School of BioSciences - Research Publications
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Incomplete Systemic Recovery and Metabolic Phenoreversion in Post-Acute-Phase Nonhospitalized COVID-19 Patients: Implications for Assessment of Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome
(AMER CHEMICAL SOC, 2021-06-04)
We present a multivariate metabotyping approach to assess the functional recovery of nonhospitalized COVID-19 patients and the possible biochemical sequelae of "Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome", colloquially known as long-COVID. Blood samples were taken from patients ca. 3 months after acute COVID-19 infection with further assessment of symptoms at 6 months. Some 57% of the patients had one or more persistent symptoms including respiratory-related symptoms like cough, dyspnea, and rhinorrhea or other nonrespiratory symptoms including chronic fatigue, anosmia, myalgia, or joint pain. Plasma samples were quantitatively analyzed for lipoproteins, glycoproteins, amino acids, biogenic amines, and tryptophan pathway intermediates using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. Metabolic data for the follow-up patients (n = 27) were compared with controls (n = 41) and hospitalized severe acute respiratory syndrome SARS-CoV-2 positive patients (n = 18, with multiple time-points). Univariate and multivariate statistics revealed variable patterns of functional recovery with many patients exhibiting residual COVID-19 biomarker signatures. Several parameters were persistently perturbed, e.g., elevated taurine (p = 3.6 × 10-3 versus controls) and reduced glutamine/glutamate ratio (p = 6.95 × 10-8 versus controls), indicative of possible liver and muscle damage and a high energy demand linked to more generalized tissue repair or immune function. Some parameters showed near-complete normalization, e.g., the plasma apolipoprotein B100/A1 ratio was similar to that of healthy controls but significantly lower (p = 4.2 × 10-3) than post-acute COVID-19 patients, reflecting partial reversion of the metabolic phenotype (phenoreversion) toward the healthy metabolic state. Plasma neopterin was normalized in all follow-up patients, indicative of a reduction in the adaptive immune activity that has been previously detected in active SARS-CoV-2 infection. Other systemic inflammatory biomarkers such as GlycA and the kynurenine/tryptophan ratio remained elevated in some, but not all, patients. Correlation analysis, principal component analysis (PCA), and orthogonal-partial least-squares discriminant analysis (O-PLS-DA) showed that the follow-up patients were, as a group, metabolically distinct from controls and partially comapped with the acute-phase patients. Significant systematic metabolic differences between asymptomatic and symptomatic follow-up patients were also observed for multiple metabolites. The overall metabolic variance of the symptomatic patients was significantly greater than that of nonsymptomatic patients for multiple parameters (χ2 p = 0.014). Thus, asymptomatic follow-up patients including those with post-acute COVID-19 Syndrome displayed a spectrum of multiple persistent biochemical pathophysiology, suggesting that the metabolic phenotyping approach may be deployed for multisystem functional assessment of individual post-acute COVID-19 patients.
Plasmodium falciparum CRK4 directs continuous rounds of DNA replication during schizogony.
(Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2017-02-17)
Plasmodium parasites, the causative agents of malaria, have evolved a unique cell division cycle in the clinically relevant asexual blood stage of infection1. DNA replication commences approximately halfway through the intracellular development following invasion and parasite growth. The schizont stage is associated with multiple rounds of DNA replication and nuclear division without cytokinesis, resulting in a multinucleated cell. Nuclei divide asynchronously through schizogony, with only the final round of DNA replication and segregation being synchronous and coordinated with daughter cell assembly2,3. However, the control mechanisms for this divergent mode of replication are unknown. Here, we show that the Plasmodium-specific kinase PfCRK4 is a key cell-cycle regulator that orchestrates multiple rounds of DNA replication throughout schizogony in Plasmodium falciparum. PfCRK4 depletion led to a complete block in nuclear division and profoundly inhibited DNA replication. Quantitative phosphoproteomic profiling identified a set of PfCRK4-regulated phosphoproteins with greatest functional similarity to CDK2 substrates, particularly proteins involved in the origin of replication firing. PfCRK4 was required for initial and subsequent rounds of DNA replication during schizogony and, in addition, was essential for development in the mosquito vector. Our results identified an essential S-phase promoting factor of the unconventional P. falciparum cell cycle. PfCRK4 is required for both a prolonged period of the intraerythrocytic stage of Plasmodium infection, as well as for transmission, revealing a broad window for PfCRK4-targeted chemotherapeutics.
Reconstructing the early global dynamics of under-ascertained COVID-19 cases and infections
<h4>Background</h4> Asymptomatic or subclinical SARS-CoV-2 infections are often unreported, which means that confirmed case counts may not accurately reflect underlying epidemic dynamics. Understanding the level of ascertainment (the ratio of confirmed symptomatic cases to the true number of symptomatic individuals) and undetected epidemic progression is crucial to informing COVID-19 response planning, including the introduction and relaxation of control measures. Estimating case ascertainment over time allows for accurate estimates of specific outcomes such as seroprevalence, which is essential for planning control measures. <h4>Methods</h4> Using reported data on COVID-19 cases and fatalities globally, we estimated the proportion of symptomatic cases (i.e. any person with any of fever >= 37.5°C, cough, shortness of breath, sudden onset of anosmia, ageusia or dysgeusia illness) that were reported in 210 countries and territories, given those countries had experienced more than ten deaths. We used published estimates of the baseline case fatality ratio (CFR), which was adjusted for delays and under-ascertainment, then calculated the ratio of this baseline CFR to an estimated local delay-adjusted CFR to estimate the level of under-ascertainment in a particular location. We then fit a Bayesian Gaussian process model to estimate the temporal pattern of under-ascertainment. <h4>Results</h4> Based on reported cases and deaths, we estimated that, during March 2020, the median percentage of symptomatic cases detected across the 84 countries which experienced more than ten deaths ranged from 2.4% (Bangladesh) to 100% (Chile). Across the ten countries with the highest number of total confirmed cases as of 6th July 2020, we estimated that the peak number of symptomatic cases ranged from 1.4 times (Chile) to 18 times (France) larger than reported. Comparing our model with national and regional seroprevalence data where available, we find that our estimates are consistent with observed values. Finally, we estimated seroprevalence for each country. As of the 7th June, our seroprevalence estimates range from 0% (many countries) to 13% (95% CrI: 5.6% – 24%) (Belgium). <h4>Conclusions</h4> We found substantial under-ascertainment of symptomatic cases, particularly at the peak of the first wave of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, in many countries. Reported case counts will therefore likely underestimate the rate of outbreak growth initially and underestimate the decline in the later stages of an epidemic. Although there was considerable under-reporting in many locations, our estimates were consistent with emerging serological data, suggesting that the proportion of each country’s population infected with SARS-CoV-2 worldwide is generally low. <h4>Funding</h4> Wellcome Trust, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, DFID, NIHR, GCRF, ARC.
Estimating the true (population) infection rate for COVID-19: A Backcasting Approach with Monte Carlo Methods
<h4>ABSTRACT</h4> Differences in COVID-19 testing and tracing across countries, as well as changes in testing within each country overtime, make it difficult to estimate the true (population) infection rate based on the confirmed number of cases obtained through RNA viral testing. We applied a backcasting approach, coupled with Monte Carlo methods, to estimate a distribution for the true (population) cumulative number of infections (infected and recovered) for 15 countries where reliable data are available. We find a positive relationship between the testing rate per 1,000 people and the implied true detection rate of COVID-19, and a negative relationship between the proportion who test positive and the implied true detection rate. Our estimates suggest that the true number of people infected across our sample of 15 developed countries is 18.2 (5-95% CI: 11.9-39.0) times greater than the reported number of cases. In individual countries, the true number of cases exceeds the reported figure by factors that range from 1.7 (5-95% CI: 1.1-3.6) for Australia to 35.6 (5-95% CI: 23.2-76.3) for Belgium.
Constitutive expression of transcription factor SirZ blocks pathogenicity in Leptosphaeria maculans independently of sirodesmin production
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2021-06-10)
Sirodesmin, the major secondary metabolite produced by the plant pathogenic fungus Leptosphaeria maculans in vitro, has been linked to disease on Brassica species since the 1970s, and yet its role has remained ambiguous. Re-examination of gene expression data revealed that all previously described genes and two newly identified genes within the sir gene cluster in the genome are down-regulated during the crucial early establishment stages of blackleg disease on Brassica napus. To test if this is a strategy employed by the fungus to avoid damage to and then detection by the host plant during the L. maculans asymptomatic biotrophic phase, sirodesmin was produced constitutively by overexpressing the sirZ gene encoding the transcription factor that coordinates the regulation of the other genes in the sir cluster. The sirZ over-expression strains had a major reduction in pathogenicity. Mutation of the over-expression construct restored pathogenicity. However, mutation of two genes, sirP and sirG, required for specific steps in the sirodesmin biosynthesis pathway, in the sirZ over-expression background resulted in strains that were unable to synthesize sirodesmin, yet were still non-pathogenic. Elucidating the basis for this pathogenicity defect or finding ways to overexpress sirZ during disease may provide new strategies for the control of blackleg disease.
Long-term exposure to artificial light at night in the wild decreases survival and growth of a coral reef fish
(ROYAL SOC, 2021-06-09)
Artificial light at night (ALAN) is an increasing anthropogenic pollutant, closely associated with human population density, and now well recognized in both terrestrial and aquatic environments. However, we have a relatively poor understanding of the effects of ALAN in the marine realm. Here, we carried out a field experiment in the coral reef lagoon of Moorea, French Polynesia, to investigate the effects of long-term exposure (18-23 months) to chronic light pollution at night on the survival and growth of wild juvenile orange-fin anemonefish, Amphiprion chrysopterus. Long-term exposure to environmentally relevant underwater illuminance (mean: 4.3 lux), reduced survival (mean: 36%) and growth (mean: 44%) of juvenile anemonefish compared to that of juveniles exposed to natural moonlight underwater (mean: 0.03 lux). Our study carried out in an ecologically realistic situation in which the direct effects of artificial lighting on juvenile anemonefish are combined with the indirect consequences of artificial lighting on other species, such as their competitors, predators, and prey, revealed the negative impacts of ALAN on life-history traits. Not only are there immediate impacts of ALAN on mortality, but the decreased growth of surviving individuals may also have considerable fitness consequences later in life. Future studies examining the mechanisms behind these findings are vital to understand how organisms can cope and survive in nature under this globally increasing pollutant.
Biochemical and Functional Characterization of GALT8, an Arabidopsis GT31 beta-(1,3)-Galactosyltransferase That Influences Seedling Development
(FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2021-05-25)
Arabinogalactan-proteins (AGPs) are members of the hydroxyproline-rich glycoprotein (HRGP) superfamily, a group of highly diverse proteoglycans that are present in the cell wall, plasma membrane as well as secretions of almost all plants, with important roles in many developmental processes. The role of GALT8 (At1g22015), a Glycosyltransferase-31 (GT31) family member of the Carbohydrate-Active Enzyme database (CAZy), was examined by biochemical characterization and phenotypic analysis of a galt8 mutant line. To characterize its catalytic function, GALT8 was heterologously expressed in tobacco leaves and its enzymatic activity tested. GALT8 was shown to be a β-(1,3)-galactosyltransferase (GalT) that catalyzes the synthesis of a β-(1,3)-galactan, similar to the in vitro activity of KNS4/UPEX1 (At1g33430), a homologous GT31 member previously shown to have this activity. Liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) confirmed the products were of 2-6 degree of polymerisation (DP). Previous reporter studies showed that GALT8 is expressed in the central and synergid cells, from whence the micropylar endosperm originates after the fertilization of the central cell of the ovule. Homozygous mutants have multiple seedling phenotypes including significantly shorter hypocotyls and smaller leaf area compared to wild type (WT) that are attributable to defects in female gametophyte and/or endosperm development. KNS4/UPEX1 was shown to partially complement the galt8 mutant phenotypes in genetic complementation assays suggesting a similar but not identical role compared to GALT8 in β-(1,3)-galactan biosynthesis. Taken together, these data add further evidence of the important roles GT31 β-(1,3)-GalTs play in elaborating type II AGs that decorate AGPs and pectins, thereby imparting functional consequences on plant growth and development.
Health and economic costs of early and delayed suppression and the unmitigated spread of COVID-19: The case of Australia.
(Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2021)
We compare the health and economic costs of early and delayed mandated suppression and the unmitigated spread of 'first-wave' COVID-19 infections in Australia in 2020. Using a fit-for-purpose SIQRM-compartment model for susceptible, infected, quarantined, recovered and mortalities on active cases, that we fitted from recorded data, a value of a statistical life year (VSLY) and an age-adjusted value of statistical life (A-VSL), we find that the economic costs of unmitigated suppression are multiples more than for early mandated suppression. We also find that using an equivalent VSLY welfare loss from fatalities to estimated GDP losses, drawn from survey data and our own estimates of the impact of suppression measures on the economy, means that for early suppression not to be the preferred strategy requires that Australia would have to incur more than 12,500-30,000 deaths, depending on the fatality rate with unmitigated spread, to the economy costs of early mandated suppression. We also find that early rather than delayed mandated suppression imposes much lower economy and health costs and conclude that in high-income countries, like Australia, a 'go early, go hard' strategy to suppress COVID-19 results in the lowest estimated public health and economy costs.
Tissue and regional expression patterns of dicistronic tRNA-mRNA transcripts in grapevine (Vitis vinifera) and their evolutionary co-appearance with vasculature in land plants.
(Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2021-06-01)
Transfer RNAs (tRNA) are crucial adaptor molecules between messenger RNA (mRNA) and amino acids. Recent evidence in plants suggests that dicistronic tRNA-like structures also act as mobile signals for mRNA transcripts to move between distant tissues. Co-transcription is not a common feature in the plant nuclear genome and, in the few cases where polycistronic transcripts have been found, they include non-coding RNA species, such as small nucleolar RNAs and microRNAs. It is not known, however, the extent to which dicistronic transcripts of tRNA and mRNAs are expressed in field-grown plants, or the factors contributing to their expression. We analysed tRNA-mRNA dicistronic transcripts in the major horticultural crop grapevine (Vitis vinifera) using a novel pipeline developed to identify dicistronic transcripts from high-throughput RNA-sequencing data. We identified dicistronic tRNA-mRNA in leaf and berry samples from 22 commercial vineyards. Of the 124 tRNA genes that were expressed in both tissues, 18 tRNA were expressed forming part of 19 dicistronic tRNA-mRNAs. The presence and abundance of dicistronic molecules was tissue and geographic sub-region specific. In leaves, the expression patterns of dicistronic tRNA-mRNAs significantly correlated with tRNA expression, suggesting that their transcriptional regulation might be linked. We also found evidence of syntenic genomic arrangements of tRNAs and protein-coding genes between grapevine and Arabidopsis thaliana, and widespread prevalence of dicistronic tRNA-mRNA transcripts among vascular land plants but no evidence of these transcripts in non-vascular lineages. This suggests that the appearance of plant vasculature and tRNA-mRNA occurred concurrently during the evolution of land plants.
Annotation and Molecular Characterisation of the TaIRO3 and TaHRZ Iron Homeostasis Genes in Bread Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)
Effective maintenance of plant iron (Fe) homoeostasis relies on a network of transcription factors (TFs) that respond to environmental conditions and regulate Fe uptake, translocation, and storage. The iron-related transcription factor 3 (IRO3), as well as haemerythrin motif-containing really interesting new gene (RING) protein and zinc finger protein (HRZ), are major regulators of Fe homeostasis in diploid species like Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) and rice (Oryza sativa L.), but remain uncharacterised in hexaploid bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). In this study, we have identified, annotated, and characterised three TaIRO3 homoeologs and six TaHRZ1 and TaHRZ2 homoeologs in the bread wheat genome. Protein analysis revealed that TaIRO3 and TaHRZ proteins contain functionally conserved domains for DNA-binding, dimerisation, Fe binding, or polyubiquitination, and phylogenetic analysis revealed clustering of TaIRO3 and TaHRZ proteins with other monocot IRO3 and HRZ proteins, respectively. Quantitative reverse-transcription PCR analysis revealed that all TaIRO3 and TaHRZ homoeologs have unique tissue expression profiles and are upregulated in shoot tissues in response to Fe deficiency. After 24 h of Fe deficiency, the expression of TaHRZ homoeologs was upregulated, while the expression of TaIRO3 homoeologs was unchanged, suggesting that TaHRZ functions upstream of TaIRO3 in the wheat Fe homeostasis TF network.
Microbiome characterization of defensive tissues in the model anemone Exaiptasia diaphana
BACKGROUND: Coral reefs are among the most diverse and productive ecosystems on Earth. This success relies on the coral's association with a wide range of microorganisms, including dinoflagellates of the family Symbiodiniaceae that provide coral hosts with most of their organic carbon requirements. While bacterial associates have long been overlooked, research on these microorganisms is gaining traction, and deciphering bacterial identity and function is greatly enhancing our understanding of cnidarian biology. Here, we investigated bacterial communities in defensive tissues (acontia) of the coral model, the sea anemone Exaiptasia diaphana. Acontia are internal filaments that are ejected upon detection of an external threat and release toxins to repel predators. RESULTS: Using culturing techniques and 16S rRNA gene metabarcoding we identified bacterial communities associated with acontia of four Great Barrier Reef-sourced E. diaphana genotypes. We show that bacterial communities are similar across genotypes, and dominated by Alteromonadaceae, Vibrionaceae, Rhodobacteraceae, and Saprospiraceae. By analyzing abundant amplicon sequence variants (ASVs) from metabarcoding data from acontia and comparing these to data from whole anemones, we identified five potentially important bacterial genera of the acontia microbiome: Vibrio, Sulfitobacter, Marivita, Alteromonas, and Lewinella. The role of these bacteria within the acontia remains uninvestigated but could entail assistance in defense processes such as toxin production. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides insight into potential bacterial involvement in cnidarian defense tissues and highlights the need to study bacterial communities in individual compartments within a holobiont.
Membrane-Enriched Proteomics Link Ribosome Accumulation and Proteome Reprogramming With Cold Acclimation in Barley Root Meristems
(FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2021-04-30)
Due to their sessile nature, plants rely on root systems to mediate many biotic and abiotic cues. To overcome these challenges, the root proteome is shaped to specific responses. Proteome-wide reprogramming events are magnified in meristems due to their active protein production. Using meristems as a test system, here, we study the major rewiring that plants undergo during cold acclimation. We performed tandem mass tag-based bottom-up quantitative proteomics of two consecutive segments of barley seminal root apexes subjected to suboptimal temperatures. After comparing changes in total and ribosomal protein (RP) fraction-enriched contents with shifts in individual protein abundances, we report ribosome accumulation accompanied by an intricate translational reprogramming in the distal apex zone. Reprogramming ranges from increases in ribosome biogenesis to protein folding factors and suggests roles for cold-specific RP paralogs. Ribosome biogenesis is the largest cellular investment; thus, the vast accumulation of ribosomes and specific translation-related proteins during cold acclimation could imply a divergent ribosomal population that would lead to a proteome shift across the root. Consequently, beyond the translational reprogramming, we report a proteome rewiring. First, triggered protein accumulation includes spliceosome activity in the root tip and a ubiquitous upregulation of glutathione production and S-glutathionylation (S-GSH) assemblage machineries in both root zones. Second, triggered protein depletion includes intrinsically enriched proteins in the tip-adjacent zone, which comprise the plant immune system. In summary, ribosome and translation-related protein accumulation happens concomitantly to a proteome reprogramming in barley root meristems during cold acclimation. The cold-accumulated proteome is functionally implicated in feedbacking transcript to protein translation at both ends and could guide cold acclimation.