June 1, 2021  |  

An interactive workflow for the analysis of contigs from the metagenomic shotgun assembly of SMRT Sequencing data.

The data throughput of next-generation sequencing allows whole microbial communities to be analyzed using a shotgun sequencing approach. Because a key task in taking advantage of these data is the ability to cluster reads that belong to the same member in a community, single-molecule long reads of up to 30 kb from SMRT Sequencing provide a unique capability in identifying those relationships and pave the way towards finished assemblies of community members. Long reads become even more valuable as samples get more complex with lower intra-species variation, a larger number of closely related species, or high intra-species variation. Here we present a collection of tools tailored for PacBio data for the analysis of these fragmented metagenomic assembles, allowing improvements in the assembly results, and greater insight into the communities themselves. Supervised classification is applied to a large set of sequence characteristics, e.g., GC content, raw-read coverage, k-mer frequency, and gene prediction information, allowing the clustering of contigs from single or highly related species. A unique feature of SMRT Sequencing data is the availability of base modification / methylation information, which can be used to further analyze clustered contigs expected to be comprised of single or very closely related species. Here we show base modification information can be used to further study variation, based on differences in the methylated DNA motifs involved in the restriction modification system. Application of these techniques is demonstrated on a monkey intestinal microbiome sample and an in silico mix of real sequencing data from distinct bacterial samples.


June 1, 2021  |  

A workflow for the analysis of contigs from the metagenomic shotgun assembly of SMRT Sequencing data

The throughput of SMRT Sequencing and long reads allows microbial communities to be analyzed using a shotgun sequencing approach. Key to leveraging this data is the ability to cluster sequences belonging to the same member of a community. Long reads of up to 40 kb provide a unique capability in identifying those relationships, and pave the way towards finished assemblies of community members. Long reads are highly valuable when samples are more complex and containing lower intra-species variation, such as a larger number of closely related species, or high intra-species variation. Here, we present a collection of tools tailored for the analysis of PacBio metagenomic assemblies. These tools allow for improvements in the assembly results, and greater insight into the complexity of the study communities. Supervised classification is applied to a large set of sequence characteristics (e.g. GC content, raw read coverage, k-mer frequency, and gene prediction information) and to cluster contigs from single or highly related species. Assembly in isolation of the raw data associated with these contigs is shown to improve assembly statistics. A unique feature of SMRT Sequencing is the availability to leverage simultaneously collected base modification / methylation data to aid the clustering of contigs expected to comprise a single or very closely related species. We demonstrate the added value of base modification information to distinguish and study variation within metagenomic samples based on differences in the methylated DNA motifs involved in the restriction modification system. Application of these techniques is demonstrated on a mock community and monkey intestinal microbiome sample.


June 1, 2021  |  

Workflow for processing high-throughput, Single Molecule, Real-Time Sequencing data for analyzing the microbiome of patients undergoing fecal microbiota transplantation

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 500 bp 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 1-3 kb range, with >99% accuracy can be generated using the previous generation PacBio RS II or, in much higher throughput, using the new Sequel System. 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 single-molecule reads >1 kb at >99% consensus accuracy, it is reasonable to expect a high percentage of reads to include genes or 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  |  

WGS SMRT Sequencing of patient samples from a fecal microbiota transplant trial

Fecal samples were obtained from human subjects in the first blinded, placebo-controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy and safety of fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) for treatment of recurrent C. difficile infection. Samples included pre-and post-FMT transplant, post-placebo transplant, and the donor control; samples were taken at 2 and 8 week post-FMT. Sequencing was done on the PacBio Sequel System, with the goal of obtaining high quality sequences covering whole genes or gene clusters, which will be used to better understand the relationship between the composition and functional capabilities of intestinal microbiomes and patient health. Methods: Samples were randomly sheared to 2-3 kb fragments, a sufficient length to cover most genes, and SMRTbell libraries were prepared using standard protocols. Libraries were run on the Sequel System, which has a throughput of hundreds of thousands of reads per SMRT Cell, adequate yield to sample the complex microbiomes of post-transplant and donor samples.Results: Here we characterize samples, describe library prep methods and detail Sequel System operation, including run conditions. Descriptive statistics of data output (primary analysis) are presented, along with SMRT Analysis reports on circular consensus sequence (CCS) reads generated using an updated algorithm (CCS2). Final sequencing yields are filtered at various levels of predicted accuracy from 90% to 99.9%. Previous studies done using the PacBio RS II System demonstrated the ability to profile at the species level, and in some cases the strain level, and provided functional insight. Conclusions: These results demonstrate that the Sequel System is well-suited for characterization of complex microbial communities, with the ability for high-throughput generation of extremely accurate single-molecule sequences, each several kilobases in length. The entire process from shearing and library prep through sequencing and CCS analysis can be completed in less than 48 hours.


June 1, 2021  |  

Using the PacBio Sequel System to taxonomically and functionally classify metagenomic samples in a trial of patients undergoing fecal microbiota transplantation

Whole-sample shotgun sequencing can provide a more detailed view of a metagenomic community than 16S sequencing, but its use in multi-sample experiments is limited by throughput, cost and analysis complexity. While short-read sequencing technologies offer higher throughput, read lengthss less fewer than 500 bp will rarely cover a gene of interest, and necessitate assembly before further analysis. Assembling large fragments requires sampling each community member at a high depth, significantly increasing the amount of sequencing needed, and limiting the analysis of rare community members. Assembly methods also risk It is also possible to incorrectly combine combining sequences from different community members.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genomic analysis of three Clostridioides difficile isolates from urban water sources.

We investigated inflow of a wastewater treatment plant and sediment of an urban lake for the presence of Clostridioides difficile by cultivation and PCR. Among seven colonies we sequenced the complete genomes of three: two non-toxigenic isolates from wastewater and one toxigenic isolate from the urban lake. For all obtained isolates, a close genomic relationship with human-derived isolates was observed.Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


April 21, 2020  |  

Characterization of a clinical Clostridioides difficile isolate with markedly reduced fidaxomicin susceptibility and a V1143D mutation in rpoB.

The identification and characterization of clinical Clostridioides difficile isolates with reduced fidaxomicin susceptibility.Agar dilution assays were used to determine fidaxomicin MICs. Genome sequence data were obtained by single-molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing in addition to amplicon sequencing of rpoB and rpoC alleles. Allelic exchange was used to introduce the identified mutation into C. difficile 630?erm. Replication rates, toxin A/B production and spore formation were determined from the strain with reduced fidaxomicin susceptibility.Out of 50 clinical C. difficile isolates, isolate Goe-91 revealed markedly reduced fidaxomicin susceptibility (MIC >64?mg/L). A V1143D mutation was identified in rpoB of Goe-91. When introduced into C. difficile 630?erm, this mutation decreased fidaxomicin susceptibility (MIC >64?mg/L), but was also associated with a reduced replication rate, low toxin A/B production and markedly reduced spore formation. In contrast, Goe-91, although also reduced in toxin production, showed normal growth rates and only moderately reduced spore formation capacities. This indicates that the rpoBV1143D allele-associated fitness defect is less pronounced in the clinical isolate.To the best of our knowledge, this is the first description of a pathogenic clinical C. difficile isolate with markedly reduced fidaxomicin susceptibility. The lower-than-expected fitness burden of the resistance-mediating rpoBV1143D allele might be an indication for compensatory mechanisms that take place during in vivo selection of mutants.


April 21, 2020  |  

Development of a metabolic pathway transfer and genomic integration system for the syngas-fermenting bacterium Clostridium ljungdahlii.

Clostridium spp. can synthesize valuable chemicals and fuels by utilizing diverse waste-stream substrates, including starchy biomass, lignocellulose, and industrial waste gases. However, metabolic engineering in Clostridium spp. is challenging due to the low efficiency of gene transfer and genomic integration of entire biosynthetic pathways.We have developed a reliable gene transfer and genomic integration system for the syngas-fermenting bacterium Clostridium ljungdahlii based on the conjugal transfer of donor plasmids containing large transgene cassettes (>?5 kb) followed by the inducible activation of Himar1 transposase to promote integration. We established a conjugation protocol for the efficient generation of transconjugants using the Gram-positive origins of replication repL and repH. We also investigated the impact of DNA methylation on conjugation efficiency by testing donor constructs with all possible combinations of Dam and Dcm methylation patterns, and used bisulfite conversion and PacBio sequencing to determine the DNA methylation profile of the C. ljungdahlii genome, resulting in the detection of four sequence motifs with N6-methyladenosine. As proof of concept, we demonstrated the transfer and genomic integration of a heterologous acetone biosynthesis pathway using a Himar1 transposase system regulated by a xylose-inducible promoter. The functionality of the integrated pathway was confirmed by detecting enzyme proteotypic peptides and the formation of acetone and isopropanol by C. ljungdahlii cultures utilizing syngas as a carbon and energy source.The developed multi-gene delivery system offers a versatile tool to integrate and stably express large biosynthetic pathways in the industrial promising syngas-fermenting microorganism C. ljungdahlii. The simple transfer and stable integration of large gene clusters (like entire biosynthetic pathways) is expanding the range of possible fermentation products of heterologously expressing recombinant strains. We also believe that the developed gene delivery system can be adapted to other clostridial strains as well.


September 22, 2019  |  

Identification of Burkholderia fungorum in the urine of an individual with spinal cord injury and augmentation cystoplasty using 16S sequencing: copathogen or innocent bystander?

People with neuropathic bladder (NB) secondary to spinal cord injury (SCI) are at risk for multiple genitourinary complications, the most frequent of which is urinary tract infection (UTI). Despite the high frequency with which UTI occurs, our understanding of the role of urinary microbes in health and disease is limited. In this paper, we present the first prospective case study integrating symptom reporting, urinalysis, urine cultivation, and 16S ribosomal ribonucleic acid (rRNA) sequencing of the urine microbiome.A 55-year-old male with NB secondary to SCI contributed 12 urine samples over an 8-month period during asymptomatic, symptomatic, and postantibiotic periods. All bacteria identified on culture were present on 16S rRNA sequencing, however, 16S rRNA sequencing revealed the presence of bacteria not isolated on culture. In particular, Burkholderia fungorum was present in three samples during both asymptomatic and symptomatic periods. White blood cells of =5-10/high power field and leukocyte esterase =2 on urinalysis was associated with the presence of symptoms.In this patient, there was a predominance of pathogenic bacteria and a lack of putative probiotic bacteria during both symptomatic and asymptomatic states. Urinalysis-defined inflammatory markers were present to a greater extent during symptomatic periods compared to the asymptomatic state, which may underscore a role for urinalysis or other inflammatory markers in differentiating asymptomatic bacteriuria from UTI in patients with NB. The finding of potentially pathogenic bacteria identified by sequencing but not cultivation, suggests a need for greater understanding of the relationships amongst bacterial species in the bacteriuric neuropathic bladder.


September 22, 2019  |  

Analysis of gut microbiota – An ever changing landscape.

In the last two decades, the field of metagenomics has greatly expanded due to improvement in sequencing technologies allowing for a more comprehensive characterization of microbial communities. The use of these technologies has led to an unprecedented understanding of human, animal, and environmental microbiomes and have shown that the gut microbiota are comparable to an organ that is intrinsically linked with a variety of diseases. Characterization of microbial communities using next-generation sequencing-by-synthesis approaches have revealed important shifts in microbiota associated with debilitating diseases such as Clostridium difficile infection. But due to limitations in sequence read length, primer biases, and the quality of databases, genus- and species-level classification have been difficult. Third-generation technologies, such as Pacific Biosciences’ single molecule, real-time (SMRT) approach, allow for unbiased, more specific identification of species that are likely clinically relevant. Comparison of Illumina next-generation characterization and SMRT sequencing of samples from patients treated for C. difficile infection revealed similarities in community composition at the phylum and family levels, but SMRT sequencing further allowed for species-level characterization – permitting a better understanding of the microbial ecology of this disease. Thus, as sequencing technologies continue to advance, new species-level insights can be gained in the study of complex and clinically-relevant microbial communities.


September 22, 2019  |  

Long-term microbiota and virome in a Zürich patient after fecal transplantation against Clostridium difficile infection.

Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is an emerging therapeutic option for Clostridium difficile infections that are refractory to conventional treatment. FMT introduces fecal microbes into the patient’s intestine that prevent the recurrence of C. difficile, leading to rapid expansion of bacteria characteristic of healthy microbiota. However, the long-term effects of FMT remain largely unknown. The C. difficile patient described in this paper revealed protracted microbiota adaptation processes from 6 to 42 months post-FMT. Ultimately, bacterial communities were donor similar, suggesting sustainable stool engraftment. Since little is known about the consequences of transmitted viruses during C. difficile infection, we also interrogated virome changes. Our approach allowed identification of about 10 phage types per sample that represented larger viral communities, and phages were found to be equally abundant in the cured patient and donor. The healthy microbiota appears to be characterized by low phage abundance. Although viruses were likely transferred, the patient established a virome distinct from the donor. Surprisingly, the patient had sequences of algal giant viruses (chloroviruses) that have not previously been reported for the human gut. Chloroviruses have not been associated with intestinal disease, but their presence in the oropharynx may influence cognitive abilities. The findings suggest that the virome is an important indicator of health or disease. A better understanding of the role of viruses in the gut ecosystem may uncover novel microbiota-modulating therapeutic strategies.© 2016 New York Academy of Sciences.


September 22, 2019  |  

Long-term changes of bacterial and viral compositions in the intestine of a recovered Clostridium difficile patient after fecal microbiota transplantation

Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is an effective treatment for recurrent Clostridium difficile infections (RCDIs). However, long-term effects on the patients’ gut microbiota and the role of viruses remain to be elucidated. Here, we characterized bacterial and viral microbiota in the feces of a cured RCDI patient at various time points until 4.5 yr post-FMT compared with the stool donor. Feces were subjected to DNA sequencing to characterize bacteria and double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) viruses including phages. The patient’s microbial communities varied over time and showed little overall similarity to the donor until 7 mo post-FMT, indicating ongoing gut microbiota adaption in this time period. After 4.5 yr, the patient’s bacteria attained donor-like compositions at phylum, class, and order levels with similar bacterial diversity. Differences in the bacterial communities between donor and patient after 4.5 yr were seen at lower taxonomic levels. C. difficile remained undetectable throughout the entire timespan. This demonstrated sustainable donor feces engraftment and verified long-term therapeutic success of FMT on the molecular level. Full engraftment apparently required longer than previously acknowledged, suggesting the implementation of year-long patient follow-up periods into clinical practice. The identified dsDNA viruses were mainly Caudovirales phages. Unexpectedly, sequences related to giant algae–infecting Chlorella viruses were also detected. Our findings indicate that intestinal viruses may be implicated in the establishment of gut microbiota. Therefore, virome analyses should be included in gut microbiota studies to determine the roles of phages and other viruses—such as Chlorella viruses—in human health and disease, particularly during RCDI.


September 22, 2019  |  

Comparative genome and phenotypic analysis of three Clostridioides difficile strains isolated from a single patient provide insight into multiple infection of C. difficile.

Clostridioides difficile infections (CDI) have emerged over the past decade causing symptoms that range from mild, antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) to life-threatening toxic megacolon. In this study, we describe a multiple and isochronal (mixed) CDI caused by the isolates DSM 27638, DSM 27639 and DSM 27640 that already initially showed different morphotypes on solid media.The three isolates belonging to the ribotypes (RT) 012 (DSM 27639) and 027 (DSM 27638 and DSM 27640) were phenotypically characterized and high quality closed genome sequences were generated. The genomes were compared with seven reference strains including three strains of the RT 027, two of the RT 017, and one of the RT 078 as well as a multi-resistant RT 012 strain. The analysis of horizontal gene transfer events revealed gene acquisition incidents that sort the strains within the time line of the spread of their RTs within Germany. We could show as well that horizontal gene transfer between the members of different RTs occurred within this multiple infection. In addition, acquisition and exchange of virulence-related features including antibiotic resistance genes were observed. Analysis of the two genomes assigned to RT 027 revealed three single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and apparently a regional genome modification within the flagellar switch that regulates the fli operon.Our findings show that (i) evolutionary events based on horizontal gene transfer occur within an ongoing CDI and contribute to the adaptation of the species by the introduction of new genes into the genomes, (ii) within a multiple infection of a single patient the exchange of genetic material was responsible for a much higher genome variation than the observed SNPs.


September 22, 2019  |  

The novel phages phiCD5763 and phiCD2955 represent two groups of big plasmidial Siphoviridae phages of Clostridium difficile.

Until recently, Clostridium difficile phages were limited to Myoviruses and Siphoviruses of medium genome length (32–57 kb). Here we report the finding of phiCD5763, a Siphovirus with a large extrachromosomal circular genome (132.5 kb, 172 ORFs) and a large capsid (205.6 ± 25.6 nm in diameter) infecting MLST Clade 1 strains of C. difficile. Two subgroups of big phage genomes similar to phiCD5763 were identified in 32 NAPCR1/RT012/ST-54 C. difficile isolates from Costa Rica and in whole genome sequences (WGS) of 41 C. difficile isolates of Clades 1, 2, 3, and 4 from Canada, USA, UK, Belgium, Iraq, and China. Through comparative genomics we discovered another putative big phage genome in a non-NAPCR1 isolate from Costa Rica, phiCD2955, which represents other big phage genomes found in 130 WGS of MLST Clade 1 and 2 isolates from Canada, USA, Hungary, France, Austria, and UK. phiCD2955 (131.6 kb, 172 ORFs) is related to a previously reported C. difficile phage genome, phiCD211/phiCDIF1296T. Detailed genome analyses of phiCD5763, phiCD2955, phiCD211/phiCDIF1296T, and seven other putative C. difficile big phage genome sequences of 131–136 kb reconstructed from publicly available WGS revealed a modular gene organization and high levels of sequence heterogeneity at several hotspots, suggesting that these genomes correspond to biological entities undergoing recombination. Compared to other C. difficile phages, these big phages have unique predicted terminase, capsid, portal, neck and tail proteins, receptor binding proteins (RBPs), recombinases, resolvases, primases, helicases, ligases, and hypothetical proteins. Moreover, their predicted gene load suggests a complex regulation of both phage and host functions. Overall, our results indicate that the prevalence of C. difficile big bacteriophages is more widespread than realized and open new avenues of research aiming to decipher how these viral elements influence the biology of this emerging pathogen.


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