opportunities for additional conservation action and difficult policy challenges.


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 interest in human space journeys to distant planets and moons has been re-ignited in recent times and there are ongoing plans for sending the first manned missions to Mars in the near future. In addition to generating oxygen, fixing carbon, and recycling waste and water, plants could play a critical role in producing food and biomass feedstock for the microbial manufacture of materials, chemicals, and medicines in long-term interplanetary outposts. However, because life on Earth evolved under the conditions of the terrestrial biosphere, plants will not perform optimally in different planetary habitats. The construction or transportation of plant growth facilities and the availability of resources, such as sunlight and liquid water, may also be limiting factors, and would thus impose additional challenges to efficient farming in an extraterrestrial destination. Using the framework of the forthcoming human missions to Mars, here we discuss a series of bioengineering endeavors that will enable us to take full advantage of plants in the context of a Martian greenhouse. We also propose a roadmap for research on adapting life to Mars and outline our opinion that synthetic biology efforts towards this goal will contribute to solving some of the main agricultural and industrial challenges here on Earth.


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


The rapid accumulation of ancient human genomes from various areas and time periods potentially enables the expansion of studies of biodiversity, biogeography, forensics, population history, and epidemiology into past populations. However, most ancient DNA (aDNA) data were generated through microarrays designed for modern-day populations, which are known to misrepresent the population structure. Past studies addressed these problems by using ancestry informative markers (AIMs). It is, thereby, unclear whether AIMs derived from contemporary human genomes can capture ancient population structures, and whether AIM-finding methods are applicable to aDNA, provided that the high missingness rates in ancient-and oftentimes haploid-DNA can also distort the population structure. Here, we define ancient AIMs (aAIMs) and develop a framework to evaluate established and novel AIM-finding methods in identifying the most informative markers. We show that aAIMs identified by a novel principal component analysis (PCA)-based method outperform all of the competing methods in classifying ancient individuals into populations and identifying admixed individuals. In some cases, predictions made using the aAIMs were more accurate than those made with a complete marker set. We discuss the features of the ancient Eurasian population structure and strategies to identify aAIMs. This work informs the design of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) microarrays and the interpretation of aDNA results, which enables a population-wide testing of primordialist theories.