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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Comprehensive evaluation of non-hybrid genome assembly tools for third-generation PacBio long-read sequence data.

Long reads obtained from third-generation sequencing platforms can help overcome the long-standing challenge of the de novo assembly of sequences for the genomic analysis of non-model eukaryotic organisms. Numerous long-read-aided de novo assemblies have been published recently, which exhibited superior quality of the assembled genomes in comparison with those achieved using earlier second-generation sequencing technologies. Evaluating assemblies is important in guiding the appropriate choice for specific research needs. In this study, we evaluated 10 long-read assemblers using a variety of metrics on Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) data sets from different taxonomic categories with considerable differences in genome size. The results allowed…

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Progression of the canonical reference malaria parasite genome from 2002-2019.

Here we describe the ways in which the sequence and annotation of the Plasmodium falciparum reference genome has changed since its publication in 2002. As the malaria species responsible for the most deaths worldwide, the richness of annotation and accuracy of the sequence are important resources for the P. falciparum research community as well as the basis for interpreting the genomes of subsequently sequenced species. At the time of publication in 2002 over 60% of predicted genes had unknown functions. As of March 2019, this number has been significantly decreased to 33%. The reduction is due to the inclusion of…

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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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…

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Plasmodium knowlesi: a superb in vivo nonhuman primate model of antigenic variation in malaria.

Antigenic variation in malaria was discovered in Plasmodium knowlesi studies involving longitudinal infections of rhesus macaques (M. mulatta). The variant proteins, known as the P. knowlesi Schizont Infected Cell Agglutination (SICA) antigens and the P. falciparum Erythrocyte Membrane Protein 1 (PfEMP1) antigens, expressed by the SICAvar and var multigene families, respectively, have been studied for over 30 years. Expression of the SICA antigens in P. knowlesi requires a splenic component, and specific antibodies are necessary for variant antigen switch events in vivo. Outstanding questions revolve around the role of the spleen and the mechanisms by which the expression of these…

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

A reference genome and methylome for the Plasmodium knowlesi A1-H.1 line.

Plasmodium knowlesi, a common parasite of macaques, is recognised as a significant cause of human malaria in Malaysia. The P. knowlesi A1H1 line has been adapted to continuous culture in human erythrocytes, successfully providing an in vitro model to study the parasite. We have assembled a reference genome for the PkA1-H.1 line using PacBio long read combined with Illumina short read sequence data. Compared with the H-strain reference, the new reference has improved genome coverage and a novel description of methylation sites. The PkA1-H.1 reference will enhance the capabilities of the in vitro model to improve the understanding of P.…

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Comparative heterochromatin profiling reveals conserved and unique epigenome signatures linked to adaptation and development of malaria parasites.

Heterochromatin-dependent gene silencing is central to the adaptation and survival of Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasites, allowing clonally variant gene expression during blood infection in humans. By assessing genome-wide heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) occupancy, we present a comprehensive analysis of heterochromatin landscapes across different Plasmodium species, strains, and life cycle stages. Common targets of epigenetic silencing include fast-evolving multi-gene families encoding surface antigens and a small set of conserved HP1-associated genes with regulatory potential. Many P. falciparum heterochromatic genes are marked in a strain-specific manner, increasing the parasite’s adaptive capacity. Whereas heterochromatin is strictly maintained during mitotic proliferation of asexual blood stage…

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine mismatch observed among Plasmodium falciparum isolates from southern and central Africa and globally.

The RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine encompasses the central repeats and C-terminal of Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite protein (PfCSP). Although no Phase II clinical trial studies observed evidence of strain-specific immunity, recent studies show a decrease in vaccine efficacy against non-vaccine strain parasites. In light of goals to reduce malaria morbidity, anticipating the effectiveness of RTS,S/AS01 is critical to planning widespread vaccine introduction. We deep sequenced C-terminal Pfcsp from 77 individuals living along the international border in Luapula Province, Zambia and Haut-Katanga Province, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and compared translated amino acid haplotypes to the 3D7 vaccine strain. Only 5.2%…

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Genomes of all known members of a Plasmodium subgenus reveal paths to virulent human malaria.

Plasmodium falciparum, the most virulent agent of human malaria, shares a recent common ancestor with the gorilla parasite Plasmodium praefalciparum. Little is known about the other gorilla- and chimpanzee-infecting species in the same (Laverania) subgenus as P. falciparum, but none of them are capable of establishing repeated infection and transmission in humans. To elucidate underlying mechanisms and the evolutionary history of this subgenus, we have generated multiple genomes from all known Laverania species. The completeness of our dataset allows us to conclude that interspecific gene transfers, as well as convergent evolution, were important in the evolution of these species. Striking…

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Plasmodium vivax-like genome sequences shed new insights into Plasmodium vivax biology and evolution.

Although Plasmodium vivax is responsible for the majority of malaria infections outside Africa, little is known about its evolution and pathway to humans. Its closest genetic relative, P. vivax-like, was discovered in African great apes and is hypothesized to have given rise to P. vivax in humans. To unravel the evolutionary history and adaptation of P. vivax to different host environments, we generated using long- and short-read sequence technologies 2 new P. vivax-like reference genomes and 9 additional P. vivax-like genotypes. Analyses show that the genomes of P. vivax and P. vivax-like are highly similar and colinear within the core…

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Evolutionary history of human Plasmodium vivax revealed by genome-wide analyses of related ape parasites.

Wild-living African apes are endemically infected with parasites that are closely related to human Plasmodium vivax, a leading cause of malaria outside Africa. This finding suggests that the origin of P. vivax was in Africa, even though the parasite is now rare in humans there. To elucidate the emergence of human P. vivax and its relationship to the ape parasites, we analyzed genome sequence data of P. vivax strains infecting six chimpanzees and one gorilla from Cameroon, Gabon, and Côte d’Ivoire. We found that ape and human parasites share nearly identical core genomes, differing by only 2% of coding sequences.…

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Whole genome sequencing and microsatellite analysis of the Plasmodium falciparum E5 NF54 strain show that the var, rifin and stevor gene families follow Mendelian inheritance.

Plasmodium falciparum exhibits a high degree of inter-isolate genetic diversity in its variant surface antigen (VSA) families: P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1, repetitive interspersed family (RIFIN) and subtelomeric variable open reading frame (STEVOR). The role of recombination for the generation of this diversity is a subject of ongoing research. Here the genome of E5, a sibling of the 3D7 genome strain is presented. Short and long read whole genome sequencing (WGS) techniques (Ilumina, Pacific Bioscience) and a set of 84 microsatellites (MS) were employed to characterize the 3D7 and non-3D7 parts of the E5 genome. This is the first…

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Saturday, September 21, 2019

PacBio assembly of a Plasmodium knowlesi genome sequence with Hi-C correction and manual annotation of the SICAvar gene family.

Plasmodium knowlesi has risen in importance as a zoonotic parasite that has been causing regular episodes of malaria throughout South East Asia. The P. knowlesi genome sequence generated in 2008 highlighted and confirmed many similarities and differences in Plasmodium species, including a global view of several multigene families, such as the large SICAvar multigene family encoding the variant antigens known as the schizont-infected cell agglutination proteins. However, repetitive DNA sequences are the bane of any genome project, and this and other Plasmodium genome projects have not been immune to the gaps, rearrangements and other pitfalls created by these genomic features.…

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Differing patterns of selection and geospatial genetic diversity within two leading Plasmodium vivax candidate vaccine antigens.

Although Plasmodium vivax is a leading cause of malaria around the world, only a handful of vivax antigens are being studied for vaccine development. Here, we investigated genetic signatures of selection and geospatial genetic diversity of two leading vivax vaccine antigens–Plasmodium vivax merozoite surface protein 1 (pvmsp-1) and Plasmodium vivax circumsporozoite protein (pvcsp). Using scalable next-generation sequencing, we deep-sequenced amplicons of the 42 kDa region of pvmsp-1 (n?=?44) and the complete gene of pvcsp (n?=?47) from Cambodian isolates. These sequences were then compared with global parasite populations obtained from GenBank. Using a combination of statistical and phylogenetic methods to assess…

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Complete telomere-to-telomere de novo assembly of the Plasmodium falciparum genome through long-read (>11?kb), single molecule, real-time sequencing.

The application of next-generation sequencing to estimate genetic diversity of Plasmodium falciparum, the most lethal malaria parasite, has proved challenging due to the skewed AT-richness [~80.6% (A?+?T)] of its genome and the lack of technology to assemble highly polymorphic subtelomeric regions that contain clonally variant, multigene virulence families (Ex: var and rifin). To address this, we performed amplification-free, single molecule, real-time sequencing of P. falciparum genomic DNA and generated reads of average length 12?kb, with 50% of the reads between 15.5 and 50?kb in length. Next, using the Hierarchical Genome Assembly Process, we assembled the P. falciparum genome de novo…

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Friday, July 19, 2019

An improved Plasmodium cynomolgi genome assembly reveals an unexpected methyltransferase gene expansion.

Plasmodium cynomolgi, a non-human primate malaria parasite species, has been an important model parasite since its discovery in 1907. Similarities in the biology of P. cynomolgi to the closely related, but less tractable, human malaria parasite P. vivax make it the model parasite of choice for liver biology and vaccine studies pertinent to P. vivax malaria. Molecular and genome-scale studies of P. cynomolgi have relied on the current reference genome sequence, which remains highly fragmented with 1,649 unassigned scaffolds and little representation of the subtelomeres.  Methods: Using long-read sequence data (Pacific Biosciences SMRT technology), we assembled and annotated a new…

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