August 19, 2021  |  RNA sequencing

Application Brief: Long-read RNA sequencing – Best Practices

With Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing and the Sequel Systems, you can easily and affordably sequence complete transcript isoforms in genes of interest or across the entire transcriptome. The Iso-Seq method allows users to generate full-length cDNA sequences up to 10 kb in length — with no assembly required — to confidently characterize full-length transcript isoforms.


June 1, 2021  |  

SMRT Sequencing solutions for large genomes and transcriptomes.

Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing holds promise for addressing new frontiers in large genome complexities, such as long, highly repetitive, low-complexity regions and duplication events, and differentiating between transcript isoforms that are difficult to resolve with short-read technologies. We present solutions available for both reference genome improvement (>100 MB) and transcriptome research to best leverage long reads that have exceeded 20 Kb in length. Benefits for these applications are further realized with consistent use of size-selection of input sample using the BluePippin™ device from Sage Science. Highlights from our genome assembly projects using the latest P5-C3 chemistry on model organisms will be shared. Assembly contig N50 have exceeded 6 Mb and we observed longest contig exceeding 12.5 Mb with an average base quality of QV50. Additionally, the value of long, intact reads to provide a no-assembly approach to investigate transcript isoforms using our Iso-Seq Application will be presented.


June 1, 2021  |  

SMRT Sequencing solutions for investigative studies to understand evolutionary processes.

Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing holds promise for addressing new frontiers to understand molecular mechanisms in evolution and gain insight into adaptive strategies. With read lengths exceeding 10 kb, we are able to sequence high-quality, closed microbial genomes with associated plasmids, and investigate large genome complexities, such as long, highly repetitive, low-complexity regions and multiple tandem-duplication events. Improved genome quality, observed at 99.9999% (QV60) consensus accuracy, and significant reduction of gap regions in reference genomes (up to and beyond 50%) allow researchers to better understand coding sequences with high confidence, investigate potential regulatory mechanisms in noncoding regions, and make inferences about evolutionary strategies that are otherwise missed by the coverage biases associated with short- read sequencing technologies. Additional benefits afforded by SMRT Sequencing include the simultaneous capability to detect epigenomic modifications and obtain full-length cDNA transcripts that obsolete the need for assembly. With direct sequencing of DNA in real-time, this has resulted in the identification of numerous base modifications and motifs, which genome-wide profiles have linked to specific methyltransferase activities. Our new offering, the Iso-Seq Application, allows for the accurate differentiation between transcript isoforms that are difficult to resolve with short-read technologies. PacBio reads easily span transcripts such that both 5’/3’ primers for cDNA library generation and the poly-A tail are observed. As such, exon configuration and intron retention events can be analyzed without ambiguity. This technological advance is useful for characterizing transcript diversity and improving gene structure annotations in reference genomes. We review solutions available with SMRT Sequencing, from targeted sequencing efforts to obtaining reference genomes (>100 Mb). This includes strategies for identifying microsatellites and conducting phylogenetic comparisons with targeted gene families. We highlight how to best leverage our long reads that have exceeded 20 kb in length for research investigations, as well as currently available bioinformatics strategies for analysis. Benefits for these applications are further realized with consistent use of size selection of input sample using the BluePippin™ device from Sage Science as demonstrated in our genome improvement projects. Using the latest P5-C3 chemistry on model organisms, these efforts have yielded an observed contig N50 of ~6 Mb, with the longest contig exceeding 12.5 Mb and an average base quality of QV50.


June 1, 2021  |  

Rapid full-length Iso-Seq cDNA sequencing of rice mRNA to facilitate annotation and identify splice-site variation.

PacBio’s new Iso-Seq technology allows for rapid generation of full-length cDNA sequences without the need for assembly steps. The technology was tested on leaf mRNA from two model O. sativa ssp. indica cultivars – Minghui 63 and Zhenshan 97. Even though each transcriptome was not exhaustively sequenced, several thousand isoforms described genes over a wide size range, most of which are not present in any currently available FL cDNA collection. In addition, the lack of an assembly requirement provides direct and immediate access to complete mRNA sequences and rapid unraveling of biological novelties.


June 1, 2021  |  

De novo assembly of a complex panicoid grass genome using ultra-long PacBio reads with P6C4 chemistry

Drought is responsible for much of the global losses in crop yields and understanding how plants naturally cope with drought stress is essential for breeding and engineering crops for the changing climate. Resurrection plants desiccate to complete dryness during times of drought, then “come back to life” once water is available making them an excellent model for studying drought tolerance. Understanding the molecular networks governing how resurrection plants handle desiccation will provide targets for crop engineering. Oropetium thomaeum (Oro) is a resurrection plant that also has the smallest known grass genome at 250 Mb compared to Brachypodium distachyon (300 Mb) and rice (350 Mb). Plant genomes, especially grasses, have complex repeat structures such as telomeres, centromeres, and ribosomal gene cassettes, and high heterozygosity, which makes them difficult to assembly using short read next generation sequencing technologies. Ultra-long PacBio reads using the new P6C4 chemistry and the latest 15kb Blue Pippin size-selection protocol to generate 20kb insert libraries that yielded an average read length of 12kb providing ~72X coverage, and 10X coverage with reads over 20kb. The HGAP assembly covers 98% of the genome with a contig N50 of 2.4 Mb, which makes it one of the highest quality and most complete plant genomes assembled to date. Oro has a compact genome structure compared to other grasses with only 16% repeat sequences but has very good collinearity with other grasses. Understanding the genomic mechanisms of extreme desiccation tolerance in resurrection plants like Oro will provide insights for engineering and intelligent breeding of improved food, fuel, and fiber crops.


June 1, 2021  |  

Genome and transcriptome of the refeneration-competent flatworm, Macrostomum lignano

The free-living flatworm, Macrostomum lignano, much like its better known planarian relative, Schmidtea mediterranea, has an impressive regenerative capacity. Following injury, this species has the ability to regenerate almost an entirely new organism. This is attributable to the presence of an abundant somatic stem cell population, the neoblasts. These cells are also essential for the ongoing maintenance of most tissues, as their loss leads to irreversible degeneration of the animal. This set of unique properties makes a subset of flatworms attractive organisms for studying the evolution of pathways involved in tissue self-renewal, cell fate specification, and regeneration. The use of these organisms as models, however, is hampered by the lack of a well-assembled and annotated genome sequences, fundamental to modern genetic and molecular studies. Here we report the genomic sequence of Macrostomum lignano and an accompanying characterization of its transcriptome. The genome structure of M. lignano is remarkably complex, with ~75% of its sequence being comprised of simple repeats and transposon sequences. This has made high quality assembly from Illumina reads alone impossible (N50=222 bp). We therefore generated 130X coverage by long sequencing reads from the PacBio platform to create a substantially improved assembly with an N50 of 64 Kbp. We complemented the reference genome with an assembled and annotated transcriptome, and used both of these datasets in combination to probe gene expression patterns during regeneration, examining pathways important to stem cell function. As a whole, our data will provide a crucial resource for the community for the study not only of invertebrate evolution and phylogeny but also of regeneration and somatic pluripotency.


June 1, 2021  |  

The resurgence of reference quality genome

Several new 3rd generation long-range DNA sequencing and mapping technologies have recently become available that are starting to create a resurgence in genome sequence quality. Unlike their 2nd generation, shortread counterparts that can resolve a few hundred or a few thousand basepairs, the new technologies can routinely sequence 10,000 bp reads or map across 100,000 bp molecules. The substantially greater lengths are being used to enhance a number of important problems in genomics and medicine, including de novo genome assembly, structural variation detection, and haplotype phasing. Here we discuss the capabilities of the latest technologies, and show how they will improve the “3Cs of Genome Assembly”: the contiguity, completeness, and correctness. We derive this analysis from (1) a metaanalysis of the currently available 3rd generation genome assemblies, (2) a retrospective analysis of the evolution of the reference human genome, and (3) extensive simulations with dozens of species across the tree of life. We also propose a model using support vector regression (SVR) that predicts genome assembly performance using four features: read lengths(L) and coverage values(C) that can be used for evaluating potential technologies along with genome size(G) and repeats(R) that present species specific characteristics. The proposed model significantly improves genome assembly performance prediction by adopting data-driven approach and addressing limitations of the previous hypothesis-driven methodology. Overall, we anticipate these technologies unlock the genomic “dark matter”, and provide many new insights into evolution, agriculture, and human diseases.


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  |  

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  |  

Cogent: Reconstructing the coding genome from full-length transcriptome sequences

For highly complex and large genomes, a well-annotated genome may be computationally challenging and costly, yet the study of alternative splicing events and gene annotations usually rely on the existence of a genome. Long-read sequencing technology provides new opportunities to sequence full-length cDNAs, avoiding computational challenges that short read transcript assembly brings. The use of single molecule, real-time sequencing from Pacific Biosciences to sequence transcriptomes (the Iso-SeqTM method), which produces de novo, high-quality, full-length transcripts, has revealed an astonishing amount of alternative splicing in eukaryotic species. With the Iso-Seq method, it is now possible to reconstruct the transcribed regions of the genome using just the transcripts themselves. We present Cogent, a tool for finding gene families and reconstructing the coding genome in the absence of a reference genome. Cogent uses k-mer similarities to first partition the transcripts into different gene families. Then, for each gene family, the transcripts are used to build a splice graph. Cogent identifies bubbles resulting from sequencing errors, minor variants, and exon skipping events, and attempts to resolve each splice graph down to the minimal set of reconstructed contigs. We apply Cogent to a Cuttlefish Iso-Seq dataset, for which there is a highly fragmented, Illumina-based draft genome assembly and little annotation. We show that Cogent successfully discovers gene families and can reconstruct the coding region of gene loci. The reconstructed contigs can then be used to visualize alternative splicing events, identify minor variants, and even be used to improve genome assemblies.


June 1, 2021  |  

Full-length cDNA sequencing for genome annotation and analysis of alternative splicing

In higher eukaryotic organisms, the majority of multi-exon genes are alternatively spliced. Different mRNA isoforms from the same gene can produce proteins that have distinct properties and functions. Thus, the importance of understanding the full complement of transcript isoforms with potential phenotypic impact cannot be understated. While microarrays and other NGS-based methods have become useful for studying transcriptomes, these technologies yield short, fragmented transcripts that remain a challenge for accurate, complete reconstruction of splice variants. The Iso-Seq protocol developed at PacBio offers the only solution for direct sequencing of full-length, single-molecule cDNA sequences to survey transcriptome isoform diversity useful for gene discovery and annotation. Knowledge of the complete isoform repertoire is also key for accurate quantification of isoform abundance. As most transcripts range from 1 – 10 kb, fully intact RNA molecules can be sequenced using SMRT Sequencing without requiring fragmentation or post-sequencing assembly. Our open-source computational pipeline delivers high-quality, non-redundant sequences for unambiguous identification of alternative splicing events, alternative transcriptional start sites, polyA tail, and gene fusion events. We applied the Iso-Seq method to the maize (Zea mays) inbred line B73. Full-length cDNAs from six diverse tissues were barcoded and sequenced across multiple size-fractionated SMRTbell libraries. A total of 111,151 unique transcripts were identified. More than half of these transcripts (57%) represented novel, sometimes tissue-specific, isoforms of known genes. In addition to the 2250 novel coding genes and 860 lncRNAs discovered, the Iso-Seq dataset corrected errors in existing gene models, highlighting the value of full-length transcripts for whole gene annotations.


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