August 19, 2021  |  Sequencing methods

Informational Guide: What’s the value of sequencing full-length RNA transcripts?

The study of genomics has revolutionized our understanding of science, but the field of transcriptomics grew with the need to explore the functional impacts of genetic variation. While different tissues in an organism may share the same genomic DNA, they can differ greatly in what regions are transcribed into RNA and in their patterns of RNA processing. By reviewing the history of transcriptomics, we can see the advantages of RNA sequencing using a full-length transcript approach become clearer.


August 19, 2021  |  Sequencing methods

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  |  

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.


June 1, 2021  |  

Application specific barcoding strategies for SMRT Sequencing

Over the last few years, several advances were implemented in the PacBio RS II System to maximize throughput and efficiency while reducing the cost per sample. The number of useable bases per SMRT Cell now exceeds 1 Gb with the latest P6-C4 chemistry and 6-hour movies. For applications such as microbial sequencing, targeted sequencing, Iso-Seq (full-length isoform sequencing) and Nimblegen’s target enrichment method, current SMRT Cell yields could be an excess relative to project requirements. To this end, barcoding is a viable option for multiplexing samples. For microbial sequencing, multiplexing can be accomplished by tagging sheared genomic DNA during library construction with modified SMRTbell adapters. We studied the performance of 2- to 8-plex microbial sequencing. For full-length amplicon sequencing such as HLA typing, amplicons as large as 5 kb may be barcoded during amplification using barcoded locus-specific primers. Alternatively, amplicons may be barcoded during SMRTbell library construction using barcoded SMRTbell adapters. The preferred barcoding strategy depends on the user’s existing workflow and flexibility to changing and/or updating existing workflows. Using barcoded adapters, five Class I and II genes (3.3 – 5.8 kb) x 96 patients can be multiplexed and typed. For Iso-Seq full-length cDNA sequencing, barcodes are incorporated during 1st-strand synthesis and are enabled by tailing the oligo-dT primer with any PacBio published 16-bp barcode sequences. RNA samples from 6 maize tissues were multiplexed to generate barcoded cDNA libraries. The NimbleGen SeqCap Target Enrichment method, combined with PacBio’s long-read sequencing, provides comprehensive view of multi-kilobase contiguous regions, both exonic and intronic regions. To make this cost effective, we recommend barcoding samples for pooling prior to target enrichment and capture. Here, we present specific examples of strategies and best practices for multiplexing samples for different applications for SMRT Sequencing. Additionally, we describe recommendations for analyzing barcoded samples.


June 1, 2021  |  

From RNA to full-length transcripts: The PacBio Iso-Seq method for transcriptome analysis and genome annotation

A single gene may encode a surprising number of proteins, each with a distinct biological function. This is especially true in complex eukaryotes. Short- read RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) works by physically shearing transcript isoforms into smaller pieces and bioinformatically reassembling them, leaving opportunity for misassembly or incomplete capture of the full diversity of isoforms from genes of interest. The PacBio Isoform Sequencing (Iso-Seq™) method employs long reads to sequence transcript isoforms from the 5’ end to their poly-A tails, eliminating the need for transcript reconstruction and inference. These long reads result in complete, unambiguous information about alternatively spliced exons, transcriptional start sites, and poly- adenylation sites. This allows for the characterization of the full complement of isoforms within targeted genes, or across an entire transcriptome. Here we present improved genome annotations for two avian models of vocal learning, Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna) and zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), using the Iso-Seq method. We present graphical user interface and command line analysis workflows for the data sets. From brain total RNA, we characterize more than 15,000 isoforms in each species, 9% and 5% of which were previously unannotated in hummingbird and zebra finch, respectively. We highlight one example where capturing full-length transcripts identifies additional exons and UTRs.


June 1, 2021  |  

Characterizing the pan-genome of maize with PacBio SMRT Sequencing

Maize is an amazingly diverse crop. A study in 20051 demonstrated that half of the genome sequence and one-third of the gene content between two inbred lines of maize were not shared. This diversity, which is more than two orders of magnitude larger than the diversity found between humans and chimpanzees, highlights the inability of a single reference genome to represent the full pan-genome of maize and all its variants. Here we present and review several efforts to characterize the complete diversity within maize using the highly accurate long reads of PacBio Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing. These methods provide a framework for a pan-genomic approach that can be applied to studies of a wide variety of important crop species.


June 1, 2021  |  

Haplotyping using full-length transcript sequencing reveals allele-specific expression

An important need in analyzing complex genomes is the ability to separate and phase haplotypes. While whole genome assembly can deliver this information, it cannot reveal whether there is allele-specific gene or isoform expression. The PacBio Iso-Seq method, which can produce high-quality transcript sequences of 10 kb and longer, has been used to annotate many important plant and animal genomes. We present an algorithm called IsoPhase that post-processes Iso-Seq data for transcript-based haplotyping. We applied IsoPhase to a maize Iso-Seq dataset consisting of two homozygous parents and two F1 cross hybrids. We validated the majority of the SNPs called with IsoPhase against matching short read data and identified cases of allele-specific, gene-level and isoform-level expression.


June 1, 2021  |  

A complete solution for high-quality genome annotation using the PacBio Iso-Seq method

The PacBio Iso-Seq method produces high-quality, full-length transcripts of up to 10 kb and longer and has been used to annotate many important plant and animal genomes. We describe here the full Iso-Seq ecosystem that enables researchers to achieve high-quality genome annotations. The Iso-Seq Express workflow is a 1-day protocol that requires only 60-300 ng of total RNA and supports multiplexing of different tissues. Sequencing on a single SMRT Cell 8M on the Sequel II System produces up to 4 million full-length reads, sufficient to exhaustively characterize a whole transcriptome on the order of 15,000-17,000 genes with 100,000 or more transcripts. Most importantly, the method is supported by a maturing suite of official and community-developed tools. The SMRT Link Iso-Seq application outputs high-quality (>99% accurate), full-length transcript sequences that can optionally be mapped to a reference genome for a single SMRT Cell worth of data in 6-9 hours. For example, the SQANTI2 tool classifies Iso-Seq transcripts against a reference annotation, filters potential library artifacts, and processes information from both long read-only and short read-based quantification. IsoPhase is a tool for identifying allele-specific isoform expression. Cogent has been used to process Iso-Seq transcripts in a genome-independent manner to assess genome assemblies. Finally, IsoAnnot is an up-and-coming tool for identifying differential isoform expression across different samples. We describe how these tools complement each other and provide guidelines to make the best use out of Iso-Seq data for understanding transcriptomes.


June 1, 2021  |  

A complete solution for full-length transcript sequencing using the PacBio Sequel II System

Long read mRNA sequencing methods such as PacBio’s Iso-Seq method offers high-throughput transcriptome profiling in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. By avoiding the transcript assembly problem and instead sequencing full-length cDNA, Iso-Seq has emerged as the most reliable technology for annotating isoforms and, in turn, improving proteome predictions in a wide variety of organisms. Improvements in library preparation, sequencing throughput, and bioinformatics has enabled the Iso-Seq method to be complete solution for transcript characterization. The Iso-Seq Express kit is a one-day library prep requiring 60-300 ng of total RNA. The PacBio Sequel II system produces 4-5 million full-length reads, sufficient to profile a whole human transcriptome. Finally, the SQANTI2 software is a powerful tool for categorizing the complex isoforms against reference annotations, while also incorporating orthogonal information such as CAGE peak data, public RNA-seq junction data, and ORF predictions.


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