June 1, 2021  |  

Immune regions are no longer incomprehensible with SMRT Sequencing

The complex immune regions of the genome, including MHC and KIR, contain large copy number variants (CNVs), a high density of genes, hyper-polymorphic gene alleles, and conserved extended haplotypes (CEH) with enormous linkage disequilibrium (LDs). This level of complexity and inherent biases of short-read sequencing make it challenging for extracting immune region haplotype information from reference-reliant, shotgun sequencing and GWAS methods. As NGS based genome and exome sequencing and SNP arrays have become a routine for population studies, numerous efforts are being made for developing software to extract and or impute the immune gene information from these datasets. Despite these efforts, the fine mapping of causal variants of immune genes for their well-documented association with cancer, drug-induced hypersensitivity and immune-related diseases, has been slower than expected. This has in many ways limited our understanding of the mechanisms leading to immune disease. In the present work, we demonstrate the advantages of long reads delivered by SMRT Sequencing for assembling complete haplotypes of MHC and KIR gene clusters, as well as calling correct genotypes of genes comprised within them. All the genotype information is detected at allele- level with full phasing information across SNP-poor regions. Genotypes were called correctly from targeted gene amplicons, haplotypes, as well as from a completely assembled 5 Mb contig of the MHC region from a de novo assembly of whole genome shotgun data. De novo analysis pipeline used in all these approaches allowed for reference-free analysis without imputation, a key for interrogation without prior knowledge about ethnic backgrounds. These methods are thus easily adoptable for previously uncharacterized human or non-human species.


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