Christopher A Desjardins

Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

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Publications (42)358.9 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Background: Mycobacterium africanum, made up of lineages 5 and 6 within the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTC), causes up to half of all tuberculosis cases in West Africa, but is rarely found outside of this region. The reasons for this geographical restriction remain unknown. Possible reasons include a geographically restricted animal reservoir, a unique preference for hosts of West African ethnicity, and an inability to compete with other lineages outside of West Africa. These latter two hypotheses could be caused by loss of fitness or altered interactions with the host immune system. Methodology/principal findings: We sequenced 92 MTC clinical isolates from Mali, including two lineage 5 and 24 lineage 6 strains. Our genome sequencing assembly, alignment, phylogeny and average nucleotide identity analyses enabled us to identify features that typify lineages 5 and 6 and made clear that these lineages do not constitute a distinct species within the MTC. We found that in Mali, lineage 6 and lineage 4 strains have similar levels of diversity and evolve drug resistance through similar mechanisms. In the process, we identified a putative novel streptomycin resistance mutation. In addition, we found evidence of person-to-person transmission of lineage 6 isolates and showed that lineage 6 is not enriched for mutations in virulence-associated genes. Conclusions: This is the largest collection of lineage 5 and 6 whole genome sequences to date, and our assembly and alignment data provide valuable insights into what distinguishes these lineages from other MTC lineages. Lineages 5 and 6 do not appear to be geographically restricted due to an inability to transmit between West African hosts or to an elevated number of mutations in virulence-associated genes. However, lineage-specific mutations, such as mutations in cell wall structure, secretion systems and cofactor biosynthesis, provide alternative mechanisms that may lead to host specificity.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
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    ABSTRACT: Three closely related thermally dimorphic pathogens are causal agents of major fungal diseases affecting humans in the Americas: blastomycosis, histoplasmosis and paracoccidioidomycosis. Here we report the genome sequence and analysis of four strains of the etiological agent of blastomycosis, Blastomyces, and two species of the related genus Emmonsia, typically pathogens of small mammals. Compared to related species, Blastomyces genomes are highly expanded, with long, often sharply demarcated tracts of low GC-content sequence. These GC-poor isochore-like regions are enriched for gypsy elements, are variable in total size between isolates, and are least expanded in the avirulent B. dermatitidis strain ER-3 as compared with the virulent B. gilchristii strain SLH14081. The lack of similar regions in related species suggests these isochore-like regions originated recently in the ancestor of the Blastomyces lineage. While gene content is highly conserved between Blastomyces and related fungi, we identified changes in copy number of genes potentially involved in host interaction, including proteases and characterized antigens. In addition, we studied gene expression changes of B. dermatitidis during the interaction of the infectious yeast form with macrophages and in a mouse model. Both experiments highlight a strong antioxidant defense response in Blastomyces, and upregulation of dioxygenases in vivo suggests that dioxide produced by antioxidants may be further utilized for amino acid metabolism. We identify a number of functional categories upregulated exclusively in vivo, such as secreted proteins, zinc acquisition proteins, and cysteine and tryptophan metabolism, which may include critical virulence factors missed before in in vitro studies. Across the dimorphic fungi, loss of certain zinc acquisition genes and differences in amino acid metabolism suggest unique adaptations of Blastomyces to its host environment. These results reveal the dynamics of genome evolution and of factors contributing to virulence in Blastomyces.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2015 · PLoS Genetics
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    ABSTRACT: Cryptococcus gattii is a fungal pathogen of humans, causing pulmonary infections in otherwise healthy hosts. To characterize genomic variation among the four major lineages of C. gattii (VGI,-II,-III, and-IV), we generated, annotated, and compared 16 de novo genome assemblies, including the first for the rarely isolated lineages VGIII and VGIV. By identifying syntenic regions across assemblies, we found 15 structural rearrangements, which were almost exclusive to the VGI-III-IV lineages. Using synteny to inform orthology prediction, we identified a core set of 87% of C. gattii genes present as single copies in all four lineages. Remarkably, 737 genes are variably inherited across lineages and are overrepresented for response to oxidative stress, mitochondrial import, and metal binding and transport. Specifically, VGI has an expanded set of iron-binding genes thought to be important to the virulence of Cryptococcus, while VGII has expansions in the stress-related heat shock proteins relative to the other lineages. We also characterized genes uniquely absent in each lineage, including a copper transporter absent from VGIV, which influences Cryptococcus survival during pulmonary infection and the onset of meningoencephalitis. Through inclusion of population-level data for an additional 37 isolates, we identified a new transcontinental clonal group that we name VGIIx, mitochondrial recombination between VGII and VGIII, and positive selection of multidrug transporters and the iron-sulfur protein aconitase along multiple branches of the phylogenetic tree. Our results suggest that gene expansion or contraction and positive selection have introduced substantial variation with links to mechanisms of pathogenicity across this species complex.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2015 · mBio
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    ABSTRACT: The continued advance of antibiotic resistance threatens the treatment and control of many infectious diseases. This is exemplified by the largest global outbreak of extensively drug-resistant (XDR) tuberculosis (TB) identified in Tugela Ferry, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, in 2005 that continues today. It is unclear whether the emergence of XDR-TB in KwaZulu-Natal was due to recent inadequacies in TB control in conjunction with HIV or other factors. Understanding the origins of drug resistance in this fatal outbreak of XDR will inform the control and prevention of drug-resistant TB in other settings. In this study, we used whole genome sequencing and dating analysis to determine if XDR-TB had emerged recently or had ancient antecedents.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · PLoS Medicine
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    ABSTRACT: Background. Five neuroinvasive Bacillus cereus infections (4 fatal) occurred in hospitalized patients with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) during a 9-month period, prompting an investigation by infection control and public health officials. Methods. Medical records of case-patients were reviewed and a matched case-control study was performed. Infection control practices were observed. Multiple environmental, food, and medication samples common to AML patients were cultured. Multilocus sequence typing was performed for case and environmental B cereus isolates. Results. All 5 case-patients received chemotherapy and had early-onset neutropenic fevers that resolved with empiric antibiotics. Fever recurred at a median of 17 days (range, 9–20) with headaches and abrupt neurological deterioration. Case-patients had B cereus identified in central nervous system (CNS) samples by (1) polymerase chain reaction or culture or (2) bacilli seen on CNS pathology stains with high-grade B cereus bacteremia. Two case-patients also had colonic ulcers with abundant bacilli on autopsy. No infection control breaches were observed. On case-control analysis, bananas were the only significant exposure shared by all 5 case-patients (odds ratio, 9.3; P = .04). Five environmental or food isolates tested positive for B cereus, including a homogenized banana peel isolate and the shelf of a kitchen cart where bananas were stored. Multilocus sequence typing confirmed that all case and environmental strains were genetically distinct. Multilocus sequence typing-based phylogenetic analysis revealed that the organisms clustered in 2 separate clades. Conclusions. The investigation of this neuroinvasive B cereus cluster did not identify a single point source but was suggestive of a possible dietary exposure. Our experience underscores the potential virulence of B cereus in immunocompromised hosts.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Open Forum Infectious Diseases
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    Full-text · Article · Jun 2015 · Emerging Infectious Diseases
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    ABSTRACT: Obligate intracellular pathogens depend on their host for growth yet must also evade detection by host defenses. Here we investigate host adaptation in two Microsporidia, the specialist Edhazardia aedis and the generalist Vavraia culicis, pathogens of disease vector mosquitoes. Genomic analysis and deep RNA-Seq across infection time courses reveal fundamental differences between these pathogens. E. aedis retains enhanced cell surface modification and signalling capacity, upregulating protein trafficking and secretion dynamically during infection. V. culicis is less dependent on its host for basic metabolites and retains a subset of spliceosomal components, with a transcriptome broadly focused on growth and replication. Transcriptional profiling of mosquito immune responses reveals that response to infection by E. aedis differs dramatically depending on the mode of infection, and that antimicrobial defensins may play a general role in mosquito defense against Microsporidia. This analysis illuminates fundamentally different evolutionary paths and host interplay of specialist and generalist pathogens.
    Preview · Article · May 2015 · Nature Communications
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    ABSTRACT: The largest global outbreak of extensively drug-resistant (XDR) tuberculosis (TB) was identified in Tugela Ferry, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South Africa in 2005. The antecedents and timing of the emergence of drug resistance in this fatal epidemic XDR outbreak are unknown, and it is unclear whether drug resistance in this region continues to be driven by clonal spread or by the development of de novo resistance. A whole genome sequencing and drug susceptibility testing (DST) was performed on 337 clinical isolates of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb) collected in KZN from 2008 to 2013, in addition to three historical isolates, one of which was isolated during the Tugela Ferry outbreak. Using a variety of whole genome comparative approaches, 11 drug-resistant clones of M.tb circulating from 2008 to 2013 were identified, including a 50-member clone of XDR M.tb that was highly related to the Tugela Ferry XDR outbreak strain. It was calculated that the evolutionary trajectory from first-line drug resistance to XDR in this clone spanned more than four decades and began at the start of the antibiotic era. It was also observed that frequent de novo evolution of MDR and XDR was present, with 56 and 9 independent evolutions, respectively. Thus, ongoing amplification of drug-resistance in KwaZulu-Natal is driven by both clonal spread and de novo acquisition of resistance. In drug-resistant TB, isoniazid resistance was overwhelmingly the initial resistance mutation to be acquired, which would not be detected by current rapid molecular diagnostics that assess only rifampicin resistance.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · International Journal of Mycobacteriology
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    Alex Salazar · Ashlee Earl · Christopher Desjardins · Thomas Abeel

    Preview · Article · Jan 2015 · BMC Bioinformatics
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    ABSTRACT: Microsporidia comprise a phylum of over 1400 species of obligate intracellular pathogens that can infect almost all animals, but little is known about the host response to these parasites. Here we use the whole-animal host C. elegans to show an in vivo role for ubiquitin-mediated response to the microsporidian species Nematocida parisii, as well to the Orsay virus, another natural intracellular pathogen of C. elegans. We analyze gene expression of C. elegans in response to N. parisii, and find that it is similar to response to viral infection. Notably, we find an upregulation of SCF ubiquitin ligase components, such as the cullin ortholog cul-6, which we show is important for ubiquitin targeting of N. parisii cells in the intestine. We show that ubiquitylation components, the proteasome, and the autophagy pathway are all important for defense against N. parisii infection. We also find that SCF ligase components like cul-6 promote defense against viral infection, where they have a more robust role than against N. parisii infection. This difference may be due to suppression of the host ubiquitylation system by N. parisii: when N. parisii is crippled by anti-microsporidia drugs, the host can more effectively target pathogen cells for ubiquitylation. Intriguingly, inhibition of the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) increases expression of infection-upregulated SCF ligase components, indicating that a trigger for transcriptional response to intracellular infection by N. parisii and virus may be perturbation of the UPS. Altogether, our results demonstrate an in vivo role for ubiquitin-mediated defense against microsporidian and viral infections in C. elegans.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · PLoS Pathogens
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) colonization predicts later infection, with both host and pathogen determinants of invasive disease. Methods: This nested case-control study evaluates predictors of MRSA bacteremia in an 8-intensive care unit (ICU) prospective adult cohort from 1 September 2003 through 30 April 2005 with active MRSA surveillance and collection of ICU, post-ICU, and readmission MRSA isolates. We selected MRSA carriers who did (cases) and those who did not (controls) develop MRSA bacteremia. Generating assembled genome sequences, we evaluated 30 MRSA genes potentially associated with virulence and invasion. Using multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression, we assessed the association of these genes with MRSA bacteremia, controlling for host risk factors. Results: We collected 1578 MRSA isolates from 520 patients. We analyzed host and pathogen factors for 33 cases and 121 controls. Predictors of MRSA bacteremia included a diagnosis of cancer, presence of a central venous catheter, hyperglycemia (glucose level, >200 mg/dL), and infection with a MRSA strain carrying the gene for staphylococcal enterotoxin P (sep). Receipt of an anti-MRSA medication had a significant protective effect. Conclusions: In an analysis controlling for host factors, colonization with MRSA carrying sep increased the risk of MRSA bacteremia. Identification of risk-adjusted genetic determinants of virulence may help to improve prediction of invasive disease and suggest new targets for therapeutic intervention.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2014 · The Journal of Infectious Diseases
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    ABSTRACT: Listeria monocytogenes, a foodborne bacterial pathogen, is comprised of four phylogenetic lineages that vary with regard to their serotypes and distribution among sources. In order to characterize lineage-specific genomic diversity within L. monocytogenes, we sequenced the genomes of eight strains from several lineages and serotypes, and characterized the accessory genome, which was hypothesized to contribute to phenotypic differences across lineages. The eight L. monocytogenes genomes sequenced range in size from 2.85-3.14 Mb, encode 2,822-3,187 genes, and include the first publicly available sequenced representatives of serotypes 1/2c, 3a and 4c. Mapping of the distribution of accessory genes revealed two distinct regions of the L. monocytogenes chromosome: an accessory-rich region in the first 65° adjacent to the origin of replication and a more stable region in the remaining 295°. This pattern of genome organization is distinct from that of related bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus cereus. The accessory genome of all lineages is enriched for cell surface-related genes and phosphotransferase systems, and transcriptional regulators, highlighting the selective pressures faced by contemporary strains from their hosts, other microbes, and their environment. Phylogenetic analysis of O-antigen genes and gene clusters predicts that serotype 4 was ancestral in L. monocytogenes and serotype 1/2 associated gene clusters were putatively introduced through horizontal gene transfer in the ancestral population of L. monocytogenes lineage I and II.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2013 · PLoS ONE
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    ABSTRACT: Loa loa, the African eyeworm, is a major filarial pathogen of humans. Unlike most filariae, L. loa does not contain the obligate intracellular Wolbachia endosymbiont. We describe the 91.4-Mb genome of L. loa and that of the related filarial parasite Wuchereria bancrofti and predict 14,907 L. loa genes on the basis of microfilarial RNA sequencing. By comparing these genomes to that of another filarial parasite, Brugia malayi, and to those of several other nematodes, we demonstrate synteny among filariae but not with nonparasitic nematodes. The L. loa genome encodes many immunologically relevant genes, as well as protein kinases targeted by drugs currently approved for use in humans. Despite lacking Wolbachia, L. loa shows no new metabolic synthesis or transport capabilities compared to other filariae. These results suggest that the role of Wolbachia in filarial biology is more subtle than previously thought and reveal marked differences between parasitic and nonparasitic nematodes.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2013 · Nature Genetics
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    ABSTRACT: Nasonia, a genus of four closely related parasitoid insect species, is a model system for genetic research. Their haplodiploid genetics (haploid males and diploid females) and interfertile species are advantageous for the genetic analysis of complex traits and the genetic basis of species differences. A fine-scale genomic map is an important tool for advancing genetic studies in this system. We developed and used a hybrid genotyping microarray to generate a high-resolution genetic map that covers 79% of the sequenced genome of Nasonia vitripennis. The microarray is based on differential hybridization of species-specific oligos between N. vitripennis and Nasonia giraulti at more than 20,000 markers spanning the Nasonia genome. The map places 729 scaffolds onto the five linkage groups of Nasonia, including locating many smaller scaffolds that would be difficult to map by other means. The microarray was used to characterize 26 segmental introgression lines containing chromosomal regions from one species in the genetic background of another. These segmental introgression lines have been used for rapid screening and mapping of quantitative trait loci involved in species differences. Finally, the microarray is extended to bulk-segregant analysis and genotyping of other Nasonia species combinations. These resources should further expand the usefulness of Nasonia for studies of the genetic basis and architecture of complex traits and speciation.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2013 · G3-Genes Genomes Genetics

  • No preview · Article · Jan 2013 · Nature
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    ABSTRACT: The enterococci are Gram-positive lactic acid bacteria that inhabit the gastrointestinal tracts of diverse hosts. However, Enterococcus faecium and E. faecalis have emerged as leading causes of multidrug-resistant hospital-acquired infections. The mechanism by which a well-adapted commensal evolved into a hospital pathogen is poorly understood. In this study, we examined high-quality draft genome data for evidence of key events in the evolution of the leading causes of enterococcal infections, including E. faecalis, E. faecium, E. casseliflavus, and E. gallinarum. We characterized two clades within what is currently classified as E. faecium and identified traits characteristic of each, including variation in operons for cell wall carbohydrate and putative capsule biosynthesis. We examined the extent of recombination between the two E. faecium clades and identified two strains with mosaic genomes. We determined the underlying genetics for the defining characteristics of the motile enterococci E. casseliflavus and E. gallinarum. Further, we identified species-specific traits that could be used to advance the detection of medically relevant enterococci and their identification to the species level. IMPORTANCE: The enterococci, in particular, vancomycin-resistant enterococci, have emerged as leading causes of multidrug-resistant hospital-acquired infections. In this study, we examined genome sequence data to define traits with the potential to influence host-microbe interactions and to identify sequences and biochemical functions that could form the basis for the rapid identification of enterococcal species or lineages of importance in clinical and environmental samples.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2012 · mBio
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    ABSTRACT: Microsporidia comprise a large phylum of obligate intracellular eukaryotes that are fungal-related parasites responsible for widespread disease, and here we address questions about microsporidia biology and evolution. We sequenced three microsporidian genomes from two species, Nematocida parisii and Nematocida sp1, which are natural pathogens of Caenorhabditis nematodes and provide model systems for studying microsporidian pathogenesis. We performed deep sequencing of transcripts from a time course of N. parisii infection. Examination of pathogen gene expression revealed compact transcripts and a dramatic takeover of host cells by Nematocida. We also performed phylogenomic analyses of Nematocida and other microsporidian genomes to refine microsporidian phylogeny and identify evolutionary events of gene loss, acquisition, and modification. In particular, we found that all microsporidia lost the tumor-suppressor gene retinoblastoma, which we speculate could accelerate the parasite cell cycle and increase the mutation rate. We also found that microsporidia acquired transporters that could import nucleosides to fuel rapid growth. In addition, microsporidian hexokinases gained secretion signal sequences, and in a functional assay these were sufficient to export proteins out of the cell; thus hexokinase may be targeted into the host cell to reprogram it toward biosynthesis. Similar molecular changes appear during formation of cancer cells and may be evolutionary strategies adopted independently by microsporidia to proliferate rapidly within host cells. Finally, analysis of genome polymorphisms revealed evidence for a sexual cycle that may provide genetic diversity to alleviate problems caused by clonal growth. Together these events may explain the emergence and success of these diverse intracellular parasites.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2012 · Genome Research
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    ABSTRACT: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains are leading causes of hospital-acquired infections in the United States, and clonal cluster 5 (CC5) is the predominant lineage responsible for these infections. Since 2002, there have been 12 cases of vancomycin-resistant S. aureus (VRSA) infection in the United States—all CC5 strains. To understand this genetic background and what distinguishes it from other lineages, we generated and analyzed high-quality draft genome sequences for all available VRSA strains. Sequence comparisons show unambiguously that each strain independently acquired Tn1546 and that all VRSA strains last shared a common ancestor over 50 years ago, well before the occurrence of vancomycin resistance in this species. In contrast to existing hypotheses on what predisposes this lineage to acquire Tn1546, the barrier posed by restriction systems appears to be intact in most VRSA strains. However, VRSA (and other CC5) strains were found to possess a constellation of traits that appears to be optimized for proliferation in precisely the types of polymicrobic infection where transfer could occur. They lack a bacteriocin operon that would be predicted to limit the occurrence of non-CC5 strains in mixed infection and harbor a cluster of unique superantigens and lipoproteins to confound host immunity. A frameshift in dprA, which in other microbes influences uptake of foreign DNA, may also make this lineage conducive to foreign DNA acquisition.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2012 · mBio

  • No preview · Article · Jan 2012
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    ABSTRACT: Segniliparus rugosus represents one of two species in the genus Segniliparus, the sole genus in the family Segniliparaceae. A unique and interesting feature of this family is the presence of extremely long carbon-chain length mycolic acids bound in the cell wall. S. rugosus is also a medically important species because it is an opportunistic pathogen associated with mammalian lung disease. This report represents the second species in the genus to have its genome sequenced. The 3,567,567 bp long genome with 3,516 protein-coding and 49 RNA genes is part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, Human Microbiome Project.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2011 · Standards in Genomic Sciences

Publication Stats

2k Citations
358.90 Total Impact Points

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Institutions

  • 2011-2015
    • Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
      • Genome Sequencing and Analysis Program
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2013
    • Indiana University Bloomington
      Bloomington, Indiana, United States
  • 2012
    • Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
      Cambridge, England, United Kingdom
    • Harvard Medical School
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2010
    • Ghent University
      • Laboratory for Protein Biochemistry and Biomolecular Engineering (L-ProBE)
      Gand, Flanders, Belgium
  • 2007-2010
    • University of Rochester
      • Department of Biology
      Rochester, New York, United States
    • University of Maryland, College Park
      • Department of Entomology
      Maryland, United States
  • 2005
    • Biomedical Research Institute, Rockville
      Maryland, United States