The use of blood-circulating cell-free DNA (cfDNA) as a “liquid biopsy” in oncology is being explored for its potential as a cancer biomarker. Mitochondria contain their own circular genomic entity (mitochondrial DNA, mtDNA), up to even thousands of copies per cell. The mutation rate of mtDNA is several orders of magnitude higher than that of the nuclear DNA. Tumor-specific variants have been identified in tumors along the entire mtDNA, and their number varies among and within tumors. The high mtDNA copy number per cell and the high mtDNA mutation rate make it worthwhile to explore the potential of tumor-specific cf-mtDNA variants as cancer marker in the blood of cancer patients. We used single-molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing to profile the entire mtDNA of 19 tissue specimens (primary tumor and/or metastatic sites, and tumor-adjacent normal tissue) and 9 cfDNA samples, originating from 8 cancer patients (5 breast, 3 colon). For each patient, tumor-specific mtDNA variants were detected and traced in cfDNA by SMRT sequencing and/or digital PCR to explore their feasibility as cancer biomarker. As a reference, we measured other blood-circulating biomarkers for these patients, including driver mutations in nuclear-encoded cfDNA and cancer-antigen levels or circulating tumor cells. Four of the 24 (17%) tumor-specific mtDNA variants were detected in cfDNA, however at much lower allele frequencies compared to mutations in nuclear-encoded driver genes in the same samples. Also, extensive heterogeneity was observed among the heteroplasmic mtDNA variants present in an individual. We conclude that there is limited value in tracing tumor-specific mtDNA variants in blood-circulating cfDNA with the current methods available. Copyright © 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Exploring benzimidazole resistance in Haemonchus contortus by next generation sequencing and droplet digital PCR.
Anthelmintic resistance in gastrointestinal nematode (GIN) parasites of grazing ruminants is on the rise in countries across the world. Haemonchus contortus is one of most frequently encountered drug-resistant GINs in small ruminants. This blood-sucking abomasal nematode contributes to massive treatment costs and poses a serious threat to farm animal health. To prevent the establishment of resistant strains of this parasite, up-to-date molecular techniques need to be proposed which would allow for quick, cheap and accurate identification of individuals infected with resistant worms. The effort has been made in the previous decade, with the development of the pyrosequencing method to detect resistance-predicting alleles. Here we propose a novel droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) assay for rapid and precise identification of H. contortus strains as being resistant or susceptible to benzimidazole drugs based on the presence or absence of the most common resistance-conferring mutation F200Y (TAC) in the ß tubulin isotype 1 gene. The newly developed ddPCR assay was first optimized and validated utilizing DNA templates from single-worm samples, which were previously sequenced using the next generation PacBio RSII Sequencing (NGS) platform. Subsequent NGS results for faecal larval cultures were then used as a reference to compare the obtained values for fractional abundances of the resistance-determining mutant allele between ddPCR and NGS techniques in each sample. Both methods managed to produce highly similar results and ddPCR proved to be a reliable tool which, when utilized at full capacity, can be used to create a powerful mutation detection and quantification assay. Copyright © 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.