June 1, 2021  |  

Resolving the ‘dark matter’ in genomes.

Second-generation sequencing has brought about tremendous insights into the genetic underpinnings of biology. However, there are many functionally important and medically relevant regions of genomes that are currently difficult or impossible to sequence, resulting in incomplete and fragmented views of genomes. Two main causes are (i) limitations to read DNA of extreme sequence content (GC-rich or AT-rich regions, low complexity sequence contexts) and (ii) insufficient read lengths which leave various forms of structural variation unresolved and result in mapping ambiguities.


June 1, 2021  |  

Comparison of sequencing approaches applied to complex soil metagenomes to resolve proteins of interest

Background: Long-read sequencing presents several potential advantages for providing more complete gene profiling of metagenomic samples. Long reads can capture multiple genes in a single read, and longer reads typically result in assemblies with better contiguity, especially for higher abundance organisms. However, a major challenge with using long reads has been the higher cost per base, which may lead to insufficient coverage of low-abundance species. Additionally, lower single-pass accuracy can make gene discovery for low-abundance organisms difficult. Methods: To evaluate the pros and cons of long reads for metagenomics, we directly compared PacBio and Illumina sequencing on a soil-derived sample, which included spike-in controls of known concentrations of pure referenced samples. For PacBio sequencing, a 10 kb library was sequenced on the Sequel System with 3.0 chemistry. Highly accurate long reads (HiFi reads) with Q20 and higher were generated for downstream analyses using PacBio Circular Consensus Sequencing (CCS) mode. Results were assessed according to the following criteria: DNA extraction capacity, bioinformatics pipeline status, % of proteins with ambiguous AA’s, total unique error-free genes/$1000, total proteins observed in spike-ins/$1000, proteins of interest/$1000, median length of contigs with proteins, and assembly requirements. Results: Both methods had areas of superior performance. DNA extraction capacity was higher for Illumina, the bioinformatics pipeline is well-tested, and there was a lower proportion of proteins with ambiguous AA’s. On the other hand, with PacBio, twice as many unique error-free genes, twice as many total proteins from spike-ins, and ~6 times more proteins of interest were found per $1000 cost. PacBio data produced on average 5 times longer contigs capturing proteins of interest. Additionally, assembly was not required for gene or protein finding, as was the case with Illumina data. Conclusions: In this comparison of PacBio Sequel System with Illumina NextSeq on a complex microbiome, we conclude that the sequencing system of choice may vary, depending on the goals and resources for the project. PacBio sequencing requires a longer DNA extraction method, and the bioinformatics pipeline may require development. On the other hand, the Sequel System generates hundreds of thousands of long HiFi reads per SMRT Cell, producing more genes, more proteins, and longer contigs, thereby offering more information about the metagenomic samples for a lower cost.


April 21, 2020  |  

Tandem repeats lead to sequence assembly errors and impose multi-level challenges for genome and protein databases.

The widespread occurrence of repetitive stretches of DNA in genomes of organisms across the tree of life imposes fundamental challenges for sequencing, genome assembly, and automated annotation of genes and proteins. This multi-level problem can lead to errors in genome and protein databases that are often not recognized or acknowledged. As a consequence, end users working with sequences with repetitive regions are faced with ‘ready-to-use’ deposited data whose trustworthiness is difficult to determine, let alone to quantify. Here, we provide a review of the problems associated with tandem repeat sequences that originate from different stages during the sequencing-assembly-annotation-deposition workflow, and that may proliferate in public database repositories affecting all downstream analyses. As a case study, we provide examples of the Atlantic cod genome, whose sequencing and assembly were hindered by a particularly high prevalence of tandem repeats. We complement this case study with examples from other species, where mis-annotations and sequencing errors have propagated into protein databases. With this review, we aim to raise the awareness level within the community of database users, and alert scientists working in the underlying workflow of database creation that the data they omit or improperly assemble may well contain important biological information valuable to others. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


April 21, 2020  |  

Strengths and potential pitfalls of hay-transfer for ecological restoration revealed by RAD-seq analysis in floodplain Arabis species

Achieving high intraspecific genetic diversity is a critical goal in ecological restoration as it increases the adaptive potential and long-term resilience of populations. Thus, we investigated genetic diversity within and between pristine sites in a fossil floodplain and compared it to sites restored by hay-transfer between 1997 and 2014. RAD-seq genotyping revealed that the stenoecious flood-plain species Arabis nemorensis is co-occurring with individuals that, based on ploidy, ITS-sequencing and morphology, probably belong to the close relative Arabis sagittata, which has a documented preference for dry calcareous grasslands but has not been reported in floodplain meadows. We show that hay-transfer maintains genetic diversity for both species. Additionally, in A. sagittata, transfer from multiple genetically isolated pristine sites resulted in restored sites with increased diversity and admixed local genotypes. In A. nemorensis, transfer did not create novel admixture dynamics because genetic diversity between pristine sites was less differentiated. Thus, the effects of hay-transfer on genetic diversity also depend on the genetic makeup of the donor communities of each species, especially when local material is mixed. Our results demonstrate the efficiency of hay-transfer for habitat restoration and emphasize the importance of pre-restoration characterization of micro-geographic patterns of intraspecific diversity of the community to guarantee that restoration practices reach their goal, i.e. maximize the adaptive potential of the entire restored plant community. Overlooking these patterns may alter the balance between species in the community. Additionally, our comparison of summary statistics obtained from de novo and reference-based RAD-seq pipelines shows that the genomic impact of restoration can be reliably monitored in species lacking prior genomic knowledge.


April 21, 2020  |  

Early Sex-chromosome Evolution in the Diploid Dioecious Plant Mercurialis annua.

Suppressed recombination allows divergence between homologous sex chromosomes and the functionality of their genes. Here, we reveal patterns of the earliest stages of sex-chromosome evolution in the diploid dioecious herb Mercurialis annua on the basis of cytological analysis, de novo genome assembly and annotation, genetic mapping, exome resequencing of natural populations, and transcriptome analysis. The genome assembly contained 34,105 expressed genes, of which 10,076 were assigned to linkage groups. Genetic mapping and exome resequencing of individuals across the species range both identified the largest linkage group, LG1, as the sex chromosome. Although the sex chromosomes of M. annua are karyotypically homomorphic, we estimate that about a third of the Y chromosome has ceased recombining, containing 568 transcripts and spanning 22.3 cM in the corresponding female map. Nevertheless, we found limited evidence for Y-chromosome degeneration in terms of gene loss and pseudogenization, and most X- and Y-linked genes appear to have diverged in the period subsequent to speciation between M. annua and its sister species M. huetii which shares the same sex-determining region. Taken together, our results suggest that the M. annua Y chromosome has at least two evolutionary strata: a small old stratum shared with M. huetii, and a more recent larger stratum that is probably unique to M. annua and that stopped recombining about one million years ago. Patterns of gene expression within the non-recombining region are consistent with the idea that sexually antagonistic selection may have played a role in favoring suppressed recombination.Copyright © 2019, Genetics.


April 21, 2020  |  

Effector gene reshuffling involves dispensable mini-chromosomes in the wheat blast fungus.

Newly emerged wheat blast disease is a serious threat to global wheat production. Wheat blast is caused by a distinct, exceptionally diverse lineage of the fungus causing rice blast disease. Through sequencing a recent field isolate, we report a reference genome that includes seven core chromosomes and mini-chromosome sequences that harbor effector genes normally found on ends of core chromosomes in other strains. No mini-chromosomes were observed in an early field strain, and at least two from another isolate each contain different effector genes and core chromosome end sequences. The mini-chromosome is enriched in transposons occurring most frequently at core chromosome ends. Additionally, transposons in mini-chromosomes lack the characteristic signature for inactivation by repeat-induced point (RIP) mutation genome defenses. Our results, collectively, indicate that dispensable mini-chromosomes and core chromosomes undergo divergent evolutionary trajectories, and mini-chromosomes and core chromosome ends are coupled as a mobile, fast-evolving effector compartment in the wheat pathogen genome.


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.


April 21, 2020  |  

Blast Fungal Genomes Show Frequent Chromosomal Changes, Gene Gains and Losses, and Effector Gene Turnover.

Pyricularia is a fungal genus comprising several pathogenic species causing the blast disease in monocots. Pyricularia oryzae, the best-known species, infects rice, wheat, finger millet, and other crops. As past comparative and population genomics studies mainly focused on isolates of P. oryzae, the genomes of the other Pyricularia species have not been well explored. In this study, we obtained a chromosomal-level genome assembly of the finger millet isolate P. oryzae MZ5-1-6 and also highly contiguous assemblies of Pyricularia sp. LS, P. grisea, and P. pennisetigena. The differences in the genomic content of repetitive DNA sequences could largely explain the variation in genome size among these new genomes. Moreover, we found extensive gene gains and losses and structural changes among Pyricularia genomes, including a large interchromosomal translocation. We searched for homologs of known blast effectors across fungal taxa and found that most avirulence effectors are specific to Pyricularia, whereas many other effectors share homologs with distant fungal taxa. In particular, we discovered a novel effector family with metalloprotease activity, distinct from the well-known AVR-Pita family. We predicted 751 gene families containing putative effectors in 7 Pyricularia genomes and found that 60 of them showed differential expression in the P. oryzae MZ5-1-6 transcriptomes obtained under experimental conditions mimicking the pathogen infection process. In summary, this study increased our understanding of the structural, functional, and evolutionary genomics of the blast pathogen and identified new potential effector genes, providing useful data for developing crops with durable resistance. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.


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