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Publications in peer reviewed journals
Time-course expression QTL atlas of the global transcriptional response of wheat to Fusarium graminearum.2017 - Plant Biotechnol. J., in press
Fusarium head blight is a devastating disease of small grain cereals such as bread wheat (Triticum aestivum). The pathogen switches from a biotrophic to a nectrotrophic lifestyle in course of disease development forcing its host to adapt its defence strategies. Using a genetical genomics approach we illustrate genome-wide reconfigurations of genetic control over transcript abundances between two decisive time points after inoculation with the causative pathogen Fusarium graminearum. Whole transcriptome measurements have been recorded for 163 lines of a wheat doubled haploid population segregating for several resistance genes yielding 15 552 at 30 hours and 15 888 eQTL at 50 hours after inoculation. The genetic map saturated with transcript abundance-derived markers identified of a novel QTL on chromosome 6A, besides the previously reported QTL Fhb1 and Qfhs.ifa-5A. We find a highly different distribution of eQTL between time points with about 40% of eQTL being unique for the respective assessed time points. But also for more than 20% of genes governed by eQTL at either time point genetic control changes in time. These changes are reflected in the dynamic compositions of three major regulatory hotspots on chromosomes 2B, 4A and 5A. In particular control of defence-related biological mechanisms concentrated in the hotspot at 4A shift to hotspot 2B as the disease progresses. Hotspots do not colocalize with phenotypic QTL and within their intervals no higher than expected number of eQTL was detected. Thus, resistance conferred by either QTL is mediated by few or single genes. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Natural haplotypes of FLM non-coding sequences fine-tune flowering time in ambient spring temperatures in Arabidopsis.2017 - Elife, in press
Cool ambient temperatures are major cues determining flowering time in spring. The mechanisms promoting or delaying flowering in response to ambient temperature changes are only beginning to be understood. In Arabidopsis thaliana, FLOWERING LOCUS M (FLM) regulates flowering in the ambient temperature range and FLM is transcribed and alternatively spliced in a temperature-dependent manner. We identify polymorphic promoter and intronic sequences required for FLM expression and splicing. In transgenic experiments covering 69% of the available sequence variation in two distinct sites, we show that variation in the abundance of the FLM-ß splice form strictly correlate (R2 = 0.94) with flowering time over an extended vegetative period. The FLM polymorphisms lead to changes in FLM expression (PRO2+) but may also affect FLM intron 1 splicing (INT6+). This information could serve to buffer the anticipated negative effects on agricultural systems and flowering that may occur during climate change.
Variant profiling of evolving prokaryotic populations.2017 - PeerJ, e2997
Genomic heterogeneity of bacterial species is observed and studied in experimental evolution experiments and clinical diagnostics, and occurs as micro-diversity of natural habitats. The challenge for genome research is to accurately capture this heterogeneity with the currently used short sequencing reads. Recent advances in NGS technologies improved the speed and coverage and thus allowed for deep sequencing of bacterial populations. This facilitates the quantitative assessment of genomic heterogeneity, including low frequency alleles or haplotypes. However, false positive variant predictions due to sequencing errors and mapping artifacts of short reads need to be prevented. We therefore created VarCap, a workflow for the reliable prediction of different types of variants even at low frequencies. In order to predict SNPs, InDels and structural variations, we evaluated the sensitivity and accuracy of different software tools using synthetic read data. The results suggested that the best sensitivity could be reached by a union of different tools, however at the price of increased false positives. We identified possible reasons for false predictions and used this knowledge to improve the accuracy by post-filtering the predicted variants according to properties such as frequency, coverage, genomic environment/localization and co-localization with other variants. We observed that best precision was achieved by using an intersection of at least two tools per variant. This resulted in the reliable prediction of variants above a minimum relative abundance of 2%. VarCap is designed for being routinely used within experimental evolution experiments or for clinical diagnostics. The detected variants are reported as frequencies within a VCF file and as a graphical overview of the distribution of the different variant/allele/haplotype frequencies. The source code of VarCap is available at https://github.com/ma2o/VarCap. In order to provide this workflow to a broad community, we implemeted VarCap on a Galaxy webserver, which is accessible at http://galaxy.csb.univie.ac.at.
Viruses comprise an extensive pool of mobile genetic elements in eukaryote cell cultures and human clinical samples.2017 - FASEB J., in press
Viruses shape a diversity of ecosystems by modulating their microbial, eukaryotic, or plant host metabolism. The complexity of virus-host interaction networks is progressively fathomed by novel metagenomic approaches. By using a novel metagenomic method, we explored the virome in mammalian cell cultures and clinical samples to identify an extensive pool of mobile genetic elements in all of these ecosystems. Despite aseptic treatment, cell cultures harbored extensive and diverse phage populations with a high abundance of as yet unknown and uncharacterized viruses (viral dark matter). Unknown phages also predominated in the oropharynx and urine of healthy individuals and patients infected with cytomegalovirus despite demonstration of active cytomegalovirus replication. The novelty of viral sequences correlated primarily with the individual evaluated, whereas relative abundance of encoded protein functions was associated with the ecologic niches probed. Together, these observations demonstrate the extensive presence of viral dark matter in human and artificial ecosystems.-Thannesberger, J., Hellinger, H.-J., Klymiuk, I., Kastner, M.-T., Rieder, F. J. J., Schneider, M., Fister, S., Lion, T., Kosulin, K., Laengle, J., Bergmann, M., Rattei, T., Steininger, C. Viruses comprise an extensive pool of mobile genetic elements in eukaryote cell cultures and human clinical samples.
Lifestyle and Horizontal Gene Transfer-Mediated Evolution of Mucispirillum schaedleri, a Core Member of the Murine Gut Microbiota.2017 - mSystems, 1: in press
Mucispirillum schaedleri is an abundant inhabitant of the intestinal mucus layer of rodents and other animals and has been suggested to be a pathobiont, a commensal that plays a role in disease. In order to gain insights into its lifestyle, we analyzed the genome and transcriptome of M. schaedleri ASF 457 and performed physiological experiments to test traits predicted by its genome. Although described as a mucus inhabitant, M. schaedleri has limited capacity for degrading host-derived mucosal glycans and other complex polysaccharides. Additionally, M. schaedleri reduces nitrate and expresses systems for scavenging oxygen and reactive oxygen species in vivo, which may account for its localization close to the mucosal tissue and expansion during inflammation. Also of note, M. schaedleri harbors a type VI secretion system and putative effector proteins and can modify gene expression in mucosal tissue, suggesting intimate interactions with its host and a possible role in inflammation. The M. schaedleri genome has been shaped by extensive horizontal gene transfer, primarily from intestinal Epsilon- and Deltaproteobacteria, indicating that horizontal gene transfer has played a key role in defining its niche in the gut ecosystem. IMPORTANCE Shifts in gut microbiota composition have been associated with intestinal inflammation, but it remains unclear whether inflammation-associated bacteria are commensal or detrimental to their host. Here, we studied the lifestyle of the gut bacterium Mucispirillum schaedleri, which is associated with inflammation in widely used mouse models. We found that M. schaedleri has specialized systems to handle oxidative stress during inflammation. Additionally, it expresses secretion systems and effector proteins and can modify the mucosal gene expression of its host. This suggests that M. schaedleri undergoes intimate interactions with its host and may play a role in inflammation. The insights presented here aid our understanding of how commensal gut bacteria may be involved in altering susceptibility to disease.
Development of a human vasopressin V1a-receptor antagonist from an evolutionary-related insect neuropeptide.2017 - Sci Rep, 41002
Characterisation of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) relies on the availability of a toolbox of ligands that selectively modulate different functional states of the receptors. To uncover such molecules, we explored a unique strategy for ligand discovery that takes advantage of the evolutionary conservation of the 600-million-year-old oxytocin/vasopressin signalling system. We isolated the insect oxytocin/vasopressin orthologue inotocin from the black garden ant (Lasius niger), identified and cloned its cognate receptor and determined its pharmacological properties on the insect and human oxytocin/vasopressin receptors. Subsequently, we identified a functional dichotomy: inotocin activated the insect inotocin and the human vasopressin V1b receptors, but inhibited the human V1aR. Replacement of Arg8 of inotocin by D-Arg8 led to a potent, stable and competitive V1aR-antagonist ([D-Arg8]-inotocin) with a 3,000-fold binding selectivity for the human V1aR over the other three subtypes, OTR, V1bR and V2R. The Arg8/D-Arg8 ligand-pair was further investigated to gain novel insights into the oxytocin/vasopressin peptide-receptor interaction, which led to the identification of key residues of the receptors that are important for ligand functionality and selectivity. These observations could play an important role for development of oxytocin/vasopressin receptor modulators that would enable clear distinction of the physiological and pathological responses of the individual receptor subtypes.
Unraveling the microbial processes of black band disease in corals through integrated genomics.2017 - Sci Rep, 40455
Coral disease outbreaks contribute to the ongoing degradation of reef ecosystems, however, microbial mechanisms underlying the onset and progression of most coral diseases are poorly understood. Black band disease (BBD) manifests as a cyanobacterial-dominated microbial mat that destroys coral tissues as it rapidly spreads over coral colonies. To elucidate BBD pathogenesis, we apply a comparative metagenomic and metatranscriptomic approach to identify taxonomic and functional changes within microbial lesions during in-situ development of BBD from a comparatively benign stage termed cyanobacterial patches. Results suggest that photosynthetic CO2-fixation in Cyanobacteria substantially enhances productivity of organic matter within the lesion during disease development. Photosynthates appear to subsequently promote sulfide-production by Deltaproteobacteria, facilitating the major virulence factor of BBD. Interestingly, our metagenome-enabled transcriptomic analysis reveals that BBD-associated cyanobacteria have a putative mechanism that enables them to adapt to higher levels of hydrogen sulfide within lesions, underpinning the pivotal roles of the dominant cyanobacterium within the polymicrobial lesions during the onset of BBD. The current study presents sequence-based evidence derived from whole microbial communities that unravel the mechanism of development and progression of BBD.
PGSB/MIPS PlantsDB Database Framework for the Integration and Analysis of Plant Genome Data.2017 - Methods Mol. Biol., 33-44
Plant Genome and Systems Biology (PGSB), formerly Munich Institute for Protein Sequences (MIPS) PlantsDB, is a database framework for the integration and analysis of plant genome data, developed and maintained for more than a decade now. Major components of that framework are genome databases and analysis resources focusing on individual (reference) genomes providing flexible and intuitive access to data. Another main focus is the integration of genomes from both model and crop plants to form a scaffold for comparative genomics, assisted by specialized tools such as the CrowsNest viewer to explore conserved gene order (synteny). Data exchange and integrated search functionality with/over many plant genome databases is provided within the transPLANT project.