Human herpesviruses 6A and 6B (HHV-6A/6B) are ubiquitous pathogens that persist lifelong in latent form and can cause severe conditions upon reactivation. They are spread by community-acquired infection of free virus (acqHHV6A/6B) and by germline transmission of inherited chromosomally-integrated HHV-6A/6B (iciHHV-6A/6B) in telomeres. We exploited a hypervariable region of the HHV-6B genome to investigate the relationship between acquired and inherited virus and revealed predominantly maternal transmission of acqHHV-6B in families. Remarkably, we demonstrate that some copies of acqHHV-6B in saliva from healthy adults gained a telomere, indicative of integration and latency, and that the frequency of viral genome excision from telomeres in iciHHV-6B carriers is surprisingly high and varies between tissues. In addition, newly formed short telomeres generated by partial viral genome release are frequently lengthened, particularly in telomerase-expressing pluripotent cells. Consequently, iciHHV-6B carriers are mosaic for different iciHHV-6B structures, including circular extra-chromosomal forms that have the potential to reactivate. Finally, we show transmission of an HHV-6B strain from an iciHHV-6B mother to her non-iciHHV-6B son. Altogether we demonstrate that iciHHV-6B can readily transition between telomere-integrated and free virus forms.
Sequencing data have been deposited in GenBank under accession numbers: MW049313-MW049327.The HHV6 explorer is freely available at https://www.hhv6explorer.org/ and so The source code for the HHV6 explorer and HHV6 counter are available at https://github.com/colinveal/HHV6-Explorer.Other data generated or analysed during this study are included in the manuscript and supporting files.
- Michael L Wood
- Nicola J Royle
- Nicola J Royle
- Louis Flamand
- Adriaan A Voors
- Andrew J Davison
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Human subjects: The study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and with approval by the relevant ethics committees as follows:The University of Leicester's Research Ethics Committee (refs: 10553-njr-genetics; njr-61d3).The BIOSTAT-CHF study was approved by the relevant ethics committee in each centre, all participants gave their written, informed consent to participate (Voors et al, 2016).
- Melanie M Brinkmann, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany
© 2021, Wood et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Maintaining germline genome integrity is essential and enormously complex. Although many proteins are involved in DNA replication, proofreading, and repair, mutator alleles have largely eluded detection in mammals. DNA replication and repair proteins often recognize sequence motifs or excise lesions at specific nucleotides. Thus, we might expect that the spectrum of de novo mutations – the frequencies of C>T, A>G, etc. – will differ between genomes that harbor either a mutator or wild-type allele. Previously, we used quantitative trait locus mapping to discover candidate mutator alleles in the DNA repair gene Mutyh that increased the C>A germline mutation rate in a family of inbred mice known as the BXDs (Sasani et al., 2022, Ashbrook et al., 2021). In this study we developed a new method to detect alleles associated with mutation spectrum variation and applied it to mutation data from the BXDs. We discovered an additional C>A mutator locus on chromosome 6 that overlaps Ogg1, a DNA glycosylase involved in the same base-excision repair network as Mutyh (David et al., 2007). Its effect depends on the presence of a mutator allele near Mutyh, and BXDs with mutator alleles at both loci have greater numbers of C>A mutations than those with mutator alleles at either locus alone. Our new methods for analyzing mutation spectra reveal evidence of epistasis between germline mutator alleles and may be applicable to mutation data from humans and other model organisms.
Although gene expression divergence has long been postulated to be the primary driver of human evolution, identifying the genes and genetic variants underlying uniquely human traits has proven to be quite challenging. Theory suggests that cell-type-specific cis-regulatory variants may fuel evolutionary adaptation due to the specificity of their effects. These variants can precisely tune the expression of a single gene in a single cell-type, avoiding the potentially deleterious consequences of trans-acting changes and non-cell type-specific changes that can impact many genes and cell types, respectively. It has recently become possible to quantify human-specific cis-acting regulatory divergence by measuring allele-specific expression in human-chimpanzee hybrid cells—the product of fusing induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells of each species in vitro. However, these cis-regulatory changes have only been explored in a limited number of cell types. Here, we quantify human-chimpanzee cis-regulatory divergence in gene expression and chromatin accessibility across six cell types, enabling the identification of highly cell-type-specific cis-regulatory changes. We find that cell-type-specific genes and regulatory elements evolve faster than those shared across cell types, suggesting an important role for genes with cell-type-specific expression in human evolution. Furthermore, we identify several instances of lineage-specific natural selection that may have played key roles in specific cell types, such as coordinated changes in the cis-regulation of dozens of genes involved in neuronal firing in motor neurons. Finally, using novel metrics and a machine learning model, we identify genetic variants that likely alter chromatin accessibility and transcription factor binding, leading to neuron-specific changes in the expression of the neurodevelopmentally important genes FABP7 and GAD1. Overall, our results demonstrate that integrative analysis of cis-regulatory divergence in chromatin accessibility and gene expression across cell types is a promising approach to identify the specific genes and genetic variants that make us human.