CRISPR-Cas12a system has been shown promising for nucleic acid diagnostics due to its rapid, portable and accurate features. However, cleavage of the amplicons and primers by the cis– and trans-activity of Cas12a hinders the attempts to integrate the amplification and detection into a single reaction. Through phosphorothioate modification of primers, we realized onepot detection with high sensitivity using plasmids of SARS-CoV-2, HPV16 and HPV18. We also identified the activated Cas12a has a much higher affinity to C nucleotide-rich reporter than others. By applying such reporters, the reaction time required for a lateral-flow readout was significantly reduced.
Furthermore, to improve the specificity of the strip-based assay, we created a novel reporter and, when combined with a customized gold-nanopaticle strip, the readout was greatly enhanced owing to the elimination of the nonspecific signal. This established system, termed Targeting DNA by Cas12a-based Eye Sight Testing in an Onepot Reaction (TESTOR), was validated using clinical cervical scrape samples for human papillomaviruses (HPVs) detection. Our system represents a general approach to integrating the nucleic acid amplification and detection into a single reaction in CRISPR-Cas systems, highlighting its potential as a rapid, portable and accurate detection platform of nucleic acids.

Detection of plasmid contigs in draft genome assemblies using customized Kraken databases

Plasmids play an important role in bacterial evolution and mediate horizontal transfer of genes including virulence and antimicrobial resistance genes. Although short-read sequencing technologies have enabled large-scale bacterial genomics, the resulting draft genome on joplink.net/customized-plasmids/ assemblies are often fragmented into hundreds of discrete contigs. Several tools and approaches have been developed to identify plasmid sequences in such assemblies, but require trade-off between sensitivity and specificity.
  • Here we propose using the Kraken classifier, together with a custom Kraken database comprising known chromosomal and plasmid sequences of Klebsiella pneumoniae species complex (KpSC), to identify plasmid-derived contigs in draft assemblies.
  • We assessed performance using Illumina-based draft genome assemblies for 82 KpSC isolates, for which complete genomes were available to supply ground truth. When benchmarked against five other classifiers (Centrifuge, RFPlasmid, mlplasmids, PlaScope and Platon), Kraken showed balanced performance in terms of overall sensitivity and specificity (90.8 and 99.4 %, respectively, for contig count; 96.5 and >99.9 %, respectively, for cumulative contig length), and the highest accuracy (96.8% vs 91.8-96.6% for contig count; 99.8% vs 99.0-99.7 % for cumulative contig length), and F1-score (94.5 % vs 84.5-94.1 %, for contig count; 98.0 % vs 88.9-96.7 % for cumulative contig length).
  • Kraken also achieved consistent performance across our genome collection. Furthermore, we demonstrate that expanding the Kraken database with additional known chromosomal and plasmid sequences can further improve classification performance.
  • Although we have focused here on the KpSC, this methodology could easily be applied to other species with a sufficient number of completed genomes.

Exploiting heterologous and endogenous CRISPR-Cas systems for genome editing in the probiotic Clostridium butyricum

Clostridium butyricum has been widely used as a probiotic for humans and food animals. However, the mechanisms of beneficial effects of C. butyricum on the host remain poorly understood, largely due to the lack of high-throughput genome engineering tools. Here, we report the exploitation of heterologous Type II CRISPR-Cas9 system and endogenous Type I-B CRISPR-Cas system in probiotic C. butyricum for seamless genome engineering. Although successful genome editing was achieved in C. butyricum when CRISPR-Cas9 system was employed, the expression of toxic cas9 gene result in really poor transformation, spurring us to develop an easy-applicable and high-efficient genome editing tool.
Therefore, the endogenous Type I-B CRISPR-Cas machinery located on the megaplasmid of C. butyricum was co-opted for genome editing. In vivo plasmid interference assays identified that ACA and TAA were functional protospacer adjacent motif (PAM) sequences needed for site-specific CRISPR attacking. Using the customized endogenous CRISPR-Cas system, we successfully deleted spo0A and aldh genes in C. butyricum, yielding an efficiency of up to 100%. Moreover, the conjugation efficiency of endogenous CRISPR-Cas system was dramatically enhanced due to the precluding expression of cas9. Altogether, the two approaches developed herein remarkably expand the existing genetic toolbox available for investigation of C. butyricum. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Microbiota Detection Patterns Correlate With Presence and Severity of Barrett’s Esophagus

Background: The microbiome has been increasingly associated with different disease processes, but its role in esophagus is largely unknown. Our goal was to determine the associations of the esophageal microbiota with Barrett’s esophagus.
Methods: A total of 74 patients were included in this prospective study, including 34 patients with Barrett’s esophagus and 40 patients without Barrett’s esophagus. Esophageal swabs were obtained from the uvula, and mucosal biopsies were obtained from the proximal esophagus and distal esophagus in each patient. The microbiome of each sample was assessed using a customized Esophageal Microbiome qPCR array (EMB). For each clinical sample, we completed a detection/non-detection analysis for each organism in the EMB. The limit of detection (LOD) for each target was established by analysis of plasmid dilutions.
Results: Average age was 60.2 years. There were significantly different microbial detection patterns in patients with Barrett’s esophagus compared to the control population. There were a greater number of organisms which had different likelihoods of detection in the distal esophagus, compared to the proximal esophagus or uvula. In addition, as the length of the Barrett’s column increased, multiple organisms were less likely to be detected. This decreased likelihood occurred only in the distal esophagus. Beside Barrett’s esophagus, no other demographic factors were associated with differences in detection patterns.
Conclusions: Microbial community structures differ between patients with and without Barrett’s esophagus. Certain organisms are less likely to be detected as the severity of Barrett’s esophagus worsens. These results suggest that particular organisms may have a protective effect against the development of Barrett’s esophagus.

Lipid- and polymer-based nanocomplexes in nucleic acid delivery as cancer vaccines

Cancer vaccines consist of nucleic acid derivatives such as plasmid DNA, small interfering RNA and mRNA, and can be customized according to the patient’s needs. Nanomedicines have proven to be exceptionally good as miniaturized drug carriers, and thus they offer great advantages for delivering cancer vaccines. This review provides an overview of the literature on cancer vaccines, from their inception to current developments in the field.

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