RIPing in an asexual fungus

ResearchBlogging.orgA.niger conidiophoreA paper in Current Genetics describes the discovery of Repeat Induced Polymorphism (RIP) in two Euriotiales fungi.  RIP has been extensively studied in Neurospora crassa and has been identified in other Sordariomycete fungi Magnaporthe, Fusiarium. This is not the first Aspergillus species to have RIP described as it was demonstrated in the biotech workhorse Aspergillus oryzae.  However, I think this study is the first to describe RIP in a putatively asexual fungus.  The evidence for RIP is only found in transposon sequences in the Aspergillus and Penicillium.  A really interesting aspect of this discovery is RIP is thought to only occur during sexual stage, but a sexual state has never been observed for these fungi.   Continue reading RIPing in an asexual fungus

(re)Annotating GenBank

NCBI LogoTom Bruns, Martin Bidartondo and 250 others sent a letter to Science describing the current problems with fixing annotation in GenBank. There is an entertaining accompanying news article that interviews several people about the problem of updating annotation and species assigned to sequences in the database. In particular the problem for mycologists that many fungi found from metagenomic approaches are only identified through molecular sequences and having the wrong species associated with a sequence can be difficult when studying community ecology composition.  This problem is not limited to fungi by any means, but recent reports find as many as 20% of fungal Intergenic Spacer (ITS) sequences are mis-attributed to the wrong species. 

There’s a nice quote in the news article from Steven Salzberg talking about the difficulties in getting sequences, especially from big centers, updated. I’m sure he is thinking of many examples, like reclassifying some Drosophila sequence traces.

Continue reading (re)Annotating GenBank

Ireland’s blight and Puccinia update

Hyphoid logic points out that it is appropriate to discuss about the oomycete Phytophthora infestans on St. Patrick’s Day and mentions a NYT article “The fungus that conquered Europe” that is worth a look.

It is also worth thinking about another blight, well rust, that is spreading through the middle east and could threaten wheat crops worldwide. New Scientist has excellent coverage of Puccinia graminis strain Ug99 which is spreading faster than expected due to a cyclone that spread the rust spores into Iran two years earlier than expected.

Related posts from last year. “Fungus could cause a food shortage”, “Puccinia black stem rust disease spreading”

Aspergillus comparative transcriptional profiling

ResearchBlogging.org

Researchers from Technical University of Denmark published some interesting results from comparing expression across the very distinct Aspergillus species.

Kudos also goes to making it Open Access. I am posting a few key figures below the fold because I can! They grew the fungi in bioreactors fermenting glucose or xylose. After calibrating the growth curves they were able to sample the appropriate time points for comparison of gene expression across these three species. They found a set of genes commonly expressed.

Continue reading Aspergillus comparative transcriptional profiling

Fun with estimating divergence times

ResearchBlogging.org

Estimating divergence times is notorious difficult and the field can be downright rancorous with some being accused of reading tea leaves and chicken entrails – interesting reading for personalities as much as the different scientific approaches. There are several different approaches to trying to estimate a divergence time among species, using calibration points usually anchored by fossil data. Molecular clock methods have problems sometimes producing extremely old dates that are quite hotly debated. In fungi we have a very few fossils (and their placement on the phylogeny is debated).

There are quite a few available methods for reconstructing divergence times including r8s and multidivtime which start with various types of trees and use calibration time points that are typically informed by fossil dates. The simplest approaches assume a molecular clock (rates are same across the tree) and then one only needs to calibrate the number of substitutions (or rate really) to time to determine how phylogenetic tree branch lengths map to time. The BEAST package also does phylogenetic inference and divergence time estimation (and provided the necessary analysis for exoneration of the Tripoli Six) across a sample of trees. BEAST (and MrBayes) use MCMC to sample the space of parameters and tree space to identify phylogenies and evolutionary parameters that explain the data (an alignment of sequences).

A paper from Akerborg and colleagues introduces a new approach that uses MCMC but apply a few twists, using a birth-death model that doesn’t assume a molecular clock and employing a hill-climbing algorithm instead of MCMC to find parameter optima. They use a Maximum a posterior (MAP) framework which is more computational efficient than MCMC. They couple the MAP approach with a dynamic-programming approach that separates the estimation of rates (branch length) from the estimation of times (which often require assumption of a molecular clock). While I can’t speak with much authority on the MAP approach or yet how well this compares on different datasets, it suggests a different method to tackle these problems. They authors point out one drawback with their approach is it only allows for derivation of point-estimates so statistical confidences like bootstrap support are not easily calculated through this approach. Their software, called PRIME is available here and I will be curious to see how it performs in other peoples’ hands.

Akerborg, O., Sennblad, B., Lagergren, J. (2008). Birth-death prior on phylogeny and speed dating. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 8(1), 77. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2148-8-77

B. dendrobatidis strain JAM81 released

B.dendrobatidis zoosporeThe following is an announcement to the B.dendrobatidis and fungal community at large from Alan Kuo at JGI. This is the JAM81 strain (Jess Morgan collected from a frog in the California Sierra Nevada). The JEL423 (Joyce Longcore, collected in Panama) strain genome sequence and annotation is available from the Broad Institute.

Please do contact me if you would like to contribute to assigning functions to the annotation. We’re in the last round of analyses for some of the genome work, but if there are particular questions you want to contribute to, we’re open to collaborators and can outline the basis of our work to see how other work can complement it.

From Alan Kuo at JGI:

The JGI Batrachochytrium annotation portal is now on the public JGI website. As it is public, no password is required.

For those of you who have not yet registered to be an annotator, go to this new link to register.As before, please choose a username that is personal, so that other annotators may be able to recognize it as yours. A derivative of your personal name would be best.

Those of you who are already registered, you do not need to do anything. Your old pre-release username and password are valid on the new public portal too.

As always, please direct all questions and problems to me. Use email or phone: Cheers, Alan.

Some information about the assembly and annotation:

The first annotation of the 127 scaffolds and 24 Mbp of JGI’s 8.74X assembly of the Batrachochytrim dendrobatidis JAM81 genome. We predict 8732 genes, with the following average properties:

Gene length 1825.16 nt
Transcript length 1407.29 nt
Protein length 450.56 aa
Exon frequency 4.29 exons/gene
Exon length 328.37 nt
Intron length 129.18 nt
Gene density 359.1 genes/Mbp scaffold

The genes were found by the following methods:
Total models 8732 (100%)
Jason’s models 3214 (37%)
cDNAs and ESTs 518 (6%)
Similarity to nr 1928 (22%)
ab initio 3072 (35%)

The genes were validated by the following evidence:
start+stop codons 7990 (92%)
EST support 2488 (28%)
nr hit 6787 (78%)
Pfam hit 4329 (50%)