August 19, 2021  |  

Case Study: Pioneering a pan-genome reference collection

At DuPont Pioneer, DNA sequencing is paramount for R&D to reveal the genetic basis for traits of interest in commercial crops such as maize, soybean, sorghum, sunflower, alfalfa, canola, wheat, rice, and others. They cannot afford to wait the years it has historically taken for high-quality reference genomes to be produced. Nor can they rely on a single reference to represent the genetic diversity in its germplasm.


June 1, 2021  |  

Comprehensive genome and transcriptome structural analysis of a breast cancer cell line using PacBio long read sequencing

Genomic instability is one of the hallmarks of cancer, leading to widespread copy number variations, chromosomal fusions, and other structural variations. The breast cancer cell line SK-BR-3 is an important model for HER2+ breast cancers, which are among the most aggressive forms of the disease and affect one in five cases. Through short read sequencing, copy number arrays, and other technologies, the genome of SK-BR-3 is known to be highly rearranged with many copy number variations, including an approximately twenty-fold amplification of the HER2 oncogene. However, these technologies cannot precisely characterize the nature and context of the identified genomic events and other important mutations may be missed altogether because of repeats, multi-mapping reads, and the failure to reliably anchor alignments to both sides of a variation. To address these challenges, we have sequenced SK-BR-3 using PacBio long read technology. Using the new P6-C4 chemistry, we generated more than 70X coverage of the genome with average read lengths of 9-13kb (max: 71kb). Using Lumpy for split-read alignment analysis, as well as our novel assembly-based algorithms for finding complex variants, we have developed a detailed map of structural variations in this cell line. Taking advantage of the newly identified breakpoints and combining these with copy number assignments, we have developed an algorithm to reconstruct the mutational history of this cancer genome. From this we have discovered a complex series of nested duplications and translocations between chr17 and chr8, two of the most frequent translocation partners in primary breast cancers, resulting in amplification of HER2. We have also carried out full-length transcriptome sequencing using PacBio’s Iso-Seq technology, which has revealed a number of previously unrecognized gene fusions and isoforms. Combining long-read genome and transcriptome sequencing technologies enables an in-depth analysis of how changes in the genome affect the transcriptome, including how gene fusions are created across multiple chromosomes. This analysis has established the most complete cancer reference genome available to date, and is already opening the door to applying long-read sequencing to patient samples with complex genome structures.


June 1, 2021  |  

SMRT Sequencing of the alala genome

Single Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing was used to generate long reads for whole genome shotgun sequencing of the genome of the`alala (Hawaiian crow). The ‘alala is endemic to Hawaii, and the only surviving lineage of the crow family, Corvidae, in the Hawaiian Islands. The population declined to less than 20 individuals in the 1990s, and today this charismatic species is extinct in the wild. Currently existing in only two captive breeding facilities, reintroduction of the ‘alala is scheduled to begin in the Fall of 2016. Reintroduction efforts will be assisted by information from the ‘alala genome generated and assembled by SMRT Technology, which will allow detailed analysis of genes associated with immunity, behavior, and learning. Using SMRT Sequencing, we present here best practices for achieving long reads for whole genome shotgun sequencing for complex plant and animal genomes such as the ‘alala genome. With recent advances in SMRTbell library preparation, P6-C4 chemistry and 6-hour movies, the number of useable bases now exceeds 1 Gb per SMRT Cell. Read lengths averaging 10 – 15 kb can be routinely achieved, with the longest reads approaching 70 kb. Furthermore, > 25% of useable bases are in reads greater than 30 kb, advantageous for generating contiguous draft assemblies of contig N50 up to 5 Mb. De novo assemblies of large genomes are now more tractable using SMRT Sequencing as the standalone technology. We also present guidelines for planning out projects for the de novo assembly of large genomes.


June 1, 2021  |  

Long-read assembly of the Aedes aegypti Aag2 cell line genome resolves ancient endogenous viral elements

Transmission of arboviruses such as Dengue Virus by Aedes aegypti causes debilitating disease across the globe. Disease in humans can include severe acute symptoms such as hemorrhagic fever and organ failure, but mosquitoes tolerate high titers of virus in a persistent infection. The mechanisms responsible for this viral tolerance are unclear. Recent publications highlighted the integration of genetic material from non-retroviral RNA viruses into the genome of the host during infection that relies upon endogenous retro-transcriptase activity from transposons. These endogenous viral elements (EVEs) found in the genome are predicted to be ancient, and at least some EVEs are under purifying selection, suggesting they are beneficial to the host. To characterize EVE biogenesis in a tractable system, we sequenced the Ae. aegypti cell line, Aag2, to 58-fold coverage and present a de novo assembly of the genome. The assembly contains 1.7 Gb of genomic and 255 Mb of alternative haplotype specific sequence, consisting of contigs with a N50 of 1.4 Mb; a value that, when compared with other assemblies of the Aedes genus, is from 1-3 orders of magnitude longer. The Aag2 genome is highly repetitive (70%), most of which is classified as transposable elements (60%). We identify EVEs in the genome homologous to a range of extant viruses, many of which cluster in these regions of repetitive DNA. The contiguous assembly allows for more comprehensive identification of the transposable elements and EVEs that are most likely to be lost in assemblies lacking the read length of SMRT Sequencing.


June 1, 2021  |  

Diploid genome assembly and comprehensive haplotype sequence reconstruction

Outside of the simplest cases (haploid, bacteria, or inbreds), genomic information is not carried in a single reference per individual, but rather has higher ploidy (n=>2) for almost all organisms. The existence of two or more highly related sequences within an individual makes it extremely difficult to build high quality, highly contiguous genome assemblies from short DNA fragments. Based on the earlier work on a polyploidy aware assembler, FALCON ( https://github.com/PacificBiosciences/FALCON) , we developed new algorithms and software (“FALCON-unzip”) for de novo haplotype reconstructions from SMRT Sequencing data. We generate two datasets for developing the algorithms and the prototype software: (1) whole genome sequencing data from a highly repetitive diploid fungal (Clavicorona pyxidata) and (2) whole genome sequencing data from an F1 hybrid from two inbred Arabidopsis strains: Cvi-0 and Col-0. For the fungal genome, we achieved an N50 of 1.53 Mb (of the 1n assembly contigs) of the ~42 Mb 1n genome and an N50 of the haplotigs (haplotype specific contigs) of 872 kb from a 95X read length N50 ~16 kb dataset. We found that ~ 45% of the genome was highly heterozygous and ~55% of the genome was highly homozygous. We developed methods to assess the base-level accuracy and local haplotype phasing accuracy of the assembly with short-read data from the Illumina® platform. For the ArabidopsisF1 hybrid genome, we found that 80% of the genome could be separated into haplotigs. The long range accuracy of phasing haplotigs was evaluated by comparing them to the assemblies from the two inbred parental lines. We show that a more complete view of all haplotypes could provide useful biological insights through improved annotation, characterization of heterozygous variants of all sizes, and resolution of differential allele expression. The current Falcon-Unzip method will lead to understand how to solve more difficult polyploid genome assembly problems and improve the computational efficiency for large genome assemblies. Based on this work, we can develop a pipeline enabling routinely assemble diploid or polyploid genomes as haplotigs, representing a comprehensive view of the genomes that can be studied with the information at hand.


June 1, 2021  |  

Un-zipping diploid genomes – revealing all kinds of heterozygous variants from comprehensive hapltotig assemblies

Outside of the simplest cases (haploid, bacteria, or inbreds), genomic information is not carried in a single reference per individual, but rather has higher ploidy (n=>2) for almost all organisms. The existence of two or more highly related sequences within an individual makes it extremely difficult to build high quality, highly contiguous genome assemblies from short DNA fragments. Based on the earlier work on a polyploidy aware assembler, FALCON (https://github.com/PacificBiosciences/FALCON), we developed new algorithms and software (FALCON-unzip) for de novo haplotype reconstructions from SMRT Sequencing data. We apply the algorithms and the prototype software for (1) a highly repetitive diploid fungal genome (Clavicorona pyxidata) and (2) an F1 hybrid from two inbred Arabidopsis strains: CVI-0 and COL-0. For the fungal genome, we achieved an N50 of 1.53 Mb (of the 1n assembly contigs) of the ~42 Mb 1n genome and an N50 of the haplotigs of 872 kb from a 95X read length N50 ~16 kb dataset. We found that ~ 45% of the genome was highly heterozygous and ~55% of the genome was highly homozygous. We developed methods to assess the base-level accuracy and local haplotype phasing accuracy of the assembly with short-read data from the Illumina platform. For the Arabidopsis F1 hybrid genome, we found that 80% of the genome could be separated into haplotigs. The long range accuracy of phasing haplotigs was evaluated by comparing them to the assemblies from the two inbred parental lines. We show that a more complete view of all haplotypes could provide useful biological insights through improved annotation, characterization of heterozygous variants of all sizes, and resolution of differential allele expression. Finally, we applied this method to WGS human data sets to demonstrate the potential for resolving complicated, medically-relevant genomic regions.


June 1, 2021  |  

Long-read assembly of the Aedes aegypti Aag2 cell line genome resolves ancient endogenous viral elements

Transmission of arboviruses such as Dengue and Zika viruses by Aedes aegypti causes widespread and debilitating disease across the globe. Disease in humans can include severe acute symptoms such as hemorrhagic fever, organ failure, and encephalitis; and yet, mosquitoes tolerate high titers of virus in a persistent infection. The mechanisms responsible for tolerance to viral infection in mosquitoes are still unclear. Recent publications have highlighted the integration of genetic material from non-retroviral RNA viruses into the genome of the host during infection that relies upon endogenous retro-transcriptase activity from transposons. These endogenous viral elements (EVEs) found in the genome are predicted to be ancient and at least some EVEs are under purifying selection, which suggests that they are beneficial to the host. In order characterize EVE biogenesis in a tractable system we sequenced the Ae. aegypti cell line, Aag2, to 58X coverage and here present a de novo assembly of the genome. The assembly consists of 1.7 Gb of genomic and 255 Mb of alternative haplotype specific sequence, made up of contigs with a N50 of 1.4 Mb; a value that, when compared with other assemblies of the Aedes genus, is from 1-3 orders of magnitude longer. The Aag2 genome is highly repetitive (70%), most of which is classified as transposable elements (60%). We identify a plethora of EVEs in the genome homologous to a diverse range of extant viruses, many of which cluster in these regions of highly repetitive DNA. The highly contiguous nature of this assembly allows for a more comprehensive identification of the transposable elements and EVEs that are most likely to be lost in assemblies lacking the read length of SMRT Sequencing. Transmission of arboviruses such as Dengue Virus by Aedes aegypti causes widespread and debilitating disease across the globe. Disease in humans can include severe acute symptoms such as hemorrhagic fever, organ failure, and encephalitis; and yet, mosquitoes tolerate high titers of virus in a persistent infection. The mechanisms responsible for tolerance to viral infection in mosquitoes are still unclear. Recent publications have highlighted the integration of genetic material from non-retroviral RNA viruses into the genome of the host during infection that relies upon endogenous retro-transcriptase activity from transposons. These endogenous viral elements (EVEs) found in the genome are predicted to be ancient and at least some EVEs are under purifying selection, which suggests that they are beneficial to the host. In order characterize EVE biogenesis in a tractable system we sequenced the Ae. aegypti cell line, Aag2, to 58X coverage and here present a de novo assembly of the genome. The assembly consists of 1.7 Gb of genomic and 255 Mb of alternative haplotype specific sequence, made up of contigs with a N50 of 1.4 Mb; a value that, when compared with other assemblies of the Aedes genus, is from 1-3 orders of magnitude longer. The Aag2 genome is highly repetitive (70%), most of which is classified as transposable elements (60%). We identify a plethora of EVEs in the genome homologous to a diverse range of extant viruses, many of which cluster in these regions of highly repetitive DNA. The highly contiguous nature of this assembly allows for a more comprehensive identification of the transposable elements and EVEs that are most likely to be lost in assemblies lacking the read length of SMRT Sequencing. Transmission of arboviruses such as Dengue Virus by Aedes aegypti causes widespread and debilitating disease across the globe. Disease in humans can include severe acute symptoms such as hemorrhagic fever, organ failure, and encephalitis; and yet, mosquitoes tolerate high titers of virus in a persistent infection. The mechanisms responsible for tolerance to viral infection in mosquitoes are still unclear.


June 1, 2021  |  

Complete telomere-to-telomere de novo assembly of the Plasmodium falciparum genome using long-read sequencing

Sequence-based estimation of genetic diversity of Plasmodium falciparum, the most lethal malarial parasite, has proved challenging due to a lack of a complete genomic assembly. The skewed AT-richness (~80.6% (A+T)) of its genome and the lack of technology to assemble highly polymorphic sub-telomeric regions that contain clonally variant, multigene virulence families (i.e. var and rifin) have confounded attempts using short-read NGS technologies. Using single molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing, we successfully compiled all 14 nuclear chromosomes of the P. falciparum genome from telomere-to-telomere in single contigs. Specifically, amplification-free sequencing generated reads of average length 12 kb, with =50% of the reads between 15.5 and 50 kb in length. A hierarchical genome assembly process (HGAP), was used to assemble the P. falciparum genome de novo. This assembly accurately resolved centromeres (~90-99% (A+T)) and sub-telomeric regions, and identified large insertions and duplications in the genome that added extra genes to the var and rifin virulence families, along with smaller structural variants such as homopolymer tract expansions. These regions can be used as markers for genetic diversity during comparative genome analyses. Moreover, identifying the polymorphic and repetitive sub-telomeric sequences of parasite populations from endemic areas might inform the link between structural variation and phenotypes such as virulence, drug resistance and disease transmission.


June 1, 2021  |  

Phased human genome assemblies with Single Molecule, Real-Time Sequencing

In recent years, human genomic research has focused on comparing short-read data sets to a single human reference genome. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that significant structural variations present in individual human genomes are missed or ignored by this approach. Additionally, remapping short-read data limits the phasing of variation among individual chromosomes. This reduces the newly sequenced genome to a table of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with little to no information as to the co-linearity (phasing) of these variants, resulting in a “mosaic” reference representing neither of the parental chromosomes. The variation between the homologous chromosomes is lost in this representation, including allelic variations, structural variations, or even genes present in only one chromosome, leading to lost information regarding allelic-specific gene expression and function. To address these limitations, we have made significant progress integrating haplotype information directly into genome assembly process with long reads. The FALCON-Unzip algorithm leverages a string graph assembly approach to facilitate identification and separation of heterozygosity during the assembly process to produce a highly contiguous assembly with phased haplotypes representing the genome in its diploid state. The outputs of the assembler are pairs of sequences (haplotigs) containing the allelic differences, including SNPs and structural variations, present in the two sets of chromosomes. The development and testing of our de-novo diploid assembler was facilitated and carefully validated using inbred reference model organisms and F1 progeny, which allowed us to ascertain the accuracy and concordance of haplotigs relative to the two inbred parental assemblies. Examination of the results confirmed that our haplotype-resolved assemblies are “Gold Level” reference genomes having a quality similar to that of Sanger-sequencing, BAC-based assembly approaches. We further sequenced and assembled two well-characterized human samples into their respective phased diploid genomes with gap-free contig N50 sizes greater than 23 Mb and haplotig N50 sizes greater than 380 kb. Results of these assemblies and a comparison between the haplotype sets are presented.


June 1, 2021  |  

A high-quality genome assembly of SMRT Sequences reveals long-range haplotype structure in the diploid mosquito Aedes aegypti

Aedes aegypti is a tropical and subtropical mosquito vector for Zika, yellow fever, dengue fever, chikungunya, and other diseases. The outbreak of Zika in the Americas, which can cause microcephaly in the fetus of infected women, adds urgency to the need for a high-quality reference genome in order to better understand the organism’s biology and its role in transmitting human disease. We describe the first diploid assembly of an insect genome, using SMRT sequencing and the open-source assembler FALCON-Unzip. This assembly has high contiguity (contig N50 1.3 Mb), is more complete than previous assemblies (Length 1.45 Gb with 87% BUSCO genes complete), and is high quality (mean base >QV30). Long-range haplotype structure, in some cases encompassing more than 4 Mb of extremely divergent homologous sequence, is resolved using a combination of the FALCON-Unzip assembler, genome annotation, coverage depth, and pairwise nucleotide alignments.


June 1, 2021  |  

High-quality, highly contiguous re-assembly of the pig genome

Many applications of high throughput sequencing rely on the availability of an accurate reference genome. Errors in the reference genome assembly increase the number of false-positives in downstream analyses. Recently, we have shown that over 33% of the current pig reference genome, Sscrofa10.2, is either misassembled or otherwise unreliable for genomic analyses. Additionally, ~10% of the bases in the assembly are Ns in gaps of an arbitrary size. Thousands of highly fragmented contigs remain unplaced and many genes are known to be missing from the assembly. Here we present a new assembly of the pig genome, Sscrofa11, assembled using 65X PacBio sequencing from T.J. Tabasco, the same Duroc sow used in the assembly of Sscrofa10.2. The PacBio reads were assembled using the Falcon assembly pipeline resulting in 3,206 contigs with an initial contig N50 of 14.5Mb. We used Sscrofa10.2 as a template to scaffold the PacBio contigs, under the assumption that its gross structure is correct, and used PBJelly to fill gaps. Additional gaps were filled using large, sequenced BACs from the original assembly. Following gap filling, the assembly has substantially improved contiguity and contains more sequence than the Sscrofa10.2 assembly. Arrow and Pilon were used to polish the assembly. The contig N50 is now 58.5Mb with 103 gaps remaining. By comparing regions of the two assemblies we show that regions with structural abnormalities we identified in Sscrofa10.2 are resolved in the new PacBio assembly.


June 1, 2021  |  

De novo PacBio long-read assembled avian genomes correct and add to genes important in neuroscience and conservation research

To test the impact of high-quality genome assemblies on biological research, we applied PacBio long-read sequencing in conjunction with the new, diploid-aware FALCON-Unzip assembler to a number of bird species. These included: the zebra finch, for which a consortium-generated, Sanger-based reference exists, to determine how the FALCON-Unzip assembly would compare to the current best references available; Anna’s hummingbird genome, which had been assembled with short-read sequencing methods as part of the Avian Phylogenomics phase I initiative; and two critically endangered bird species (kakapo and ‘alala) of high importance for conservations efforts, whose genomes had not previously been sequenced and assembled.


February 5, 2021  |  

PAG 2016 Highlights: Customer interviews

See what PacBio users had to say about SMRT Sequencing at the Plant and Animal Genome (PAG) Conference in San Diego. This brief video captures highlights from posters, presentations, and…


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