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  |  

A low DNA input protocol for high-quality PacBio de novo genome assemblies

A high-quality reference genome is an essential tool for studying the genetics of traits and disease, organismal, comparative and conservation biology, and population genomics. PacBio Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing generates long reads with uniform coverage and high consensus accuracy, making it a powerful technology for de novo genome assembly. Improvements in throughput and concomitant reductions in cost have made PacBio an attractive core technology for many large genome initiatives. However, relatively high DNA input requirements (3 µg for standard library protocol) have placed PacBio out of reach for many projects on small organisms that may have lower DNA content or on projects with limited input DNA for other reasons. Here we present a modified SMRTbell library construction protocol without DNA shearing or size selection that can be used to generate a SMRTbell library from just 150 ng of starting genomic DNA. Remarkably, the protocol enables high quality de novo assemblies from single invertebrate individuals and is applied to taxonomically diverse samples. By sequencing and assembling material from a single diploid individual, only two haplotypes are present, simplifying the assembly process compared to samples from multiple pooled individuals. The libraries were run on the Sequel System with chemistry v3.0 and software v6.0, generating ~11 Gb of sequence per SMRT Cell with 10 hour movies, and followed by de novo genome assembly with FALCON. The resulting assemblies had high contiguity (contig N50s over 1 Mb) and completeness (as determined by conserved BUSCO gene analysis) when at least 30-fold unique molecular coverage is obtained. This new low-input approach now puts PacBio-based assemblies in reach for small highly heterozygous organisms that comprise much of the diversity of life. The method presented here is scalable and can be applied to samples with starting DNA amounts of 150 ng per 300 Mb genome size.

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