Table of contents

Volume 3, Issue 4, pp. 132 - 188, April 2016

Issue cover
Cover: Centromeres, as most other heterochromatic domains, localize at the nuclear periphery, which is redundantly controlled by several mechanisms in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe. The cover is an art version of live-cell images of several nuclei lacking both the lamin-associated homolog Lem2 and the centromere-clustering factor Csi1. In those nuclei, the centromeres (green, GFP-fusion with the kinetochore protein Mis6) are delocalized from the nuclear envelope (red, mCherry-fusion with the nucleoporin protein Cut11). Image by Sigurd Braun and Ramón Ramos Barrales (Ludwig-Maximilians-University München, Germany); modified by MIC. The cover is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. Enlarge issue cover


What’s old is new again: yeast mutant screens in the era of pooled segregant analysis by genome sequencing

Chris Curtin, Toni Cordente

page 132-134 | 10.15698/mic2016.04.488 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

While once de-rigueur for identification of genes involved in biological processes, screening of chemically induced mutant populations is an approach that has largely been superseded for model organisms such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Availability of single gene deletion/overexpression libraries and combinatorial synthetic genetic arrays provide yeast researchers more structured ways to probe genetic networks. Furthermore, in the age of inexpensive DNA sequencing, methodologies such as mapping of quantitative trait loci (QTL) by pooled segregant analysis and genome-wide association enable the identification of multiple naturally occurring allelic variants that contribute to polygenic phenotypes of interest. This is, however, contingent on the capacity to screen large numbers of individuals and existence of sufficient natural phenotypic variation within the available population. The latter cannot be guaranteed and non-selectable, industrially relevant phenotypes, such as production of volatile aroma compounds, pose severe limitations on the use of modern genetic techniques due to expensive and time-consuming downstream analyses. An interesting approach to overcome these issues can be found in Den Abt et al. [1] (this issue of Microbial Cell), where a combination of repeated rounds of chemical mutagenesis and pooled segregant analysis by whole genome sequencing was applied to identify genes involved in ethyl acetate formation, demonstrating a new path for industrial yeast strain development and bringing classical mutant screens into the 21st century.


Signaling pathways and posttranslational modifications of tau in Alzheimer’s disease: the humanization of yeast cells

Jürgen J. Heinisch and Roland Brandt

page 135-146 | 10.15698/mic2016.04.489 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

In the past decade, yeast have been frequently employed to study the molecular mechanisms of human neurodegenerative diseases, generally by means of heterologous expression of genes encoding the relevant hallmark proteins. However, it has become evident that substantial posttranslational modifications of many of these proteins are required for the development and progression of potentially disease relevant changes. This is exemplified by the neuronal tau proteins, which are critically involved in a class of neurodegenerative diseases collectively called tauopathies and which includes Alzheimer’s disease (AD) as its most common representative. In the course of the disease, tau changes its phosphorylation state and becomes hyperphosphorylated, gets truncated by proteolytic cleavage, is subject to O-glycosylation, sumoylation, ubiquitinylation, acetylation and some other modifications. This poses the important question, which of these posttranslational modifications are naturally occurring in the yeast model or can be reconstituted by heterologous gene expression. Here, we present an overview on common modifications as they occur in tau during AD, summarize their potential relevance with respect to disease mechanisms and refer to the native yeast enzyme orthologs capable to perform these modifications. We will also discuss potential approaches to humanize yeast in order to create modification patterns resembling the situation in mammalian cells, which could enhance the value of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Kluyveromyces lactis as disease models.

Research Articles

Insights into dynamin-associated disorders through analysis of equivalent mutations in the yeast dynamin Vps1

Laila Moustaq, Iwona I. Smaczynska-de Rooij, Sarah E. Palmer, Christopher J. Marklew, Kathryn R. Ayscough

page 147-158 | 10.15698/mic2016.04.490 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

The dynamins represent a superfamily of proteins that have been shown to function in a wide range of membrane fusion and fission events. An increasing number of mutations in the human classical dynamins, Dyn-1 and Dyn-2 has been reported, with diseases caused by these changes ranging from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder to epileptic encephalopathies. The budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae expresses a single dynamin-related protein that functions in membrane trafficking, and is considered to play a similar role to Dyn-1 and Dyn-2 during scission of endocytic vesicles at the plasma membrane. Large parts of the dynamin protein are highly conserved across species and this has enabled us in this study to select a number of disease causing mutations and to generate equivalent mutations in Vps1. We have then studied these mutants using both cellular and biochemical assays to ascertain functions of the protein that have been affected by the changes. Specifically, we demonstrate that the Vps1-G397R mutation (Dyn-2 G358R) disrupts protein oligomerization, Vps1-A447T (Dyn-1 A408T) affects the scission stage of endocytosis, while Vps1-R298L (Dyn-1 R256L) affects lipid binding specificity and possibly an early stage in endocytosis. Overall, we consider that the yeast model will potentially provide an avenue for rapid analysis of new dynamin mutations in order to understand the underlying mechanisms that they disrupt.

Genomic saturation mutagenesis and polygenic analysis identify novel yeast genes affecting ethyl acetate production, a non-selectable polygenic trait

Tom Den Abt, Ben Souffriau, Maria R. Foulquié-Moreno, Jorge Duitama, and Johan M. Thevelein

page 159-175 | 10.15698/mic2016.04.491 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

Isolation of mutants in populations of microorganisms has been a valuable tool in experimental genetics for decades. The main disadvantage, however, is the inability of isolating mutants in non-selectable polygenic traits. Most traits of organisms, however, are non-selectable and polygenic, including industrially important properties of microorganisms. The advent of powerful technologies for polygenic analysis of complex traits has allowed simultaneous identification of multiple causative mutations among many thousands of irrelevant mutations. We now show that this also applies to haploid strains of which the genome has been loaded with induced mutations so as to affect as many non-selectable, polygenic traits as possible. We have introduced about 900 mutations into single haploid yeast strains using multiple rounds of EMS mutagenesis, while maintaining the mating capacity required for genetic mapping. We screened the strains for defects in flavor production, an important non-selectable, polygenic trait in yeast alcoholic beverage production. A haploid strain with multiple induced mutations showing reduced ethyl acetate production in semi-anaerobic fermentation, was selected and the underlying quantitative trait loci (QTLs) were mapped using pooled-segregant whole-genome sequence analysis after crossing with an unrelated haploid strain. Reciprocal hemizygosity analysis and allele exchange identified PMA1 and CEM1 as causative mutant alleles and TPS1 as a causative genetic background allele. The case of CEM1 revealed that relevant mutations without observable effect in the haploid strain with multiple induced mutations (in this case due to defective mitochondria) can be identified by polygenic analysis as long as the mutations have an effect in part of the segregants (in this case those that regained fully functional mitochondria). Our results show that genomic saturation mutagenesis combined with complex trait polygenic analysis could be used successfully to identify causative alleles underlying many non-selectable, polygenic traits in small collections of haploid strains with multiple induced mutations.


Control of the gut microbiome by fecal microRNA

Shirong Liu and Howard L. Weiner

page 176-177 | 10.15698/mic2016.04.492 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

Since their discovery in the early 90s, microRNAs (miRNAs), small non-coding RNAs, have mainly been associated with posttranscriptional regulation of gene expression on a cell-autonomous level. Recent evidence has extended this role by adding inter-species communication to the manifold functional range. In our latest study [Liu S, et al., 2016, Cell Host & Microbe], we identified miRNAs in gut lumen and feces of both mice and humans. We found that intestinal epithelial cells (IEC) and Hopx+ cells were the two main sources of fecal miRNA. Deficiency of IEC-miRNA resulted in gut dysbiosis and WT fecal miRNA transplantation restored the gut microbiota. We investigated potential mechanisms for this effect and found that miRNAs were able to regulate the gut microbiome. By culturing bacteria with miRNAs, we found that host miRNAs were able to enter bacteria, specifically regulate bacterial gene transcripts and affect bacterial growth. Oral administration of synthetic miRNA mimics affected specific bacteria in the gut. Our findings describe a previously unknown pathway by which the gut microbiome is regulated by the host and raises the possibility that miRNAs may be used therapeutically to manipulate the microbiome for the treatment of disease.

Bactericidal antibiotics induce programmed metabolic toxicity

Aislinn D. Rowan, Damien J. Cabral and Peter Belenky

page 178-180 | 10.15698/mic2016.04.493 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

The misuse of antibiotics has led to the development and spread of antibiotic resistance in clinically important pathogens. These resistant infections are having a significant impact on treatment outcomes and contribute to approximately 25,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. If additional therapeutic options are not identified, the number of annual deaths is predicted to rise to 317,000 in North America and 10,000,000 worldwide by 2050. Identifying therapeutic methodologies that utilize our antibiotic arsenal more effectively is one potential way to extend the useful lifespan of our current antibiotics. Recent studies have indicated that modulating metabolic activity is one possible strategy that can impact the efficacy of antibiotic therapy. In this review, we will address recent advances in our knowledge about the impacts of bacterial metabolism on antibiotic effectiveness and the impacts of antibiotics on bacterial metabolism. We will particularly focus on two studies, Lobritz, et al. (PNAS, 112(27): 8173-8180) and Belenky et al. (Cell Reports, 13(5): 968–980) that together demonstrate that bactericidal antibiotics induce metabolic perturbations that are linked to and required for bactericidal antibiotic toxicity.

When and where? Pathogenic Escherichia coli differentially sense host D-serine using a universal transporter system to monitor their environment

James P. R. Connolly and Andrew J. Roe

page 181-184 | 10.15698/mic2016.04.494 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

Sensing environmental stimuli is critically important for bacteria when faced with the multitude of adversities presented within the host. Responding appropriately to these signals and in turn integrating these responses into the regulatory network of the cell allows bacteria to control precisely when and where they should establish colonization. D-serine is an abundant metabolite of the human urinary tract but is a toxic metabolite for Escherichia coli that lack a D-serine tolerance locus. Enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) cannot catabolize D-serine for this reason and colonize the large intestine specifically, an environment low in D-serine. EHEC can however use D-serine sensing to repress colonization thus signaling the presence of an unfavorable environment. In our recent work (Connolly, et al. PLoS Pathogens (2016) 12(1): e1005359), we describe the discovery of a functional and previously uncharacterized D-serine uptake system in E. coli. The genes identified are highly conserved in all E. coli lineages but are regulated differentially in unique pathogenic backgrounds. The study identified that EHEC, counter-intuitively, increase D-serine uptake in its presence but that this is a tolerated process and is used to increase the transcriptional response to this signal. It was also found that the system has been integrated into the transcriptional network of EHEC-specific virulence genes, demonstrating an important pathotype-specific adaptation of core genome components.

Chromatin binding and silencing: Two roles of the same protein Lem2

Ramón Ramos Barrales, Sigurd Braun

page 185-188 | 10.15698/mic2016.04.495 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

Transcriptionally repressed chromatin localizes to specific areas within the eukaryotic nucleus and is often found at the nuclear periphery, which is thought to provide a specialized compartment for gene silencing. However, the molecular mechanisms that establish this spatial chromatin organization are still poorly understood. In our recent work (Barrales et al. 2016), we identified the nuclear envelope protein Lem2, a homolog of metazoan lamin-associated proteins (LAPs), as a relevant factor for heterochromatin silencing and perinuclear localization in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Several other LAPs have previously been reported to associate with heterochromatin, and it has been proposed that this interaction might directly contribute to gene repression, perhaps through tethering via chromatin-binding domains like the LEM domain. We demonstrated that the LEM domain of Lem2 is indeed essential for centromere binding and perinuclear tethering. However, we made the surprising finding that tethering via the LEM domain is functionally independent of Lem2’s role in silencing, which instead is mediated by a different part of the protein, the MSC domain. Our study demonstrates that tethering and silencing, although mediated by the same molecule, Lem2, can be mechanistically separated. This further unveils a complex function of this protein at the interface between the nuclear periphery and silent chromatin, which might be preserved among the other members of this conserved family of LEM proteins.