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.


April 21, 2020  |  

Insect genomes: progress and challenges.

In the wake of constant improvements in sequencing technologies, numerous insect genomes have been sequenced. Currently, 1219 insect genome-sequencing projects have been registered with the National Center for Biotechnology Information, including 401 that have genome assemblies and 155 with an official gene set of annotated protein-coding genes. Comparative genomics analysis showed that the expansion or contraction of gene families was associated with well-studied physiological traits such as immune system, metabolic detoxification, parasitism and polyphagy in insects. Here, we summarize the progress of insect genome sequencing, with an emphasis on how this impacts research on pest control. We begin with a brief introduction to the basic concepts of genome assembly, annotation and metrics for evaluating the quality of draft assemblies. We then provide an overview of genome information for numerous insect species, highlighting examples from prominent model organisms, agricultural pests and disease vectors. We also introduce the major insect genome databases. The increasing availability of insect genomic resources is beneficial for developing alternative pest control methods. However, many opportunities remain for developing data-mining tools that make maximal use of the available insect genome resources. Although rapid progress has been achieved, many challenges remain in the field of insect genomics. © 2019 The Royal Entomological Society.


April 21, 2020  |  

Lateral transfers of large DNA fragments spread functional genes among grasses.

A fundamental tenet of multicellular eukaryotic evolution is that vertical inheritance is paramount, with natural selection acting on genetic variants transferred from parents to offspring. This lineal process means that an organism’s adaptive potential can be restricted by its evolutionary history, the amount of standing genetic variation, and its mutation rate. Lateral gene transfer (LGT) theoretically provides a mechanism to bypass many of these limitations, but the evolutionary importance and frequency of this process in multicellular eukaryotes, such as plants, remains debated. We address this issue by assembling a chromosome-level genome for the grass Alloteropsis semialata, a species surmised to exhibit two LGTs, and screen it for other grass-to-grass LGTs using genomic data from 146 other grass species. Through stringent phylogenomic analyses, we discovered 57 additional LGTs in the A. semialata nuclear genome, involving at least nine different donor species. The LGTs are clustered in 23 laterally acquired genomic fragments that are up to 170 kb long and have accumulated during the diversification of Alloteropsis. The majority of the 59 LGTs in A. semialata are expressed, and we show that they have added functions to the recipient genome. Functional LGTs were further detected in the genomes of five other grass species, demonstrating that this process is likely widespread in this globally important group of plants. LGT therefore appears to represent a potent evolutionary force capable of spreading functional genes among distantly related grass species. Copyright © 2019 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.


April 21, 2020  |  

Morphological and genomic characterisation of the hybrid schistosome infecting humans in Europe reveals a complex admixture between Schistosoma haematobium and Schistosoma bovis parasites

Schistosomes cause schistosomiasis, the worldtextquoterights second most important parasitic disease after malaria. A peculiar feature of schistosomes is their ability to produce viable and fertile hybrids. Originally only present in the tropics, schistosomiasis is now also endemic in Europe. Based on two genetic markers the European species had been identified as a hybrid between the ruminant-infective Schistosoma bovis and the human-infective Schistosoma haematobium.Here we describe for the first time the genomic composition of the European schistosome hybrid (77% of S. haematobium and 23% of S. bovis origins), its morphometric parameters and its compatibility with the European vector snail and intermediate host Compatibility is a key parameter for the parasites life cycle progression. We also show that egg morphology (a classical diagnostic parameter) does not allow for differential diagnosis while genetic tests do so. Additionally, we performed genome assembly improvement and annotation of S. bovis, the parental species for which no satisfactory genome assembly was available.For the first time since the discovery of hybrid schistosomes, these results reveal at the whole genomic level a complex admixture of parental genomes highlighting (i) the high permeability of schistosomes to other speciestextquoteright alleles, and (ii) the importance of hybrid formation for pushing species boundaries not only conceptionally but also geographically.


April 21, 2020  |  

Transposable Elements Adaptive Role in Genome Plasticity, Pathogenicity and Evolution in Fungal Phytopathogens.

Transposable elements (TEs) are agents of genetic variability in phytopathogens as they are a source of adaptive evolution through genome diversification. Although many studies have uncovered information on TEs, the exact mechanism behind TE-induced changes within the genome remains poorly understood. Furthermore, convergent trends towards bigger genomes, emergence of novel genes and gain or loss of genes implicate a TE-regulated genome plasticity of fungal phytopathogens. TEs are able to alter gene expression by revamping the cis-regulatory elements or recruiting epigenetic control. Recent findings show that TEs recruit epigenetic control on the expression of effector genes as part of the coordinated infection strategy. In addition to genome plasticity and diversity, fungal pathogenicity is an area of economic concern. A survey of TE distribution suggests that their proximity to pathogenicity genes TEs may act as sites for emergence of novel pathogenicity factors via nucleotide changes and expansion or reduction of the gene family. Through a systematic survey of literature, we were able to conclude that the role of TEs in fungi is wide: ranging from genome plasticity, pathogenicity to adaptive behavior in evolution. This review also identifies the gaps in knowledge that requires further elucidation for a better understanding of TEs’ contribution to genome architecture and versatility.


April 21, 2020  |  

The genomes of pecan and Chinese hickory provide insights into Carya evolution and nut nutrition.

Pecan (Carya illinoinensis) and Chinese hickory (C. cathayensis) are important commercially cultivated nut trees in the genus Carya (Juglandaceae), with high nutritional value and substantial health benefits.We obtained >187.22 and 178.87 gigabases of sequence, and ~288× and 248× genome coverage, to a pecan cultivar (“Pawnee”) and a domesticated Chinese hickory landrace (ZAFU-1), respectively. The total assembly size is 651.31 megabases (Mb) for pecan and 706.43 Mb for Chinese hickory. Two genome duplication events before the divergence from walnut were found in these species. Gene family analysis highlighted key genes in biotic and abiotic tolerance, oil, polyphenols, essential amino acids, and B vitamins. Further analyses of reduced-coverage genome sequences of 16 Carya and 2 Juglans species provide additional phylogenetic perspective on crop wild relatives.Cooperative characterization of these valuable resources provides a window to their evolutionary development and a valuable foundation for future crop improvement. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press.


April 21, 2020  |  

Chromosome-scale assemblies reveal the structural evolution of African cichlid genomes.

African cichlid fishes are well known for their rapid radiations and are a model system for studying evolutionary processes. Here we compare multiple, high-quality, chromosome-scale genome assemblies to elucidate the genetic mechanisms underlying cichlid diversification and study how genome structure evolves in rapidly radiating lineages.We re-anchored our recent assembly of the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) genome using a new high-density genetic map. We also developed a new de novo genome assembly of the Lake Malawi cichlid, Metriaclima zebra, using high-coverage Pacific Biosciences sequencing, and anchored contigs to linkage groups (LGs) using 4 different genetic maps. These new anchored assemblies allow the first chromosome-scale comparisons of African cichlid genomes. Large intra-chromosomal structural differences (~2-28 megabase pairs) among species are common, while inter-chromosomal differences are rare (<10 megabase pairs total). Placement of the centromeres within the chromosome-scale assemblies identifies large structural differences that explain many of the karyotype differences among species. Structural differences are also associated with unique patterns of recombination on sex chromosomes. Structural differences on LG9, LG11, and LG20 are associated with reduced recombination, indicative of inversions between the rock- and sand-dwelling clades of Lake Malawi cichlids. M. zebra has a larger number of recent transposable element insertions compared with O. niloticus, suggesting that several transposable element families have a higher rate of insertion in the haplochromine cichlid lineage.This study identifies novel structural variation among East African cichlid genomes and provides a new set of genomic resources to support research on the mechanisms driving cichlid adaptation and speciation. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press.


April 21, 2020  |  

The Modern View of B Chromosomes Under the Impact of High Scale Omics Analyses.

Supernumerary B chromosomes (Bs) are extra karyotype units in addition to A chromosomes, and are found in some fungi and thousands of animals and plant species. Bs are uniquely characterized due to their non-Mendelian inheritance, and represent one of the best examples of genomic conflict. Over the last decades, their genetic composition, function and evolution have remained an unresolved query, although a few successful attempts have been made to address these phenomena. A classical concept based on cytogenetics and genetics is that Bs are selfish and abundant with DNA repeats and transposons, and in most cases, they do not carry any function. However, recently, the modern quantum development of high scale multi-omics techniques has shifted B research towards a new-born field that we call “B-omics”. We review the recent literature and add novel perspectives to the B research, discussing the role of new technologies to understand the mechanistic perspectives of the molecular evolution and function of Bs. The modern view states that B chromosomes are enriched with genes for many significant biological functions, including but not limited to the interesting set of genes related to cell cycle and chromosome structure. Furthermore, the presence of B chromosomes could favor genomic rearrangements and influence the nuclear environment affecting the function of other chromatin regions. We hypothesize that B chromosomes might play a key function in driving their transmission and maintenance inside the cell, as well as offer an extra genomic compartment for evolution.


April 21, 2020  |  

Divergent evolution in the genomes of closely related lacertids, Lacerta viridis and L. bilineata, and implications for speciation.

Lacerta viridis and Lacerta bilineata are sister species of European green lizards (eastern and western clades, respectively) that, until recently, were grouped together as the L. viridis complex. Genetic incompatibilities were observed between lacertid populations through crossing experiments, which led to the delineation of two separate species within the L. viridis complex. The population history of these sister species and processes driving divergence are unknown. We constructed the first high-quality de novo genome assemblies for both L. viridis and L. bilineata through Illumina and PacBio sequencing, with annotation support provided from transcriptome sequencing of several tissues. To estimate gene flow between the two species and identify factors involved in reproductive isolation, we studied their evolutionary history, identified genomic rearrangements, detected signatures of selection on non-coding RNA, and on protein-coding genes.Here we show that gene flow was primarily unidirectional from L. bilineata to L. viridis after their split at least 1.15 million years ago. We detected positive selection of the non-coding repertoire; mutations in transcription factors; accumulation of divergence through inversions; selection on genes involved in neural development, reproduction, and behavior, as well as in ultraviolet-response, possibly driven by sexual selection, whose contribution to reproductive isolation between these lacertid species needs to be further evaluated.The combination of short and long sequence reads resulted in one of the most complete lizard genome assemblies. The characterization of a diverse array of genomic features provided valuable insights into the demographic history of divergence among European green lizards, as well as key species differences, some of which are candidates that could have played a role in speciation. In addition, our study generated valuable genomic resources that can be used to address conservation-related issues in lacertids. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press.


April 21, 2020  |  

Adaptive archaic introgression of copy number variants and the discovery of previously unknown human genes

As they migrated out of Africa and into Europe and Asia, anatomically modern humans interbred with archaic hominins, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans. The result of this genetic introgression on the recipient populations has been of considerable interest, especially in cases of selection for specific archaic genetic variants. Hsieh et al. characterized adaptive structural variants and copy number variants that are likely targets of positive selection in Melanesians. Focusing on population-specific regions of the genome that carry duplicated genes and show an excess of amino acid replacements provides evidence for one of the mechanisms by which genetic novelty can arise and result in differentiation between human genomes.Science, this issue p. eaax2083INTRODUCTIONCharacterizing genetic variants underlying local adaptations in human populations is one of the central goals of evolutionary research. Most studies have focused on adaptive single-nucleotide variants that either arose as new beneficial mutations or were introduced after interbreeding with our now-extinct relatives, including Neanderthals and Denisovans. The adaptive role of copy number variants (CNVs), another well-known form of genomic variation generated through deletions or duplications that affect more base pairs in the genome, is less well understood, despite evidence that such mutations are subject to stronger selective pressures.RATIONALEThis study focuses on the discovery of introgressed and adaptive CNVs that have become enriched in specific human populations. We combine whole-genome CNV calling and population genetic inference methods to discover CNVs and then assess signals of selection after controlling for demographic history. We examine 266 publicly available modern human genomes from the Simons Genome Diversity Project and genomes of three ancient homininstextemdasha Denisovan, a Neanderthal from the Altai Mountains in Siberia, and a Neanderthal from Croatia. We apply long-read sequencing methods to sequence-resolve complex CNVs of interest specifically in the Melanesianstextemdashan Oceanian population distributed from Papua New Guinea to as far east as the islands of Fiji and known to harbor some of the greatest amounts of Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestry.RESULTSConsistent with the hypothesis of archaic introgression outside Africa, we find a significant excess of CNV sharing between modern non-African populations and archaic hominins (P = 0.039). Among Melanesians, we observe an enrichment of CNVs with potential signals of positive selection (n = 37 CNVs), of which 19 CNVs likely introgressed from archaic hominins. We show that Melanesian-stratified CNVs are significantly associated with signals of positive selection (P = 0.0323). Many map near or within genes associated with metabolism (e.g., ACOT1 and ACOT2), development and cell cycle or signaling (e.g., TNFRSF10D and CDK11A and CDK11B), or immune response (e.g., IFNLR1). We characterize two of the largest and most complex CNVs on chromosomes 16p11.2 and 8p21.3 that introgressed from Denisovans and Neanderthals, respectively, and are absent from most other human populations. At chromosome 16p11.2, we sequence-resolve a large duplication of >383 thousand base pairs (kbp) that originated from Denisovans and introgressed into the ancestral Melanesian population 60,000 to 170,000 years ago. This large duplication occurs at high frequency (>79%) in diverse Melanesian groups, shows signatures of positive selection, and maps adjacent to Homo sapienstextendashspecific duplications that predispose to rearrangements associated with autism. On chromosome 8p21.3, we identify a Melanesian haplotype that carries two CNVs, a ~6-kbp deletion, and a ~38-kbp duplication, with a Neanderthal origin and that introgressed into non-Africans 40,000 to 120,000 years ago. This CNV haplotype occurs at high frequency (44%) and shows signals consistent with a partial selective sweep in Melanesians. Using long-read sequencing genomic and transcriptomic data, we reconstruct the structure and complex evolutionary history for these two CNVs and discover previously undescribed duplicated genes (TNFRSF10D1, TNFRSF10D2, and NPIPB16) that show an excess of amino acid replacements consistent with the action of positive selection.CONCLUSIONOur results suggest that large CNVs originating in archaic hominins and introgressed into modern humans have played an important role in local population adaptation and represent an insufficiently studied source of large-scale genetic variation that is absent from current reference genomes.Large adaptive-introgressed CNVs at chromosomes 8p21.3 and 16p11.2 in Melanesians.The magnifying glasses highlight structural differences between the archaic (top) and reference (bottom) genomes. Neanderthal (red) and Denisovan (blue) haplotypes encompassing large CNVs occur at high frequencies in Melanesians (44 and 79%, respectively) but are absent (black) in all non-Melanesians. These CNVs create positively selected genes (TNFRSF10D1, TNFRSF10D2, and NPIPB16) that are absent from the reference genome.Copy number variants (CNVs) are subject to stronger selective pressure than single-nucleotide variants, but their roles in archaic introgression and adaptation have not been systematically investigated. We show that stratified CNVs are significantly associated with signatures of positive selection in Melanesians and provide evidence for adaptive introgression of large CNVs at chromosomes 16p11.2 and 8p21.3 from Denisovans and Neanderthals, respectively. Using long-read sequence data, we reconstruct the structure and complex evolutionary history of these polymorphisms and show that both encode positively selected genes absent from most human populations. Our results collectively suggest that large CNVs originating in archaic hominins and introgressed into modern humans have played an important role in local population adaptation and represent an insufficiently studied source of large-scale genetic variation.


April 21, 2020  |  

Rapid antigen diversification through mitotic recombination in the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

Malaria parasites possess the remarkable ability to maintain chronic infections that fail to elicit a protective immune response, characteristics that have stymied vaccine development and cause people living in endemic regions to remain at risk of malaria despite previous exposure to the disease. These traits stem from the tremendous antigenic diversity displayed by parasites circulating in the field. For Plasmodium falciparum, the most virulent of the human malaria parasites, this diversity is exemplified by the variant gene family called var, which encodes the major surface antigen displayed on infected red blood cells (RBCs). This gene family exhibits virtually limitless diversity when var gene repertoires from different parasite isolates are compared. Previous studies indicated that this remarkable genome plasticity results from extensive ectopic recombination between var genes during mitotic replication; however, the molecular mechanisms that direct this process to antigen-encoding loci while the rest of the genome remains relatively stable were not determined. Using targeted DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) and long-read whole-genome sequencing, we show that a single break within an antigen-encoding region of the genome can result in a cascade of recombination events leading to the generation of multiple chimeric var genes, a process that can greatly accelerate the generation of diversity within this family. We also found that recombinations did not occur randomly, but rather high-probability, specific recombination products were observed repeatedly. These results provide a molecular basis for previously described structured rearrangements that drive diversification of this highly polymorphic gene family.


April 21, 2020  |  

A whole genome scan of SNP data suggests a lack of abundant hard selective sweeps in the genome of the broad host range plant pathogenic fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum.

The pathogenic fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum infects over 600 species of plant. It is present in numerous environments throughout the world and causes significant damage to many agricultural crops. Fragmentation and lack of gene flow between populations may lead to population sub-structure. Within discrete recombining populations, positive selection may lead to a ‘selective sweep’. This is characterised by an increase in frequency of a favourable allele leading to reduction in genotypic diversity in a localised genomic region due to the phenomenon of genetic hitchhiking. We aimed to assess whether isolates of S. sclerotiorum from around the world formed genotypic clusters associated with geographical origin and to determine whether signatures of population-specific positive selection could be detected. To do this, we sequenced the genomes of 25 isolates of S. sclerotiorum collected from four different continents-Australia, Africa (north and south), Europe and North America (Canada and the northen United States) and conducted SNP based analyses of population structure and selective sweeps. Among the 25 isolates, there was evidence for two major population clusters. One of these consisted of 11 isolates from Canada, the USA and France (population 1), and the other consisted of nine isolates from Australia and one from Morocco (population 2). The rest of the isolates were genotypic outliers. We found that there was evidence of outcrossing in these two populations based on linkage disequilibrium decay. However, only a single candidate selective sweep was observed, and it was present in population 2. This sweep was close to a Major Facilitator Superfamily transporter gene, and we speculate that this gene may have a role in nutrient uptake from the host. The low abundance of selective sweeps in the S. sclerotiorum genome contrasts the numerous examples in the genomes of other fungal pathogens. This may be a result of its slow rate of evolution and low effective recombination rate due to self-fertilisation and vegetative reproduction.


April 21, 2020  |  

A High-Quality Grapevine Downy Mildew Genome Assembly Reveals Rapidly Evolving and Lineage-Specific Putative Host Adaptation Genes.

Downy mildews are obligate biotrophic oomycete pathogens that cause devastating plant diseases on economically important crops. Plasmopara viticola is the causal agent of grapevine downy mildew, a major disease in vineyards worldwide. We sequenced the genome of Pl. viticola with PacBio long reads and obtained a new 92.94?Mb assembly with high contiguity (359 scaffolds for a N50 of 706.5?kb) due to a better resolution of repeat regions. This assembly presented a high level of gene completeness, recovering 1,592 genes encoding secreted proteins involved in plant-pathogen interactions. Plasmopara viticola had a two-speed genome architecture, with secreted protein-encoding genes preferentially located in gene-sparse, repeat-rich regions and evolving rapidly, as indicated by pairwise dN/dS values. We also used short reads to assemble the genome of Plasmopara muralis, a closely related species infecting grape ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata). The lineage-specific proteins identified by comparative genomics analysis included a large proportion of RxLR cytoplasmic effectors and, more generally, genes with high dN/dS values. We identified 270 candidate genes under positive selection, including several genes encoding transporters and components of the RNA machinery potentially involved in host specialization. Finally, the Pl. viticola genome assembly generated here will allow the development of robust population genomics approaches for investigating the mechanisms involved in adaptation to biotic and abiotic selective pressures in this species. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genome of Crucihimalaya himalaica, a close relative of Arabidopsis, shows ecological adaptation to high altitude.

Crucihimalaya himalaica, a close relative of Arabidopsis and Capsella, grows on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP) about 4,000 m above sea level and represents an attractive model system for studying speciation and ecological adaptation in extreme environments. We assembled a draft genome sequence of 234.72 Mb encoding 27,019 genes and investigated its origin and adaptive evolutionary mechanisms. Phylogenomic analyses based on 4,586 single-copy genes revealed that C. himalaica is most closely related to Capsella (estimated divergence 8.8 to 12.2 Mya), whereas both species form a sister clade to Arabidopsis thaliana and Arabidopsis lyrata, from which they diverged between 12.7 and 17.2 Mya. LTR retrotransposons in C. himalaica proliferated shortly after the dramatic uplift and climatic change of the Himalayas from the Late Pliocene to Pleistocene. Compared with closely related species, C. himalaica showed significant contraction and pseudogenization in gene families associated with disease resistance and also significant expansion in gene families associated with ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis and DNA repair. We identified hundreds of genes involved in DNA repair, ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis, and reproductive processes with signs of positive selection. Gene families showing dramatic changes in size and genes showing signs of positive selection are likely candidates for C. himalaica’s adaptation to intense radiation, low temperature, and pathogen-depauperate environments in the QTP. Loss of function at the S-locus, the reason for the transition to self-fertilization of C. himalaica, might have enabled its QTP occupation. Overall, the genome sequence of C. himalaica provides insights into the mechanisms of plant adaptation to extreme environments.Copyright © 2019 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.


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