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  |  

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.


September 22, 2019  |  

Ecological genomics of tropical trees: how local population size and allelic diversity of resistance genes relate to immune responses, cosusceptibility to pathogens, and negative density dependence

In tropical forests, rarer species show increased sensitivity to species-specific soil pathogens and more negative effects of conspecific density on seedling survival (NDD). These patterns suggest a connection between ecology and immunity, perhaps because small population size disproportionately reduces genetic diversity of hyperdiverse loci such as immunity genes. In an experiment examining seedling roots from six species in one tropical tree community, we found that smaller populations have reduced amino acid diversity in pathogen resistance (R) genes but not the transcriptome in general. Normalized R gene amino acid diversity varied with local abundance and prior measures of differences in sensitivity to conspecific soil and NDD. After exposure to live soil, species with lower R gene diversity had reduced defence gene induction, more cosusceptibility of maternal cohorts to colonization by potentially pathogenic fungi, reduced root growth arrest (an R gene-mediated response) and their root-associated fungi showed lower induction of self-defence (antioxidants). Local abundance was not related to the ability to induce immune responses when pathogen recognition was bypassed by application of salicylic acid, a phytohormone that activates defence responses downstream of R gene signalling. These initial results support the hypothesis that smaller local tree populations have reduced R gene diversity and recognition-dependent immune responses, along with greater cosusceptibility to species-specific pathogens that may facilitate disease transmission and NDD. Locally rare species may be less able to increase their equilibrium abundance without genetic boosts to defence via immigration of novel R gene alleles from a larger and more diverse regional population.


July 19, 2019  |  

A high-quality, long-read de novo genome assembly to aid conservation of Hawaii’s last remaining crow species

Genome-level data can provide researchers with unprecedented precision to examine the causes and genetic consequences of population declines, which can inform conservation management. Here, we present a high-quality, long-read, de novo genome assembly for one of the world’s most endangered bird species, the ?Alala (Corvus hawaiiensis; Hawaiian crow). As the only remaining native crow species in Hawai?i, the ?Alala survived solely in a captive-breeding program from 2002 until 2016, at which point a long-term reintroduction program was initiated. The high-quality genome assembly was generated to lay the foundation for both comparative genomics studies and the development of population-level genomic tools that will aid conservation and recovery efforts. We illustrate how the quality of this assembly places it amongst the very best avian genomes assembled to date, comparable to intensively studied model systems. We describe the genome architecture in terms of repetitive elements and runs of homozygosity, and we show that compared with more outbred species, the ?Alala genome is substantially more homozygous. We also provide annotations for a subset of immunity genes that are likely to be important in conservation management, and we discuss how this genome is currently being used as a roadmap for downstream conservation applications.


July 7, 2019  |  

In-depth determination and analysis of the human paired heavy- and light-chain antibody repertoire.

High-throughput immune repertoire sequencing has emerged as a critical step in the understanding of adaptive responses following infection or vaccination or in autoimmunity. However, determination of native antibody variable heavy-light pairs (VH-VL pairs) remains a major challenge, and no technologies exist to adequately interrogate the >1 × 10(6) B cells in typical specimens. We developed a low-cost, single-cell, emulsion-based technology for sequencing antibody VH-VL repertoires from >2 × 10(6) B cells per experiment with demonstrated pairing precision >97%. A simple flow-focusing apparatus was used to sequester single B cells into emulsion droplets containing lysis buffer and magnetic beads for mRNA capture; subsequent emulsion RT-PCR generated VH-VL amplicons for next-generation sequencing. Massive VH-VL repertoire analyses of three human donors provided new immunological insights including (i) the identity, frequency and pairing propensity of shared, or ‘public’, VL genes, (ii) the detection of allelic inclusion (an implicated autoimmune mechanism) in healthy individuals and (iii) the occurrence of antibodies with features, in terms of gene usage and CDR3 length, associated with broadly neutralizing antibodies to rapidly evolving viruses such as HIV-1 and influenza.


July 7, 2019  |  

Antibody-independent mechanisms regulate the establishment of chronic Plasmodium infection.

Malaria is caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium. All human-infecting Plasmodium species can establish long-lasting chronic infections(1-5), creating an infectious reservoir to sustain transmission(1,6). It is widely accepted that the maintenance of chronic infection involves evasion of adaptive immunity by antigenic variation(7). However, genes involved in this process have been identified in only two of five human-infecting species: Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium knowlesi. Furthermore, little is understood about the early events in the establishment of chronic infection in these species. Using a rodent model we demonstrate that from the infecting population, only a minority of parasites, expressing one of several clusters of virulence-associated pir genes, establishes a chronic infection. This process occurs in different species of parasites and in different hosts. Establishment of chronicity is independent of adaptive immunity and therefore different from the mechanism proposed for maintenance of chronic P. falciparum infections(7-9). Furthermore, we show that the proportions of parasites expressing different types of pir genes regulate the time taken to establish a chronic infection. Because pir genes are common to most, if not all, species of Plasmodium(10), this process may be a common way of regulating the establishment of chronic infections.


July 7, 2019  |  

De novo genome assembly shows genome wide similarity between Trypanosoma brucei brucei and Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense.

Trypanosoma brucei is a eukaryotic pathogen which causes African trypanosomiasis. It is notable for its variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) coat, which undergoes antigenic variation enabled by a large suite of VSG pseudogenes, allowing for persistent evasion of host adaptive immunity. While Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense (Tbr) and T. b gambiense (Tbg) are human infective, related T. b. brucei (Tbb) is cleared by human sera. A single gene, the Serum Resistance Associated (SRA) gene, confers Tbr its human infectivity phenotype. Potential genetic recombination of this gene between Tbr and non-human infective Tbb strains has significant epidemiological consequences for Human African Trypanosomiasis outbreaks.Using long and short read whole genome sequencing, we generated a hybrid de novo assembly of a Tbr strain, producing 4,210 scaffolds totaling approximately 38.8 megabases, which comprise a significant proportion of the Tbr genome, and thus represents a valuable tool for a comparative genomics analyses among human and non-human infective T. brucei and future complete genome assembly. We detected 5,970 putative genes, of which two, an alcohol oxidoreductase and a pentatricopeptide repeat-containing protein, were members of gene families common to all T. brucei subspecies, but variants specific to the Tbr strain sequenced in this study. Our findings confirmed the extremely high level of genomic similarity between the two parasite subspecies found in other studies.We confirm at the whole genome level high similarity between the two Tbb and Tbr strains studied. The discovery of extremely minor genomic differentiation between Tbb and Tbr suggests that the transference of the SRA gene via genetic recombination could potentially result in novel human infective strains, thus all genetic backgrounds of T. brucei should be considered potentially human infective in regions where Tbr is prevalent.


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