Removing the needle from the haystack: Enrichment of Wolbachia endosymbiont transcripts from host nematode RNA by Cappable-seq™
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0173186

Efficient transcriptomic sequencing of microbial mRNA derived from host-microbe associations is often compromised by the much lower relative abundance of microbial RNA in the mixed total RNA sample. One solution to this problem is to perform extensive sequencing until an acceptable level of transcriptome coverage is obtained. More cost-effective methods include use of prokaryotic and/or eukaryotic rRNA depletion strategies, sometimes in conjunction with depletion of polyadenylated eukaryotic mRNA. Here, we report use of Cappable-seq™ to specifically enrich, in a single step, Wolbachia endobacterial mRNA transcripts from total RNA prepared from the parasitic filarial nematode, Brugia malayi. The obligate Wolbachia endosymbiont is a proven drug target for many human filarial infections, yet the precise nature of its symbiosis with the nematode host is poorly understood. Insightful analysis of the expression levels of Wolbachia genes predicted to underpin the mutualistic association and of known drug target genes at different life cycle stages or in response to drug treatments is typically challenged by low transcriptomic coverage. Cappable-seq resulted in up to ~ 5-fold increase in the number of reads mapping to Wolbachia. On average, coverage of Wolbachia transcripts from B. malayi microfilariae was enriched ~40-fold by Cappable-seq. Additionally, this method has an additional benefit of selectively removing abundant prokaryotic ribosomal RNAs.The deeper microbial transcriptome sequencing afforded by Cappable-seq facilitates more detailed characterization of gene expression levels of pathogens and symbionts present in animal tissues.