June 1, 2021  |  

Amplification-free protocol for targeted enrichment of repeat expansion genomic regions and SMRT Sequencing

Many genetic disorders are associated with repeat sequence expansions. Obtaining accurate DNA sequence information from these regions will facilitate researchers to further establish the relationship between these genetic disorders and underlying disease mechanisms. Moreover, repeat interruptions have also been shown to act as phenotypic modifiers in some disorders. Targeted sequencing is an economical way to obtain sequence information from one or more defined regions in a genome. However, most targeted enrichment and sequencing methods require some form of DNA amplification. Amplifying large regions with extreme GC content as seen in repeat expansion disorders is challenging and prone to introducing sequence artifacts. DNA amplification also removes any epigenetic signatures present in native DNA. This technique also preserves native DNA molecules for the possibility of direct characterization of epigenetic signatures.

June 1, 2021  |  

Amplification-free targeted enrichment powered by CRISPR-Cas9 and long-read Single Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing can efficiently and accurately sequence challenging repeat expansion disorders

Genomic regions with extreme base composition bias and repetitive sequences have long proven challenging for targeted enrichment methods, as they rely upon some form of amplification. Similarly, most DNA sequencing technologies struggle to faithfully sequence regions of low complexity. This has been especially trying for repeat expansion disorders such as Fragile-X disease, Huntington disease and various Ataxias, where the repetitive elements range from several hundreds of bases to tens of kilobases. We have developed a robust, amplification-free targeted enrichment technique, called No-Amp Targeted Sequencing, that employs the CRISPR-Cas9 system. In conjunction with SMRT Sequencing, which delivers long reads spanning the entire repeat expansion, high consensus accuracy, and uniform coverage, these previously inaccessible regions are now accessible. This method is completely amplification-free, therefore removing any PCR errors and biases from the experiment. Furthermore, this technique also preserves native DNA molecules, allowing for direct detection and characterization of epigenetic signatures. The No-Amp method is a two-day protocol that is compatible with multiplexing of multiple targets and multiple samples in a single reaction, using as little as 1 µg of genomic DNA input per sample. We have successfully targeted a number of repeat expansion disorder loci including HTT, FMR1, C9orf7,2 as well as built an Ataxia panel which consists of 15 different disease-causing repeat expansion regions. Using the No-Amp method we have isolated hundreds of individual on-target molecules, allowing for reliable repeat size estimation, mosaicism detection and identification of interruption sequences with alleles as long as >2700 repeat unites ( >13 kb). In addition to multiplexing several targets, we have also multiplexed at least 20 samples in one experiment making the No-Amp Targeted Sequencing method a cost-effective option. Combining the CRISPR-Cas9 enrichment method with Single Molecule, Real-Time Sequencing provided us with base-level resolution of previously inaccessible regions of the genome, like disease-causing repeat expansions. No-Amp Targeted Sequencing captures, in one experiment, many aspects of repeat expansion disorders which are important for better understanding the underlying disease mechanisms.

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