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.


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