Eli received his B.S. in Microbiology and Immunology from U.C. Irvine in 2013, where he worked in the lab of Dr. Celia Goulding. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2018 in the lab of Dr. Sarah Fortune, where he studied post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Eli joined the Howitt lab at Stanford in the summer of 2018, where he is studying the influence of protozoan members of the microbiome on intestinal immunity.
Honors & Awards
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, National Science Foundation (2014-2017)
Herchel Smith Graduate Research Fellowship, Herchel Smith Foundation (2013-2014)
Bachelor of Science, University of California, Irvine (2013)
Doctor of Philosophy, Harvard University (2018)
Michael Howitt, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Transcriptional profiling identifies novel regulators of macrophage polarization.
2018; 13 (12): e0208602
Macrophages are key inflammatory immune cells that display dynamic phenotypes and functions in response to their local microenvironment. Major advances have occurred in understanding the transcriptional, epigenetic, and functional differences in various macrophage subsets by in vitro modeling and gene expression and epigenetic profiling for biomarker discovery. However, there is still no standardized protocol for macrophage polarization largely due to the lack of thorough validation of macrophage phenotypes following polarization. In addition, transcriptional regulation is recognized as a major mechanism governing differential macrophage polarization programs and as such, many genes have been identified to be associated with each macrophage subset. However, the functional role of many of these genes in macrophage polarization is still unknown. Moreover, the role of other regulatory mechanisms, such as DNA methylation, in macrophage polarization remains poorly understood. Here, we employed an optimized model of human M1 and M2 macrophage polarization which we used for large-scale transcriptional and DNA methylation profiling. We were unable to demonstrate a role for DNA methylation in macrophage polarization, as no significant changes were identified. However, we observed significant changes in the transcriptomes of M1 and M2 macrophages. Additionally, we identified numerous novel differentially regulated genes involved in macrophage polarization, including CYBB and DHCR7 which we show as important regulators of M1 and M2 macrophage polarization, respectively. Taken together, our improved in vitro human M1 and M2 macrophage model provides new understandings of the regulation of macrophage polarization and candidate macrophage biomarkers.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0208602
View details for PubMedID 30532146
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6286176
Small RNA profiling in Mycobacterium tuberculosis identifies MrsI as necessary for an anticipatory iron sparing response.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
2018; 115 (25): 6464–69
One key to the success of Mycobacterium tuberculosis as a pathogen is its ability to reside in the hostile environment of the human macrophage. Bacteria adapt to stress through a variety of mechanisms, including the use of small regulatory RNAs (sRNAs), which posttranscriptionally regulate bacterial gene expression. However, very little is currently known about mycobacterial sRNA-mediated riboregulation. To date, mycobacterial sRNA discovery has been performed primarily in log-phase growth, and no direct interaction between any mycobacterial sRNA and its targets has been validated. Here, we performed large-scale sRNA discovery and expression profiling in M. tuberculosis during exposure to five pathogenically relevant stresses. From these data, we identified a subset of sRNAs that are highly induced in multiple stress conditions. We focused on one of these sRNAs, ncRv11846, here renamed mycobacterial regulatory sRNA in iron (MrsI). We characterized the regulon of MrsI and showed in mycobacteria that it regulates one of its targets, bfrA, through a direct binding interaction. MrsI mediates an iron-sparing response that is required for optimal survival of M. tuberculosis under iron-limiting conditions. However, MrsI is induced by multiple host-like stressors, which appear to trigger MrsI as part of an anticipatory response to impending iron deprivation in the macrophage environment.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1718003115
View details for PubMedID 29871950
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6016810
Programmable transcriptional repression in mycobacteria using an orthogonal CRISPR interference platform.
2017; 2: 16274
The development of new drug regimens that allow rapid, sterilizing treatment of tuberculosis has been limited by the complexity and time required for genetic manipulations in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) promises to be a robust, easily engineered and scalable platform for regulated gene silencing. However, in M. tuberculosis, the existing Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9-based CRISPRi system is of limited utility because of relatively poor knockdown efficiency and proteotoxicity. To address these limitations, we screened eleven diverse Cas9 orthologues and identified four that are broadly functional for targeted gene knockdown in mycobacteria. The most efficacious of these proteins, the CRISPR1 Cas9 from Streptococcus thermophilus (dCas9Sth1), typically achieves 20- to 100-fold knockdown of endogenous gene expression with minimal proteotoxicity. In contrast to other CRISPRi systems, dCas9Sth1-mediated gene knockdown is robust when targeted far from the transcriptional start site, thereby allowing high-resolution dissection of gene function in the context of bacterial operons. We demonstrate the utility of this system by addressing persistent controversies regarding drug synergies in the mycobacterial folate biosynthesis pathway. We anticipate that the dCas9Sth1 CRISPRi system will have broad utility for functional genomics, genetic interaction mapping and drug-target profiling in M. tuberculosis.
View details for DOI 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.274
View details for PubMedID 28165460
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5302332
Comprehensive Essentiality Analysis of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis Genome via Saturating Transposon Mutagenesis.
2017; 8 (1)
For decades, identifying the regions of a bacterial chromosome that are necessary for viability has relied on mapping integration sites in libraries of random transposon mutants to find loci that are unable to sustain insertion. To date, these studies have analyzed subsaturated libraries, necessitating the application of statistical methods to estimate the likelihood that a gap in transposon coverage is the result of biological selection and not the stochasticity of insertion. As a result, the essentiality of many genomic features, particularly small ones, could not be reliably assessed. We sought to overcome this limitation by creating a completely saturated transposon library in Mycobacterium tuberculosis In assessing the composition of this highly saturated library by deep sequencing, we discovered that a previously unknown sequence bias of the Himar1 element rendered approximately 9% of potential TA dinucleotide insertion sites less permissible for insertion. We used a hidden Markov model of essentiality that accounted for this unanticipated bias, allowing us to confidently evaluate the essentiality of features that contained as few as 2 TA sites, including open reading frames (ORF), experimentally identified noncoding RNAs, methylation sites, and promoters. In addition, several essential regions that did not correspond to known features were identified, suggesting uncharacterized functions that are necessary for growth. This work provides an authoritative catalog of essential regions of the M. tuberculosis genome and a statistical framework for applying saturating mutagenesis to other bacteria.Sequencing of transposon-insertion mutant libraries has become a widely used tool for probing the functions of genes under various conditions. The Himar1 transposon is generally believed to insert with equal probabilities at all TA dinucleotides, and therefore its absence in a mutant library is taken to indicate biological selection against the corresponding mutant. Through sequencing of a saturated Himar1 library, we found evidence that TA dinucleotides are not equally permissive for insertion. The insertion bias was observed in multiple prokaryotes and influences the statistical interpretation of transposon insertion (TnSeq) data and characterization of essential genomic regions. Using these insights, we analyzed a fully saturated TnSeq library for M. tuberculosis, enabling us to generate a comprehensive catalog of in vitro essentiality, including ORFs smaller than those found in any previous study, small (noncoding) RNAs (sRNAs), promoters, and other genomic features.
View details for DOI 10.1128/mBio.02133-16
View details for PubMedID 28096490
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5241402
DNA replication fidelity in Mycobacterium tuberculosis is mediated by an ancestral prokaryotic proofreader.
2015; 47 (6): 677–81
The DNA replication machinery is an important target for antibiotic development in increasingly drug-resistant bacteria, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Although blocking DNA replication leads to cell death, disrupting the processes used to ensure replication fidelity can accelerate mutation and the evolution of drug resistance. In Escherichia coli, the proofreading subunit of the replisome, the ɛ exonuclease, is essential for high-fidelity DNA replication; however, we find that the corresponding subunit is completely dispensable in M. tuberculosis. Rather, the mycobacterial replicative polymerase DnaE1 itself encodes an editing function that proofreads DNA replication, mediated by an intrinsic 3'-5' exonuclease activity within its PHP domain. Inactivation of the DnaE1 PHP domain increases the mutation rate by more than 3,000-fold. Moreover, phylogenetic analysis of DNA replication proofreading in the bacterial kingdom suggests that E. coli is a phylogenetic outlier and that PHP domain-mediated proofreading is widely conserved and indeed may be the ancestral prokaryotic proofreader.
View details for DOI 10.1038/ng.3269
View details for PubMedID 25894501
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4449270
Structural basis of toxicity and immunity in contact-dependent growth inhibition (CDI) systems.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
2012; 109 (52): 21480–85
Contact-dependent growth inhibition (CDI) systems encode polymorphic toxin/immunity proteins that mediate competition between neighboring bacterial cells. We present crystal structures of CDI toxin/immunity complexes from Escherichia coli EC869 and Burkholderia pseudomallei 1026b. Despite sharing little sequence identity, the toxin domains are structurally similar and have homology to endonucleases. The EC869 toxin is a Zn(2+)-dependent DNase capable of completely degrading the genomes of target cells, whereas the Bp1026b toxin cleaves the aminoacyl acceptor stems of tRNA molecules. Each immunity protein binds and inactivates its cognate toxin in a unique manner. The EC869 toxin/immunity complex is stabilized through an unusual β-augmentation interaction. In contrast, the Bp1026b immunity protein exploits shape and charge complementarity to occlude the toxin active site. These structures represent the initial glimpse into the CDI toxin/immunity network, illustrating how sequence-diverse toxins adopt convergent folds yet retain distinct binding interactions with cognate immunity proteins. Moreover, we present visual demonstration of CDI toxin delivery into a target cell.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1216238110
View details for PubMedID 23236156
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3535622