June 1, 2021  |  

Candidate gene screening using long-read sequencing

We have developed several candidate gene screening applications for both Neuromuscular and Neurological disorders. The power behind these applications comes from the use of long-read sequencing. It allows us to access previously unresolvable and even unsequencable genomic regions. SMRT Sequencing offers uniform coverage, a lack of sequence context bias, and very high accuracy. In addition, it is also possible to directly detect epigenetic signatures and characterize full-length gene transcripts through assembly-free isoform sequencing. In addition to calling the bases, SMRT Sequencing uses the kinetic information from each nucleotide to distinguish between modified and native bases.


June 1, 2021  |  

Multiplex target enrichment using barcoded multi-kilobase fragments and probe-based capture technologies

Target enrichment capture methods allow scientists to rapidly interrogate important genomic regions of interest for variant discovery, including SNPs, gene isoforms, and structural variation. Custom targeted sequencing panels are important for characterizing heterogeneous, complex diseases and uncovering the genetic basis of inherited traits with more uniform coverage when compared to PCR-based strategies. With the increasing availability of high-quality reference genomes, customized gene panels are readily designed with high specificity to capture genomic regions of interest, thus enabling scientists to expand their research scope from a single individual to larger cohort studies or population-wide investigations. Coupled with PacBio® long-read sequencing, these technologies can capture 5 kb fragments of genomic DNA (gDNA), which are useful for interrogating intronic, exonic, and regulatory regions, characterizing complex structural variations, distinguishing between gene duplications and pseudogenes, and interpreting variant haplotyes. In addition, SMRT® Sequencing offers the lowest GC-bias and can sequence through repetitive regions. We demonstrate the additional insights possible by using in-depth long read capture sequencing for key immunology, drug metabolizing, and disease causing genes such as HLA, filaggrin, and cancer associated genes.


June 1, 2021  |  

Screening for causative structural variants in neurological disorders using long-read sequencing

Over the past decades neurological disorders have been extensively studied producing a large number of candidate genomic regions and candidate genes. The SNPs identified in these studies rarely represent the true disease-related functional variants. However, more recently a shift in focus from SNPs to larger structural variants has yielded breakthroughs in our understanding of neurological disorders.Here we have developed candidate gene screening methods that combine enrichment of long DNA fragments with long-read sequencing that is optimized for structural variation discovery. We have also developed a novel, amplification-free enrichment technique using the CRISPR/Cas9 system to target genomic regions.We sequenced gDNA and full-length cDNA extracted from the temporal lobe for two Alzheimer’s patients for 35 GWAS candidate genes. The multi-kilobase long reads allowed for phasing across the genes and detection of a broad range of genomic variants including SNPs to multi-kilobase insertions, deletions and inversions. In the full-length cDNA data we detected differential allelic isoform complexity, novel exons as well as transcript isoforms. By combining the gDNA data with full-length isoform characterization allows to build a more comprehensive view of the underlying biological disease mechanisms in Alzheimer’s disease. Using the novel PCR-free CRISPR-Cas9 enrichment method we screened several genes including the hexanucleotide repeat expansion C9ORF72 that is associated with 40% of familiar ALS cases. This method excludes any PCR bias or errors from an otherwise hard to amplify region as well as preserves the basemodication in a single molecule fashion which allows you to capture mosaicism present in the sample.


June 1, 2021  |  

High-quality de novo genome assembly and intra-individual mitochondrial instability in the critically endangered kakapo

The kakapo (Strigops habroptila) is a large, flightless parrot endemic to New Zealand. It is highly endangered with only ~150 individuals remaining, and intensive conservation efforts are underway to save this iconic species from extinction. These include genetic studies to understand critical genes relevant to fertility, adaptation and disease resistance, and genetic diversity across the remaining population for future breeding program decisions. To aid with these efforts, we have generated a high-quality de novo genome assembly using PacBio long-read sequencing. Using the new diploid-aware FALCON-Unzip assembler, the resulting genome of 1.06 Gb has a contig N50 of 5.6 Mb (largest contig 29.3 Mb), >350-times more contiguous compared to a recent short-read assembly of a closely related parrot (kea) species. We highlight the benefits of the higher contiguity and greater completeness of the kakapo genome assembly through examples of fully resolved genes important in wildlife conservation (contrasted with fragmented and incomplete gene resolution in short-read assemblies), in some cases even providing sequence for regions orthologous to gaps of missing sequence in the chicken reference genome. We also highlight the complete resolution of the kakapo mitochondrial genome, fully containing the mitochondrial control region which is missing from the previous dedicated kakapomitochondrial genome NCBI entry. For this region, we observed a marked heterogeneity in the number of tandem repeats in different mtDNAmolecules from a single bird tissue, highlighting the enhanced molecular resolution uniquely afforded by long-read, single-molecule PacBio sequencing.


April 21, 2020  |  

Long-read sequencing for rare human genetic diseases.

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.


April 21, 2020  |  

The Chinese chestnut genome: a reference for species restoration

Forest tree species are increasingly subject to severe mortalities from exotic pests, diseases, and invasive organisms, accelerated by climate change. Forest health issues are threatening multiple species and ecosystem sustainability globally. While sources of resistance may be available in related species, or among surviving trees, introgression of resistance genes into threatened tree species in reasonable time frames requires genome-wide breeding tools. Asian species of chestnut (Castanea spp.) are being employed as donors of disease resistance genes to restore native chestnut species in North America and Europe. To aid in the restoration of threatened chestnut species, we present the assembly of a reference genome with chromosome-scale sequences for Chinese chestnut (C. mollissima), the disease-resistance donor for American chestnut restoration. We also demonstrate the value of the genome as a platform for research and species restoration, including new insights into the evolution of blight resistance in Asian chestnut species, the locations in the genome of ecologically important signatures of selection differentiating American chestnut from Chinese chestnut, the identification of candidate genes for disease resistance, and preliminary comparisons of genome organization with related species.


April 21, 2020  |  

Candidate Gene Selection for Cytoplasmic Male Sterility in Pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) through Whole Mitochondrial Genome Sequencing.

Cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS), which is controlled by mitochondrial genes, is an important trait for commercial hybrid seed production. So far, genes controlling this trait are still not clear in pepper. In this study, complete mitochondrial genomes were sequenced and assembled for the CMS line 138A and its maintainer line 138B. The genome size of 138A is 504,210 bp, which is 8618 bp shorter than that of 138B. Meanwhile, more than 214 and 215 open reading frames longer than 100 amino acids (aas) were identified in 138A and 138B, respectively. Mitochondrial genome structure of 138A was quite different from that of 138B, indicating the existence of recombination and rearrangement events. Based on the mitochondrial genome sequence and structure variations, mitochondrion of 138A and FS4401, a Korean origin CMS line, may have inherited from a common female ancestor, but their CMS traits did originate separately. Candidate gene selection was performed according to the published characteristics of the CMS genes, including the presence SNPs and InDels, located in unique regions, their chimeric structure, co-transcription, and transmembrane domain. A total of 35 ORFs were considered as potential candidate genes and 14 of these were selected, with orf300a and 0rf314a as strong candidates. A new marker, orf300a, was developed which did co-segregate with the CMS trait.


April 21, 2020  |  

An ADAMTS3 missense variant is associated with Norwich Terrier upper airway syndrome.

In flat-faced dog breeds, air resistance caused by skull conformation is believed to be a major determinant of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). The clinical presentation of BOAS is heterogeneous, suggesting determinants independent of skull conformation contribute to airway disease. Norwich Terriers, a mesocephalic breed, are predisposed to Upper Airway Syndrome (UAS), a disease whose pathological features overlap with BOAS. Our health screening clinic examined and scored the airways of 401 Norwich terriers by laryngoscopy. Genome-wide association analyses of UAS-related pathologies revealed a genetic association on canine chromosome 13 (rs9043975, p = 7.79×10-16). Whole genome resequencing was used to identify causal variant(s) within a 414 kb critical interval. This approach highlighted an error in the CanFam3.1 dog assembly, which when resolved, led to the discovery of a c.2786G>A missense variant in exon 20 of the positional candidate gene, ADAM metallopeptidase with thrombospondin type 1 motif 3 (ADAMTS3). In addition to segregating with UAS amongst Norwich Terriers, the ADAMTS3 c.2786G>A risk allele frequency was enriched among the BOAS-susceptible French and (English) Bulldogs. Previous studies indicate that ADAMTS3 loss of function results in lymphoedema. Our results suggest a new paradigm in the understanding of canine upper airway disease aetiology: airway oedema caused by disruption of ADAMTS3 predisposes dogs to respiratory obstruction. These findings will enhance breeding practices and could refine the prognostics of surgical interventions that are often used to treat airway obstruction.


April 21, 2020  |  

Intercellular communication is required for trap formation in the nematode-trapping fungus Duddingtonia flagrans.

Nematode-trapping fungi (NTF) are a large and diverse group of fungi, which may switch from a saprotrophic to a predatory lifestyle if nematodes are present. Different fungi have developed different trapping devices, ranging from adhesive cells to constricting rings. After trapping, fungal hyphae penetrate the worm, secrete lytic enzymes and form a hyphal network inside the body. We sequenced the genome of Duddingtonia flagrans, a biotechnologically important NTF used to control nematode populations in fields. The 36.64 Mb genome encodes 9,927 putative proteins, among which are more than 638 predicted secreted proteins. Most secreted proteins are lytic enzymes, but more than 200 were classified as small secreted proteins (< 300 amino acids). 117 putative effector proteins were predicted, suggesting interkingdom communication during the colonization. As a first step to analyze the function of such proteins or other phenomena at the molecular level, we developed a transformation system, established the fluorescent proteins GFP and mCherry, adapted an assay to monitor protein secretion, and established gene-deletion protocols using homologous recombination or CRISPR/Cas9. One putative virulence effector protein, PefB, was transcriptionally induced during the interaction. We show that the mature protein is able to be imported into nuclei in Caenorhabditis elegans cells. In addition, we studied trap formation and show that cell-to-cell communication is required for ring closure. The availability of the genome sequence and the establishment of many molecular tools will open new avenues to studying this biotechnologically relevant nematode-trapping fungus.


April 21, 2020  |  

Parallels between natural selection in the cold-adapted crop-wild relative Tripsacum dactyloides and artificial selection in temperate adapted maize.

Artificial selection has produced varieties of domesticated maize that thrive in temperate climates around the world. However, the direct progenitor of maize, teosinte, is indigenous only to a relatively small range of tropical and subtropical latitudes and grows poorly or not at all outside of this region. Tripsacum, a sister genus to maize and teosinte, is naturally endemic to the majority of areas in the western hemisphere where maize is cultivated. A full-length reference transcriptome for Tripsacum dactyloides generated using long-read Iso-Seq data was used to characterize independent adaptation to temperate climates in this clade. Genes related to phospholipid biosynthesis, a critical component of cold acclimation in other cold-adapted plant lineages, were enriched among those genes experiencing more rapid rates of protein sequence evolution in T. dactyloides. In contrast with previous studies of parallel selection, we find that there is a significant overlap between the genes that were targets of artificial selection during the adaptation of maize to temperate climates and those that were targets of natural selection in temperate-adapted T. dactyloides. Genes related to growth, development, response to stimulus, signaling, and organelles were enriched in the set of genes identified as both targets of natural and artificial selection. © 2019 The Authors The Plant Journal © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


April 21, 2020  |  

The genome of cultivated peanut provides insight into legume karyotypes, polyploid evolution and crop domestication.

High oil and protein content make tetraploid peanut a leading oil and food legume. Here we report a high-quality peanut genome sequence, comprising 2.54?Gb with 20 pseudomolecules and 83,709 protein-coding gene models. We characterize gene functional groups implicated in seed size evolution, seed oil content, disease resistance and symbiotic nitrogen fixation. The peanut B subgenome has more genes and general expression dominance, temporally associated with long-terminal-repeat expansion in the A subgenome that also raises questions about the A-genome progenitor. The polyploid genome provided insights into the evolution of Arachis hypogaea and other legume chromosomes. Resequencing of 52 accessions suggests that independent domestications formed peanut ecotypes. Whereas 0.42-0.47 million years ago (Ma) polyploidy constrained genetic variation, the peanut genome sequence aids mapping and candidate-gene discovery for traits such as seed size and color, foliar disease resistance and others, also providing a cornerstone for functional genomics and peanut improvement.


April 21, 2020  |  

The Genome of Armadillidium vulgare (Crustacea, Isopoda) Provides Insights into Sex Chromosome Evolution in the Context of Cytoplasmic Sex Determination.

The terrestrial isopod Armadillidium vulgare is an original model to study the evolution of sex determination and symbiosis in animals. Its sex can be determined by ZW sex chromosomes, or by feminizing Wolbachia bacterial endosymbionts. Here, we report the sequence and analysis of the ZW female genome of A. vulgare. A distinguishing feature of the 1.72 gigabase assembly is the abundance of repeats (68% of the genome). We show that the Z and W sex chromosomes are essentially undifferentiated at the molecular level and the W-specific region is extremely small (at most several hundreds of kilobases). Our results suggest that recombination suppression has not spread very far from the sex-determining locus, if at all. This is consistent with A. vulgare possessing evolutionarily young sex chromosomes. We characterized multiple Wolbachia nuclear inserts in the A. vulgare genome, none of which is associated with the W-specific region. We also identified several candidate genes that may be involved in the sex determination or sexual differentiation pathways. The A. vulgare genome serves as a resource for studying the biology and evolution of crustaceans, one of the most speciose and emblematic metazoan groups. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.


April 21, 2020  |  

Inter-chromosomal coupling between vision and pigmentation genes during genomic divergence.

Recombination between loci underlying mate choice and ecological traits is a major evolutionary force acting against speciation with gene flow. The evolution of linkage disequilibrium between such loci is therefore a fundamental step in the origin of species. Here, we show that this process can take place in the absence of physical linkage in hamlets-a group of closely related reef fishes from the wider Caribbean that differ essentially in colour pattern and are reproductively isolated through strong visually-based assortative mating. Using full-genome analysis, we identify four narrow genomic intervals that are consistently differentiated among sympatric species in a backdrop of extremely low genomic divergence. These four intervals include genes involved in pigmentation (sox10), axial patterning (hoxc13a), photoreceptor development (casz1) and visual sensitivity (SWS and LWS opsins) that develop islands of long-distance and inter-chromosomal linkage disequilibrium as species diverge. The relatively simple genomic architecture of species differences facilitates the evolution of linkage disequilibrium in the presence of gene flow.


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