[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Critical for human gene therapy is the availability of small promoter tools to drive gene expression in a highly specific and reproducible manner. We tackled this challenge by developing human DNA MiniPromoters using computational biology and phylogenetic conservation. MiniPromoters were tested in mouse as single-copy knock-ins at the Hprt locus on the X Chromosome, and evaluated for lacZ reporter expression in CNS and non-CNS tissue. Eighteen novel MiniPromoters driving expression in mouse brain were identified, two MiniPromoters for driving pan-neuronal expression, and 17 MiniPromoters for the mouse eye. Key areas of therapeutic interest were represented in this set: the cerebral cortex, embryonic hypothalamus, spinal cord, bipolar and ganglion cells of the retina, and skeletal muscle. We also demonstrated that three retinal ganglion cell MiniPromoters exhibit similar cell-type specificity when delivered via adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors intravitreally. We conclude that our methodology and characterization has resulted in desirable expression characteristics that are intrinsic to the MiniPromoter, not dictated by copy number effects or genomic location, and results in constructs predisposed to success in AAV. These MiniPromoters are immediately applicable for pre-clinical studies towards gene therapy in humans, and are publicly available to facilitate basic and clinical research, and human gene therapy.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cryptococcus neoformans is generally considered to be an opportunistic fungal pathogen because of its tendency to infect immunocompromised individuals, particularly those infected with HIV. However, this view has been challenged by the recent discovery of specialized interactions between the fungus and its mammalian hosts, and by the emergence of the related species Cryptococcus gattii as a primary pathogen of immunocompetent populations. In this Review, we highlight features of cryptococcal pathogens that reveal their adaptation to the mammalian environment. These features include not only remarkably sophisticated interactions with phagocytic cells to promote intracellular survival, dissemination to the central nervous system and escape, but also surprising morphological and genomic adaptations such as the formation of polyploid giant cells in the lung.
Full-text · Article · Mar 2011 · Nature Reviews Microbiology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cryptococcus gattii recently emerged as the causative agent of cryptococcosis in healthy individuals in western North America, despite previous characterization of the fungus as a pathogen in tropical or subtropical regions. As a foundation to study the genetics of virulence in this pathogen, we sequenced the genomes of a strain (WM276) representing the predominant global molecular type (VGI) and a clinical strain (R265) of the major genotype (VGIIa) causing disease in North America. We compared these C. gattii genomes with each other and with the genomes of representative strains of the two varieties of Cryptococcus neoformans that generally cause disease in immunocompromised people. Our comparisons included chromosome alignments, analysis of gene content and gene family evolution, and comparative genome hybridization (CGH). These studies revealed that the genomes of the two representative C. gattii strains (genotypes VGI and VGIIa) are colinear for the majority of chromosomes, with some minor rearrangements. However, multiortholog phylogenetic analysis and an evaluation of gene/sequence conservation support the existence of speciation within the C. gattii complex. More extensive chromosome rearrangements were observed upon comparison of the C. gattii and the C. neoformans genomes. Finally, CGH revealed considerable variation in clinical and environmental isolates as well as changes in chromosome copy numbers in C. gattii isolates displaying fluconazole heteroresistance.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Pleiades Promoter Project integrates genomewide bioinformatics with large-scale knockin mouse production and histological examination of expression patterns to develop MiniPromoters and related tools designed to study and treat the brain by directed gene expression. Genes with brain expression patterns of interest are subjected to bioinformatic analysis to delineate candidate regulatory regions, which are then incorporated into a panel of compact human MiniPromoters to drive expression to brain regions and cell types of interest. Using single-copy, homologous-recombination "knockins" in embryonic stem cells, each MiniPromoter reporter is integrated immediately 5' of the Hprt locus in the mouse genome. MiniPromoter expression profiles are characterized in differentiation assays of the transgenic cells or in mouse brains following transgenic mouse production. Histological examination of adult brains, eyes, and spinal cords for reporter gene activity is coupled to costaining with cell-type-specific markers to define expression. The publicly available Pleiades MiniPromoter Project is a key resource to facilitate research on brain development and therapies.
Full-text · Article · Sep 2010 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Although it is known that the methylation of DNA in 5' promoters suppresses gene expression, the role of DNA methylation in gene bodies is unclear. In mammals, tissue- and cell type-specific methylation is present in a small percentage of 5' CpG island (CGI) promoters, whereas a far greater proportion occurs across gene bodies, coinciding with highly conserved sequences. Tissue-specific intragenic methylation might reduce, or, paradoxically, enhance transcription elongation efficiency. Capped analysis of gene expression (CAGE) experiments also indicate that transcription commonly initiates within and between genes. To investigate the role of intragenic methylation, we generated a map of DNA methylation from the human brain encompassing 24.7 million of the 28 million CpG sites. From the dense, high-resolution coverage of CpG islands, the majority of methylated CpG islands were shown to be in intragenic and intergenic regions, whereas less than 3% of CpG islands in 5' promoters were methylated. The CpG islands in all three locations overlapped with RNA markers of transcription initiation, and unmethylated CpG islands also overlapped significantly with trimethylation of H3K4, a histone modification enriched at promoters. The general and CpG-island-specific patterns of methylation are conserved in mouse tissues. An in-depth investigation of the human SHANK3 locus and its mouse homologue demonstrated that this tissue-specific DNA methylation regulates intragenic promoter activity in vitro and in vivo. These methylation-regulated, alternative transcripts are expressed in a tissue- and cell type-specific manner, and are expressed differentially within a single cell type from distinct brain regions. These results support a major role for intragenic methylation in regulating cell context-specific alternative promoters in gene bodies.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Pleiades Promoter Project aims to improve gene therapy by designing human mini-promoters (< 4 kb) that drive gene expression in specific brain regions or cell-types of therapeutic interest. Our goal was to first identify genes displaying regionally enriched expression in the mouse brain so that promoters designed from orthologous human genes can then be tested to drive reporter expression in a similar pattern in the mouse brain.
We have utilized LongSAGE to identify regionally enriched transcripts in the adult mouse brain. As supplemental strategies, we also performed a meta-analysis of published literature and inspected the Allen Brain Atlas in situ hybridization data. From a set of approximately 30,000 mouse genes, 237 were identified as showing specific or enriched expression in 30 target regions of the mouse brain. GO term over-representation among these genes revealed co-involvement in various aspects of central nervous system development and physiology.
Using a multi-faceted expression validation approach, we have identified mouse genes whose human orthologs are good candidates for design of mini-promoters. These mouse genes represent molecular markers in several discrete brain regions/cell-types, which could potentially provide a mechanistic explanation of unique functions performed by each region. This set of markers may also serve as a resource for further studies of gene regulatory elements influencing brain expression.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: During maize infection, the fungal pathogen Ustilago maydis undergoes a dimorphic transition from budding, yeast-like cells to a filamentous dikaryon that proliferates in the host.
This transition is regulated by mating and environmental signals. Septation is likely to be important in the growth of the
infectious dikaryon because of the need to maintain specific cellular compartments during dikaryotic growth. Recently, we
found that the transcript level for a septin gene was influenced by the conserved cyclic AMP (cAMP)/protein kinase A signaling
pathway that participates in regulating dimorphism in U. maydis. In this study, we describe the detailed analysis of the function of this septin gene, designated sep3, in the growth, development, and pathogenesis of U. maydis. We show that sep3 is required for normal cellular morphology and the division of budding haploid cells. The gene is also required for lipid-induced
filamentous growth in culture but not during the formation of mating filaments on agar medium or in planta. Strains with a
deletion in sep3 have a reduction in symptom development in maize, with filamentous cells in planta displaying morphological defects. In addition,
sep3 influences the differentiation of hyphae into teliospores and the germination of these teliospores to produce the meiotic
haploid progeny that complete the disease life cycle. Finally, the deletion of sep3 was found to influence the multiple budding phenotype of a mutant with a defect in the regulatory subunit of protein kinase
A. This result is consistent with a link between sep3 and the control of morphogenesis by cAMP signaling. Overall, this study highlights the importance of regulating septation
and changes in morphology during phytopathogenesis.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cryptococcus neoformans is the leading cause of fungal meningitis in humans. Production of a polysaccharide capsule is a key virulence property for the fungus and capsule synthesis is regulated by iron levels. Given that iron acquisition is an important aspect of virulence for many pathogens, we employed serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE) to examine the transcriptome under iron-limiting and iron-replete conditions. Initially, we demonstrated by SAGE and Northern analysis that iron limitation results in an elevated transcript level for the CAP60 gene that is required for capsule production. We also identified genes encoding putative components for iron transport and homeostasis, including the FTR1 (iron permease) gene, with higher transcript levels in the low-iron condition. An FTR1 disruption mutant grows more slowly than wild-type cells in low-iron medium, and shows delayed growth and altered capsule regulation in iron-replete medium. Iron deprivation also resulted in elevated SAGE tags for putative extracellular mannoproteins and the GPI8 gene encoding a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) transamidase. The GPI8 gene appears to be essential while disruption of the CIG1 gene encoding a mannoprotein resulted in impaired growth in low-iron medium and altered capsule response to the iron-replete condition. Additionally, we found that iron-replete conditions led to elevated transcripts for genes for iron storage, nitrogen metabolism, glycolysis, mitochondrial function, lipid metabolism and calmodulin-calcineurin signalling. Overall, these studies provide the first view of the C. neoformans transcriptional response to different iron levels.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cryptococcus neoformans is a basidiomycetous yeast ubiquitous in the environment, a model for fungal pathogenesis, and an opportunistic human pathogen of global importance. We have sequenced its approximately 20-megabase genome, which contains approximately 6500 intron-rich gene structures and encodes a transcriptome abundant in alternatively spliced and antisense messages. The genome is rich in transposons, many of which cluster at candidate centromeric regions. The presence of these transposons may drive karyotype instability and phenotypic variation. C. neoformans encodes unique genes that may contribute to its unusual virulence properties, and comparison of two phenotypically distinct strains reveals variation in gene content in addition to sequence polymorphisms between the genomes.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cryptococcus neoformans serotype A strains commonly infect immunocompromised patients to cause fungal meningitis. To understand the basis of serotype A cryptococcal infections in apparently immunocompetent patients, we tested two hypotheses: the strains were naturally occurring hypervirulent pkr1 (PKA regulatory subunit) mutants, or the strains were hybrids with C. neoformans var. gattii strains that normally infect immunocompetent individuals. Analysis of clinical isolates obtained from apparently immunocompetent individuals from three continents revealed that none were pkr1 mutants, but several exhibited phenotypes consistent with perturbations in cAMP signaling. Additionally, none of the strains were unusual hybrids with gattii strains. Except for one strain that was an AD hybrid, all others were serotype A (var. grubii) isolates. Taken together, our findings indicate that the ability of these clinical isolates to infect apparently normal individuals may be attributable to mutations other than pkr1 and/or underlying immune system impairment in patients.
No preview · Article · Sep 2004 · Current Genetics
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Our earlier findings established that cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase functions in a signaling cascade that regulates
mating and virulence of Cryptococcus neoformans var. grubii (serotype A). Mutants lacking the serotype A protein kinase A (PKA) catalytic subunit Pka1 are unable to mate, fail to produce
melanin or capsule, and are avirulent in animal models, whereas mutants lacking the PKA regulatory subunit Pkr1 overproduce
capsule and are hypervirulent. Because other mutations have been observed to confer different phenotypes in two diverged varieties
of C. neoformans (grubii variety [serotype A] and neoformans variety [serotype D]), we analyzed the functions of the PKA genes in the serotype D neoformans variety. Surprisingly, the Pka1 catalytic subunit was not required for mating, haploid fruiting, or melanin or capsule production
of serotype D strains. Here we identify a second PKA catalytic subunit gene, PKA2, that is present in both serotype A and D strains of C. neoformans. The divergent Pka2 catalytic subunit was found to regulate mating, haploid fruiting, and virulence factor production in
serotype D strains. In contrast, Pka2 has no role in mating, melanin production, or capsule formation in serotype A strains.
Our studies illustrate how different components of signaling pathways can be co-opted and functionally specialized during
the evolution of related but distinct varieties or subspecies of a human fungal pathogen.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: cAMP regulates morphogenesis and virulence in a wide variety of fungi including the plant pathogens. In saprophytic yeasts such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, cAMP signaling plays an important role in nutrient sensing. In filamentous saprophytes, the cAMP pathway appears to play an integral role in vegetative growth and sporulation, with possible connections to mating. Infection-related morphogenesis includes sporulation (conidia and teliospores), formation of appressoria, infection hyphae, and sclerotia. Here, we review studies of cAMP signaling in a variety of plant fungal pathogens. The primary fungi to be considered include Ustilago maydis, Magnaporthe grisea, Cryphonectria parasitica, Colletotrichum and Fusarium species, and Erisyphe graminis. We also include related information on Trichoderma species that act as mycoparasites and biocontrol agents of phytopathogenic fungi. We point out similarities in infection mechanisms, conservation of signaling components, as well as instances of cross-talk with other signaling pathways.
No preview · Article · Feb 2003 · Annual Review of Phytopathology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cryptococcus neoformans is an opportunistic fungal pathogen with a defined sexual cycle for which genetic and molecular techniques are well developed. The entire genome sequence of one C. neoformans strain is nearing completion. The efficient use of this sequence is dependent upon the development of methods to perform more rapid genetic analysis including gene-disruption techniques. A modified PCR overlap technique to generate targeting constructs for gene disruption that contain large regions of gene homology is described. This technique was used to disrupt or delete more than a dozen genes with efficiencies comparable to those previously reported using cloning technology to generate targeting constructs. Moreover, it is shown that disruptions can be made using this technique in a variety of strain backgrounds, including the pathogenic serotype A isolate H99 and recently characterized stable diploid strains. In combination with the availability of the complete genomic sequence, this gene-disruption technique should pave the way for higher throughput genetic analysis of this important pathogenic fungus.