June 1, 2021  |  

Access full spectrum of polymorphisms in HLA class I & II genes, without imputation for disease association and evolutionary research.

MHC class I and II genes are critically monitored by high-resolution sequencing for organ transplant decisions due to their role in GVHD. Their direct or linkage-based causal association, have increased their prominence as targets for drug sensitivity, autoimmune, cancer and infectious disease research. Monitoring HLA genes can however be tricky due to their highly polymorphic nature. Allele-level resolution is thus strongly preferred. However, most studies were historically focused on peptide binding domains of the HLA genes, due to technological challenges. As a result knowledge about the functional role of polymorphisms outside of exons 2 and 3 of HLA genes was rather limited. There are also relatively few full-length gene references currently available in the IMGT HLA database. This made it difficult to quickly adopt high-throughput reference-reliant methods for allele-level HLA sequencing. Increasing awareness regarding role of regulatory region polymorphisms of HLA genes in disease association1, nonetheless have brought about a revolution in full-length HLA gene sequencing. Researchers are now exploring ways to obtain complete information for HLA genes and integrate it with the current HLA database so it can be interpreted used by clinical researchers. We have explored advantages of SMRT Sequencing to obtain fully phased, allele-specific sequences of HLA class I and II genes for 96 samples using completely De novo consensus generation approach for imputation-free 4-field typing. With long read lengths (average >10 kb) and consensus accuracy exceeding 99.999% (Q50), a comprehensive snapshot of variants in exons, introns and UTRs could be obtained for spectrum of polymorphisms in phase across SNP-poor regions. Such information can provide invaluable insights in future causality association and population diversity research.


June 1, 2021  |  

Full-length cDNA sequencing of alternatively spliced isoforms provides insight into human cancer

The majority of human genes are alternatively spliced, making it possible for most genes to generate multiple proteins. The process of alternative splicing is highly regulated in a developmental-stage and tissue-specific manner. Perturbations in the regulation of these events can lead to disease in humans (1). Alternative splicing has been shown to play a role in human cancer, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s, and many other diseases. Understanding these diseases requires knowing the full complement of mRNA isoforms. Microarrays and high-throughput cDNA sequencing have become highly successful tools for studying transcriptomes, however these technologies only provide small fragments of transcripts and building complete transcript isoforms has been very challenging (2). We have developed a technique, called Iso-Seq sequencing, that is capable of sequencing full-length, single-molecule cDNA sequences. The method employs SMRT Sequencing from PacBio, which can sequence individual molecules with read lengths that average more than 10 kb and can reach as long as 40 kb. As most transcripts are from 1 – 10 kb, we can sequence through entire RNA molecules, requiring no fragmentation or post-sequencing assembly. Jointly with the sequencing method, we developed a computational pipeline that polishes these full-length transcript sequences into high-quality, non-redundant transcript consensus sequences. Iso-Seq sequencing enables unambiguous identification of alternative splicing events, alternative transcriptional start and polyA sites, and transcripts from gene fusion events. Knowledge of the complete set of isoforms from a sample of interest is key for accurate quantification of isoform abundance when using any technology for transcriptome studies (3). Here we characterize the full-length transcriptome of paired tumor/normal samples from breast cancer using deep Iso-Seq sequencing. We highlight numerous discoveries of novel alternatively spliced isoforms, gene-fusion events, and previously unannotated genes that will improve our understanding of human cancer. (1) Faustino NA and Cooper TA. Genes and Development. 2003. 17: 419-437(2) Steijger T, et al. Nat Methods. 2013 Dec;10(12):1177-84.(3) Au KF, et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Dec 10;110(50):E4821-30.


June 1, 2021  |  

Epigenome characterization of human genomes using the PacBio platform

In addition to the genome and transcriptome, epigenetic information is essential to understand biological processes and their regulation, and their misregulation underlying disease. Traditionally, epigenetic DNA modifications are detected using upfront sample preparation steps such as bisulfite conversion, followed by sequencing. Bisulfite sequencing has provided a wealth of knowledge about human epigenetics, however it does not access the entire genome due to limitations in read length and GC- bias of the sequencing technologies used. In contrast, Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) DNA Sequencing is unique in that it can detect DNA base modifications as part of the sequencing process. It can thereby leverage the long read lengths and lack of GC bias for more comprehensive views of the human epigenome. I will highlight several examples of this capability towards the generation of new biological insights, including the resolution of methylation states in repetitive and GC-rich regions of the genome, and large-scale changes in the methylation status across a cancer genome as a function of drug sensitivity.


June 1, 2021  |  

Profiling metagenomic communities using circular consensus and Single Molecule, Real-Time Sequencing

There are many sequencing-based approaches to understanding complex metagenomic communities, spanning targeted amplification to whole-sample shotgun sequencing. While targeted approaches provide valuable data at low sequencing depth, they are limited by primer design and PCR amplification. Whole-sample shotgun experiments require a high depth of coverage. As such, rare community members may not be represented in the resulting assembly. Circular-consensus, Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing reads in the 1-2 kb range, with >99% consensus accuracy, can be efficiently generated for low amounts of input DNA, e.g. as little as 10 ng of input DNA sequenced in 4 SMRT Cells can generate >100,000 such reads. While throughput is low compared to second-generation sequencing, the reads are a true random sampling of the underlying community. Long read lengths translate to a high number of the reads harboring full genes or even full operons for downstream analysis. Here we present the results of circular-consensus sequencing on a mock metagenomic community with an abundance range of multiple orders of magnitude, and compare the results with both 16S and shotgun assembly methods. We show that even with relatively low sequencing depth, the long-read, assembly-free, random sampling allows to elucidate meaningful information from the very low-abundance community members. For example, given the above low-input sequencing approach, a community member at 1/1,000 relative abundance would generate 100 1-2 kb sequence fragments having 99% consensus accuracy, with a high probability of containing a gene fragment useful for taxonomic classification or functional insight.


June 1, 2021  |  

SMRT Sequencing of the alala genome

Single Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing was used to generate long reads for whole genome shotgun sequencing of the genome of the`alala (Hawaiian crow). The ‘alala is endemic to Hawaii, and the only surviving lineage of the crow family, Corvidae, in the Hawaiian Islands. The population declined to less than 20 individuals in the 1990s, and today this charismatic species is extinct in the wild. Currently existing in only two captive breeding facilities, reintroduction of the ‘alala is scheduled to begin in the Fall of 2016. Reintroduction efforts will be assisted by information from the ‘alala genome generated and assembled by SMRT Technology, which will allow detailed analysis of genes associated with immunity, behavior, and learning. Using SMRT Sequencing, we present here best practices for achieving long reads for whole genome shotgun sequencing for complex plant and animal genomes such as the ‘alala genome. With recent advances in SMRTbell library preparation, P6-C4 chemistry and 6-hour movies, the number of useable bases now exceeds 1 Gb per SMRT Cell. Read lengths averaging 10 – 15 kb can be routinely achieved, with the longest reads approaching 70 kb. Furthermore, > 25% of useable bases are in reads greater than 30 kb, advantageous for generating contiguous draft assemblies of contig N50 up to 5 Mb. De novo assemblies of large genomes are now more tractable using SMRT Sequencing as the standalone technology. We also present guidelines for planning out projects for the de novo assembly of large genomes.


June 1, 2021  |  

Cogent: Reconstructing the coding genome from full-length transcriptome sequences

For highly complex and large genomes, a well-annotated genome may be computationally challenging and costly, yet the study of alternative splicing events and gene annotations usually rely on the existence of a genome. Long-read sequencing technology provides new opportunities to sequence full-length cDNAs, avoiding computational challenges that short read transcript assembly brings. The use of single molecule, real-time sequencing from Pacific Biosciences to sequence transcriptomes (the Iso-SeqTM method), which produces de novo, high-quality, full-length transcripts, has revealed an astonishing amount of alternative splicing in eukaryotic species. With the Iso-Seq method, it is now possible to reconstruct the transcribed regions of the genome using just the transcripts themselves. We present Cogent, a tool for finding gene families and reconstructing the coding genome in the absence of a reference genome. Cogent uses k-mer similarities to first partition the transcripts into different gene families. Then, for each gene family, the transcripts are used to build a splice graph. Cogent identifies bubbles resulting from sequencing errors, minor variants, and exon skipping events, and attempts to resolve each splice graph down to the minimal set of reconstructed contigs. We apply Cogent to a Cuttlefish Iso-Seq dataset, for which there is a highly fragmented, Illumina-based draft genome assembly and little annotation. We show that Cogent successfully discovers gene families and can reconstruct the coding region of gene loci. The reconstructed contigs can then be used to visualize alternative splicing events, identify minor variants, and even be used to improve genome assemblies.


June 1, 2021  |  

Full-length cDNA sequencing for genome annotation and analysis of alternative splicing

In higher eukaryotic organisms, the majority of multi-exon genes are alternatively spliced. Different mRNA isoforms from the same gene can produce proteins that have distinct properties and functions. Thus, the importance of understanding the full complement of transcript isoforms with potential phenotypic impact cannot be understated. While microarrays and other NGS-based methods have become useful for studying transcriptomes, these technologies yield short, fragmented transcripts that remain a challenge for accurate, complete reconstruction of splice variants. The Iso-Seq protocol developed at PacBio offers the only solution for direct sequencing of full-length, single-molecule cDNA sequences to survey transcriptome isoform diversity useful for gene discovery and annotation. Knowledge of the complete isoform repertoire is also key for accurate quantification of isoform abundance. As most transcripts range from 1 – 10 kb, fully intact RNA molecules can be sequenced using SMRT Sequencing without requiring fragmentation or post-sequencing assembly. Our open-source computational pipeline delivers high-quality, non-redundant sequences for unambiguous identification of alternative splicing events, alternative transcriptional start sites, polyA tail, and gene fusion events. We applied the Iso-Seq method to the maize (Zea mays) inbred line B73. Full-length cDNAs from six diverse tissues were barcoded and sequenced across multiple size-fractionated SMRTbell libraries. A total of 111,151 unique transcripts were identified. More than half of these transcripts (57%) represented novel, sometimes tissue-specific, isoforms of known genes. In addition to the 2250 novel coding genes and 860 lncRNAs discovered, the Iso-Seq dataset corrected errors in existing gene models, highlighting the value of full-length transcripts for whole gene annotations.


June 1, 2021  |  

Targeted sequencing of genes from soybean using NimbleGen SeqCap EZ and PacBio SMRT Sequencing

Full-length gene capture solutions offer opportunities to screen and characterize structural variations and genetic diversity to understand key traits in plants and animals. Through a combined Roche NimbleGen probe capture and SMRT Sequencing strategy, we demonstrate the capability to resolve complex gene structures often observed in plant defense and developmental genes spanning multiple kilobases. The custom panel includes members of the WRKY plant-defense-signaling family, members of the NB-LRR disease-resistance family, and developmental genes important for flowering. The presence of repetitive structures and low-complexity regions makes short-read sequencing of these genes difficult, yet this approach allows researchers to obtain complete sequences for unambiguous resolution of gene models. This strategy has been applied to genomic DNA samples from soybean coupled with barcoding for multiplexing.


June 1, 2021  |  

Long-read assembly of the Aedes aegypti Aag2 cell line genome resolves ancient endogenous viral elements

Transmission of arboviruses such as Dengue Virus by Aedes aegypti causes debilitating disease across the globe. Disease in humans can include severe acute symptoms such as hemorrhagic fever and organ failure, but mosquitoes tolerate high titers of virus in a persistent infection. The mechanisms responsible for this viral tolerance are unclear. Recent publications highlighted the integration of genetic material from non-retroviral RNA viruses into the genome of the host during infection that relies upon endogenous retro-transcriptase activity from transposons. These endogenous viral elements (EVEs) found in the genome are predicted to be ancient, and at least some EVEs are under purifying selection, suggesting they are beneficial to the host. To characterize EVE biogenesis in a tractable system, we sequenced the Ae. aegypti cell line, Aag2, to 58-fold coverage and present a de novo assembly of the genome. The assembly contains 1.7 Gb of genomic and 255 Mb of alternative haplotype specific sequence, consisting of contigs with a N50 of 1.4 Mb; a value that, when compared with other assemblies of the Aedes genus, is from 1-3 orders of magnitude longer. The Aag2 genome is highly repetitive (70%), most of which is classified as transposable elements (60%). We identify EVEs in the genome homologous to a range of extant viruses, many of which cluster in these regions of repetitive DNA. The contiguous assembly allows for more comprehensive identification of the transposable elements and EVEs that are most likely to be lost in assemblies lacking the read length of SMRT Sequencing.


June 1, 2021  |  

A comprehensive study of the sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana) transcriptome implemented through diverse next-generation sequencing approaches

The assembly, annotation, and characterization of the sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana Dougl.) transcriptome represents an opportunity to study the genetic mechanisms underlying resistance to the invasive white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola) as well as responses to other abiotic stresses. The assembled transcripts also provide a resource to improve the genome assembly. We selected a diverse set of tissues allowing the first comprehensive evaluation of the sugar pine gene space. We have combined short read sequencing technologies (Illumina MiSeq and HiSeq) with the relatively new Pacific Biosciences Iso-Seq approach. From the 2.5 billion and 1.6 million Illumina and PacBio (46 SMRT cells) reads, 33,720 unigenes were de novo assembled. Comparison of sequencing technologies revealed improved coverage with Illumina HiSeq reads and better splice variant detection with PacBio Iso-Seq reads. The genes identified as unique to each library ranges from 199 transcripts (basket seedling) to 3,482 transcripts (female cones). In total, 10,026 transcripts were shared by all libraries. Genes differentially expressed in response to these provided insight on abiotic and biotic stress responses. To analyze orthologous sequences, we compared the translated sequences against 19 plant species, identifying 7,229 transcripts that clustered uniquely among the conifers. We have generated here a high quality transcriptome from one WPBR susceptible and one WPBR resistant sugar pine individual. Through the comprehensive tissue sampling and the depth of the sequencing achieved, detailed information on disease resistance can be further examined.


June 1, 2021  |  

Un-zipping diploid genomes – revealing all kinds of heterozygous variants from comprehensive hapltotig assemblies

Outside of the simplest cases (haploid, bacteria, or inbreds), genomic information is not carried in a single reference per individual, but rather has higher ploidy (n=>2) for almost all organisms. The existence of two or more highly related sequences within an individual makes it extremely difficult to build high quality, highly contiguous genome assemblies from short DNA fragments. Based on the earlier work on a polyploidy aware assembler, FALCON (https://github.com/PacificBiosciences/FALCON), we developed new algorithms and software (FALCON-unzip) for de novo haplotype reconstructions from SMRT Sequencing data. We apply the algorithms and the prototype software for (1) a highly repetitive diploid fungal genome (Clavicorona pyxidata) and (2) an F1 hybrid from two inbred Arabidopsis strains: CVI-0 and COL-0. For the fungal genome, we achieved an N50 of 1.53 Mb (of the 1n assembly contigs) of the ~42 Mb 1n genome and an N50 of the haplotigs of 872 kb from a 95X read length N50 ~16 kb dataset. We found that ~ 45% of the genome was highly heterozygous and ~55% of the genome was highly homozygous. We developed methods to assess the base-level accuracy and local haplotype phasing accuracy of the assembly with short-read data from the Illumina platform. For the Arabidopsis F1 hybrid genome, we found that 80% of the genome could be separated into haplotigs. The long range accuracy of phasing haplotigs was evaluated by comparing them to the assemblies from the two inbred parental lines. We show that a more complete view of all haplotypes could provide useful biological insights through improved annotation, characterization of heterozygous variants of all sizes, and resolution of differential allele expression. Finally, we applied this method to WGS human data sets to demonstrate the potential for resolving complicated, medically-relevant genomic regions.


June 1, 2021  |  

Profiling the microbiome in fecal microbiota transplantation using circular consensus and Single Molecule, Real-Time Sequencing

There are many sequencing-based approaches to understanding complex metagenomic communities spanning targeted amplification to whole-sample shotgun sequencing. While targeted approaches provide valuable data at low sequencing depth, they are limited by primer design and PCR. Whole-sample shotgun experiments generally use short-read sequencing, which results in data processing difficulties. For example, reads less than 500bp in length will rarely cover a complete gene or region of interest, and will require assembly. This not only introduces the possibility of incorrectly combining sequence from different community members, it requires a high depth of coverage. As such, rare community members may not be represented in the resulting assembly. Circular-consensus, single molecule, real-time (SMRT®) Sequencing reads in the 1-3kb range, with >99% accuracy can be efficiently generated for low amounts of input DNA. 10 ng of input DNA sequenced in 4 SMRT Cells on the PacBio RS II would generate >100,000 such reads. While throughput is lower compared to short-read sequencing methods, the reads are a true random sampling of the underlying community since SMRT Sequencing has been shown to have very low sequence-context bias. With reads >1 kb at >99% accuracy it is reasonable to expect a high percentage of reads include gene fragments useful for analysis without the need for de novo assembly. Here we present the results of circular consensus sequencing for an individual’s microbiome, before and after undergoing fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) in order to treat a chronic Clostridium difficile infection. We show that even with relatively low sequencing depth, the long-read, assembly-free, random sampling allows us to profile low abundance community members at the species level. We also show that using shotgun sampling with long reads allows a level of functional insight not possible with classic targeted 16S, or short read sequencing, due to entire genes being covered in single reads.


June 1, 2021  |  

Low-input long-read sequencing for complete microbial genomes and metagenomic community analysis

Microbial genome sequencing can be done quickly, easily, and efficiently with the PacBio sequencing instruments, resulting in complete de novo assemblies. Alternative protocols have been developed to reduce the amount of purified DNA required for SMRT Sequencing, to broaden applicability to lower-abundance samples. If 50-100 ng of microbial DNA is available, a 10-20 kb SMRTbell library can be made. The resulting library can be loaded onto multiple SMRT Cells, yielding more than enough data for complete assembly of microbial genomes using the SMRT Portal assembly program HGAP, plus base modification analysis. The entire process can be done in less than 3 days by standard laboratory personnel. This approach is particularly important for analysis of metagenomic communities, in which genomic DNA is often limited. From these samples, full-length 16S amplicons can be generated, prepped with the standard SMRTbell library prep protocol, and sequenced. Alternatively, a 2 kb sheared library, made from a few ng of input DNA, can also be used to elucidate the microbial composition of a community, and may provide information about biochemical pathways present in the sample. In both these cases, 1-2 kb reads with >99.9% accuracy can be obtained from Circular Consensus Sequencing.


June 1, 2021  |  

Minimization of chimera formation and substitution errors in full-length 16S PCR amplification

The constituents and intra-communal interactions of microbial populations have garnered increasing interest in areas such as water remediation, agriculture and human health. One popular, efficient method of profiling communities is to amplify and sequence the evolutionarily conserved 16S rRNA sequence. Currently, most targeted amplification focuses on short, hypervariable regions of the 16S sequence. Distinguishing information not spanned by the targeted region is lost and species-level classification is often not possible. SMRT Sequencing easily spans the entire 1.5 kb 16S gene, and in combination with highly-accurate single-molecule sequences, can improve the identification of individual species in a metapopulation. However, when amplifying a mixture of sequences with close similarities, the products may contain chimeras, or recombinant molecules, at rates as high as 20-30%. These PCR artifacts make it difficult to identify novel species, and reduce the amount of productive sequences. We investigated multiple factors that have been hypothesized to contribute to chimera formation, such as template damage, denaturing time before and during cycling, polymerase extension time, and reaction volume. Of the factors tested, we found two major related contributors to chimera formation: the amount of input template into the PCR reaction and the number of PCR cycles. Sequence errors generated during amplification and sequencing can also confound the analysis of complex populations. Circular Consensus Sequencing (CCS) can generate single-molecule reads with >99% accuracy, and the SMRT Analysis software provides filtering of these reads to >99.99% accuracies. Remaining substitution errors in these highly-filtered reads are likely dominated by mis-incorporations during amplification. Therefore, we compared the impact of several commercially-available high-fidelity PCR kits with full-length 16S amplification. We show results of our experiments and describe an optimized protocol for full-length 16S amplification for SMRT Sequencing. These optimizations have broader implications for other applications that use PCR amplification to phase variations across targeted regions and to generate highly accurate reference sequences.


June 1, 2021  |  

SMRT Sequencing for the detection of low-frequency somatic variants

The sensitivity, speed, and reduced cost associated with Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies have made them indispensable for the molecular profiling of cancer samples. For effective use, it is critical that the NGS methods used are not only robust but can also accurately detect low frequency somatic mutations. Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing offers several advantages, including the ability to sequence single molecules with very high accuracy (>QV40) using the circular consensus sequencing (CCS) approach. The availability of genetically defined, human genomic reference standards provides an industry standard for the development and quality control of molecular assays. Here we characterize SMRT Sequencing for the detection of low-frequency somatic variants using the Quantitative Multiplex DNA Reference Standard from Horizon Diagnostics, combined with amplification of the variants using the Multiplicom Tumor Hotspot MASTR Plus assay. The Horizon Diagnostics reference sample contains precise allelic frequencies from 1% to 24.5% for major oncology targets verified using digital PCR. It recapitulates the complexity of tumor composition and serves as a well-characterized control. The control sample was amplified using the Multiplicom Tumor Hotspot Master Plus assay that targets 252 amplicons (121-254 bp) from 26 relevant cancer genes, which includes all 11 variants in the control sample. The amplicons were sequenced and analyzed using SMRT Sequencing to identify the variants and determine the observed frequency. The random error profile and high accuracy CCS reads make it possible to accurately detect low frequency somatic variants.


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