Genetics (Current Issue)

Subscribe to Genetics (Current Issue) feed Genetics (Current Issue)
Genetics RSS feed -- current issue
Updated: 21 min 58 sec ago

Polycomb and Trithorax Group Genes in Drosophila [Gene Expression]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am

Polycomb group (PcG) and Trithorax group (TrxG) genes encode important regulators of development and differentiation in metazoans. These two groups of genes were discovered in Drosophila by their opposing effects on homeotic gene (Hox) expression. PcG genes collectively behave as genetic repressors of Hox genes, while the TrxG genes are necessary for HOX gene expression or function. Biochemical studies showed that many PcG proteins are present in two protein complexes, Polycomb repressive complexes 1 and 2, which repress transcription via chromatin modifications. TrxG proteins activate transcription via a variety of mechanisms. Here we summarize the large body of genetic and biochemical experiments in Drosophila on these two important groups of genes.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

High-Throughput Characterization of Cascade type I-E CRISPR Guide Efficacy Reveals Unexpected PAM Diversity and Target Sequence Preferences [Methods, Technology, and Resources]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am

Interactions between Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat (CRISPR) RNAs and CRISPR-associated (Cas) proteins form an RNA-guided adaptive immune system in prokaryotes. The adaptive immune system utilizes segments of the genetic material of invasive foreign elements in the CRISPR locus. The loci are transcribed and processed to produce small CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs), with degradation of invading genetic material directed by a combination of complementarity between RNA and DNA and in some cases recognition of adjacent motifs called PAMs (Protospacer Adjacent Motifs). Here we describe a general, high-throughput procedure to test the efficacy of thousands of targets, applying this to the Escherichia coli type I-E Cascade (CRISPR-associated complex for antiviral defense) system. These studies were followed with reciprocal experiments in which the consequence of CRISPR activity was survival in the presence of a lytic phage. From the combined analysis of the Cascade system, we found that (i) type I-E Cascade PAM recognition is more expansive than previously reported, with at least 22 distinct PAMs, with many of the noncanonical PAMs having CRISPR-interference abilities similar to the canonical PAMs; (ii) PAM positioning appears precise, with no evidence for tolerance to PAM slippage in interference; and (iii) while increased guanine-cytosine (GC) content in the spacer is associated with higher CRISPR-interference efficiency, high GC content (>62.5%) decreases CRISPR-interference efficiency. Our findings provide a comprehensive functional profile of Cascade type I-E interference requirements and a method to assay spacer efficacy that can be applied to other CRISPR-Cas systems.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Investigation of Seizure-Susceptibility in a Drosophila melanogaster Model of Human Epilepsy with Optogenetic Stimulation [Methods, Technology, and Resources]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am

We examined seizure-susceptibility in a Drosophila model of human epilepsy using optogenetic stimulation of ReaChR (red-activatable channelrhodopsin). Photostimulation of the seizure-sensitive mutant parabss1 causes behavioral paralysis that resembles paralysis caused by mechanical stimulation, in many aspects. Electrophysiology shows that photostimulation evokes abnormal seizure-like neuronal firing in parabss1 followed by a quiescent period resembling synaptic failure and apparently responsible for paralysis. The pattern of neuronal activity concludes with seizure-like activity just prior to recovery. We tentatively identify the mushroom body as one apparent locus of optogenetic seizure initiation. The α/β lobes may be primarily responsible for mushroom body seizure induction.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Toward Universal Forward Genetics: Using a Draft Genome Sequence of the Nematode Oscheius tipulae To Identify Mutations Affecting Vulva Development [Methods, Technology, and Resources]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am

Mapping-by-sequencing has become a standard method to map and identify phenotype-causing mutations in model species. Here, we show that a fragmented draft assembly is sufficient to perform mapping-by-sequencing in nonmodel species. We generated a draft assembly and annotation of the genome of the free-living nematode Oscheius tipulae, a distant relative of the model Caenorhabditis elegans. We used this draft to identify the likely causative mutations at the O. tipulae cov-3 locus, which affect vulval development. The cov-3 locus encodes the O. tipulae ortholog of C. elegans mig-13, and we further show that Cel-mig-13 mutants also have an unsuspected vulval-development phenotype. In a virtuous circle, we were able to use the linkage information collected during mutant mapping to improve the genome assembly. These results showcase the promise of genome-enabled forward genetics in nonmodel species.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

An Efficient FLP-Based Toolkit for Spatiotemporal Control of Gene Expression in Caenorhabditis elegans [Methods, Technology, and Resources]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am

Site-specific recombinases are potent tools to regulate gene expression. In particular, the Cre (cyclization recombination) and FLP (flipase) enzymes are widely used to either activate or inactivate genes in a precise spatiotemporal manner. Both recombinases work efficiently in the popular model organism Caenorhabditis elegans, but their use in this nematode is still only sporadic. To increase the utility of the FLP system in C. elegans, we have generated a series of single-copy transgenic strains that stably express an optimized version of FLP in specific tissues or by heat induction. We show that recombination efficiencies reach 100% in several cell types, such as muscles, intestine, and serotonin-producing neurons. Moreover, we demonstrate that most promoters drive recombination exclusively in the expected tissues. As examples of the potentials of the FLP lines, we describe novel tools for induced cell ablation by expression of the PEEL-1 toxin and a versatile FLP-out cassette for generation of GFP-tagged conditional knockout alleles. Together with other recombinase-based reagents created by the C. elegans community, this toolkit increases the possibilities for detailed analyses of specific biological processes at developmental stages inside intact animals.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Powerful Genetic Association Analysis for Common or Rare Variants with High-Dimensional Structured Traits [Statistical Genetics and Genomics]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am

Many genetic association studies collect a wide range of complex traits. As these traits may be correlated and share a common genetic mechanism, joint analysis can be statistically more powerful and biologically more meaningful. However, most existing tests for multiple traits cannot be used for high-dimensional and possibly structured traits, such as network-structured transcriptomic pathway expressions. To overcome potential limitations, in this article we propose the dual kernel-based association test (DKAT) for testing the association between multiple traits and multiple genetic variants, both common and rare. In DKAT, two individual kernels are used to describe the phenotypic and genotypic similarity, respectively, between pairwise subjects. Using kernels allows for capturing structure while accommodating dimensionality. Then, the association between traits and genetic variants is summarized by a coefficient which measures the association between two kernel matrices. Finally, DKAT evaluates the hypothesis of nonassociation with an analytical P-value calculation without any computationally expensive resampling procedures. By collapsing information in both traits and genetic variants using kernels, the proposed DKAT is shown to have a correct type-I error rate and higher power than other existing methods in both simulation studies and application to a study of genetic regulation of pathway gene expressions.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Genome-Wide Association Analyses Based on Broadly Different Specifications for Prior Distributions, Genomic Windows, and Estimation Methods [Statistical Genetics and Genomics]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am

A currently popular strategy (EMMAX) for genome-wide association (GWA) analysis infers association for the specific marker of interest by treating its effect as fixed while treating all other marker effects as classical Gaussian random effects. It may be more statistically coherent to specify all markers as sharing the same prior distribution, whether that distribution is Gaussian, heavy-tailed (BayesA), or has variable selection specifications based on a mixture of, say, two Gaussian distributions [stochastic search and variable selection (SSVS)]. Furthermore, all such GWA inference should be formally based on posterior probabilities or test statistics as we present here, rather than merely being based on point estimates. We compared these three broad categories of priors within a simulation study to investigate the effects of different degrees of skewness for quantitative trait loci (QTL) effects and numbers of QTL using 43,266 SNP marker genotypes from 922 Duroc–Pietrain F2-cross pigs. Genomic regions were based either on single SNP associations, on nonoverlapping windows of various fixed sizes (0.5–3 Mb), or on adaptively determined windows that cluster the genome into blocks based on linkage disequilibrium. We found that SSVS and BayesA lead to the best receiver operating curve properties in almost all cases. We also evaluated approximate maximum a posteriori (MAP) approaches to BayesA and SSVS as potential computationally feasible alternatives; however, MAP inferences were not promising, particularly due to their sensitivity to starting values. We determined that it is advantageous to use variable selection specifications based on adaptively constructed genomic window lengths for GWA studies.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

A Lysine Desert Protects a Novel Domain in the Slx5-Slx8 SUMO Targeted Ub Ligase To Maintain Sumoylation Levels in Saccharomyces cerevisiae [Genome Integrity and Transmission]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am

Protein modification by the small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) plays important roles in genome maintenance. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, proper regulation of sumoylation is known to be essential for viability in certain DNA repair mutants. Here, we find the opposite result; proper regulation of sumoylation is lethal in certain DNA repair mutants. Yeast cells lacking the repair factors TDP1 and WSS1 are synthetically lethal due to their redundant roles in removing Top1-DNA covalent complexes (Top1ccs). A screen for suppressors of tdp1 wss1 synthetic lethality isolated mutations in genes known to control global sumoylation levels including ULP1, ULP2, SIZ2, and SLX5. The results suggest that alternative pathways of repair become available when sumoylation levels are altered. Curiously, both suppressor mutations that were isolated in the Slx5 subunit of the SUMO-targeted Ub ligase created new lysine residues. These "slx5-K" mutations localize to a 398 amino acid domain that is completely free of lysine, and they result in the auto-ubiquitination and partial proteolysis of Slx5. The decrease in Slx5-K protein leads to the accumulation of high molecular weight SUMO conjugates, and the residual Ub ligase activity is needed to suppress inviability presumably by targeting polysumoylated Top1ccs. This "lysine desert" is found in the subset of large fungal Slx5 proteins, but not its smaller orthologs such as RNF4. The lysine desert solves a problem that Ub ligases encounter when evolving novel functional domains.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Pharmacological Inhibition of the DNA Damage Checkpoint Prevents Radiation-Induced Oocyte Death [Genome Integrity and Transmission]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am

Ovarian function is directly correlated with survival of the primordial follicle reserve. Women diagnosed with cancer have a primary imperative of treating the cancer, but since the resting oocytes are hypersensitive to the DNA-damaging modalities of certain chemo- and radiotherapeutic regimens, such patients face the collateral outcome of premature loss of fertility and ovarian endocrine function. Current options for fertility preservation primarily include the collection and cryopreservation of oocytes or in vitro-fertilized oocytes, but this necessitates a delay in cancer treatment and additional assisted reproductive technology procedures. Here, we evaluated the potential of pharmacological preservation of ovarian function by inhibiting a key element of the oocyte DNA damage checkpoint response, checkpoint kinase 2 (CHK2; CHEK2). Whereas nonlethal doses of ionizing radiation (IR) eradicate immature oocytes in wild-type mice, irradiated Chk2–/– mice retain their oocytes and, thus, fertility. Using an ovarian culture system, we show that transient administration of the CHK2 inhibitor 2-(4-(4-chlorophenoxy)phenyl)-1H-benzimidazole-5-carboxamide-hydrate ("CHK2iII") blocked activation of the CHK2 targets TRP53 and TRP63 in response to sterilizing doses of IR, and preserved oocyte viability. After transfer into sterilized host females, these ovaries proved functional and readily yielded normal offspring. These results provide experimental evidence that chemical inhibition of CHK2 is a potentially effective treatment for preserving the fertility and ovarian endocrine function of women exposed to DNA-damaging cancer therapies such as IR.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Maternal Haploid, a Metalloprotease Enriched at the Largest Satellite Repeat and Essential for Genome Integrity in Drosophila Embryos [Genome Integrity and Transmission]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am

The incorporation of the paternal genome into the zygote during fertilization requires chromatin remodeling. The maternal haploid (mh) mutation in Drosophila affects this process and leads to the formation of haploid embryos without the paternal genome. mh encodes the Drosophila homolog of SPRTN, a conserved protease essential for resolving DNA–protein cross-linked products. Here we characterize the role of MH in genome maintenance. It is not understood how MH protects the paternal genome during fertilization, particularly in light of our finding that MH is present in both parental pronuclei during zygote formation. We showed that maternal chromosomes in mh mutant embryos experience instabilities in the absence of the paternal genome, which suggests that MH is generally required for chromosome stability during embryogenesis. This is consistent with our finding that MH is abundantly present on chromatin throughout the cell cycle. Remarkably, MH is prominently enriched at the 359-bp satellite repeats during interphase, which becomes unstable without MH. This dynamic localization and specific enrichment of MH at the 359 repeats resemble that of Topoisomerase 2 (Top2), suggesting that MH regulates Top2, possibly as a protease for the resolution of Top2-DNA intermediates. We propose that maternal MH removes proteins specifically enriched on sperm chromatin. In the absence of that function, paternal chromosomes are precipitously lost. This mode of paternal chromatin remodeling is likely conserved and the unique phenotype of the Drosophila mh mutants represents a rare opportunity to gain insights into the process that has been difficult to study.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Genetics of Genome-Wide Recombination Rate Evolution in Mice from an Isolated Island [Genome Integrity and Transmission]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am

Recombination rate is a heritable quantitative trait that evolves despite the fundamentally conserved role that recombination plays in meiosis. Differences in recombination rate can alter the landscape of the genome and the genetic diversity of populations. Yet our understanding of the genetic basis of recombination rate evolution in nature remains limited. We used wild house mice (Mus musculus domesticus) from Gough Island (GI), which diverged recently from their mainland counterparts, to characterize the genetics of recombination rate evolution. We quantified genome-wide autosomal recombination rates by immunofluorescence cytology in spermatocytes from 240 F2 males generated from intercrosses between GI-derived mice and the wild-derived inbred strain WSB/EiJ. We identified four quantitative trait loci (QTL) responsible for inter-F2 variation in this trait, the strongest of which had effects that opposed the direction of the parental trait differences. Candidate genes and mutations for these QTL were identified by overlapping the detected intervals with whole-genome sequencing data and publicly available transcriptomic profiles from spermatocytes. Combined with existing studies, our findings suggest that genome-wide recombination rate divergence is not directional and its evolution within and between subspecies proceeds from distinct genetic loci.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

A Role for the Nonsense-Mediated mRNA Decay Pathway in Maintaining Genome Stability in Caenorhabditis elegans [Genome Integrity and Transmission]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am

Ionizing radiation (IR) is commonly used in cancer therapy and is a main source of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), one of the most toxic forms of DNA damage. We have used Caenorhabditis elegans as an invertebrate model to identify novel factors required for repair of DNA damage inflicted by IR. We have performed an unbiased genetic screen, finding that smg-1 mutations confer strong hyper-sensitivity to IR. SMG-1 is a phosphoinositide-3 kinase (PI3K) involved in mediating nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) of transcripts containing premature stop codons and related to the ATM and ATR kinases which are at the apex of DNA damage signaling pathways. Hyper-sensitivity to IR also occurs when other genes mediating NMD are mutated. The hyper-sensitivity to bleomycin, a drug known to induce DSBs, further supports that NMD pathway mutants are defective in DSB repair. Hyper-sensitivity was not observed upon treatment with alkylating agents or UV irradiation. We show that SMG-1 mainly acts in mitotically dividing germ cells, and during late embryonic and larval development. Based on epistasis experiments, SMG-1 does not appear to act in any of the three major pathways known to mend DNA DSBs, namely homologous recombination (HR), nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ), and microhomology-mediated end-joining (MMEJ). We speculate that SMG-1 kinase activity could be activated following DNA damage to phosphorylate specific DNA repair proteins and/or that NMD inactivation may lead to aberrant mRNAs leading to synthesis of malfunctioning DNA repair proteins.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Evolving Mistranslating tRNAs Through a Phenotypically Ambivalent Intermediate in Saccharomyces cerevisiae [Gene Expression]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am

The genetic code converts information from nucleic acid into protein. The genetic code was thought to be immutable, yet many examples in nature indicate that variations to the code provide a selective advantage. We used a sensitive selection system involving suppression of a deleterious allele (tti2-L187P) in Saccharomyces cerevisiae to detect mistranslation and identify mechanisms that allow genetic code evolution. Though tRNASer containing a proline anticodon (UGG) is toxic, using our selection system we identified four tRNASer UGG variants, each with a single mutation, that mistranslate at a tolerable level. Mistranslating tRNALeu UGG variants were also obtained, demonstrating the generality of the approach. We characterized two of the tRNASer UGG variants. One contained a G26A mutation, which reduced cell growth to 70% of the wild-type rate, induced a heat shock response, and was lost in the absence of selection. The reduced toxicity of tRNASer UGG-G26A is likely through increased turnover of the tRNA, as lack of methylation at G26 leads to degradation via the rapid tRNA decay pathway. The second tRNASer UGG variant, with a G9A mutation, had minimal effect on cell growth, was relatively stable in cells, and gave rise to less of a heat shock response. In vitro, the G9A mutation decreases aminoacylation and affects folding of the tRNA. Notably, the G26A and G9A mutations were phenotypically neutral in the context of an otherwise wild-type tRNASer. These experiments reveal a model for genetic code evolution in which tRNA anticodon mutations and mistranslation evolve through phenotypically ambivalent intermediates that reduce tRNA function.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Up-Frameshift Protein UPF1 Regulates Neurospora crassa Circadian and Diurnal Growth Rhythms [Gene Expression]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am

Nonsense-mediated RNA decay (NMD) is a crucial post-transcriptional regulatory mechanism that recognizes and eliminates aberrantly processed transcripts, and mediates the expression of normal gene transcripts. In this study, we report that in the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa, the NMD factors play a conserved role in regulating the surveillance of NMD targets including premature termination codon (PTC)-containing transcripts and normal transcripts. The circadian rhythms in all of the knockout strains of upf1-3 genes, which encode the Up-frameshift proteins, were aberrant. The upf1 knockout strain displays a shortened circadian period, which can be restored by constantly expressing exogenous Up-frameshift protein 1 (UPF1). UPF1 regulates the circadian clock by modulating the splicing of the core clock gene frequency (frq) through spliceosome and spliceosome-related arginine/serine-rich splicing factors, which partly account for the short periods in the upf1 knockout strain. We also demonstrated that the clock genes including White Collar (WC)-1, WC-2, and FRQ are involved in controlling the diurnal growth rhythm, and UPF1 may affect the growth rhythms by mediating the FRQ protein levels in the daytime. These findings suggest that the NMD factors play important roles in regulating the circadian clock and diurnal growth rhythms in Neurospora.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Epigenetic Transcriptional Memory of GAL Genes Depends on Growth in Glucose and the Tup1 Transcription Factor in Saccharomyces cerevisiae [Gene Expression]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am

Previously expressed inducible genes can remain poised for faster reactivation for multiple cell divisions, a conserved phenomenon called epigenetic transcriptional memory. The GAL genes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae show faster reactivation for up to seven generations after being repressed. During memory, previously produced Gal1 protein enhances the rate of reactivation of GAL1, GAL10, GAL2, and GAL7. These genes also interact with the nuclear pore complex (NPC) and localize to the nuclear periphery both when active and during memory. Peripheral localization of GAL1 during memory requires the Gal1 protein, a memory-specific cis-acting element in the promoter, and the NPC protein Nup100. However, unlike other examples of transcriptional memory, the interaction with NPC is not required for faster GAL gene reactivation. Rather, downstream of Gal1, the Tup1 transcription factor and growth in glucose promote GAL transcriptional memory. Cells only show signs of memory and only benefit from memory when growing in glucose. Tup1 promotes memory-specific chromatin changes at the GAL1 promoter: incorporation of histone variant H2A.Z and dimethylation of histone H3, lysine 4. Tup1 and H2A.Z function downstream of Gal1 to promote binding of a preinitiation form of RNA Polymerase II at the GAL1 promoter, poising the gene for faster reactivation. This mechanism allows cells to integrate a previous experience (growth in galactose, reflected by Gal1 levels) with current conditions (growth in glucose, potentially through Tup1 function) to overcome repression and to poise critical GAL genes for future reactivation.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

The Oxidative Stress Response in Caenorhabditis elegans Requires the GATA Transcription Factor ELT-3 and SKN-1/Nrf2 [Cellular Genetics]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am
Categories: Genetics News Feed

Shrinking Daughters: Rlm1-Dependent G1/S Checkpoint Maintains Saccharomyces cerevisiae Daughter Cell Size and Viability [Cellular Genetics]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am
Categories: Genetics News Feed

Control of a Novel Spermatocyte-Promoting Factor by the Male Germline Sex Determination Factor PHF7 of Drosophila melanogaster [Developmental and Behavioral Genetics]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am

A key aspect of germ cell development is to establish germline sexual identity and initiate a sex-specific developmental program to promote spermatogenesis or oogenesis. Previously, we have identified the histone reader Plant Homeodomain Finger 7 (PHF7) as an important regulator of male germline identity. To understand how PHF7 directs sexual differentiation of the male germline, we investigated the downstream targets of PHF7 by combining transcriptome analyses, which reveal genes regulated by Phf7, with genomic profiling of histone H3K4me2, the chromatin mark that is bound by PHF7. Through these genomic experiments, we identify a novel spermatocyte factor Receptor Accessory Protein Like 1 (REEPL1) that can promote spermatogenesis and whose expression is kept off by PHF7 in the spermatogonial stage. Loss of Reepl1 significantly rescues the spermatogenesis defects in Phf7 mutants, indicating that regulation of Reepl1 is an essential aspect of PHF7 function. Further, increasing REEPL1 expression facilitates spermatogenic differentiation. These results indicate that PHF7 controls spermatogenesis by regulating the expression patterns of important male germline genes.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Coordination of Heparan Sulfate Proteoglycans with Wnt Signaling To Control Cellular Migrations and Positioning in Caenorhabditis elegans [Developmental and Behavioral Genetics]

August 4, 2017 - 9:34am

Heparan sulfates (HS) are linear polysaccharides with complex modification patterns, which are covalently bound via conserved attachment sites to core proteins to form heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs). HSPGs regulate many aspects of the development and function of the nervous system, including cell migration, morphology, and network connectivity. HSPGs function as cofactors for multiple signaling pathways, including the Wnt-signaling molecules and their Frizzled receptors. To investigate the functional interactions among the HSPG and Wnt networks, we conducted genetic analyses of each, and also between these networks using five cellular migrations in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. We find that HSPG core proteins act genetically in a combinatorial fashion dependent on the cellular contexts. Double mutant analyses reveal distinct redundancies among HSPGs for different migration events, and different cellular migrations require distinct heparan sulfate modification patterns. Our studies reveal that the transmembrane HSPG SDN-1/Syndecan functions within the migrating cell to promote cellular migrations, while the GPI-linked LON-2/Glypican functions cell nonautonomously to establish the final cellular position. Genetic analyses with the Wnt-signaling system show that (1) a given HSPG can act with different Wnts and Frizzled receptors, and that (2) a given Wnt/Frizzled pair acts with different HSPGs in a context-dependent manner. Lastly, we find that distinct HSPG and Wnt/Frizzled combinations serve separate functions to promote cellular migration and establish position of specific neurons. Our studies suggest that HSPGs use structurally diverse glycans in coordination with Wnt-signaling pathways to control multiple cellular behaviors, including cellular and axonal migrations and, cellular positioning.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Pages