Insight
is our reward

Publications in Nature Communications by NOMIS researchers

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

November 24, 2023

The acquisition of antimicrobial resistance (AR) genes has rendered important pathogens nearly or fully unresponsive to antibiotics. It has been suggested that pathogens acquire AR traits from the gut microbiota, which collectively serve as a global reservoir for AR genes conferring resistance to all classes of antibiotics. However, only a subset of AR genes confers resistance to clinically relevant antibiotics, and, although these AR gene profiles are well-characterized for common pathogens, less is known about their taxonomic associations and transfer potential within diverse members of the gut microbiota. We examined a collection of 14,850 human metagenomes and 1666 environmental metagenomes from 33 countries, in addition to nearly 600,000 isolate genomes, to gain insight into the global prevalence and taxonomic range of clinically relevant AR genes. We find that several of the most concerning AR genes, such as those encoding the cephalosporinase CTX-M and carbapenemases KPC, IMP, NDM, and VIM, remain taxonomically restricted to Proteobacteria. Even cfiA, the most common carbapenemase gene within the human gut microbiome, remains tightly restricted to Bacteroides, despite being found on a mobilizable plasmid. We confirmed these findings in gut microbiome samples from India, Honduras, Pakistan, and Vietnam, using a high-sensitivity single-cell fusion PCR approach. Focusing on a set of genes encoding carbapenemases and cephalosporinases, thus far restricted to Bacteroides species, we find that few mutations are required for efficacy in a different phylum, raising the question of why these genes have not spread more widely. Overall, these data suggest that globally prevalent, clinically relevant AR genes have not yet established themselves across diverse commensal gut microbiota. © 2023, The Author(s).

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

November 6, 2023

Chromatin conformation reorganization is emerging as an important layer of regulation for gene expression and lineage specification. Yet, how lineage-specific transcription factors contribute to the establishment of cell type-specific 3D chromatin architecture in the immune cells remains unclear, especially for the late stages of T cell subset differentiation and maturation. Regulatory T cells (Treg) are mainly generated in the thymus as a subpopulation of T cells specializing in suppressing excessive immune responses. Here, by comprehensively mapping 3D chromatin organization during Treg cell differentiation, we show that Treg-specific chromatin structures were progressively established during its lineage specification, and highly associated with Treg signature gene expression. Additionally, the binding sites of Foxp3, a Treg lineage specifying transcription factor, were highly enriched at Treg-specific chromatin loop anchors. Further comparison of the chromatin interactions between wide-type Tregs versus Treg cells from Foxp3 knock-in/knockout or newly-generated Foxp3 domain-swap mutant mouse revealed that Foxp3 was essential for the establishment of Treg-specific 3D chromatin architecture, although it was not dependent on the formation of the Foxp3 domain-swapped dimer. These results highlighted an underappreciated role of Foxp3 in modulating Treg-specific 3D chromatin structure formation.

Research field(s)
Genetics & Heredity, Immunology, Oncology & Carcinogenesis

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

September 16, 2023

The expanded hexanucleotide GGGGCC repeat mutation in the C9orf72 gene is the main genetic cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia. Under one disease mechanism, sense and antisense transcripts of the repeat are predicted to bind various RNA-binding proteins, compromise their function and cause cytotoxicity. Here we identify phenylalanine-tRNA synthetase (FARS) subunit alpha (FARSA) as the main interactor of the CCCCGG antisense repeat RNA in cytosol. The aminoacylation of tRNAPhe by FARS is inhibited by antisense RNA, leading to decreased levels of charged tRNAPhe. Remarkably, this is associated with global reduction of phenylalanine incorporation in the proteome and decrease in expression of phenylalanine-rich proteins in cellular models and patient tissues. In conclusion, this study reveals functional inhibition of FARSA in the presence of antisense RNA repeats. Compromised aminoacylation of tRNA could lead to impairments in protein synthesis and further contribute to C9orf72 mutation-associated pathology. © 2023, Springer Nature Limited.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

September 6, 2023

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a lethal malignancy in need of new therapeutic options. Using unbiased analyses of super-enhancers (SEs) as sentinels of core genes involved in cell-specific function, here we uncover a druggable SE-mediated RNA-binding protein (RBP) cascade that supports PDAC growth through enhanced mRNA translation. This cascade is driven by a SE associated with the RBP heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein F, which stabilizes protein arginine methyltransferase 1 (PRMT1) to, in turn, control the translational mediator ubiquitin-associated protein 2-like. All three of these genes and the regulatory SE are essential for PDAC growth and coordinately regulated by the Myc oncogene. In line with this, modulation of the RBP network by PRMT1 inhibition reveals a unique vulnerability in Myc-high PDAC patient organoids and markedly reduces tumor growth in male mice. Our study highlights a functional link between epigenetic regulation and mRNA translation and identifies components that comprise unexpected therapeutic targets for PDAC. © 2023, Springer Nature Limited.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Published in

September 4, 2023

Pharmacologic depletion of RNA-binding motif 39 (RBM39) using aryl sulfonamides represents a promising anti-cancer therapy but requires high levels of the adaptor protein DCAF15. Consequently, novel approaches to deplete RBM39 in an DCAF15-independent manner are required. Here, we uncover that RBM39 autoregulates via the inclusion of a poison exon into its own pre-mRNA and identify the cis-acting elements that govern this regulation. We also determine the NMR solution structures of RBM39’s tandem RNA recognition motifs (RRM1 and RRM2) bound to their respective RNA targets, revealing how RRM1 recognises RNA stem loops whereas RRM2 binds specifically to single-stranded N(G/U)NUUUG. Our results support a model where RRM2 selects the 3’-splice site of a poison exon and the RRM3 and RS domain stabilise the U2 snRNP at the branchpoint. Our work provides molecular insights into RBM39-dependent 3’-splice site selection and constitutes a solid basis to design alternative anti-cancer therapies. © 2023, Springer Nature Limited.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

August 23, 2023

Autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease (ADAD) is genetically determined, but variability in age of symptom onset suggests additional factors may influence cognitive trajectories. Although apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype and educational attainment both influence dementia onset in sporadic AD, evidence for these effects in ADAD is limited. To investigate the effects of APOE and educational attainment on age-related cognitive trajectories in ADAD, we analyzed data from 675 Presenilin-1 E280A mutation carriers and 594 non-carriers. Here we show that age-related cognitive decline is accelerated in ADAD mutation carriers who also have an APOE e4 allele compared to those who do not and delayed in mutation carriers who also have an APOE e2 allele compared to those who do not. Educational attainment is protective and moderates the effect of APOE on cognition. Despite ADAD mutation carriers being genetically determined to develop dementia, age-related cognitive decline may be influenced by other genetic and environmental factors. © 2023, Springer Nature Limited.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

July 5, 2023

Currently available quantum processors are dominated by noise, which severely limits their applicability and motivates the search for new physical qubit encodings. In this work, we introduce the inductively shunted transmon, a weakly flux-tunable superconducting qubit that offers charge offset protection for all levels and a 20-fold reduction in flux dispersion compared to the state-of-the-art resulting in a constant coherence over a full flux quantum. The parabolic confinement provided by the inductive shunt as well as the linearity of the geometric superinductor facilitates a high-power readout that resolves quantum jumps with a fidelity and QND-ness of >90% and without the need for a Josephson parametric amplifier. Moreover, the device reveals quantum tunneling physics between the two prepared fluxon ground states with a measured average decay time of up to 3.5 h. In the future, fast time-domain control of the transition matrix elements could offer a new path forward to also achieve full qubit control in the decay-protected fluxon basis. © 2023, The Author(s).

Research field(s)
Natural Sciences, Physics & Astronomy, General Physics

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

May 24, 2023

The ability to control the direction of scattered light is crucial to provide flexibility and scalability for a wide range of on-chip applications, such as integrated photonics, quantum information processing, and nonlinear optics. Tunable directionality can be achieved by applying external magnetic fields that modify optical selection rules, by using nonlinear effects, or interactions with vibrations. However, these approaches are less suitable to control microwave photon propagation inside integrated superconducting quantum devices. Here, we demonstrate on-demand tunable directional scattering based on two periodically modulated transmon qubits coupled to a transmission line at a fixed distance. By changing the relative phase between the modulation tones, we realize unidirectional forward or backward photon scattering. Such an in-situ switchable mirror represents a versatile tool for intra- and inter-chip microwave photonic processors. In the future, a lattice of qubits can be used to realize topological circuits that exhibit strong nonreciprocity or chirality. © 2023, The Author(s).

Research field(s)
Natural Sciences, Physics & Astronomy, Optics

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

March 24, 2023

The multicellular organization of diverse systems, including embryos, intestines, and tumors relies on coordinated cell migration in curved environments. In these settings, cells establish supracellular patterns of motion, including collective rotation and invasion. While such collective modes have been studied extensively in flat systems, the consequences of geometrical and topological constraints on collective migration in curved systems are largely unknown. Here, we discover a collective mode of cell migration in rotating spherical tissues manifesting as a propagating single-wavelength velocity wave. This wave is accompanied by an apparently incompressible supracellular flow pattern featuring topological defects as dictated by the spherical topology. Using a minimal active particle model, we reveal that this collective mode arises from the effect of curvature on the active flocking behavior of a cell layer confined to a spherical surface. Our results thus identify curvature-induced velocity waves as a mode of collective cell migration, impacting the dynamical organization of 3D curved tissues. © 2023, The Author(s).

Research field(s)
Natural Sciences, Physics & Astronomy, Fluids & Plasmas

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

February 27, 2023

Hydrocarbon mixtures are extremely abundant in the Universe, and diamond formation from them can play a crucial role in shaping the interior structure and evolution of planets. With first-principles accuracy, we first estimate the melting line of diamond, and then reveal the nature of chemical bonding in hydrocarbons at extreme conditions. We finally establish the pressure-temperature phase boundary where it is thermodynamically possible for diamond to form from hydrocarbon mixtures with different atomic fractions of carbon. Notably, here we show a depletion zone at pressures above 200 GPa and temperatures below 3000 K-3500 K where diamond formation is thermodynamically favorable regardless of the carbon atomic fraction, due to a phase separation mechanism. The cooler condition of the interior of Neptune compared to Uranus means that the former is much more likely to contain the depletion zone. Our findings can help explain the dichotomy of the two ice giants manifested by the low luminosity of Uranus, and lead to a better understanding of (exo-)planetary formation and evolution. © 2023, The Author(s).

Research field(s)
Natural Sciences, Physics & Astronomy, Fluids & Plasmas

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2022

The first step in CRISPR-Cas9-mediated genome editing is the cleavage of target DNA sequences that are complementary to so-called spacer sequences in CRISPR guide RNAs (gRNAs). However, some DNA sequences are refractory to CRISPR-Cas9 cleavage, which is at least in part due to gRNA misfolding. To overcome this problem, we have engineered gRNAs with highly stable hairpins in their constant parts and further enhanced their stability by chemical modifications. The ‘Genome-editing Optimized Locked Design’ (GOLD)-gRNA increases genome editing efficiency up to around 1000-fold (from 0.08 to 80.5%) with a mean increase across different other targets of 7.4-fold. We anticipate that this improved gRNA will allow efficient editing regardless of spacer sequence composition and will be especially useful if a desired genomic site is difficult to edit.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2022

In glacier-fed streams, ecological windows of opportunity allow complex microbial biofilms to develop and transiently form the basis of the food web, thereby controlling key ecosystem processes. Using metagenome-assembled genomes, we unravel strategies that allow biofilms to seize this opportunity in an ecosystem otherwise characterized by harsh environmental conditions. We observe a diverse microbiome spanning the entire tree of life including a rich virome. Various co-existing energy acquisition pathways point to diverse niches and the exploitation of available resources, likely fostering the establishment of complex biofilms during windows of opportunity. The wide occurrence of rhodopsins, besides chlorophyll, highlights the role of solar energy capture in these biofilms while internal carbon and nutrient cycling between photoautotrophs and heterotrophs may help overcome constraints imposed by oligotrophy in these habitats. Mechanisms potentially protecting bacteria against low temperatures and high UV-radiation are also revealed and the selective pressure of this environment is further highlighted by a phylogenomic analysis differentiating important components of the glacier-fed stream microbiome from other ecosystems. Our findings reveal key genomic underpinnings of adaptive traits contributing to the success of complex biofilms to exploit environmental opportunities in glacier-fed streams, which are now rapidly changing owing to global warming.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Microbiology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2022

The melting of the cryosphere is among the most conspicuous consequences of climate change, with impacts on microbial life and related biogeochemistry. However, we are missing a systematic understanding of microbiome structure and function across cryospheric ecosystems. Here, we present a global inventory of the microbiome from snow, ice, permafrost soils, and both coastal and freshwater ecosystems under glacier influence. Combining phylogenetic and taxonomic approaches, we find that these cryospheric ecosystems, despite their particularities, share a microbiome with representatives across the bacterial tree of life and apparent signatures of early and constrained radiation. In addition, we use metagenomic analyses to define the genetic repertoire of cryospheric bacteria. Our work provides a reference resource for future studies on climate change microbiology.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Microbiology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2022

Multicellular organisms require controlled intercellular communication for their survival. Strains of the filamentous cyanobacterium Nostoc regulate cell–cell communication between sister cells via a conformational change in septal junctions. These multi-protein cell junctions consist of a septum spanning tube with a membrane-embedded plug at both ends, and a cap covering the plug on the cytoplasmic side. The identities of septal junction components are unknown, with exception of the protein FraD. Here, we identify and characterize a FraD-interacting protein, SepN, as the second component of septal junctions in Nostoc. We use cryo-electron tomography of cryo-focused ion beam-thinned cyanobacterial filaments to show that septal junctions in a sepN mutant lack a plug module and display an aberrant cap. The sepN mutant exhibits highly reduced cell–cell communication rates, as shown by fluorescence recovery after photobleaching experiments. Furthermore, the mutant is unable to gate molecule exchange through septal junctions and displays reduced filament survival after stress. Our data demonstrate the importance of controlling molecular diffusion between cells to ensure the survival of a multicellular organism.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Microbiology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2022

The multifunctional nucleocapsid (N) protein in SARS-CoV-2 binds the ~30 kb viral RNA genome to aid its packaging into the 80–90 nm membrane-enveloped virion. The N protein is composed of N-terminal RNA-binding and C-terminal dimerization domains that are flanked by three intrinsically disordered regions. Here we demonstrate that the N protein’s central disordered domain drives phase separation with RNA, and that phosphorylation of an adjacent serine/arginine rich region modulates the physical properties of the resulting condensates. In cells, N forms condensates that recruit the stress granule protein G3BP1, highlighting a potential role for N in G3BP1 sequestration and stress granule inhibition. The SARS-CoV-2 membrane (M) protein independently induces N protein phase separation, and three-component mixtures of N + M + RNA form condensates with mutually exclusive compartments containing N + M or N + RNA, including annular structures in which the M protein coats the outside of an N + RNA condensate. These findings support a model in which phase separation of the SARS-CoV-2 N protein contributes both to suppression of the G3BP1-dependent host immune response and to packaging genomic RNA during virion assembly.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Virology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2022

CRISPR-Cas induced homology-directed repair (HDR) enables the installation of a broad range of precise genomic modifications from an exogenous donor template. However, applications of HDR in human cells are often hampered by poor efficiency, stemming from a preference for error-prone end joining pathways that yield short insertions and deletions. Here, we describe Recursive Editing, an HDR improvement strategy that selectively retargets undesired indel outcomes to create additional opportunities to produce the desired HDR allele. We introduce a software tool, named REtarget, that enables the rational design of Recursive Editing experiments. Using REtarget-designed guide RNAs in single editing reactions, Recursive Editing can simultaneously boost HDR efficiencies and reduce undesired indels. We also harness REtarget to generate databases for particularly effective Recursive Editing sites across the genome, to endogenously tag proteins, and to target pathogenic mutations. Recursive Editing constitutes an easy-to-use approach without potentially deleterious cell manipulations and little added experimental burden.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2022

Fanconi Anemia (FA) is a debilitating genetic disorder with a wide range of severe symptoms including bone marrow failure and predisposition to cancer. CRISPR-Cas genome editing manipulates genotypes by harnessing DNA repair and has been proposed as a potential cure for FA. But FA is caused by deficiencies in DNA repair itself, preventing the use of editing strategies such as homology directed repair. Recently developed base editing (BE) systems do not rely on double stranded DNA breaks and might be used to target mutations in FA genes, but this remains to be tested. Here we develop a proof of concept therapeutic base editing strategy to address two of the most prevalent FANCA mutations in patient hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. We find that optimizing adenine base editor construct, vector type, guide RNA format, and delivery conditions leads to very effective genetic modification in multiple FA patient backgrounds. Optimized base editing restored FANCA expression, molecular function of the FA pathway, and phenotypic resistance to crosslinking agents. ABE8e mediated editing in primary hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells from FA patients was both genotypically effective and restored FA pathway function, indicating the potential of base editing strategies for future clinical application in FA.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2022

Changing collective behaviour and supporting non-pharmaceutical interventions is an important component in mitigating virus transmission during a pandemic. In a large international collaboration (Study 1, N = 49,968 across 67 countries), we investigated self-reported factors associated with public health behaviours (e.g., spatial distancing and stricter hygiene) and endorsed public policy interventions (e.g., closing bars and restaurants) during the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic (April-May 2020). Respondents who reported identifying more strongly with their nation consistently reported greater engagement in public health behaviours and support for public health policies. Results were similar for representative and non-representative national samples. Study 2 (N = 42 countries) conceptually replicated the central finding using aggregate indices of national identity (obtained using the World Values Survey) and a measure of actual behaviour change during the pandemic (obtained from Google mobility reports). Higher levels of national identification prior to the pandemic predicted lower mobility during the early stage of the pandemic (r = −0.40). We discuss the potential implications of links between national identity, leadership, and public health for managing COVID-19 and future pandemics.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Social Psychology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2022

Microglia play a role in the emergence and preservation of a healthy brain microenvironment. Dysfunction of microglia has been associated with neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. Investigating the function of human microglia in health and disease has been challenging due to the limited models of the human brain available. Here, we develop a method to generate functional microglia in human cortical organoids (hCOs) from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). We apply this system to study the role of microglia during inflammation induced by amyloid-β (Aβ). The overexpression of the myeloid-specific transcription factor PU.1 generates microglia-like cells in hCOs, producing mhCOs (microglia-containing hCOs), that we engraft in the mouse brain. Single-cell transcriptomics reveals that mhCOs acquire a microglia cell cluster with an intact complement and chemokine system. Functionally, microglia in mhCOs protect parenchyma from cellular and molecular damage caused by Aβ. Furthermore, in mhCOs, we observed reduced expression of Aβ-induced expression of genes associated with apoptosis, ferroptosis, and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) stage III. Finally, we assess the function of AD-associated genes highly expressed in microglia in response to Aβ using pooled CRISPRi coupled with single-cell RNA sequencing in mhCOs. In summary, we provide a protocol to generate mhCOs that can be used in fundamental and translational studies as a model to investigate the role of microglia in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Neurology & Neurosurgery

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2022

Trans-activation response DNA-binding protein of 43 kDa (TDP-43) regulates RNA processing and forms neuropathological aggregates in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Investigating TDP-43 post-translational modifications, we discovered that K84 acetylation reduced nuclear import whereas K136 acetylation impaired RNA binding and splicing capabilities of TDP-43. Such failure of RNA interaction triggered TDP-43 phase separation mediated by the C-terminal low complexity domain, leading to the formation of insoluble aggregates with pathologically phosphorylated and ubiquitinated TDP-43. Introduction of acetyl-lysine at the identified sites via amber suppression confirmed the results from site-directed mutagenesis. K84-acetylated TDP-43 showed cytoplasmic mislocalization, and the aggregation propensity of K136-acetylated TDP-43 was confirmed. We generated antibodies selective for TDP-43 acetylated at these lysines, and found that sirtuin-1 can potently deacetylate K136-acetylated TDP-43 and reduce its aggregation propensity. Thus, distinct lysine acetylations modulate nuclear import, RNA binding and phase separation of TDP-43, suggesting regulatory mechanisms for TDP-43 pathogenesis.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2021

Septins are cytoskeletal proteins that assemble into hetero-oligomeric complexes and sense micron-scale membrane curvature. During infection with Shigella flexneri, an invasive enteropathogen, septins restrict actin tail formation by entrapping bacteria in cage-like structures. Here, we reconstitute septin cages in vitro using purified recombinant septin complexes (SEPT2-SEPT6-SEPT7), and study how these recognize bacterial cells and assemble on their surface. We show that septin complexes recognize the pole of growing Shigella cells. An amphipathic helix domain in human SEPT6 enables septins to sense positively curved membranes and entrap bacterial cells. Shigella strains lacking lipopolysaccharide components are more efficiently entrapped in septin cages. Finally, cryo-electron tomography of in vitro cages reveals how septins assemble as filaments on the bacterial cell surface.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology