September 22, 2019  |  

RNAi-based treatment of chronically infected patients and chimpanzees reveals that integrated hepatitis B virus DNA is a source of HBsAg.

Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a major health concern worldwide, frequently leading to liver cirrhosis, liver failure, and hepatocellular carcinoma. Evidence suggests that high viral antigen load may play a role in chronicity. Production of viral proteins is thought to depend on transcription of viral covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA). In a human clinical trial with an RNA interference (RNAi)-based therapeutic targeting HBV transcripts, ARC-520, HBV S antigen (HBsAg) was strongly reduced in treatment-naïve patients positive for HBV e antigen (HBeAg) but was reduced significantly less in patients who were HBeAg-negative or had received long-term therapy with nucleos(t)ide viral replication inhibitors (NUCs). HBeAg positivity is associated with greater disease risk that may be moderately reduced upon HBeAg loss. The molecular basis for this unexpected differential response was investigated in chimpanzees chronically infected with HBV. Several lines of evidence demonstrated that HBsAg was expressed not only from the episomal cccDNA minichromosome but also from transcripts arising from HBV DNA integrated into the host genome, which was the dominant source in HBeAg-negative chimpanzees. Many of the integrants detected in chimpanzees lacked target sites for the small interfering RNAs in ARC-520, explaining the reduced response in HBeAg-negative chimpanzees and, by extension, in HBeAg-negative patients. Our results uncover a heretofore underrecognized source of HBsAg that may represent a strategy adopted by HBV to maintain chronicity in the presence of host immunosurveillance. These results could alter trial design and endpoint expectations of new therapies for chronic HBV. Copyright © 2017 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works.

July 19, 2019  |  

Technology: SMRT move?

One of the major challenges of de novo mammalian genome assembly arises from the presence of large, interspersed segmental duplications with high levels of sequence identity. These regions are particularly difficult to assemble using current short-read high-throughput sequencing methods. Combining long-read single-molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing with a hierarchical genome-assembly process (HGAP), as well as the consensus and variant caller Quiver, enabled these complex genomic regions to be resolved in a more cost-and time-effective manner than previously possible.

July 19, 2019  |  

Reconstructing complex regions of genomes using long-read sequencing technology.

Obtaining high-quality sequence continuity of complex regions of recent segmental duplication remains one of the major challenges of finishing genome assemblies. In the human and mouse genomes, this was achieved by targeting large-insert clones using costly and laborious capillary-based sequencing approaches. Sanger shotgun sequencing of clone inserts, however, has now been largely abandoned, leaving most of these regions unresolved in newer genome assemblies generated primarily by next-generation sequencing hybrid approaches. Here we show that it is possible to resolve regions that are complex in a genome-wide context but simple in isolation for a fraction of the time and cost of traditional methods using long-read single molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing and assembly technology from Pacific Biosciences (PacBio). We sequenced and assembled BAC clones corresponding to a 1.3-Mbp complex region of chromosome 17q21.31, demonstrating 99.994% identity to Sanger assemblies of the same clones. We targeted 44 differences using Illumina sequencing and find that PacBio and Sanger assemblies share a comparable number of validated variants, albeit with different sequence context biases. Finally, we targeted a poorly assembled 766-kbp duplicated region of the chimpanzee genome and resolved the structure and organization for a fraction of the cost and time of traditional finishing approaches. Our data suggest a straightforward path for upgrading genomes to a higher quality finished state.

July 19, 2019  |  

Emergence of a Homo sapiens-specific gene family and chromosome 16p11.2 CNV susceptibility.

Genetic differences that specify unique aspects of human evolution have typically been identified by comparative analyses between the genomes of humans and closely related primates, including more recently the genomes of archaic hominins. Not all regions of the genome, however, are equally amenable to such study. Recurrent copy number variation (CNV) at chromosome 16p11.2 accounts for approximately 1% of cases of autism and is mediated by a complex set of segmental duplications, many of which arose recently during human evolution. Here we reconstruct the evolutionary history of the locus and identify bolA family member 2 (BOLA2) as a gene duplicated exclusively in Homo sapiens. We estimate that a 95-kilobase-pair segment containing BOLA2 duplicated across the critical region approximately 282 thousand years ago (ka), one of the latest among a series of genomic changes that dramatically restructured the locus during hominid evolution. All humans examined carried one or more copies of the duplication, which nearly fixed early in the human lineage-a pattern unlikely to have arisen so rapidly in the absence of selection (P?

July 7, 2019  |  

Structure and evolution of the filaggrin gene repeated region in primates

The evolutionary dynamics of repeat sequences is quite complex, with some duplicates never having differentiated from each other. Two models can explain the complex evolutionary process for repeated genes—concerted and birth-and-death, of which the latter is driven by duplications maintained by selection. Copy number variations caused by random duplications and losses in repeat regions may modulate molecular pathways and therefore affect phenotypic characteristics in a population, resulting in individuals that are able to adapt to new environments. In this study, we investigated the filaggrin gene (FLG), which codes for filaggrin—an important component of the outer layers of mammalian skin—and contains tandem repeats that exhibit copy number variation between and within species. To examine which model best fits the evolutionary pathway for the complete tandem repeats within a single exon of FLG, we determined the repeat sequences in crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis), orangutan (Pongo abelii), gorilla (Gorilla gorilla), and chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and compared these with the sequence in human (Homo sapiens).

July 7, 2019  |  

MHC class I diversity in chimpanzees and bonobos.

Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I genes are critically involved in the defense against intracellular pathogens. MHC diversity comparisons among samples of closely related taxa may reveal traces of past or ongoing selective processes. The bonobo and chimpanzee are the closest living evolutionary relatives of humans and last shared a common ancestor some 1 mya. However, little is known concerning MHC class I diversity in bonobos or in central chimpanzees, the most numerous and genetically diverse chimpanzee subspecies. Here, we used a long-read sequencing technology (PacBio) to sequence the classical MHC class I genes A, B, C, and A-like in 20 and 30 wild-born bonobos and chimpanzees, respectively, with a main focus on central chimpanzees to assess and compare diversity in those two species. We describe in total 21 and 42 novel coding region sequences for the two species, respectively. In addition, we found evidence for a reduced MHC class I diversity in bonobos as compared to central chimpanzees as well as to western chimpanzees and humans. The reduced bonobo MHC class I diversity may be the result of a selective process in their evolutionary past since their split from chimpanzees.

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