2013, Vol.9(5), p.e1003495
Campylobacter jejuni is currently the leading cause of bacterial gastroenteritis in humans. Comparison of multiple Campylobacter strains revealed a high genetic and phenotypic diversity. However, little is known about differences in transcriptome organization, gene expression, and small RNA (sRNA) repertoires. Here we present the first comparative primary transcriptome analysis based on the differential RNA–seq (dRNA–seq) of four C. jejuni isolates. Our approach includes a novel, generic method for the automated annotation of transcriptional start sites (TSS), which allowed us to provide genome-wide promoter maps in the analyzed strains. These global TSS maps are refined through the integration of a SuperGenome approach that allows for a comparative TSS annotation by mapping RNA–seq data of multiple strains into a common coordinate system derived from a whole-genome alignment. Considering the steadily increasing amount of RNA–seq studies, our automated TSS annotation will not only facilitate transcriptome annotation for a wider range of pro- and eukaryotes but can also be adapted for the analysis among different growth or stress conditions. Our comparative dRNA–seq analysis revealed conservation of most TSS, but also single-nucleotide-polymorphisms (SNP) in promoter regions, which lead to strain-specific transcriptional output. Furthermore, we identified strain-specific sRNA repertoires that could contribute to differential gene regulation among strains. In addition, we identified a novel minimal CRISPR-system in Campylobacter of the type-II CRISPR subtype, which relies on the host factor RNase III and a trans-encoded sRNA for maturation of crRNAs. This minimal system of Campylobacter , which seems active in only some strains, employs a unique maturation pathway, since the crRNAs are transcribed from individual promoters in the upstream repeats and thereby minimize the requirements for the maturation machinery. Overall, our study provides new insights into strain-specific transcriptome organization and sRNAs, and reveals genes that could modulate phenotypic variation among strains despite high conservation at the DNA level. ; Many species have evolved into diverse strains with phenotypic and genotypic variations that facilitate adaptation to different ecological niches and, in the case of pathogens, to different hosts. Whereas comparison of genome sequences reveals differences and similarities among strains, the consequences of genomic variations can be tracked by studying the functional output from the genome. RNA sequencing has been revolutionizing transcriptome analyses of both pro- and eukaryotes. However, the bioinformatics-based analysis is still lagging behind, and transcriptome features are often manually annotated, which is laborious and time-consuming. This is even more compounded for the analyses of multiple strains. Here we compared the primary transcriptomes of four isolates of , the leading cause of bacterial gastroenteritis in humans, and provide genome-wide transcriptional start site (TSS) maps using a novel automated annotation method. Our comparative RNA–seq showed that most TSS are conserved in multiple strains, but we also observed SNP–dependent promoter usage. Furthermore, we identified a novel minimal RNA–based CRISPR immune system as well as strain-specific small RNA repertoires. Our automated, comparative TSS annotation will facilitate and improve transcriptome annotation for a wider range of organisms and provides insights into the contribution of transcriptome differences to phenotypic variation among closely related species.
Research Article ; Biology