June 1, 2021  |  

Accurately surveying uncultured microbial species with SMRT Sequencing

Background: Microbial ecology is reshaping our understanding of the natural world by revealing the large phylogenetic and functional diversity of microbial life. However the vast majority of these microorganisms remain poorly understood, as most cultivated representatives belong to just four phylogenetic groups and more than half of all identified phyla remain uncultivated. Characterization of this microbial ‘dark matter’ will thus greatly benefit from new metagenomic methods for in situ analysis. For example, sensitive high throughput methods for the characterization of community composition and structure from the sequencing of conserved marker genes. Methods: Here we utilize Single Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) sequencing of full-length 16S rRNA amplicons to phylogenetically profile microbial communities to below the genus-level. We test this method on a mock community of known composition, as well as a previously studied microbial community from a lake known to predominantly contain poorly characterized phyla. These results are compared to traditional 16S tag sequencing from short-read technologies and subsets of the full-length data corresponding to the same regions of the 16S gene. Results: We explore the benefits of using full-length amplicons for estimating community structure and diversity. In addition, we investigate the possible effects of context-specific and GC-content biases known to affect short-read sequencing technologies on the predicted community structure. We characterize the potential benefits of profiling metagenomic communities with full-length 16S rRNA genes from SMRT sequencing relative to standard methods.


June 1, 2021  |  

Developments in PacBio metagenome sequencing: Shotgun whole genomes and full-length 16S.

The assembly of metagenomes is dramatically improved by the long read lengths of SMRT Sequencing. This is demonstrated in an experimental design to sequence a mock community from the Human Microbiome Project, and assemble the data using the hierarchical genome assembly process (HGAP) at Pacific Biosciences. Results of this analysis are promising, and display much improved contiguity in the assembly of the mock community as compared to publicly available short-read data sets and assemblies. Additionally, the use of base modification information to make further associations between contigs provides additional data to improve assemblies, and to distinguish between members within a microbial community. The epigenetic approach is a novel validation method unique to SMRT Sequencing. In addition to whole-genome shotgun sequencing, SMRT Sequencing also offers improved classification resolution and reliability of metagenomic and microbiome samples by the full-length sequencing of 16S rRNA (~1500 bases long). Microbial communities can be detected at the species level in some cases, rather than being limited to the genus taxonomic classification as constrained by short-read technologies. The performance of SMRT Sequencing for these metagenomic samples achieved >99% predicted concordance to reference sequences in cecum, soil, water, and mock control investigations for bacterial 16S. Community samples are estimated to contain from 2.3 and up to 15 times as many species with abundance levels as low as 0.05% compared to the identification of phyla groups.


June 1, 2021  |  

Low-input long-read sequencing for complete microbial genomes and metagenomic community analysis.

Microbial genome sequencing can be done quickly, easily, and efficiently with the PacBio sequencing instruments, resulting in complete de novo assemblies. Alternative protocols have been developed to reduce the amount of purified DNA required for SMRT Sequencing, to broaden applicability to lower-abundance samples. If 50-100 ng of microbial DNA is available, a 10-20 kb SMRTbell library can be made. A 2 kb SMRTbell library only requires a few ng of gDNA when carrier DNA is added to the library. The resulting libraries can be loaded onto multiple SMRT Cells, yielding more than enough data for complete assembly of microbial genomes using the SMRT Portal assembly program HGAP, plus base-modification analysis. The entire process can be done in less than 3 days by standard laboratory personnel. This approach is particularly important for the analysis of metagenomic communities, in which genomic DNA is often limited. From these samples, full-length 16S amplicons can be generated, prepped with the standard SMRTbell library prep protocol, and sequenced. Alternatively, a 2 kb sheared library, made from a few ng of input DNA, can also be used to elucidate the microbial composition of a community, and may provide information about biochemical pathways present in the sample. In both these cases, 1-2 kb reads with >99% accuracy can be obtained from Circular Consensus Sequencing.


June 1, 2021  |  

Profiling metagenomic communities using circular consensus and Single Molecule, Real-Time Sequencing.

There are many sequencing-based approaches to understanding complex metagenomic communities spanning targeted amplification to whole-sample shotgun sequencing. While targeted approaches provide valuable data at low sequencing depth, they are limited by primer design and PCR amplification. Whole-sample shotgun experiments generally use short-read, second-generation sequencing, which results in data processing difficulties. For example, reads less than 1 kb in length will likely not cover a complete gene or region of interest, and will require assembly. This not only introduces the possibility of incorrectly combining sequence from different community members, it requires a high depth of coverage. As such, rare community members may not be represented in the resulting assembly. Circular-consensus, single molecule, real-time (SMRT) Sequencing reads in the 1-2 kb range, with >99% accuracy can be efficiently generated for low amounts of input DNA. 10 ng of input DNA sequenced in 4 SMRT Cells would generate >100,000 such reads. While throughput is low compared to second-generation sequencing, the reads are a true random sampling of the underlying community, since SMRT Sequencing has been shown to have no sequence-context bias. Long read lengths mean that that it would be reasonable to expect a high number of the reads to include gene fragments useful for analysis.


June 1, 2021  |  

Analysis of full-length metagenomic 16S genes by Single Molecule, Real-Time Sequencing

High-throughput sequencing of the complete 16S rRNA gene has become a valuable tool for characterizing microbial communities. However, the short reads produced by second-generation sequencing cannot provide taxonomic classification below the genus level. In this study, we demonstrate the capability of PacBio’s Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing to generate community profiles using mock microbial community samples from BEI Resources. We also evaluate multiplexing capabilities using PacBio barcodes on pooled samples comprising heterogeneous 16S amplicon populations representing soil, fecal, and mock communities.


June 1, 2021  |  

Profiling metagenomic communities using circular consensus and Single Molecule, Real-Time Sequencing

There are many sequencing-based approaches to understanding complex metagenomic communities, spanning targeted amplification to whole-sample shotgun sequencing. While targeted approaches provide valuable data at low sequencing depth, they are limited by primer design and PCR amplification. Whole-sample shotgun experiments require a high depth of coverage. As such, rare community members may not be represented in the resulting assembly. Circular-consensus, Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing reads in the 1-2 kb range, with >99% consensus accuracy, can be efficiently generated for low amounts of input DNA, e.g. as little as 10 ng of input DNA sequenced in 4 SMRT Cells can generate >100,000 such reads. While throughput is low compared to second-generation sequencing, the reads are a true random sampling of the underlying community. Long read lengths translate to a high number of the reads harboring full genes or even full operons for downstream analysis. Here we present the results of circular-consensus sequencing on a mock metagenomic community with an abundance range of multiple orders of magnitude, and compare the results with both 16S and shotgun assembly methods. We show that even with relatively low sequencing depth, the long-read, assembly-free, random sampling allows to elucidate meaningful information from the very low-abundance community members. For example, given the above low-input sequencing approach, a community member at 1/1,000 relative abundance would generate 100 1-2 kb sequence fragments having 99% consensus accuracy, with a high probability of containing a gene fragment useful for taxonomic classification or functional insight.


June 1, 2021  |  

Minimization of chimera formation and substitution errors in full-length 16S PCR amplification

The constituents and intra-communal interactions of microbial populations have garnered increasing interest in areas such as water remediation, agriculture and human health. One popular, efficient method of profiling communities is to amplify and sequence the evolutionarily conserved 16S rRNA sequence. Currently, most targeted amplification focuses on short, hypervariable regions of the 16S sequence. Distinguishing information not spanned by the targeted region is lost and species-level classification is often not possible. SMRT Sequencing easily spans the entire 1.5 kb 16S gene, and in combination with highly-accurate single-molecule sequences, can improve the identification of individual species in a metapopulation. However, when amplifying a mixture of sequences with close similarities, the products may contain chimeras, or recombinant molecules, at rates as high as 20-30%. These PCR artifacts make it difficult to identify novel species, and reduce the amount of productive sequences. We investigated multiple factors that have been hypothesized to contribute to chimera formation, such as template damage, denaturing time before and during cycling, polymerase extension time, and reaction volume. Of the factors tested, we found two major related contributors to chimera formation: the amount of input template into the PCR reaction and the number of PCR cycles. Sequence errors generated during amplification and sequencing can also confound the analysis of complex populations. Circular Consensus Sequencing (CCS) can generate single-molecule reads with >99% accuracy, and the SMRT Analysis software provides filtering of these reads to >99.99% accuracies. Remaining substitution errors in these highly-filtered reads are likely dominated by mis-incorporations during amplification. Therefore, we compared the impact of several commercially-available high-fidelity PCR kits with full-length 16S amplification. We show results of our experiments and describe an optimized protocol for full-length 16S amplification for SMRT Sequencing. These optimizations have broader implications for other applications that use PCR amplification to phase variations across targeted regions and to generate highly accurate reference sequences.


June 1, 2021  |  

Minimization of chimera formation and substitution errors in full-length 16S PCR amplification

The constituents and intra-communal interactions of microbial populations have garnered increasing interest in areas such as water remediation, agriculture and human health. Amplification and sequencing of the evolutionarily conserved 16S rRNA gene is an efficient method of profiling communities. Currently, most targeted amplification focuses on short, hypervariable regions of the 16S sequence. Distinguishing information not spanned by the targeted region is lost, and species-level classification is often not possible. PacBio SMRT Sequencing easily spans the entire 1.5 kb 16S gene in a single read, producing highly accurate single-molecule sequences that can improve the identification of individual species in a metapopulation.However, this process still relies upon PCR amplification from a mixture of similar sequences, which may result in chimeras, or recombinant molecules, at rates upwards of 20%. These PCR artifacts make it difficult to identify novel species, and reduce the amount of informative sequences. We investigated multiple factors that may contribute to chimera formation, such as template damage, denaturation time before and during thermocycling, polymerase extension time, and reaction volume. We found two related factors that contribute to chimera formation: the amount of input template into the PCR reaction, and the number of PCR cycles.A second problem that can confound analysis is sequence errors generated during amplification and sequencing. With the updated algorithm for circular consensus sequencing (CCS2), single-molecule reads can be filtered to 99.99% predicted accuracy. Substitution errors in these highly filtered reads may be dominated by mis-incorporations during amplification. Sequence differences in full-length 16S amplicons from several commercial high-fidelity PCR kits were compared.We show results of our experiments and describe our optimized protocol for full-length 16S amplification for SMRT Sequencing. These optimizations have broader implications for other applications that use PCR amplification to phase variations across targeted regions and generate highly accurate reference sequences.


June 1, 2021  |  

Profiling complex population genomes with highly accurate single molecule reads: cow rumen microbiomes

Determining compositions and functional capabilities of complex populations is often challenging, especially for sequencing technologies with short reads that do not uniquely identify organisms or genes. Long-read sequencing improves the resolution of these mixed communities, but adoption for this application has been limited due to concerns about throughput, cost and accuracy. The recently introduced PacBio Sequel System generates hundreds of thousands of long and highly accurate single-molecule reads per SMRT Cell. We investigated how the Sequel System might increase understanding of metagenomic communities. In the past, focus was largely on taxonomic classification with 16S rRNA sequencing. Recent expansion to WGS sequencing enables functional profiling as well, with the ultimate goal of complete genome assemblies. Here we compare the complex microbiomes in 5 cow rumen samples, for which Illumina WGS sequence data was also available. To maximize the PacBio single-molecule sequence accuracy, libraries of 2 to 3 kb were generated, allowing many polymerase passes per molecule. The resulting reads were filtered at predicted single-molecule accuracy levels up to 99.99%. Community compositions of the 5 samples were compared with Illumina WGS assemblies from the same set of samples, indicating rare organisms were often missed with Illumina. Assembly from PacBio CCS reads yielded a contig >100 kb in length with 6-fold coverage. Mapping of Illumina reads to the 101 kb contig verified the PacBio assembly and contig sequence. These results illustrate ways in which long accurate reads benefit analysis of complex communities.


June 1, 2021  |  

Profiling complex communities with highly accurate single molecule reads: cow rumen microbiomes

Determining compositions and functional capabilities of complex populations is often challenging, especially for sequencing technologies with short reads that do not uniquely identify organisms or genes. Long-read sequencing improves the resolution of these mixed communities, but adoption for this application has been limited due to concerns about throughput, cost and accuracy. The recently introduced PacBio Sequel System generates hundreds of thousands of long and highly accurate single-molecule reads per SMRT Cell. We investigated how the Sequel System might increase understanding of metagenomic communities. In the past, focus was largely on taxonomic classification with 16S rRNA sequencing. Recent expansion to WGS sequencing enables functional profiling as well, with the ultimate goal of complete genome assemblies. Here we compare the complex microbiomes in 5 cow rumen samples, for which Illumina WGS sequence data was also available. To maximize the PacBio single-molecule sequence accuracy, libraries of 2 to 3 kb were generated, allowing many polymerase passes per molecule. The resulting reads were filtered at predicted single-molecule accuracy levels up to 99.99%. Community compositions of the 5 samples were compared with Illumina WGS assemblies from the same set of samples, indicating rare organisms were often missed with Illumina. Assembly from PacBio CCS reads yielded a contig >100 kb in length with 6-fold coverage. Mapping of Illumina reads to the 101 kb contig verified the PacBio assembly and contig sequence. Scaffolding with reads from a PacBio unsheared library produced a complete genome of 2.4 Mb. These results illustrate ways in which long accurate reads benefit analysis of complex communities.


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