June 1, 2021  |  

Profiling the microbiome in fecal microbiota transplantation 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. Whole-sample shotgun experiments generally use short-read sequencing, which results in data processing difficulties. For example, reads less than 500bp in length will rarely cover a complete gene or region of interest, and will require assembly. This not only introduces the possibility of incorrectly combining sequence from different community members, it requires 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 1-3kb range, with >99% accuracy can be efficiently generated for low amounts of input DNA. 10 ng of input DNA sequenced in 4 SMRT Cells on the PacBio RS II would generate >100,000 such reads. While throughput is lower compared to short-read sequencing methods, the reads are a true random sampling of the underlying community since SMRT Sequencing has been shown to have very low sequence-context bias. With reads >1 kb at >99% accuracy it is reasonable to expect a high percentage of reads include gene fragments useful for analysis without the need for de novo assembly. Here we present the results of circular consensus sequencing for an individual’s microbiome, before and after undergoing fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) in order to treat a chronic Clostridium difficile infection. We show that even with relatively low sequencing depth, the long-read, assembly-free, random sampling allows us to profile low abundance community members at the species level. We also show that using shotgun sampling with long reads allows a level of functional insight not possible with classic targeted 16S, or short read sequencing, due to entire genes being covered in single reads.


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.


June 1, 2021  |  

An improved circular consensus algorithm with an application to detection of HIV-1 Drug-Resistance Associated Mutations (DRAMs)

Scientists who require confident resolution of heterogeneous populations across complex regions have been unable to transition to short-read sequencing methods. They continue to depend on Sanger Sequencing despite its cost and time inefficiencies. Here we present a new redesigned algorithm that allows the generation of circular consensus sequences (CCS) from individual SMRT Sequencing reads. With this new algorithm, dubbed CCS2, it is possible to reach arbitrarily high quality across longer insert lengths at a lower cost and higher throughput than Sanger Sequencing. We apply this new algorithm, dubbed CCS2, to the characterization of the HIV-1 K103N drug-resistance associated mutation, which is both important clinically, and represents a challenge due to regional sequence context. A mutation was introduced into the 3rd position of amino acid position 103 (A>C substitution) of the RT gene on a pNL4-3 backbone by site-directed mutagenesis. Regions spanning ~1,300 bp were PCR amplified from both the non-mutated and mutant (K103N) plasmids, and were sequenced individually and as a 50:50 mixture. Sequencing data were analyzed using the new CCS2 algorithm, which uses a fully-generative probabilistic model of our SMRT Sequencing process to polish consensus sequences to arbitrarily high accuracy. This result, previously demonstrated for multi-molecule consensus sequences with the Quiver algorithm, is made possible by incorporating per-Zero Mode Waveguide (ZMW) characteristics, thus accounting for the intrinsic changes in the sequencing process that are unique to each ZMW. With CCS2, we are able to achieve a per-read empirical quality of QV30 with 19X coverage. This yields ~5000 1.3 kb consensus sequences with a collective empirical quality of ~QV40. Additionally, we demonstrate a 0% miscall rate in both unmixed samples, and estimate a 48:52% frequency for the K103N mutation in the mixed sample, consistent with data produced by orthogonal platforms.


June 1, 2021  |  

Minimization of chimera formation and substitution errors in full-length 16S PCR amplification

The constituents and intra-communal interactions of microbial populations have garnered increasing interest in areas such as water remediation, agriculture and human health. Amplification and sequencing of the evolutionarily conserved 16S rRNA gene is an efficient method of profiling communities. Currently, most targeted amplification focuses on short, hypervariable regions of the 16S sequence. Distinguishing information not spanned by the targeted region is lost, and species-level classification is often not possible. PacBio SMRT Sequencing easily spans the entire 1.5 kb 16S gene in a single read, producing highly accurate single-molecule sequences that can improve the identification of individual species in a metapopulation.However, this process still relies upon PCR amplification from a mixture of similar sequences, which may result in chimeras, or recombinant molecules, at rates upwards of 20%. These PCR artifacts make it difficult to identify novel species, and reduce the amount of informative sequences. We investigated multiple factors that may contribute to chimera formation, such as template damage, denaturation time before and during thermocycling, polymerase extension time, and reaction volume. We found two related factors that contribute to chimera formation: the amount of input template into the PCR reaction, and the number of PCR cycles.A second problem that can confound analysis is sequence errors generated during amplification and sequencing. With the updated algorithm for circular consensus sequencing (CCS2), single-molecule reads can be filtered to 99.99% predicted accuracy. Substitution errors in these highly filtered reads may be dominated by mis-incorporations during amplification. Sequence differences in full-length 16S amplicons from several commercial high-fidelity PCR kits were compared.We show results of our experiments and describe our optimized protocol for full-length 16S amplification for SMRT Sequencing. These optimizations have broader implications for other applications that use PCR amplification to phase variations across targeted regions and generate highly accurate reference sequences.


June 1, 2021  |  

An improved circular consensus algorithm with an application to detect HIV-1 Drug Resistance Associated Mutations (DRAMs)

Scientists who require confident resolution of heterogeneous populations across complex regions have been unable to transition to short-read sequencing methods. They continue to depend on Sanger sequencing despite its cost and time inefficiencies. Here we present a new redesigned algorithm that allows the generation of circular consensus sequences (CCS) from individual SMRT Sequencing reads. With this new algorithm, dubbed CCS2, it is possible to reach high quality across longer insert lengths at a lower cost and higher throughput than Sanger sequencing. We applied CCS2 to the characterization of the HIV-1 K103N drug-resistance associated mutation in both clonal and patient samples. This particular DRAM has previously proved to be clinically relevant, but challenging to characterize due to regional sequence context. First, a mutation was introduced into the 3rd position of amino acid position 103 (A>C substitution) of the RT gene on a pNL4-3 backbone by site-directed mutagenesis. Regions spanning ~1.3 kb were PCR amplified from both the non-mutated and mutant (K103N) plasmids, and were sequenced individually and as a 50:50 mixture. Additionally, the proviral reservoir of a subject with known dates of virologic failure of an Efavirenz-based regimen and with documented emergence of drug resistant (K103N) viremia was sequenced at several time points as a proof-of-concept study to determine the kinetics of retention and decay of K103N.Sequencing data were analyzed using the new CCS2 algorithm, which uses a fully-generative probabilistic model of our SMRT Sequencing process to polish consensus sequences to high accuracy. With CCS2, we are able to achieve a per-read empirical quality of QV30 (99.9% accuracy) at 19X coverage. A total of ~5000 1.3 kb consensus sequences with a collective empirical quality of ~QV40 (99.99%) were obtained for each sample. We demonstrate a 0% miscall rate in both unmixed control samples, and estimate a 48:52 frequency for the K103N mutation in the mixed (50:50) plasmid sample, consistent with data produced by orthogonal platforms. Additionally, the K103N escape variant was only detected in proviral samples from time points subsequent (19%) to the emergence of drug resistant viremia. This tool might be used to monitor the HIV reservoir for stable evolutionary changes throughout infection.


June 1, 2021  |  

Workflow for processing high-throughput, Single Molecule, Real-Time Sequencing data for analyzing the microbiome of patients undergoing fecal microbiota transplantation

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. Whole-sample shotgun experiments generally use short-read sequencing, which results in data processing difficulties. For example, reads less than 500 bp in length will rarely cover a complete gene or region of interest, and will require assembly. This not only introduces the possibility of incorrectly combining sequence from different community members, it requires 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 1-3 kb range, with >99% accuracy can be generated using the previous generation PacBio RS II or, in much higher throughput, using the new Sequel System. While throughput is lower compared to short-read sequencing methods, the reads are a true random sampling of the underlying community since SMRT Sequencing has been shown to have very low sequence-context bias. With single-molecule reads >1 kb at >99% consensus accuracy, it is reasonable to expect a high percentage of reads to include genes or gene fragments useful for analysis without the need for de novo assembly. Here we present the results of circular consensus sequencing for an individual’s microbiome, before and after undergoing fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) in order to treat a chronic Clostridium difficile infection. We show that even with relatively low sequencing depth, the long-read, assembly-free, random sampling allows us to profile low abundance community members at the species level. We also show that using shotgun sampling with long reads allows a level of functional insight not possible with classic targeted 16S, or short read sequencing, due to entire genes being covered in single reads.


June 1, 2021  |  

Multiplexing strategies for microbial whole genome SMRT Sequencing

As the throughput of the PacBio Systems continues to increase, so has the desire to fully utilize SMRT Cell sequencing capacity to multiplex microbes for whole genome sequencing. Multiplexing is readily achieved by incorporating a unique barcode for each microbe into the SMRTbell adapters and using a streamlined library preparation process. Incorporating barcodes without PCR amplification prevents the loss of epigenetic information and the generation of chimeric sequences, while eliminating the need to generate separate SMRTbell libraries. We multiplexed the genomes of up to 8 unique strains of H. pylori. Each genome was sheared and processed through adapter ligation in a single, addition-only reaction. The barcoded samples were pooled in equimolar quantities and a single SMRTbell library was prepared. We demonstrate successful de novo microbial assembly from all multiplexes tested (2- through 8-plex) using data generated from a single SMRTbell library, run on a single SMRT Cell with the PacBio RS II, and analyzed with standard SMRT Analysis assembly methods. This strategy was successful using both small (1.6 Mb, H. pylori) and medium (5 Mb, E. coli) genomes. This protocol facilitates the sequencing of multiple microbial genomes in a single run, greatly increasing throughput and reducing costs per genome.


June 1, 2021  |  

WGS SMRT Sequencing of patient samples from a fecal microbiota transplant trial

Fecal samples were obtained from human subjects in the first blinded, placebo-controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy and safety of fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) for treatment of recurrent C. difficile infection. Samples included pre-and post-FMT transplant, post-placebo transplant, and the donor control; samples were taken at 2 and 8 week post-FMT. Sequencing was done on the PacBio Sequel System, with the goal of obtaining high quality sequences covering whole genes or gene clusters, which will be used to better understand the relationship between the composition and functional capabilities of intestinal microbiomes and patient health. Methods: Samples were randomly sheared to 2-3 kb fragments, a sufficient length to cover most genes, and SMRTbell libraries were prepared using standard protocols. Libraries were run on the Sequel System, which has a throughput of hundreds of thousands of reads per SMRT Cell, adequate yield to sample the complex microbiomes of post-transplant and donor samples.Results: Here we characterize samples, describe library prep methods and detail Sequel System operation, including run conditions. Descriptive statistics of data output (primary analysis) are presented, along with SMRT Analysis reports on circular consensus sequence (CCS) reads generated using an updated algorithm (CCS2). Final sequencing yields are filtered at various levels of predicted accuracy from 90% to 99.9%. Previous studies done using the PacBio RS II System demonstrated the ability to profile at the species level, and in some cases the strain level, and provided functional insight. Conclusions: These results demonstrate that the Sequel System is well-suited for characterization of complex microbial communities, with the ability for high-throughput generation of extremely accurate single-molecule sequences, each several kilobases in length. The entire process from shearing and library prep through sequencing and CCS analysis can be completed in less than 48 hours.


June 1, 2021  |  

Complete telomere-to-telomere de novo assembly of the Plasmodium falciparum genome using long-read sequencing

Sequence-based estimation of genetic diversity of Plasmodium falciparum, the most lethal malarial parasite, has proved challenging due to a lack of a complete genomic assembly. The skewed AT-richness (~80.6% (A+T)) of its genome and the lack of technology to assemble highly polymorphic sub-telomeric regions that contain clonally variant, multigene virulence families (i.e. var and rifin) have confounded attempts using short-read NGS technologies. Using single molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing, we successfully compiled all 14 nuclear chromosomes of the P. falciparum genome from telomere-to-telomere in single contigs. Specifically, amplification-free sequencing generated reads of average length 12 kb, with =50% of the reads between 15.5 and 50 kb in length. A hierarchical genome assembly process (HGAP), was used to assemble the P. falciparum genome de novo. This assembly accurately resolved centromeres (~90-99% (A+T)) and sub-telomeric regions, and identified large insertions and duplications in the genome that added extra genes to the var and rifin virulence families, along with smaller structural variants such as homopolymer tract expansions. These regions can be used as markers for genetic diversity during comparative genome analyses. Moreover, identifying the polymorphic and repetitive sub-telomeric sequences of parasite populations from endemic areas might inform the link between structural variation and phenotypes such as virulence, drug resistance and disease transmission.


June 1, 2021  |  

The MHC Diversity in Africa Project (MDAP) pilot – 125 African high resolution HLA types from 5 populations

The major histocompatibility complex (MHC), or human leukocyte antigen (HLA) in humans, is a highly diverse gene family with a key role in immune response to disease; and has been implicated in auto-immune disease, cancer, infectious disease susceptibility, and vaccine response. It has clinical importance in the field of solid organ and bone marrow transplantation, where donors and recipient matching of HLA types is key to transplanted organ outcomes. The Sanger based typing (SBT) methods currently used in clinical practice do not capture the full diversity across this region, and require specific reference sequences to deconvolute ambiguity in HLA types. However, reference databases are based largely on European populations, and the full extent of diversity in Africa remains poorly understood. Here, we present the first systematic characterisation of HLA diversity within Africa in the pilot phase of the MHC Diversity in Africa Project, together with an evaluation of methods to carry out scalable cost-effective, as well as reliable, typing of this region in African populations.To sample a geographically representative panel of African populations we obtained 125 samples, 25 each from the Zulu (South Africa), Igbo (Nigeria), Kalenjin (Kenya), Moroccan and Ashanti (Ghana) groups. For methods validation we included two controls from the International Histocompatibility Working Group (IHWG) collection with known typing information. Sanger typing and Illumina HiSeq X sequencing of these samples indicated potentially novel Class I and Class II alleles; however, we found poor correlation between HiSeq X sequencing and SBT for both classes. Long Range PCR and high resolution PacBio RS-II typing of 4 of these samples identified 7 novel Class II alleles, highlighting the high levels of diversity in these populations, and the need for long read sequencing approaches to characterise this comprehensively. We have now expanded this approach to the entire pilot set of 125 samples. We present these confirmed types and discuss a workflow for scaling this to 5000 individuals across Africa.The large number of new alleles identified in our pilot suggests the high level of African HLA diversity and the utility of high resolution methods. The MDAP project will provide a framework for accurate HLA typing, in addition to providing an invaluable resource for imputation in GWAS, boosting power to identify and resolve HLA disease associations.


June 1, 2021  |  

A high-quality genome assembly of SMRT Sequences reveals long-range haplotype structure in the diploid mosquito Aedes aegypti

Aedes aegypti is a tropical and subtropical mosquito vector for Zika, yellow fever, dengue fever, chikungunya, and other diseases. The outbreak of Zika in the Americas, which can cause microcephaly in the fetus of infected women, adds urgency to the need for a high-quality reference genome in order to better understand the organism’s biology and its role in transmitting human disease. We describe the first diploid assembly of an insect genome, using SMRT sequencing and the open-source assembler FALCON-Unzip. This assembly has high contiguity (contig N50 1.3 Mb), is more complete than previous assemblies (Length 1.45 Gb with 87% BUSCO genes complete), and is high quality (mean base >QV30). Long-range haplotype structure, in some cases encompassing more than 4 Mb of extremely divergent homologous sequence, is resolved using a combination of the FALCON-Unzip assembler, genome annotation, coverage depth, and pairwise nucleotide alignments.


June 1, 2021  |  

Using the PacBio Sequel System to taxonomically and functionally classify metagenomic samples in a trial of patients undergoing fecal microbiota transplantation

Whole-sample shotgun sequencing can provide a more detailed view of a metagenomic community than 16S sequencing, but its use in multi-sample experiments is limited by throughput, cost and analysis complexity. While short-read sequencing technologies offer higher throughput, read lengthss less fewer than 500 bp will rarely cover a gene of interest, and necessitate assembly before further analysis. Assembling large fragments requires sampling each community member at a high depth, significantly increasing the amount of sequencing needed, and limiting the analysis of rare community members. Assembly methods also risk It is also possible to incorrectly combine combining sequences from different community members.


June 1, 2021  |  

A high-quality genome assembly of SMRT sequences reveals long range haplotype structure in the diploid mosquito Aedes aegypti

Aedes aegypti is a tropical and subtropical mosquito vector for Zika, yellow fever, dengue fever, and chikungunya. We describe the first diploid assembly of an insect genome, using SMRT Sequencing and the open-source assembler FALCON-Unzip. This assembly has high contiguity (contig N50 1.3 Mb), is more complete than previous assemblies (Length 1.45 Gb with 87% BUSCO genes complete), and is high quality (mean base >QV30 after polishing). Long-range haplotype structure, in some cases encompassing more than 4 Mb of extremely divergent homologous sequence with dramatic differences in coding sequence content, is resolved using a combination of the FALCON-Unzip assembler, genome annotation, coverage depth, and pairwise nucleotide alignments.


June 1, 2021  |  

Multiplexing strategies for microbial whole genome sequencing using the Sequel System

For microbial sequencing on the PacBio Sequel System, the current yield per SMRT Cell is in excess relative to project requirements. Multiplexing offers a viable solution; greatly increasing throughput, efficiency, and reducing costs per genome. This approach is achieved by incorporating a unique barcode for each microbial sample into the SMRTbell adapters and using a streamlined library preparation process. To demonstrate performance,12 unique barcodes assigned to B. subtilis and sequenced on a single SMRT Cell. To further demonstrate the applicability of this method, we multiplexed the genomes of 16 strains of H. pylori. Each DNA was sheared to 10 kb, end-repaired and ligated with a barcoded adapter in a single-tube reaction. The barcoded samples were pooled in equimolar quantities and a single SMRTbell library was prepared. Successful de novo microbial assemblies were achieved from all multiplexes tested (12-, and 16-plex) using data generated from a single SMRTbell library, run on a single SMRT Cell 1M with the PacBio Sequel System, and analyzed with standard SMRT Analysis assembly methods. Here, we describe a protocol that facilitated the multiplexing up to 12-plex of microbial genomes in one SMRT Cell 1M on the Sequel System that produced near-complete microbial de novo assemblies of <10 contigs for genomes <5 Mb in size.


June 1, 2021  |  

Multiplexed complete microbial genomes on the Sequel System

Microbes play an important role in nearly every part of our world, as they affect human health, our environment, agriculture, and aid in waste management. Complete closed genome sequences, which have become the gold standard with PacBio long-read sequencing, can be key to understanding microbial functional characteristics. However, input requirements, consumables costs, and the labor required to prepare and sequence a microbial genome have in the past put PacBio sequencing out of reach for some larger projects. We have developed a multiplexed library prep approach that is simple, fast, and cost-effective, and can produce 4 to 16 closed bacterial genomes from one Sequel SMRT Cell. Additionally, we are introducing a streamlined analysis pipeline for processing multiplexed genome sequence data through de novo HGAP assembly, making the entire process easy for lab personnel to perform. Here we present the entire workflow from shearing through assembly, with times for each step. We show HGAP assembly results with single or very few contigs from bacteria from different size genomes, sequenced without or with size selection. These data illustrate the benefits and potential of the PacBio multiplexed library prep and the Sequel System for sequencing large numbers of microbial genomes.


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