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Hubmann G.,Catholic University of Leuven | Mathe L.,Catholic University of Leuven | Foulquie-Moreno M.R.,Catholic University of Leuven | Duitama J.,Agrobiodiversity research area | And 2 more authors.
Biotechnology for Biofuels

Background: Genetic engineering of industrial microorganisms often suffers from undesirable side effects on essential functions. Reverse engineering is an alternative strategy to improve multifactorial traits like low glycerol/high ethanol yield in yeast fermentation. Previous rational engineering of this trait always affected essential functions like growth and stress tolerance. We have screened Saccharomyces cerevisiae biodiversity for specific alleles causing lower glycerol/higher ethanol yield, assuming higher compatibility with normal cellular functionality. Previous work identified ssk1 E330N.K356N as causative allele in strain CBS6412, which displayed the lowest glycerol/ethanol ratio. Results: We have now identified a unique segregant, 26B, that shows similar low glycerol/high ethanol production as the superior parent, but lacks the ssk1 E330N.K356N allele. Using segregants from the backcross of 26B with the inferior parent strain, we applied pooled-segregant whole-genome sequence analysis and identified three minor quantitative trait loci (QTLs) linked to low glycerol/high ethanol production. Within these QTLs, we identified three novel alleles of known regulatory and structural genes of glycerol metabolism, smp1 R110Q,P269Q, hot1 P107S,H274Y and gpd1 L164P as causative genes. All three genes separately caused a significant drop in the glycerol/ethanol production ratio, while gpd1 L164P appeared to be epistatically suppressed by other alleles in the superior parent. The order of potency in reducing the glycerol/ethanol ratio of the three alleles was: gpd1 L164P > hot1 P107S,H274Y ≥ smp1 R110Q,P269Q. Conclusions: Our results show that natural yeast strains harbor multiple specific alleles of genes controlling essential functions, that are apparently compatible with survival in the natural environment. These newly identified alleles can be used as gene tools for engineering industrial yeast strains with multiple subtle changes, minimizing the risk of negatively affecting other essential functions. The gene tools act at the transcriptional, regulatory or structural gene level, distributing the impact over multiple targets and thus further minimizing possible side-effects. In addition, the results suggest polygenic analysis of complex traits as a promising new avenue to identify novel components involved in cellular functions, including those important in industrial applications. © 2013 Hubmann et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. Source

Pais T.M.,Catholic University of Leuven | Foulquie-Moreno M.R.,Catholic University of Leuven | Hubmann G.,Catholic University of Leuven | Duitama J.,Agrobiodiversity research area | And 5 more authors.
PLoS Genetics

The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is able to accumulate ≥17% ethanol (v/v) by fermentation in the absence of cell proliferation. The genetic basis of this unique capacity is unknown. Up to now, all research has focused on tolerance of yeast cell proliferation to high ethanol levels. Comparison of maximal ethanol accumulation capacity and ethanol tolerance of cell proliferation in 68 yeast strains showed a poor correlation, but higher ethanol tolerance of cell proliferation clearly increased the likelihood of superior maximal ethanol accumulation capacity. We have applied pooled-segregant whole-genome sequence analysis to identify the polygenic basis of these two complex traits using segregants from a cross of a haploid derivative of the sake strain CBS1585 and the lab strain BY. From a total of 301 segregants, 22 superior segregants accumulating ≥17% ethanol in small-scale fermentations and 32 superior segregants growing in the presence of 18% ethanol, were separately pooled and sequenced. Plotting SNP variant frequency against chromosomal position revealed eleven and eight Quantitative Trait Loci (QTLs) for the two traits, respectively, and showed that the genetic basis of the two traits is partially different. Fine-mapping and Reciprocal Hemizygosity Analysis identified ADE1, URA3, and KIN3, encoding a protein kinase involved in DNA damage repair, as specific causative genes for maximal ethanol accumulation capacity. These genes, as well as the previously identified MKT1 gene, were not linked in this genetic background to tolerance of cell proliferation to high ethanol levels. The superior KIN3 allele contained two SNPs, which are absent in all yeast strains sequenced up to now. This work provides the first insight in the genetic basis of maximal ethanol accumulation capacity in yeast and reveals for the first time the importance of DNA damage repair in yeast ethanol tolerance. © 2013 Pais et al. Source

Duan F.,University of Connecticut | Duitama J.,University of Connecticut | Duitama J.,Agrobiodiversity research area | Al Seesi S.,University of Connecticut | And 10 more authors.
Journal of Experimental Medicine

The mutational repertoire of cancers creates the neoepitopes that make cancers immunogenic. Here, we introduce two novel tools that identify, with relatively high accuracy, the small proportion of neoepitopes (among the hundreds of potential neoepitopes) that protect the host through an antitumor T cell response. The two tools consist of (a) the numerical difference in NetMHC scores between the mutated sequences and their unmutated counterparts, termed the differential agretopic index, and (b) the conformational stability of the MHC I-peptide interaction. Mechanistically, these tools identify neoepitopes that are mutated to create new anchor residues for MHC binding, and render the overall peptide more rigid. Surprisingly, the protective neoepitopes identified here elicit CD8- dependent immunity, even though their affinity for Kd is orders of magnitude lower than the 500-nM threshold considered reasonable for such interactions. These results greatly expand the universe of target cancer antigens and identify new tools for human cancer immunotherapy. © 2014 Duan et al. Source

Heffelfinger C.,Yale University | Fragoso C.A.,Yale University | Moreno M.A.,Yale University | Overton J.D.,Yale University | And 5 more authors.
BMC Genomics

Background: Many areas critical to agricultural production and research, such as the breeding and trait mapping in plants and livestock, require robust and scalable genotyping platforms. Genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) is a one such method highly suited to non-human organisms. In the GBS protocol, genomic DNA is fractionated via restriction digest, then reduced representation is achieved through size selection. Since many restriction sites are conserved across a species, the sequenced portion of the genome is highly consistent within a population. This makes the GBS protocol highly suited for experiments that require surveying large numbers of markers within a population, such as those involving genetic mapping, breeding, and population genomics. We have modified the GBS technology in a number of ways. Custom, enzyme specific adaptors have been replaced with standard Illumina adaptors compatible with blunt-end restriction enzymes. Multiplexing is achieved through a dual barcoding system, and bead-based library preparation protocols allows for in-solution size selection and eliminates the need for columns and gels. Results: A panel of eight restriction enzymes was selected for testing on B73 maize and Nipponbare rice genomic DNA. Quality of the data was demonstrated by identifying that the vast majority of reads from each enzyme aligned to restriction sites predicted in silico. The link between enzyme parameters and experimental outcome was demonstrated by showing that the sequenced portion of the genome was adaptable by selecting enzymes based on motif length, complexity, and methylation sensitivity. The utility of the new GBS protocol was demonstrated by correctly mapping several in a maize F2 population resulting from a B73 × Country Gentleman test cross. Conclusions: This technology is readily adaptable to different genomes, highly amenable to multiplexing and compatible with over forty commercially available restriction enzymes. These advancements represent a major improvement in genotyping technology by providing a highly flexible and scalable GBS that is readily implemented for studies on genome-wide variation. © 2015 Heffelfinger et al.. licensee BioMed Central Ltd. Source

Duitama J.,Catholic University of Leuven | Duitama J.,Agrobiodiversity research area | Zablotskaya A.,Center for the Biology of Disease | Zablotskaya A.,Catholic University of Leuven | And 9 more authors.
Nucleic Acids Research

Tandem repeats are short DNA sequences that are repeated head-to-tail with a propensity to be variable. They constitute a significant proportion of the human genome, also occurring within coding and regulatory regions. Variation in these repeats can alter the function and/or expression of genes allowing organisms to swiftly adapt to novel environments. Importantly, some repeat expansions have also been linked to certain neurodegenerative diseases. Therefore, accurate sequencing of tandem repeats could contribute to our understanding of common phenotypic variability and might uncover missing genetic factors in idiopathic clinical conditions. However, despite long-standing evidence for the functional role of repeats, they are largely ignored because of technical limitations in sequencing, mapping and typing. Here, we report on a novel capture technique and data filtering protocol that allowed simultaneous sequencing of thousands of tandem repeats in the human genomes of a three generation family using GS-FLX-plus Titanium technology. Our results demonstrated that up to 7.6% of tandem repeats in this family (4% in coding sequences) differ from the reference sequence, and identified a de novo variation in the family tree. The method opens new routes to look at this underappreciated type of genetic variability, including the identification of novel disease-related repeats. © 2014 The Author(s) 2014. Source

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