Single-Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) DNA sequencing is unique in that nucleotide incorporation events are monitored in real time, leading to a wealth of kinetic information in addition to the extraction of the primary DNA sequence. The dynamics of the DNA polymerase that is observed adds an additional dimension of sequence-dependent information, and can be used to learn more about the molecule under study. First, the primary sequence itself can be determined more accurately. The kinetic data can be used to corroborate or overturn consensus calls and even enable calling bases in problematic sequence contexts. Second, using the kinetic information, we can detect and discriminate numerous chemical base modifications as a by-product of ordinary sequencing. Examples of applying these capabilities include (i) the characterization of the epigenome of microorganisms by directly sequencing the three common prokaryotic epigenetic base modifications of 4-methylcytosine, 5- methylcytosine and 6-methyladenine; (ii) the characterization of known and novel methyltransferase activities; (iii) the direct sequencing and differentiation of the four eukaryotic epigenetic forms of cytosine (5-methyl, 5-hydroxymethyl, 5-formyl, and 5-carboxylcytosine) with first applications to map them with single base-pair and DNA strand resolution across mammalian genomes; (iv) the direct sequencing and identification of numerous modified DNA bases arising from DNA damage; and (v) an exploration of the mitochondrial genome for known and novel base modifications. We will show our progress towards a generic, open-source algorithm for exploiting kinetic information for any of these purposes.
DNA is under constant stress from both endogenous and exogenous sources. DNA base modifications resulting from various types of DNA damage are wide-spread and play important roles in affecting physiological states and disease phenotypes. Examples include oxidative damage (8- oxoguanine, 8-oxoadenine; aging, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s), alkylation (1-methyladenine, 6-O- methylguanine; cancer), adduct formation (benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide (BPDE), pyrimidine dimers; smoking, industrial chemical exposure, chemical UV light exposure, cancer), and ionizing radiation damage (5-hydroxycytosine, 5- hydroxyuracil, 5-hydroxymethyluracil; cancer). Currently, these and other products of DNA damage cannot be sequenced with existing sequencing methods. In contrast, single molecule, real-time (SMRT) DNA sequencing can report on modified DNA bases through an analysis of the DNA polymerase kinetics that is affected by a modified base in the template. We demonstrate the DNA strand-resolved sequencing of over 8 different DNA-damage associated base modifications, with base pair resolution and single DNA molecule sensitivity. We also report on the application of this sequencing capability to biological samples and the development of a generic, open-source algorithm to analyze kinetic information from SMRT sequencing.