SciCombinator

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

Journal: Nature biotechnology

273

Oligonucleotides are almost exclusively synthesized using the nucleoside phosphoramidite method, even though it is limited to the direct synthesis of ∼200 mers and produces hazardous waste. Here, we describe an oligonucleotide synthesis strategy that uses the template-independent polymerase terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT). Each TdT molecule is conjugated to a single deoxyribonucleoside triphosphate (dNTP) molecule that it can incorporate into a primer. After incorporation of the tethered dNTP, the 3' end of the primer remains covalently bound to TdT and is inaccessible to other TdT-dNTP molecules. Cleaving the linkage between TdT and the incorporated nucleotide releases the primer and allows subsequent extension. We demonstrate that TdT-dNTP conjugates can quantitatively extend a primer by a single nucleotide in 10-20 s, and that the scheme can be iterated to write a defined sequence. This approach may form the basis of an enzymatic oligonucleotide synthesizer.

119

CRISPR-Cas9 is poised to become the gene editing tool of choice in clinical contexts. Thus far, exploration of Cas9-induced genetic alterations has been limited to the immediate vicinity of the target site and distal off-target sequences, leading to the conclusion that CRISPR-Cas9 was reasonably specific. Here we report significant on-target mutagenesis, such as large deletions and more complex genomic rearrangements at the targeted sites in mouse embryonic stem cells, mouse hematopoietic progenitors and a human differentiated cell line. Using long-read sequencing and long-range PCR genotyping, we show that DNA breaks introduced by single-guide RNA/Cas9 frequently resolved into deletions extending over many kilobases. Furthermore, lesions distal to the cut site and crossover events were identified. The observed genomic damage in mitotically active cells caused by CRISPR-Cas9 editing may have pathogenic consequences.

99

In the human malaria vector Anopheles gambiae, the gene doublesex (Agdsx) encodes two alternatively spliced transcripts, dsx-female (AgdsxF) and dsx-male (AgdsxM), that control differentiation of the two sexes. The female transcript, unlike the male, contains an exon (exon 5) whose sequence is highly conserved in all Anopheles mosquitoes so far analyzed. We found that CRISPR-Cas9-targeted disruption of the intron 4-exon 5 boundary aimed at blocking the formation of functional AgdsxF did not affect male development or fertility, whereas females homozygous for the disrupted allele showed an intersex phenotype and complete sterility. A CRISPR-Cas9 gene drive construct targeting this same sequence spread rapidly in caged mosquitoes, reaching 100% prevalence within 7-11 generations while progressively reducing egg production to the point of total population collapse. Owing to functional constraint of the target sequence, no selection of alleles resistant to the gene drive occurred in these laboratory experiments. Cas9-resistant variants arose in each generation at the target site but did not block the spread of the drive.

98

Bacterial blight of rice is an important disease in Asia and Africa. The pathogen, Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae (Xoo), secretes one or more of six known transcription-activator-like effectors (TALes) that bind specific promoter sequences and induce, at minimum, one of the three host sucrose transporter genes SWEET11, SWEET13 and SWEET14, the expression of which is required for disease susceptibility. We used CRISPR-Cas9-mediated genome editing to introduce mutations in all three SWEET gene promoters. Editing was further informed by sequence analyses of TALe genes in 63 Xoo strains, which revealed multiple TALe variants for SWEET13 alleles. Mutations were also created in SWEET14, which is also targeted by two TALes from an African Xoo lineage. A total of five promoter mutations were simultaneously introduced into the rice line Kitaake and the elite mega varieties IR64 and Ciherang-Sub1. Paddy trials showed that genome-edited SWEET promoters endow rice lines with robust, broad-spectrum resistance.

97

A challenge for tissue engineering is producing three-dimensional (3D), vascularized cellular constructs of clinically relevant size, shape and structural integrity. We present an integrated tissue-organ printer (ITOP) that can fabricate stable, human-scale tissue constructs of any shape. Mechanical stability is achieved by printing cell-laden hydrogels together with biodegradable polymers in integrated patterns and anchored on sacrificial hydrogels. The correct shape of the tissue construct is achieved by representing clinical imaging data as a computer model of the anatomical defect and translating the model into a program that controls the motions of the printer nozzles, which dispense cells to discrete locations. The incorporation of microchannels into the tissue constructs facilitates diffusion of nutrients to printed cells, thereby overcoming the diffusion limit of 100-200 μm for cell survival in engineered tissues. We demonstrate capabilities of the ITOP by fabricating mandible and calvarial bone, cartilage and skeletal muscle. Future development of the ITOP is being directed to the production of tissues for human applications and to the building of more complex tissues and solid organs.

Concepts: Bone, Extracellular matrix, Organ, Engineering, Tissues, Computer graphics, Human anatomy, Printing

88

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) remains a major cause of blindness, with dysfunction and loss of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) central to disease progression. We engineered an RPE patch comprising a fully differentiated, human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived RPE monolayer on a coated, synthetic basement membrane. We delivered the patch, using a purpose-designed microsurgical tool, into the subretinal space of one eye in each of two patients with severe exudative AMD. Primary endpoints were incidence and severity of adverse events and proportion of subjects with improved best-corrected visual acuity of 15 letters or more. We report successful delivery and survival of the RPE patch by biomicroscopy and optical coherence tomography, and a visual acuity gain of 29 and 21 letters in the two patients, respectively, over 12 months. Only local immunosuppression was used long-term. We also present the preclinical surgical, cell safety and tumorigenicity studies leading to trial approval. This work supports the feasibility and safety of hESC-RPE patch transplantation as a regenerative strategy for AMD.

Concepts: Stem cell, Embryonic stem cell, Retina, Eye, Macular degeneration, Bruch's membrane, Drusen, Retinal pigment epithelium

85

Genetic studies of human disease have traditionally focused on the detection of disease-causing mutations in afflicted individuals. Here we describe a complementary approach that seeks to identify healthy individuals resilient to highly penetrant forms of genetic childhood disorders. A comprehensive screen of 874 genes in 589,306 genomes led to the identification of 13 adults harboring mutations for 8 severe Mendelian conditions, with no reported clinical manifestation of the indicated disease. Our findings demonstrate the promise of broadening genetic studies to systematically search for well individuals who are buffering the effects of rare, highly penetrant, deleterious mutations. They also indicate that incomplete penetrance for Mendelian diseases is likely more common than previously believed. The identification of resilient individuals may provide a first step toward uncovering protective genetic variants that could help elucidate the mechanisms of Mendelian diseases and new therapeutic strategies.

Concepts: DNA, Medicine, Gene, Genetics, Epidemiology, Cancer, Disease, Genetic disorder

80

We have developed a deep generative model, generative tensorial reinforcement learning (GENTRL), for de novo small-molecule design. GENTRL optimizes synthetic feasibility, novelty, and biological activity. We used GENTRL to discover potent inhibitors of discoidin domain receptor 1 (DDR1), a kinase target implicated in fibrosis and other diseases, in 21 days. Four compounds were active in biochemical assays, and two were validated in cell-based assays. One lead candidate was tested and demonstrated favorable pharmacokinetics in mice.

72

Serotonin neurons located in the raphe nucleus of the hindbrain have crucial roles in regulating brain functions and have been implicated in various psychiatric disorders. Yet functional human serotonin neurons are not available for in vitro studies. Through manipulation of the WNT pathway, we demonstrate efficient differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) to cells resembling central serotonin neurons, primarily those located in the rhombomeric segments 2-3 of the rostral raphe, which participate in high-order brain functions. The serotonin neurons express a series of molecules essential for serotonergic development, including tryptophan hydroxylase 2, exhibit typical electrophysiological properties and release serotonin in an activity-dependent manner. When treated with the FDA-approved drugs tramadol and escitalopram oxalate, they release or uptake serotonin in a dose- and time-dependent manner, suggesting the utility of these cells for the evaluation of drug candidates.

Concepts: Neuron, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Cell biology, Cerebellum, Serotonin, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Raphe nuclei

69

We report the sequencing and assembly of a reference genome for the human GM12878 Utah/Ceph cell line using the MinION (Oxford Nanopore Technologies) nanopore sequencer. 91.2 Gb of sequence data, representing ∼30× theoretical coverage, were produced. Reference-based alignment enabled detection of large structural variants and epigenetic modifications. De novo assembly of nanopore reads alone yielded a contiguous assembly (NG50 ∼3 Mb). We developed a protocol to generate ultra-long reads (N50 > 100 kb, read lengths up to 882 kb). Incorporating an additional 5× coverage of these ultra-long reads more than doubled the assembly contiguity (NG50 ∼6.4 Mb). The final assembled genome was 2,867 million bases in size, covering 85.8% of the reference. Assembly accuracy, after incorporating complementary short-read sequencing data, exceeded 99.8%. Ultra-long reads enabled assembly and phasing of the 4-Mb major histocompatibility complex (MHC) locus in its entirety, measurement of telomere repeat length, and closure of gaps in the reference human genome assembly GRCh38.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Cell, Human genome, Base pair, Major histocompatibility complex, The Assembly