During the past decade, the search for pathogenic mutations in rare human genetic diseases has involved huge efforts to sequence coding regions, or the entire genome, using massively parallel short-read sequencers. However, the approximate current diagnostic rate is <50% using these approaches, and there remain many rare genetic diseases with unknown cause. There may be many reasons for this, but one plausible explanation is that the responsible mutations are in regions of the genome that are difficult to sequence using conventional technologies (e.g., tandem-repeat expansion or complex chromosomal structural aberrations). Despite the drawbacks of high cost and a shortage of standard analytical methods, several studies have analyzed pathogenic changes in the genome using long-read sequencers. The results of these studies provide hope that further application of long-read sequencers to identify the causative mutations in unsolved genetic diseases may expand our understanding of the human genome and diseases. Such approaches may also be applied to molecular diagnosis and therapeutic strategies for patients with genetic diseases in the future.
Amplification-free long-read sequencing of TCF4 expanded trinucleotide repeats in Fuchs Endothelial Corneal Dystrophy.
Amplification of a CAG trinucleotide motif (CTG18.1) within the TCF4 gene has been strongly associated with Fuchs Endothelial Corneal Dystrophy (FECD). Nevertheless, a small minority of clinically unaffected elderly patients who have expanded CTG18.1 sequences have been identified. To test the hypothesis that the CAG expansions in these patients are protected from FECD because they have interruptions within the CAG repeats, we utilized a combination of an amplification-free, long-read sequencing method and a new target-enrichment sequence analysis tool developed by Pacific Biosciences to interrogate the sequence structure of expanded repeats. The sequencing was successful in identifying a previously described interruption within an unexpanded allele and provided sequence data on expanded alleles greater than 2000 bases in length. The data revealed considerable heterogeneity in the size distribution of expanded repeats within each patient. Detailed analysis of the long sequence reads did not reveal any instances of interruptions to the expanded CAG repeats, but did reveal novel variants within the AGG repeats that flank the CAG repeats in two of the five samples from clinically unaffected patients with expansions. This first examination of the sequence structure of CAG repeats in CTG18.1 suggests that factors other than interruptions to the repeat structure account for the absence of disease in some elderly patients with repeat expansions in the TCF4 gene.
In the past several years, single-molecule sequencing platforms, such as those by Pacific Biosciences and Oxford Nanopore Technologies, have become available to researchers and are currently being tested for clinical applications. They offer exceptionally long reads that permit direct sequencing through regions of the genome inaccessible or difficult to analyze by short-read platforms. This includes disease-causing long repetitive elements, extreme GC content regions, and complex gene loci. Similarly, these platforms enable structural variation characterization at previously unparalleled resolution and direct detection of epigenetic marks in native DNA. Here, we review how these technologies are opening up new clinical avenues that are being applied to pathogenic microorganisms and viruses, constitutional disorders, pharmacogenomics, cancer, and more.Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
A 12-kb structural variation in progressive myoclonic epilepsy was newly identified by long-read whole-genome sequencing.
We report a family with progressive myoclonic epilepsy who underwent whole-exome sequencing but was negative for pathogenic variants. Similar clinical courses of a devastating neurodegenerative phenotype of two affected siblings were highly suggestive of a genetic etiology, which indicates that the survey of genetic variation by whole-exome sequencing was not comprehensive. To investigate the presence of a variant that remained unrecognized by standard genetic testing, PacBio long-read sequencing was performed. Structural variant (SV) detection using low-coverage (6×) whole-genome sequencing called 17,165 SVs (7,216 deletions and 9,949 insertions). Our SV selection narrowed down potential candidates to only five SVs (two deletions and three insertions) on the genes tagged with autosomal recessive phenotypes. Among them, a 12.4-kb deletion involving the CLN6 gene was the top candidate because its homozygous abnormalities cause neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis. This deletion included the initiation codon and was found in a GC-rich region containing multiple repetitive elements. These results indicate the presence of a causal variant in a difficult-to-sequence region and suggest that such variants that remain enigmatic after the application of current whole-exome sequencing technology could be uncovered by unbiased application of long-read whole-genome sequencing.
Detecting a long insertion variant in SAMD12 by SMRT sequencing: implications of long-read whole-genome sequencing for repeat expansion diseases.
Long-read sequencing technology is now capable of reading single-molecule DNA with an average read length of more than 10?kb, fully enabling the coverage of large structural variations (SVs). This advantage may pave the way for the detection of unprecedented SVs as well as repeat expansions. Pathogenic SVs of only known genes used to be selectively analyzed based on prior knowledge of target DNA sequence. The unbiased application of long-read whole-genome sequencing (WGS) for the detection of pathogenic SVs has just begun. Here, we apply PacBio SMRT sequencing in a Japanese family with benign adult familial myoclonus epilepsy (BAFME). Our SV selection of low-coverage WGS data (7×) narrowed down the candidates to only six SVs in a 7.16-Mb region of the BAFME1 locus and correctly determined an approximately 4.6-kb SAMD12 intronic repeat insertion, which is causal of BAFME1. These results indicate that long-read WGS is potentially useful for evaluating all of the known SVs in a genome and identifying new disease-causing SVs in combination with other genetic methods to resolve the genetic causes of currently unexplained diseases.
Tandemly repeated DNA is highly mutable and causes at least 31 diseases, but it is hard to detect pathogenic repeat expansions genome-wide. Here, we report robust detection of human repeat expansions from careful alignments of long but error-prone (PacBio and nanopore) reads to a reference genome. Our method is robust to systematic sequencing errors, inexact repeats with fuzzy boundaries, and low sequencing coverage. By comparing to healthy controls, we prioritize pathogenic expansions within the top 10 out of 700,000 tandem repeats in whole genome sequencing data. This may help to elucidate the many genetic diseases whose causes remain unknown.
Personal transcriptomes in which all of an individual’s genetic variants (e.g., single nucleotide variants) and transcript isoforms (transcription start sites, splice sites, and polyA sites) are defined and quantified for full-length transcripts are expected to be important for understanding individual biology and disease, but have not been described previously. To obtain such transcriptomes, we sequenced the lymphoblastoid transcriptomes of three family members (GM12878 and the parents GM12891 and GM12892) by using a Pacific Biosciences long-read approach complemented with Illumina 101-bp sequencing and made the following observations. First, we found that reads representing all splice sites of a transcript are evident for most sufficiently expressed genes =3 kb and often for genes longer than that. Second, we added and quantified previously unidentified splicing isoforms to an existing annotation, thus creating the first personalized annotation to our knowledge. Third, we determined SNVs in a de novo manner and connected them to RNA haplotypes, including HLA haplotypes, thereby assigning single full-length RNA molecules to their transcribed allele, and demonstrated Mendelian inheritance of RNA molecules. Fourth, we show how RNA molecules can be linked to personal variants on a one-by-one basis, which allows us to assess differential allelic expression (DAE) and differential allelic isoforms (DAI) from the phased full-length isoform reads. The DAI method is largely independent of the distance between exon and SNV–in contrast to fragmentation-based methods. Overall, in addition to improving eukaryotic transcriptome annotation, these results describe, to our knowledge, the first large-scale and full-length personal transcriptome.